Last update: 07.13.2018
When you can try an old Volkswagen for free, buy a 5-year old model as premium, and finally, max out with the ultimate package, a new Volkswagen, but you may need a Mercedes.
If you have heard about or experienced the German precision and quality, you may have some natural expectations about ZenMate, too. This VPN service actually started out as a proxy service by ZenGuard GmbH in Berlin, Germany. Since free applications are always very tempting for the public, ZenMate can now boast almost 44 million users worldwide.
But is it possible that so many users are mistaken and chose the wrong VPN service? It’s all relative, of course. Yet, in our ZenMate review, we attempt to find out the truth behind this popular and somewhat controversial cybersecurity service.
Although you may find reviews mentioning 1000+ servers, it seems that ZenMate only has a mere fleet of 30+ servers in 30+ countries with 3,000+ IP addresses to offer. This is a very small network compared to other main VPN providers, which usually have hundreds or even thousands of servers around the world.
ZenMate claims to be a no logs VPN service, but connection logs in special cases, whatever that means, can be recorded. You also need to enter your email address if you want to sign up for the free version or the 7-day trial as well.
Some reviews mention possible DNS leaks, but our tests didn’t manage to replicate such a situation. In fact, ZenMate has recently implemented a number of changes affecting its level of online security and privacy as well. According to our review, this VPN is becoming safer to use.
ZenMate offers free browser extensions as well as a free 7-day trial in addition to its premium and ultimate versions. Still, we would mostly recommend it for general VPN usages, such as accessing geo-restricted content for travelers and expats, but we wouldn’t dare to suggest it for more serious privacy seekers like political activists and hackers.
This VPN doesn’t offer a live chat support and its current support is rather sluggish and problematic. It is also possible that ZenMate may clash with other VPN apps installed on your device by running in the background and not allowing you to launch any other VPN.
So much for the appetizer, let’s see how our ZenMate review can help you make up your mind.
Security & Privacy: Is ZenMate safe to use?
To be frank, we are a bit concerned when it comes to ZenMate security and privacy, and not only because of the German base. But before we delve into this, let us remind you that VPN services can improve their apps, security and privacy features, server fleet, and speeds at any time.
So, even if you read a review a week or two ago that this VPN only uses AES-128 encryption to protect your internet traffic, it has no kill switch, and no OpenVPN support, either, all these can be irrelevant in the next ZenMate review you may read, such as this one. Is ZenMate safe to use after all?
As a matter of fact, we also considered these outdated bits of information as a bad omen for a VPN and as a questionable privacy practice, too. So, based on such data, we would right away say that we don’t believe that ZenMate is safe enough for certain usage.
But our hunger for truth and justice doesn’t let us be satisfied with scratching the surface; we are inclined to dig deeper. And, then… bang… Gmail drops a skeleton on the virtual highway right in front of us.
Gmail privacy issue may affect ZenMate VPN
Google is one of the main surveillance powers and tools on the globe today; we can agree on that, right? So, when the news of Gmail sharing private email access with third-party app developers hits the web, our first question is: Which VPN providers use the Gmail service?
Why is that important at all? Well, as it seems, Gmail might leak your sensitive personal information to third parties, which could include your communications with your VPN provider among others.
No, we are not claiming that ZenMate did anything wrong in this case, but you may still want to find out more about this Gmail privacy issue to see more clearly. Although, nobody has really provided proof yet that any sensitive leak caused damage. Click this link to see which other VPNs use Gmail and how this might be relevant to you.
Have some warm tea after the cold shower
The good news is the ZenMate seems to have implemented some major changes in its services and now this VPN can offer you a more secure internet use. Your traffic is encrypted with AES-256, which is a military-grade encryption algorithm applied by most VPN apps and other cybersecurity-related platforms.
