Last update: 04.11.2019
Is Ultrasurf really a VPN?
Ultrasurf functions in many of the same ways as a traditional VPN, but is fundamentally different.
Being a free service that was created with the sole intention of helping users bypass internet censorship and geo-blocking, it may not, however, be the best service to use for things like streaming online video and downloading torrents.
Ultrasoft is a simple, yet powerful tool that is easy to use and does a great job at encrypting internet traffic, no matter where users happen to be. But for the question: is Ultrasurf really a VPN? In a sense, yes. When compared to traditional VPN services, however, you will notice many differences.
For one thing, Ultrasurf does not offer the range of tools that many other top VPN services can. It is very focused on doing what it does well, and really doesn’t try to complicate things for itself or its users. It is also a little more similar to a network of proxy servers, given the fact that the encrypted tunnel is only available through the browser connected to the program.
Is Ultrasurf safe to use?
Ultrasurf is safe to use, provided that you use it appropriately.
Ultrasurf works by only allowing HTTPS traffic through their servers, while ignoring the less secure HTTP traffic, directing those through your normal Internet Service Provider (ISP) instead. Essentially, Ultrasurf is more of a proxy, and less of a VPN. A new IP address is issued to you whenever you start up Ultrasurf. But since Ultrasurf only secures traffic through a browser, you must check that specific browser you’re using for security flaws as well.
Assuming that you are using Ultrasurf in the prescribed way, it will do a great job at masking your IP, and protecting your identity from getting into the wrong hands. One thing to be very careful about, however, is whether or not your browser is getting around the Ultrasurf connection (more on that in a bit). If used as intended by the developers of this great tool, Ultrasurf does many things to ensure online safety – and the price (free) is unbeatable.
Good to note: Although Ultrasurf was created with the sole purpose of circumventing internet censorship, that does not necessarily mean they condone illegal online activity. In fact, right there in their privacy statement they make it very clear that they do not want anyone using their tool for illegal activities.
Does Ultrasurf log your data?
According to Ultrasurf’s website, they keep only minimal logs:
To protect our user’s safety and privacy, we do not require users to provide personal information to use Ultrasurf. We log bare minimum information for anti blocking purposes. We only keep logs for maximum of 30 days. We do not share these logs with third parties (with exceptions to comply by law).
Ultrasurf is located in the US and, if asked, they will share whatever information they have with the authorities. What and how much they can share largely comes down to the user, though, as they do not require personal information upon signup.
Speed and performance
When Ultrasurf’s servers are not overloaded as a result of increased need in some part of the world, the speed and performance is unrivaled by any other free service.
However, when it rains, it pours. And when they’re slow, they’re very slow.
Here is our base speed:
- Download speed: 285 Mbps
- Upload speed: 255 Mbps
Normally, we would test server speeds in different locations. However, with Ultrasurf, there was only one location: Wichita, Kansas.
USA (Kansas) speed test results
- Download: 3 Mbps
- Upload: 0 Mbps
- Dropoff: 99%
That’s pretty bad. And it was consistently horrible across multiple speed tests. Other reviews online talk about great Ultrasurf speeds, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Additionally, Ultrasurf has recently posted a message on the main page of their website apologizing for chronically slow speeds and crashes, due to an overload as a result of spiked demands in Iran. In the message, Ultrasurf thanked users for their patience and promised that they are working on a solution.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
Ultrasurf supports the following platforms:
Apps are a bit limited with Ultrasurf, as there are only options for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android users. The app for Windows is a small executable file that needs no installation. The good news is that you can put Ultrasurf on a thumb drive and deploy it on the go. Many people use this method to protect themselves at internet cafes and on public wifi.
The Android app is also easy to use, and can be found on the Google Play store by searching for “Ultrasurf VPN.”
Extensions are an important part of using Ultrasurf. Browsers can sometimes cause serious leaks despite whatever privacy service a user has employed. The most notable of these is the WebRTC leak which is known to be an issue with Google Chrome. Even when using a very strong VPN, WebRTC can cause your identity to leak.
Since Ultrasurf uses the Incognito Mode of Google Chrome as its vehicle, it is important to install a WebRTC blocker/disabler and allow it to run in Incognito Mode.
Does Ultrasurf work for Netflix?
Netflix users who are trying to stream content from the US Netflix servers are going to get a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to their user experience. Since Ultrasurf is based in the States, and since it is more like a proxy than a VPN, it is possible (most of the time) to access the American version of Netflix from outside the US.
Sounds like good news, right? Well, the service can be a little unreliable when Ultrasurf’s servers are overloaded, which equates to poor viewing quality, or none at all.
Does Ultrasurf work for torrenting?
A VPN’s ability to handle P2P traffic and torrenting is a major deciding factor for many people when it comes to deciding on which online privacy tool to subscribe to. Unfortunately, the way that Ultrasurf is set up leaves it as a non-option on Windows.
The encrypted tunnel only runs through a session-based browser, and there is no way to allow a BitTorrent client to utilize the connection. Theoretically, however, Android users could use it since the Android app secures the entire connection, but speed could be an issue.
Does Ultrasurf work in China?
Torrenting is a no-go, as is Netflix (usually), but what about access to the World Wide Web in China? The news in this department is all good. In fact, access from China is the entire reason Ultrasurf was created back in 2002, and the service is still going strong behind the Great Firewall of China.
Due to the fact that Ultrasurf utilizes a large, global network of proxy servers, it is able to operate under the Chinese government’s radar. Where VPN protocols are targeted by censors, Ultrasurf’s network is not.
Customer support and pricing
When it comes to customer support, Ultrasurf is not really as up to the challenge as other more established VPNs in the industry. Maybe that’s because it is a free service, or maybe it’s because of the fact that the tool is so simple in nature.
At any rate, when users experience questions, problems, or difficulties, there are a couple of places that they can look for answers:
- support ticket
The first place to look is the question mark icon on the tool itself. Clicking the question mark icon opens up a browser window with a long list of categorized information that can help with troubleshooting processes.
The other option is to reach out to the development team via email and just wait for a response. The folks behind the service make promises as to how fast they will respond to queries, and as far as we saw from our trials they were quite efficient, answering within a day of our message.
As for pricing information, that one’s simple. Ultrasurf is completely free, always.
Ultrasurf VPN is a fantastic tool that does more than you might expect from such a small file. It is a tool that could really be helpful in specific situations and the fact that it is small, light, free, and portable makes it almost a no-brainer to keep a copy around for those times when you need it.
That being said, some people may find Ultrasurf to be a little limiting in that it has such specific usage requirements. Many VPNs these days – including the free ones – secure and encrypt the entire connection, while Ultrasurf does not. Ultrasurf is a tool that is at its best when used by people who have done their homework a bit.
Ultrasurf is a service that has its fair share of limitations, but there are many positives that come with the service as well. As Ultrasurf was created to get around China’s firewall, it remains one of the only good free options that works, and it is portable and easy to install.
As for cons, it does not really work for many of the things that many people use VPNs for, like torrenting and Netflix.