Psiphon is a VPN service that has been in operation since 2008. The VPN started as a project at the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto. From there, it has grown to become a commercial VPN service helping millions restore their internet freedom. The VPN is based in Canada, but unlike most VPNs, Psiphon doesn’t promise you internet privacy or anonymity. Rather, the VPN is meant to be a circumnavigation tool, and it does well at that. In this Psiphon review, we’ll explore the VPN in details and help you decide whether it fits your needs.
Privacy and security: is Psiphon safe to use?
Internet privacy is one of the main reasons why most people use VPNs. Psiphon is however not good at providing that, and if you’re after privacy, we recommend that you check out our ExpressVPN and NordVPN reviews instead.
On their website, Psiphon openly state that “Psiphon is designed to provide you with open access to online content. Psiphon does not increase your online privacy, and should not be considered or used as an online security tool.”
This is because although they encrypt your traffic such that your ISP can’t see what you are accessing, they record and store logs for themselves. Psiphon then analyzes the data to come up with various statistics about the usage of their system.
Further, Psiphon also shares your data with advertising companies, something that undermines the whole idea of privacy.
The default encryption protocol used by Psiphon is SSH. This protocol is however not secure enough as organizations such as the NSA are known to be able to decrypt SSH traffic. This means that the protocol is not good enough for sending sensitive content.
SSH is however sufficient for bypassing censorship through obfuscation technology. Psiphon also provides the option to use L2TP/IPSec which is more secure, but you won’t be able to circumvent censorship with it. As for the cipher or key length, the details are not provided on their website.
During our Psiphon review, we also tested the VPN’s DNS quality. We were glad to see that the VPN doesn’t have any DNS leaks. All your DNS traffic is safely redirected to secure servers.
Compared to most of the top premium VPN, Psiphon doesn’t offer much in the feature section. After all, it mostly offers free services.
Here are the main Psiphon VPN features:
This is arguably the main feature of Psiphon VPN, and it’s what makes it good at circumnavigation censorship. Obfuscation technology disguises VPN traffic to make it appear just like regular VPN traffic, making it possible to avoid Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). This feature is only offered under the default SSH protocol.
Psiphon offers a split tunnel feature that makes it possible to get direct access to websites within your own country. This means that you can access such sites without having your traffic encrypted, something that reduces speeds. The logic behind this is that websites in your country aren’t censored anyway.
Speed and performance
To give you an idea of the extent of the compromise you will be making on your speeds, we did a few speed tests for this Psiphon review.
Here’s our baseline speed test (without VPN):
We then connected to a server in a nearby country and did a speed test.
Finally, we connected to a distant server.
As you can see, our VPN speeds take quite a hit. The Psiphon Pro Android version should provide better speeds, but we’ve come across many complaints that the pro version doesn’t offer much of an improvement. If you’d like better speeds, you can have a look at our list of the best VPNs.
Psiphon VPN server coverage
Psiphon VPN offers servers in 21 different countries. However, while doing this Psiphon review, we noticed that the VPN doesn’t reveal the total number of servers that they have. This would be interpreted to mean a figure close to the number of servers.
Such a fleet is quite small when compared to a VPN like NordVPN that has 5000+ servers in 62 countries, but then Psiphon is a free VPN, and so you can’t expect much. The covered countries are United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, India and Italy.
Apps and extensions
Psiphon provides apps for the following platforms:
The Android app has a Pro version that you can upgrade and a regular one whose access is limited. The mobile apps can be downloaded from the various stores while the Windows one is provided on the website.
For this Psiphon review, we decided to test out the Windows and Android VPN apps.
Psiphon Windows client
Psiphon window’s client is a small weight program that installs within seconds. After you run it, it automatically installs, launches, and connects you to the nearest server.
You can also choose a country from the available options.
From the Settings button, you’ll get some limited options to customize your VPN. If you’re using a proxy network, you need to set it up under “local proxy.” However, the main feature here is the L2TP/ IPSec option which can tunnel your whole computer traffic rather than only the apps that use Windows’ local HTTP and Socket Secure (SOCKS) settings (such as your browser).
Each option is well explained which is great for ease of use.
Psiphon Android app
We tested both Psiphon Android apps while doing this Psiphon review, and they are very similar. They all use ads and work in SSH mode only. You can however still tunnel the whole device with Android 4.4 and higher.
The major difference in Psiphon Pro is that it provides an option to upgrade, and this is the only place you can get the option.
The other options available allow you to check out your usage stats as well as choose a connection country.
Psiphon VPN for Netflix
When we connected, Psiphon was able to unblock most websites, but the VPN can’t be relied on for streaming as it doesn’t work with some of the major streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. These services usually block most VPNs. For streaming, you can check out our list of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Being primarily a free service, Psiphon VPN doesn’t offer much support. There’s no live chat or phone assistance like you would find with most VPNs, but there’s an email you can always contact. You should, however, not expect to hear back within a short time.
Alternatively, you can navigate to the FAQ section of the website to see if your queries can be answered.
Psiphon for Windows is entirely free, and there’s nothing you need to pay to use it or upgrade the service offered. However, this does not apply for Android.
On the Google Play Store, Psiphon has two different apps, Psiphon and the incredibly expensive Psiphon Pro. The former can’t be upgraded, and it usually has some annoying ads. The Pro version gives you an option to remove the 2 Mbps limit placed on the free version of the VPN.
You can subscribe to one of the Pro monthly plans for quite the exorbitant prices:
- High Speed: $4.99/month
- Maximum Speed: $9.99/month
All these subscriptions have a 30-day free trial, and so you can still cancel your subscription and avoid charges.
You can also buy passes for the Maximum Speed package. These do not require credit cards and can be bought with Google Play gift cards or credit.
- 7-day pass: $4.99 ($20.00/month)
- 30-day pass: $9.99 ($10.00/month)
- 360-day pass: $119 ($10.00/month)
Psiphon does its job quite well, and that is unblocking websites and offering internet freedom. However, being a free VPN, Psiphon has quite a number of shortcomings.
You won’t be able to rely on Psiphon for privacy or anonymity, and you will also have to contend with the speed limits they impose on their network. If you’d just like to unblock a few sites, Psiphon can be your buddy.
However, you might have to look elsewhere if you are interested in streaming, security, or privacy.