ProtonVPN Review & Comprehensive Tests (2020)
ProtonVPN is one of the widely used VPNs today.
It offers both free and paid plans and is often lauded for its robust privacy and security features.
I was curious about the hype surrounding this service, and for the last two weeks, I’ve been using it as my primary VPN.
Over that time, I’ve put ProtonVPN under numerous tests and examined all its aspects:
In this ProtonVPN review, I’ll be answering these questions and more.
I’ll also be outlining the pros and cons of this VPN service and let you know whether it’s worth your money and time.
General Info & Features
|Speed Reduction||-34% (Nearest Location)|
|Locations & Servers||801 Servers, 50 Countries|
|Encryption & Protocols||AES 256-bit with OpenVPN|
|Price||View Best Price|
|Payment Methods||PayPal, Credit Card, Bitcoin|
|Refund Policy||30-Day Money-Back Guarantee|
|Simultaneous Connections||Up to 10 Devices|
|Live Chat Support||No|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Routers|
What Is ProtonVPN?
Launched in 2017, ProtonVPN is a newer VPN service that is owned by Proton Technologies AG, the company behind the popular encrypted email service, ProtonMail. The provider is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, home to some of the world’s strongest privacy laws.
Over the years, Proton Technologies has supported numerous privacy causes and currently maintains some of the most popular open-source encryption libraries like GopenPGP.
As of 2020, they provide access to 780-plus servers spread across 50 countries in six continents – North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
ProtonVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Routers.
Privacy & Jurisdiction
One of the essential things that a VPN should do is to keep you anonymous on the internet. Personally, I visit torrent sites often, so for me, caution is a no-brainer.
Almost all VPNs out there, including ProtonVPN, will claim to guarantee your online privacy. But when you read the fine print, it quickly becomes obvious that many do not live up to those claims.
Are There Any Signs That ProtonVPN Keeps Logs?
The short answer is NO.
They further state the following on their no-logs page:
It’s worth noting that ProtonVPN does store a timestamp of your most recent login.
However, this shouldn’t worry you, given that they only record a single timestamp.
Besides, they do not keep track of how long you were logged in or where you signed in from.
For account creation purposes, the provider only requires you to provide an email address, which is incredible if you ask me. They do not ask for your name or surname.
Again, ProtonVPN does not save your full credit card details and instead rely on third-party companies to process payments.
This alone adds an extra layer of protection.
Jurisdiction & Applicable Laws
As I mentioned, ProtonVPN is located in Switzerland.
Besides beautiful valleys and mountain ranges, this country also rocks when it comes to online privacy.
It’s not a part of the European Union (EU) or a member of the 5 eyes, 9 eyes, or 14 eyes surveillance networks.
Additionally, Switzerland does not have any mandatory data retention laws that may require VPN providers to monitor, record, and store browsing activities.
Despite being located in a non-EU country, the provider adheres to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This means that they are required to disclose all parties that they share user data with or face legal action.
Looking at jurisdiction and logging policy, it’s easy to see why I rate this VPN so high in regard to online anonymity.
How Secure Is Provider?
When it comes to security, ProtonVPN is tough to beat.
I rummaged through its security features, and I was pleased with what I saw.
Tunneling Protocols & Encryption
ProtonVPN uses bank-grade AES 256-bit encryption with 4096-bit RSA for the key exchange and HMAC-SHA384 for message authentication.
With tunneling protocols, you can opt for either OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec.
Both are secure but depending on your priorities, one may be better than the other.
From what I’ve seen, ProtonVPN is faster when you’re using an IKEv2/IPsec profile.
However, that doesn’t mean their OpenVPN connections are slow.
If you are a security-focused user, I recommend using OpenVPN.
Although it’s slightly slower than IKEv2, the protocol is more secure and reliable.
Other Great Security Features
Besides its robust encryption standards, ProtonVPN packs more arrows in their quicker.
The most impressive of them all is their Secure Core architecture, which protects your connection by routing your traffic through multiple servers.
Basically, Secure Core servers are like Multi-Hop (chain) VPN, but on steroids.
Unlike many of their competitors, the provider operates all their secure core servers on their own dedicated network, and all are located in privacy-friendly jurisdictions.
ProtonVPN also has strong physical security measures in place to ensure that the servers are secure on a hardware level.