Another major step towards a more secure and more private presence on the net is the implementation of a kill switch, which is a must if you take your anonymity seriously. This is to make sure that in case of a connection drop, your VPN app kills all online apps and blocks automatic reconnection, which would go through your ISP and your true IP address and traffic could leak.
In other words, without a well-functioning kill switch your VPN application can leak sensitive and vital information about you, including your physical location, which is one of the main reasons why so many users go for a VPN service in the first place.
ZenMate only supports L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2 VPN protocols right now. The most popular, safest, and fastest OpenVPN, however, has been missing from the repertoire. There is indeed a ZenMate for OpenVPN product, which you can find on the download page, but, instead of the Download button, you can only see a Coming Soon button, Even if you can’t use it yet, it’s good to know that it’s coming soon.
However, even if ZenMate seems to have improved on its security and privacy, our review has found some other worrisome details.
ZenMate is a no logs VPN; yet, it does seem to keep certain information about you and your connections. For example, when you use the website and sign up for a free trial or a premium account, you need to enter your email address. It is not clear, though, what else is recorded. Another questionable area is the Newsletter subscriptions, where, again, your data will be recorded and kept for a certain period.
It may also not be the most ideal set-up that ZenMate uses Google DNS servers, which can track the websites you visit through the VPN. This is less than ideal even if your real IP address won’t be seen by Google.
“Internet-based data transmissions may in principle have security gaps, so absolute protection may not be guaranteed.”
On a more positive note, the free Chrome, Firefox, and Opera proxy extensions also offer malware blocking, tracking protection, and WebRTC leak protection as well. All ZenMate VPN apps are very basic and easy to use for beginners. However, on the other hand, this may well be a drawback for the more tech-savvy users.
In summary, we can say that ZenMate certainly didn’t use to be the most secure and private VPN, but it has improved and is improving as we see.
Speed: Good, if you are close
The first word that comes to mind in relation to the ZenMate speeds is inconsistency. Our tests show that you could experience latencies from 58 ms to 105 ms with very low download and upload speeds depending on your location. It is possible that a closer server can provide you with relatively good speeds, but once you try to stream in HD from a far-away server, you may run into some buffering and slow speeds.
As a matter of fact, ZenMate has a very small server fleet with 30+ servers in 30+ countries. This, combined with the 40+ million users could also cause slower speeds due to overloaded VPN servers.
If you are located in South America, Africa, or Asia, this VPN may not be the best choice for you since there is absolutely no coverage in these regions. Your connection speeds could be relatively slow because of the physical distances to the “nearest” servers.
Basically, you can use ZenMate for accessing geo-blocked websites if you are a traveler or you live abroad, however, you may not be able to use it in China, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, for example. It’s possible to get good speeds with closer servers for streaming Netflix and other online media platforms. But, this VPN may only work with Netflix US, if at all.
To conclude the speed section, as a free service, you may want to try ZenMate even though it is rather limited compared to the premium version (which you can also try for free); however, our review would recommend other top-notch premium VPN services like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, or NordVPN for better value, security, and overall speeds for your money.
How to download and install it
It’s as easy to download your chosen client and install it as it is to use ZenMate. On the official website, select the Downloads menu and find all the supported platforms on the products page. This VPN supports a good range of platforms at first sight, including Mac OS, Windows, Firestick TV, Apple TV, but wait a second. Strangely enough, half of these platforms only seem to be supported but not just yet.
If you click the respective links, such as Open VPN, Linux, and Firestick TV, you will find that on these pages the Download Now button doesn’t work; you can only see a “greyed-out” Coming Soon button instead. So, the good news is that these features are coming sometime in the near future, but right now, this may not be a consolation.
In any case, all the available clients can be easily downloaded and installed. You can also scroll down the page and select your client’s link at the bottom to directly open the respective download page.
How to use ZenMate
Before we go on with the paid premium version, let us present to you how to use ZenMate for free. First of all, the question you need to ask is: How can I download the ZenMate free VPN?
