Last update: 07.24.2018
When OMG and WTF become your every first and second thought, and you just want to bang your head into a firewall.
We will try to cut this VPN service some slack since it is indeed the child of an academic experiment at the University of Tsukuba (Japan). Nevertheless, our VPN Gate review needs to serve its purpose, i.e., to help you find out whether it is the kind of VPN service that fits your needs and your expectancy of online security and privacy.
Ever since the Watergate scandal, any word with a -gate ending has been assigned a scandalous tone. No wonder why VPN Gate sounds a bit sinister to us. And, when it comes to your anonymity and security, well, you’ll see shortly what we mean.
This is a volunteer-run VPN network, the child project of SoftEther VPN. In other words, it is 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.
Usually, you may find anything from 5,000 up to 9,200+ public VPN relay servers in about 234 countries available for your private browsing experience. This is a 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.
On the whole, you can try to use this application as an anti-censorship tool to access geo-restricted web content and if you’re lucky, you may also be able to stream YouTube videos without major lags and buffering. But, if you’re main concern is your internet security and privacy, you may still want to read on our VPN Gate review to have some OMG and WTF moments.
Security & Privacy: Is VPN Gate safe to use?
You must be joking, right? Have you read the Overview section? Because if you have, you wouldn’t consider VPN Gate safe to use at all; well, depending on your needs, of course.
Let’s recap what we already knew before starting VPN Gate review so that your online security and privacy concerns be clear.
When the first version of SoftEther VPN saw the light of day back in 2004, the Japanese Government considered it as a “dangerous tool for both computer-security and the existing commercial VPN vendors’ industry.” As a consequence, the distribution of SoftEther 1.0 as freeware had to stop and Mitsubishi Materials Corporation stepped in as the seller for 10 years. This contract expired in 2014 and since then, both, “father and child” have been available for free as per the wishes of the founders.
The main goal of this research and development project has always been the ability to break through government firewalls to browse restricted websites like YouTube in China as well as the ability to disguise your true IP address.
That said, you need to understand that due to the nature of this project, this service records extensive logs, including the date and time, 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 is 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. But still, do you think it’s safe to use VPN Gate if you want to remain anonymous on the web?
Let’s add to the equation the fact that this service provider is more than willing to cooperate with the police and other government authorities when asked to share user logs. We thought in our Hola VPN review that it couldn’t get worse than that. Well, life proves you wrong every time you challenge it.
Nonetheless, these decent Japanese developers did think of your online security and privacy, and thus this VPN comes with a wide range of protocols: SSL-VPN (SoftEther VPN), L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft SSTP. Well, no PPTP support, but it’s still a nice variety.
This VPN uses the SSL/TLS encryption and TCP port 443, which makes the traffic impossible to distinguish from normal secure HTTPS traffic. This is why it is hard for firewalls to block it. 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. But let’s not forget that this app has no kill switch, so 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 legal range. If online anonymity and security are your main concerns, however, we suggest that you read our Best VPN Services post to find out about our top 5 ranking VPNs.
Speed: Slow just got redefined
Apart from security and privacy, it is speed that you really need so that you can enjoy online gaming, P2P file sharing like torrenting, and streaming HD or 4K videos from YouTube or any of the major media streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Our VPN Gate review has shown that since all the servers are operated by volunteers, the speeds can vary from the new interpretation of slow to bearable. 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 are less lucky, you may end up connecting to a VPN server that provides you with such horrible speeds as you can see below:
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 will find around 5 out of 10 servers not working, which is very annoying for starters. 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.”
Let’s not forget that this VPN service comes from Japan, the homeland of Zen. So, it may be another tool for you to learn about patience and the appreciation of even the slow pace your traffic is traveling with.
How to download and install it
The following platforms are supported: Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD, Solaris, iOS, and Android. This is not the range we are used to in the case of commercial and premium VPN services. Yet, not bad for a free experimental service, right?
You can download the installer relatively easily. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it’s quite relative anyway. Click the Download menu on the official website and choose your client. For the Mac, iOS, and Android platforms, the VPN Gate website offers you detailed instructions about how to install them.
As a matter of fact, we cannot claim in this VPN Gate review that the download and installation are user-friendly. The whole website and the software also feel like these were designed for advanced computer users like programmers. Instead of an executable installer, you download a ZIP archive (it may take a minute), which you need to extract.
Once done, simply run the .exe file and go through the installation wizard, which, again, might be a bit more complicated than usual, but not impossible to complete.
How to use VPN Gate
Well, if the download and installation were a bit complicated for you, it may be a nightmare to use VPN Gate.
The whole 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 exploit all the potentials of this application you need to have a deep understanding of VPN and internet technology. If you simply want to use it as an anti-censorship tool, double-click the VPN Gate Public VPN Relay Servers line in the app (see the Windows client below).
Now, the list of available servers comes up and you can reorder this list by clicking any of the column headers, such as Line Speed and Ping. There is a lot of information you can read about each server, including their individual logging policy (or, at least, how long they keep your logs).
Before you could connect to any VPN Gate server, there are a couple of pop-up windows, i.e., warnings, to cut through. This is very annoying and too much to read anyway if you simply want to spoof your IP address and access geo-blocked information on the web.
We won’t even bother this time to go into details about the client’s menu in this VPN Gate review and what kinds of settings you can customize because it’s just way too much and complicated when compared to what we have been used to.
To be honest, we hated this application and not only because it takes time, luck, and patience to finally connect to a working server (see below).
If you want to treat yourself, please read our other reviews, where you can find more professional, user-friendly, and easy-to-use VPN applications. VPN Gate left our mouth with a mixture of OMG and WTF taste, for sure; and, our review hasn’t even finished yet.
VPN Gate for Netflix
In theory, it’s possible to use VPN Gate for Netflix because of the huge number of volunteer VPN servers and the dynamic IPs. So, it’s mainly a question of your connection speed this time.
Have you read the Speed section of our VPN Gate review? Then, we don’t need to explain again how your connection speeds can be catastrophic at times. 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 may get lucky and find a close-by, fast server so you can actually enjoy your VPN experience.
However, if you really want to find the best VPN for Netflix, you need to read our related post.
VPN Gate for 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 shady P2P file sharing, either. As a matter of fact, in this case, since volunteers offer their computers and bandwidth similarly to Hola VPN, your traffic will appear to come from their IP addresses. Therefore, using your qBittorrent, uTorrent, or Vuze client for torrenting with this VPN would mean incriminating another user (if used for illegal traffic). However, don’t forget that your connections and usage are logged because things can get nasty.
So, what’s the best VPN for torrenting? Click the link and find out.
Live chat support
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.
Pricing: Can’t get cheaper than this
The cheapest VPN on the planet.
As we have already stated in this VPN Gate review, this application along with its “parent,” SoftEther VPN are absolutely free, and will certainly remain so.
Since it simply cannot get any cheaper, the only question is whether this VPN service can satisfy your needs or not.
If you are looking for a professional, top-notch, premium VPN, you may have to pay $3 to $5 per month for an annual or a two-year plan, but you cannot compare the quality of the services and the security features included.
Conclusion of VPN Gate review: No danger to commercial VPNs
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 thousands of servers to pick the right ones, be our guest. Of course, you can get lucky by reordering the server list according to Line Speed or Ping.
Unfortunately, you may fail half the time trying to connect to a server. Also, your connection can drop at any time.
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 are not of great concern, you can give this VPN service a shot and you may be able to unblock governmental censorship and stream videos from geo-restricted websites.
In summary of our VPN Gate review, we must say that we do appreciate the work these Japanese 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.
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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