In addition to its secure core servers, the provider also offers:
After analyzing all ProtonVPN’s security and privacy features, I decided to test the service to see if it can guarantee leak-free connections.
I tested several servers in different locations, and the provider does indeed deliver in this regard.
ProtonVPN did not expose my IP, DNS, or WebRTC information at all.
Note: In this particular test, I was connected to the Gold coast, Australia server (IP: 184.108.40.206)
IP Leak Test – IPLeak.Org
ProtonVPN guards against both IPv4 and IPv6 leaks.
While ProtonVPN doesn’t support IPv6, it does not route the traffic insecurely but rather ensures it never leaves their VPN servers.
DNS Leak Test – IP8.Com
Again, the VPN didn’t expose my DNS address, which can be attributed to its robust DNS leak prevention feature.
WebRTC Leak Test – IP8.Com
ProtonVPN didn’t reveal my real WebRTC information.
As you can see in the screenshot below, my WebRTC public IP address matched my public IP address.
A Complete Picture (IP, DNS, & WebRTC Test) –IPLeak.Net
Virus & Malware Test
A good VPN will protect you from malware and other internet threats.
But just like any other software, the same VPN can be used to inject malware during installation.
So how do you protect yourself?
The first thing you should do is to try and get your installation files from the provider’s official website.
Additionally, you should run the files through a malware checker to make sure they are clean.
So, in line with that, I uploaded the ProtonVPN to virustotal.com and ran the test.
All 47 VirusTotal anti-malware engines gave the VPN a clean bill of health.
No viruses, no malware.
Speed and Performance
While ProtonVPN performs well, it’s not the fastest VPN I’ve tested.
Overall, its speeds are decent, but with the right servers, you can enjoy smooth gaming and streaming.
How Fast is ProtonVPN?
To get a picture of how fast this VPN is, I started by testing the recommended server in my location as well as the ‘Fastest Server’ in a few neighboring countries.
I’m located in the UK, so that generally means European servers.
For the most part, the speeds were actually good and showed a significant increase from last year’s tests.
As I expected, the London US server delivered the fastest speeds, and the VPN dropped quite a bit the farther I went.
To get the best speeds, I recommend connecting to the recommended (“Fastest Server”) in any particular server location .
In my tests, I also alternated between OpenVPN and IKEv2 to see how each performed. The difference was noticeable, with IKEv2 being the faster option.
Now that you know how to get the best performance out of ProtonVPN let’s take a look at the actual speed test results.
Note: When conducting the speed tests, my baseline speed was 97.27 Mbps download, 52.78 Mbps upload, and a ping of 11 ms.
|Ping||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Avg. Speed Reduction|
|Base Line Data||11 ms||97.27 Mbps||51.78 Mbps Mbps||-|
|Connected to UK#32 London||32 ms||64.02 Mbps||46.93 Mbps||-21.79%|
|Connected to US#9 New York||48||51.90 Mbps||37.35 Mbps||-37.24%|
|Connected to AU#33 Perth||234 ms||44.16 Mbps||29.22 Mbps||-49.1%|
|Connected to HK#2 Hong Kong||207 ms||39.82 Mbps||19.41 Mbps||-60.8%|
As with all of my VPN reviews, I ran the tests using OpenVPN as it’s the safest and most recommended protocol.
From the table above, you can see that ProtonVPN speeds vary wildly across different locations. Even within the same country, I found significant differences in performance between the individual servers.
The European servers delivered the best performance in my tests.
That said, the US servers were pretty decent as well.
Overall, I was pleased with ProtonVPN’s speeds.
Although its server speeds can vary a lot, thanks to their “Fastest Server” feature, you won’t have a problem finding a quality server.
While the internet may now be available globally, the selection of media content can be severely limited in some regions.
Imagine being in a quarantine lockdown, and the only good content you can watch is the same movies or TV shows that you’ve watched over and over.
That might as well be the reality of many people right now as we shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m a huge movie fan, and I always look for VPNs that can unblock a majority of the streaming services, if not all.
How does ProtonVPN perform in this regard?
I tested Netflix and several other streaming services to find out.
|Amazon Prime Video||Working|
Does ProtonVPN Work With Netflix?
Netflix is home to thousands of movies and TV shows from different locations across the world. It’s by far the most popular streaming service and the toughest to unblock.
