RA4W VPN wants you to get raw with them, but are they keeping your data secure when you do?
Started in 2013, RA4W VPN is a US-based service that already has quite some experience in the area of online security. For the more seasoned VPN users, this last sentence should bring some privacy concerns because the US is a member of the 5 eyes alliance. On the other hand, it shouldn’t trouble users who are not into anything that would draw the government’s attention.
But should anyone trouble to download and install this service at all? Read our RA4W VPN review to find out.
RA4W VPN has some good security features:
- Military-grade 256-bit AES encryption
- OpenVPN protocol
- Minimal logging
Unfortunately, that is not enough even for the users that are not into anything serious like writing about organized crime or getting involved in it.
For starters, RA4W VPN has no kill switch. This means that if the tool fails, your IP address will be exposed. If that was not enough (it is), this service has no leak protection or DNS servers of its own. And finally, the lack of multihop support, Tor over VPN, stealth protocol or any other protocol save for OpenVPN leaves not many options for users who want to customize their VPN experience at least a bit.
Therefore, while the encryption and the protocol of RA4W VPN are great, the lack of other crucial and optional features leads to grading this tool as below average security-wise.
Does RA4W VPN keep logs?
Lackluster on the security side, RA4W makes up for it or at least tries to in the privacy area. This VPN does minimal logging, tracking your connection only to see when you’re trying to establish more than one connection to the same server. The data they keep on file is your email address, which can be anonymous, just like your payments.
Of course, we cannot forget that the US is a member of the 5 eyes alliance, which means other Five Eyes countries may access data gathered by intelligence in the US. Secondly, this country has an overall privacy-unfriendly atmosphere, where law enforcement has broad powers to access personal data. That’s why it’s a bit surprising to find such a privacy-friendly VPN in this jurisdiction.
Is RA4W VPN leak proof?
Not only does RA4W not have any leak protection whatsoever, but it also has been found leaking DNS in the past. We tried to find out if the situation has improved by checking this service with eight tests for IP and DNS leaks.
Unfortunately, RA4W has failed two DNS leak tests, giving away our real location.
Seeing that this VPN doesn’t offer any leak protection, we turned to their Help center and found out that there are a couple of options to try. One is setting a DNS server on your router (with no explanation how to do it), and the other is manually setting a DNS server on your network adapter. None of them sounds very user-friendly.
The only comfort we can give to RA4W VPN users is that IPv6 can be disabled to avoid leaks and WebRTC can be turned off on most browsers.
Speed and performance
Even the safest VPN is worth nothing if your connection becomes sluggish. And most users want to stream in HD quality, share using P2P or have fun playing games online. Will it all be possible with RA4W VPN? Let’s see.
RA4W VPN offers 33 servers in 20+ countries. Sadly, these numbers haven’t changed since our initial review in September 2018. Not improving in this area means getting worse, and that’s just what RA4W has been doing so far.
While the majority of servers are in the US, RA4W VPN has decent international coverage as well, save for the South American countries. Rather surprisingly, they even claim to have two servers in Russia. They are probably Virtual Private Servers (VPS), but we wouldn’t recommend using them just in case they aren’t.
Speed test results
We have made our test from Europe, the baseline speed being around 300 Mbps for both download and upload.
Then we connected to RA4W VPN and tested its servers in different continents, measuring the drop-off from the baseline download and upload numbers.
- Download: 12 Mbps (96% drop-off)
- Upload: 21 Mbps (93% drop-off)
- Download: 29 Mbps (90% drop-off)
- Upload: 15 Mbps (95% drop-off)
- Download: 7 Mbps (98% drop-off)
- Upload: 1 Mbps (99% drop-off)
- Download: 10 Mbps (97% drop-off)
- Upload: 6 Mbps (98% drop-off)
Generally, the speed tests for this RA4W VPN review showed bad results, and we operated at 5-10% of our standard connection speeds. There are a number of facts that will affect the final result of any speed test, including the distance to the server, the original connection and the hardware itself. Ultimately, however, we wouldn’t recommend this VPN for users who are focused on speed.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
The service only has a dedicated client for Windows. The Home page has been promising a “coming soon” app for iOS, but we doubt there will be any new RA4W VPN apps in the upcoming future. If you’re into manual configuration, RA4W VPN’s website has instructions on how to set it up on:
- Routers (DD-WRT, Tomato, AsusWRT)
The only way to get the client download link is by signing up for an account. Luckily, they don’t ask much – only a valid email, and the payment can be anonymous as well.