Because you simply can’t use it unless you know how to download it, right? And, believe us, it is not as straightforward as you may think. You won’t just find a huge “Download VPN for Free” button on every page and pop-up on the website. It would be too easy.
In fact, you can’t find any information on the website, not even in the Support section about how to use ZenMate for free. This is quite annoying and misleading because the help section does mention that you can use this VPN for free, too. But how?!
The only way we have found while writing this ZenMate review is to install one of the premium browser extensions for trial. If you do so, you will be redirected to a page that you cannot find otherwise:
You can only use the ZenMate Limited version, which is another way to say “free”, if you click the Try ZenMate Limited instead link at the bottom. Of course, in order to use it, you need to sign up with your email address and password combo to create an account. However, this account has to be different than the one you used for the browser extension if you have signed up for that already.
The free ZenMate VPN has limited speed and a limited number of servers, too. While installing it, you may also see another promoted extension to install if you choose to click the Get SafeSearch for Chrome button, but you can also go on by clicking the Continue without SafeSearch link instead.
ZenMate also lets you use the premium version for free for a 7-day trial if you sign up. This is really good because it obviously has more potential than the completely free version and you can use it without providing your credit card details, too.
Once you launch your desktop app, it practically vanishes and operates from the background. You need to go to your Taskbar to find its icon to display the application window. Using its EverSecure feature (on by default), you are always connected to the net via VPN after the program launches.
You can easily disconnect or change your location from the main screen. The connection time to VPN servers is quite impressive but you may experience lags with far-away servers. To change your spoofed location, simply click on your currently assigned server location (country name) and select another one from the appearing list. As simple as that. ZenMate is really easy to use even for the most beginner VPN users.
There are four icons at the bottom of the desktop client: My Account, My Settings, My Statistics, and News.
On the My Account tab, you can choose a premium pricing plan if you want to end your 7-day trial. You can also change your email address and log out of the VPN app.
The My Settings tab could be a disappointment for more advanced VPN users and ones who expect more freedom and customization options. These are the features you can change or check here:
- EverSecure: on by default to make sure that you are always connected to ZenMate when going online
- Run ZenMate on startup: this is also on by default
- Kill Switch: you can switch on this feature for a higher level of internet security and privacy to protect you from leaks
- DNS Leak Protection
- Enable Locations Monitoring
- Change Language: supported languages include English, Russian, German, Turkish, South Korean, and Spanish
- Terms of Service
The last four menu items simply redirect you to the respective webpage.
On the My Statistics tab you can see the following very basic metrics:
- Connection Time
- Download Traffic
- Upload Traffic
The News tab is supposed to display a list of notifications if there are any.
The other clients (Android, iOS, and the extensions) are quite similar, although they may have fewer options for customization. Our ZenMate review has found that this is a very easy-to-use VPN service, which is certainly its main strong point.
ZenMate for Netflix
You may get lucky and you may be able to use ZenMate for Netflix, but quite possibly only the US Netflix. Other regions like the UK or France doesn’t seem to work at all and may end with a proxy error message. But, don’t get your hopes high if you are located on the other part of the globe, because due to the physical distance to US servers your download speed just may not be sufficient for streaming HD videos.
It is also possible that you can unblock BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub via UK servers. But, again, the quality of your connections may be questionable: Decent for some, sluggish for others.
Let us remind you here that just because you can luckily access the US Netflix right now, it doesn’t mean that it will always be like this. Netflix is quite tough on users who try to access their services from restricted locations. It is only a matter of time when all the ZenMate servers are blacklisted. Keep that in mind before you make commitments.
If you want the best VPN for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Kodi, or any other media streamers, we advise you to look around our website to find out more about your options.
ZenMate for Torrenting
Although torrenting and P2P usage may have been forbidden by ZenMate formerly (as some reviews may state), it seems that you may get lucky given the unlimited bandwidth and relatively good speeds at times. Of course, this VPN provider doesn’t promote itself as a VPN for torrenting per se, but you still may be able to download or upload larger files with the premium or ultimate version unless you are located in a country that has banned torrenting.
