You can try to use VPN Gate as an anti-censorship tool to access restricted content. If you’re lucky, you may also stream YouTube videos without major buffering. But if your main concern is your online security and privacy, you’ll want to read our review before using it.
VPN Gate is a volunteer-run VPN network, the child project of SoftEther VPN. In other words, it’s an extended plug-in for the SoftEther VPN software. This is an absolutely free VPN service. Since the whole network of VPN servers is provided by volunteers, the IP addresses are totally dynamic and the number of servers may constantly fluctuate.
We’ll try to cut VPN Gate some slack since it’s the child of an academic experiment from the University of Tsukuba (Japan). Still, our review needs to serve its purpose: to help you find out whether it’s the kind of VPN service that fits your needs.
Security and privacy
VPN Gate developers did think of your online security and privacy. This VPN comes with the following security features:
- SSL-VPN (SoftEther VPN), L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft SSTP protocols
- SSL/TLS encryption and TCP port 443, which makes it impossible to distinguish the traffic from normal secure HTTPS traffic.
- No kill switch feature
This combination of tunneling protocols and encryption is the reason it’s hard for firewalls to block VPN Gate. And, this is also why this VPN is best used against VPN blocks (e.g., in China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) and as an anti-censorship tool.
However, let’s not forget that this app has no kill switch. Sensitive data may leak if a connection drops. And this VPN is infamous for cutting connections.
Since this service is free, you have nothing to lose to try it as long as you remain within the lawful range. If online anonymity and security are your main concerns, you should read our list of top 10 ranking VPNs.
Does VPN Gate log your data?
Short answer: yes.
You need to understand that due to the nature of this project, this service records extensive logs, including:
- The date and time of your connection
- The IP address and the hostname of the destination VPN server
- Your true IP address and hostname
- And so on
What’s more, every single volunteer can log anything they want and even spy on your traffic if it’s not HTTPS.
Extensive logs can easily identify you.
While most of these VPN servers seem to delete logs every two weeks, some keep them permanently. So, do you think it’s safe to use VPN Gate if you want to remain anonymous on the web?
This service provider is also more than willing to cooperate with the police and other government authorities when asked to share user logs.
Does it leak?
Short answer: yes.
Since VPN Gate is not a commercial VPN service, there are no advanced anti-leak features like IP, WebRTC, or DNS leak protection.
When we seemingly (and at long last) managed to connect to a UK or US “server” during our tests, our IP leak tests showed that we are in Tokyo, Japan. And, not once; quite consistently. Other times, when we finally found locations that actually showed up real in our leak tests, unfortunately, we also found our true location in the list. Yes, that’s a huge IP leak right there.
Speed and performance
Is VPN Gate fast? Sure, in a world where snails are the fastest land animals and where kiwis and penguins can fly.
Usually, you may find anything from 5,000 up to 9,200+ public VPN relay servers in about 230+ countries available for your private browsing experience. This is huge coverage globally.
However, the connection speeds can be downright horrible. Of course, the closer you are physically to the fastest servers (which are supposed to be in South-East Asia), the better speeds you may reach.
Speed test results
Before setting up our VPN Gate connection, we had these baseline speeds:
In all fairness, if you’re physically close to a fast server in South Korea, for example, you may be able to watch HD videos from YouTube. However, if you’re less lucky, you may end up connecting to a “VPN server” that provides you with horrible speeds.
Let us show you what we mean by “horrible.”
- Download: 0.36 Mbps (99% drop-off)
- Upload: 0.53 Mpbs (99% drop-off)
- Download: 0.54 Mbps (99% drop-off)
- Upload: 0.60 Mpbs (99% drop-off)
- Download: 7 Mbps (97% drop-off)
- Upload: 4 Mpbs (98% drop-off)
- Download: 10 Mbps (96% drop-off)
- Upload: 7 Mpbs (97% drop-off)
All in all, we can say that we had a terrible experience trying to connect to the volunteer servers and using them for anything really. It’s quite likely that you’ll find around 9 out of 10 servers not working. Then, there’s the question of speed. When you finally can connect to a server, it could be so slow that you need to redefine the word “slow.”
Ease of use and multi-platform support
It seems that right now only the Windows platform is supported with a native app. But you can find guides for other common platforms like macOS, iOS, and Android.