The client is very easy-to-use, if not exactly easy on the eyes.
Anyone with a bit of technical knowledge, on the other hand, will find the Windows client rather aggravating. There seems to be a lot going on, but in reality, there are no ways to configure your connection and change important settings.
The client gives your connection statistics, such as your upload and download speeds. Also, you can tweak TAP adapter and manage VPN configuration where there’s not much to manage.
Overall, it’s easy to use RA4W VPN, but the client is so hideous and outdated that you’d just rather not.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
RA4W VPN unblocked Netflix UK and something that might be Netflix US via Japan server as we weren’t directed to the /jp website. It came as a surprise not only to us but seemingly to some of the Black Summer cast members as well.
That’s great news for a VPN of this caliber, especially when just a few months ago RA4W was unable to penetrate the geo-blocking shield.
Since RA4W VPN doesn’t support Amazon Fire TV, some movie fans will need to look elsewhere, especially those wanting to use other streaming services as well, such as the BBC iPlayer and Hulu.
If you’re interested in streaming, we’d recommend taking a look into our best VPNs for Netflix list.
P2P and torrenting
RA4W VPN technically allows access to P2P servers and torrenting. However, there are some limits placed on access to servers when torrenting. According to its website, torrenting is banned in:
- All US locations
- All UK locations
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Hong Kong
- South Africa
That takes out more than half their servers, straining the remaining servers with loads of torrent users. RA4W VPN recommends torrenting through their servers in Romania or Russia to avoid problems – not the best solution from the security standpoint if you ask us.
And here’s our list if you’re actually looking for the best VPN for torrenting.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
RA4W VPN is not available to users in China. And because of its security and privacy holes, we don’t recommend using it anywhere else where the internet freedom is restricted.
In 2017, the Chinese government announced that they were banning most private VPNs. Since then, many established VPNs have found it difficult to penetrate the Great Firewall of China. If you want to find ways to evade it, we invite you to check out our top-ranked VPNs for China.
Customer support is a bit of a brighter spot for RA4W VPN. You have the following help options when its client design eventually starts inducing nausea:
- Contact form
At first, we were disappointed by the lack of a live-chat option. However, we have noticed that many of the low-end VPNs with a supposed 24/7 service end up offering sub-par support anyway.
Instead, RA4W VPN customers will need to open a customer service ticket by filling out the contact form on the website. When we tried doing this, and we were pleasantly surprised to receive a helpful, detailed and honest answer within a few hours of submitting our question.
For more run-of-the-mill problems, especially the type that occur during the installation and setup, we recommend searching through their knowledge base. They have a searchable FAQ section that covers a wide range of topics, from whether or not torrenting is allowed to issues with the configuration of the system.
RA4W VPN offers four very cheap plans. All of them include an unlimited number of devices and free port switching. To have unlimited port switching, you’ll have to pay $5/month extra. Sadly, there is no free trial or even a money-back guarantee.
Below are the four pricing plans:
- Monthly – $3.49/month
- Quarterly – $2.66/month or $7.99
- Yearly – $1.33/month or $15.99
- Lifetime (500 months) – $0.06/month or $29.99
Devices, although unlimited, cannot be connected to the same server, which might become a bit of a problem when there’s only 33 of them in total and less than half support torrenting.
The prices are very understandable. However, RA4W VPN’s absurdly cheap Lifetime subscription should be viewed with suspicion. In the past, this pricing model has been used as a way to make a buck before disappearing and so on. While that’s probably not the case here (yet), Lifetime memberships always raise questions about sustainability and future trajectory – you have been warned!
RA4W VPN offers anonymous payments via Coinpayments (BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies), placing this option even higher than credit cards (powered by Stripe) which usually come as the first choice for most VPNs. A third option is PayPal either with or without automatic renewal.
This is one of the most affordable VPNs on the market, but it feels like the embodiment of “you get what you pay for.” Yes, the long-term memberships cost next to nothing, but we’re not sure that you’re getting value for money with that.
It comes with slow speeds, average torrenting and streaming capabilities, dubious security and privacy, Windows-only client, and good customer support. That’s a budget cocktail you might be inclined to buy but would probably regret your decision after the first sip.
We would be more optimistic if this were our first glance at the service. But seeing that they haven’t improved much since September 2018 leads us to believe that those who got raw with RA4W VPN have started to rot.