In other words, once again, we would advise you to look elsewhere and find a decent VPN service for torrenting with dedicated servers.
Live chat support
Our ZenMate review has arrived at the biggest drawback. This VPN has no live chat support at all. This is very disappointing because sometimes you do need a solution or answer right away, if possible, as you may not have days or weeks to figure out something.
All you are left with is a Support menu on the website with a relatively good and informative FAQ knowledge base. If you don’t find your answer, you can still submit an online support ticket, which could take a week or so to get resolved, if at all.
Although this low-quality support should not be the main reason for you to look for a more decent VPN service, it is certainly not one to keep you after the 7-day free trial, either.
Apps and extensions
As we have mentioned earlier in our review, ZenMate seemingly has a great coverage of all the major platforms and more. It can work on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and it also has Chrome, Firefox, and Opera proxy browser extensions.
While these VPN apps seem to work just fine and they are also very easy to use, we can’t forget the fact that some of the clients are not yet available for download, including the Linux, the OpenVPN, the Apple TV, and the Firestick TV drivers as well. These are simply there on the website like products in a shop window, which you cannot actually buy. More like teasers. Of course, this is not a major mistake but we still can’t say that ZenMate has these extra features at present.
Pricing: Average prices for an average service
From a certain angle, we could say that ZenMate is decently priced. It has a rather limited but free version, it also offers a 7-day free trial as well as a 14-day money-back guarantee with the following premium version plans:
- 1-month plan: $9.99 per month
- 6-month plan: $8.99 per month
- 1-year plan: $5.99 per month
Its payment methods include the usual credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Maestro), PayPal, and other alternatives, such as UnionPay, Bank Transfer, and Qiwi Wallet.
However, you cannot pay with Bitcoin, which can be a big minus in the eyes of more privacy-conscious users.
Still, these prices look quite average, the monthly plan is, in fact, one of the cheapest on the market. But you also need to consider what you will get for these prices. And, we are not sure that this is the best choice, to be frank. Well, it depends what you need a VPN for.
We also need to mention that there is indeed yet another level after premium, which is called the ZenMate Ultimate VPN. The one-year plan costs $7.99, the 6-month plan, $9.99, and the 1-month plan, $12.99, which make it one of the most expensive services. It is a bit unclear what more this VPN has to offer above the premium level. So, no, thank you.
ZenMate by Reddit
To be honest, ZenMate and its 43+ million users don’t seem to do a lot on Reddit. Most posts and comments are several years old, so whatever issues they may be complaining about could have been long sorted.
However, there is one thread, about 3 months old, which is about a user having “to switch between servers frequently to be able to watch streams” due to the servers being blocked. As replies suggest, this can be caused because of the shared IP addresses and whatever certain users use these servers for. No wonder why Netflix can find out about such servers and block them right away.
Just like we have emphasized in this review, you need to try it yourself to see whether it’s working for you or not without paying first.
Conclusion of ZenMate review: Next, please!
ZenMate may be a German product, but certainly not as precise as we have got to know other products from Germany, such as Mercedes and Porsche. Its speeds can be more like an old Volkswagen at times if you are not located so luckily close to the chosen VPN servers.
In general, our ZenMate review concluded that it may be worth trying it out for free (7-day premium trial) if you want to experience yourself the speeds and security level this VPN can provide you with. We would recommend the free 7-day trial version for those who simply want to spoof their IP address and location to be able to access geo-blocked content.
But, to be honest, even for that you can find better free VPN services if you check out our website, not that we advise you to use any free VPN for more sensitive online activity.
We hope that we can write more positively about ZenMate next time we update this review because it does have the potentials.
How about learning from other VPN users?
Have you ever tried to use ZenMate or any other VPN apps before? What are your impressions?
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