VPN Gate’s interface reminds us of programs from 20 years ago. Very plain design with a robust menu system. It feels like this VPN application was built for IT pros. Lots of technical settings, which may look like a maze for users who have nothing to do with IT.
We believe that to explore all the potentials of this application, you need to have a deep understanding of VPNs and internet technology.
The menu system resembles software from the ’90s. Way too complicated for the common internet user.
If you’re a coder or hacker, you may find it appealing – well, in a weird way.
What we found weird was that in comparison to this robust menu, there are basically no settings to tweak:
We won’t even bother to go into details about the client’s menu. It’s just way too much and complicated when compared to what we have been used to.
It’s also possible to install and configure OpenVPN with VPN Gate. But, to be frank, we haven’t mustered enough will to do a decent test of that. Maybe in another update round. After we have recovered from this one.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
In theory, it’s possible to use VPN Gate for Netflix due to the huge number of volunteer VPN servers and the dynamic IPs. So, it’s mainly a question of your connection speed and consistency this time.
In fact, some servers are so slow that you can’t even browse the web properly. So, imagine using it for Netflix, streaming HD or 4K videos from YouTube, or online gaming.
In all fairness, we must add that you could get lucky and find a close-by, fast server so you can actually enjoy your VPN experience. Until the next connection drop, that is.
After hours of testing this service for our VPN Gate review, we did manage to stream Netflix US.
If you really want to find the best VPN for Netflix, however, you need to read our related post.
P2P and torrenting
Please don’t try this at home.
Unless you want to be found guilty for copyright infringement, we don’t advise you to use VPN Gate for torrenting or any other P2P file sharing either. Your web traffic will appear to come through peers’ IP addresses.
But the same is true for other peers: their online activities will seem to come from you. Therefore, you can burn yourself by either using it for torrenting or others torrenting through your IP. You can easily incriminate yourself and other users as well. Let’s not forget that your activities are logged. In other words, it doesn’t matter that you spoof your IP when your true IP can be linked to your web traffic anyway.
So, you may want to find the best VPN for torrenting instead.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
User reports and comments indicate that lots of people used to unblock censored sites with VPN Gate. These users also realized that this service wasn’t safe or operating beyond the Great Firewall anymore. The main reason is that the main VPN protocols, TCP and UDP as well as OpenVPN, are simply blocked by the Great Firewall of China. Additionally, specific ports are also blocked, which are commonly used for VPN traffic.
Since this VPN has no obfuscation or Stealth VPN option, even if it worked in China through some workaround, you could get busted and fined for using an unapproved service.
If you live or work in China, you’ll find our Best VPN for China post very helpful.
It being an experimental free VPN project, our VPN Gate review team didn’t really expect it to have live chat support. In fact, it doesn’t really have any kind of support in the general sense – no ticket system or email support whatsoever.
What you have though is the VPN Gate Users’ Forum and the FAQ section. But you still may not find your answers as you could expect in the case of a commercial VPN like NordVPN.
The cheapest VPN on the planet.
As we’ve already stated in this VPN Gate review, this application and its parent, SoftEther VPN, are absolutely free, and will certainly remain so.
Since it simply can’t get any cheaper, the only question is whether this VPN service can satisfy your needs or not.
If you’re looking for a professional, top-notch, premium VPN, you may have to pay $3-$5 per month for a 1 or 2-year plan. But you can’t compare the quality of the services and the security features included.
Although some users may go as far as calling this the best free VPN, we beg to differ. We experienced terrible speeds, which made this VPN completely useless for anything really.
With that said, we also managed to find some servers that gave us enough speed to even watch HD videos. So, if you have time to go through hundreds of servers to pick the right one, be our guest.
While this service offers fast and secure protocols for your traffic, it also logs a lot of information about you and your activity. And so do all individual volunteer server owners. If your anonymity and security aren’t of great concern, you can give this VPN service a shot.
In summary, we must say that we do appreciate the hard work these developers have put into this experimental project. But we certainly don’t feel that this application could be a danger to commercial VPNs, not just yet – ever.
How about learning from other VPN users?
Do you have any related questions? Have you ever tried to use VPN Gate or any other VPN apps before? Maybe you have written your own VPN Gate review? What are your impressions?
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