With ProtonVPN, you don’t have to worry about a thing.
The VPN works reliably with Netflix, and I was able to easily access the US version from overseas.
I tested several US servers, and 3 out of 5 worked on the first try.
ProtonVPN also works in multiple other Netflix regions, including the UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan.
Other Supported Streaming Services
Netflix isn’t the only streaming site out there that’s producing great content.
So, it was great to see the VPN also unblock BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO.
I was quite impressed by ProtonVPN’s streaming capabilities.
The VPN bypasses geo-blocks with ease and would have given it top marks in this category if it weren’t for its connection speeds.
Torrenting without a VPN can get you into trouble with not only your internet service provider (ISP) but also copyright trolls and government authorities.
Is ProtonVPN Good for Torrenting?
ProtonVPN is an excellent choice for torrenting.
They support P2P file sharing on a majority of their servers and do not impose bandwidth restrictions, which means you can download as much content as you want.
While all this is good, what makes ProtonVPN a great VPN for torrenting is its robust security features.
The service supports Perfect Forward Secrecy, VPN Over Tor, and comes with Secure Core servers that are enough to keep you safe when connected to a torrent swarm. Its connections are also leak-free, which ensures your IP stays hidden from your ISP.
ProtonVPN can definitely keep you safe when torrenting but as with streaming, its connection speeds are a bit of a drawback here as well.
Countries and Servers
ProtonVPN provides access to 801 servers in 50 locations across the globe.
While the number of servers may appear minimal, it’s worth noting that they do not use virtual servers.
Their entire network consists of dedicated bare-metal servers.
That means all their servers are physically located in the specific locations they claim to be at.
Compared to virtual servers, physical servers are more secure and offer better reliability.
Besides standard servers, you can access multiple specialty servers.
Does ProtonVPN Work in China?
ProtonVPN does not work in China.
In theory, the service should be able to as it’s compatible with Tor, but that doesn’t seem to be the case according to the latest information on their website.
If you are looking for a VPN that can easily bypass the Great Firewall, I suggest checking out our best VPNs for China.
ProtonVPN offers native clients on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and a command-line interface for Linux.
You can also set up the VPN on your router, enabling you to cover your smart TV and other unsupported devices.
How Many Devices Does ProtonVPN Allow at a Go?
ProtonVPN supports up to 10 simultaneous connections.
However, this is dependent on the subscription package you opt for.
For instance, if you opt for the popular Plus plan, you will only be allowed 5 devices at a go.
While ProtonVPN does support most of the primary platforms, it lacks compatibility with popular streaming devices like Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Reliability & Customer Support
One of the very first things I noticed on visiting ProtonVPN’s website is the lack of a live chat. At first, that dampened my spirit, given the convenience of live chat support.
However, after contacting them via email, I was actually surprised by their responsiveness. While most ticketing systems tend to be very slow, ProtonVPN seems to have streamlined theirs.
Also, their customer team is quite knowledgeable, and I was generally satisfied with their answers.
ProtonVPN also has a decent knowledge base which you can access by clicking the ‘support’ tab on their homepage.
ProtonVPN has decent customer support.
That said, I hope the provider can build on that by adding a live chat support option.
User Experience & Usability
As far as the user experience goes, it was nice to see that the provider focused on both usability and customizability. Not only are the apps well-designed and easy to use but also, they are quite appealing to the eye.
ProtonVPN apps come with a “Smart Protocol” feature that automatically selects the protocol and port that offers the best connectivity.
Still, you can configure the VPN and set a connection profile that suits you.
Clicking the “Advanced Tab” opens options such as the VPN kill switch, IPv6 Protection, and Split Tunneling.
Overall, ProtonVPN did an incredible job with their VPN clients.
ProtonVPN won’t rank among the cheapest VPNs but its prices aren’t steep either.
The VPN offers great value for money and with a long commitment, you can get even lower prices.
How Much Does ProtonVPN Cost?
The provider has four different subscription packages – Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary plans.
If you opt for a paid subscription, you stand to benefit from a 20% discount on yearly plans and a 34% discount on 2-year plans.
- 1 simultaneous VPN connection
- Servers in 3 countries
- Medium speed
- No logs policy
- No data limit
- No ads
- All Free plan features
- 2 simultaneous VPN connections
- Servers in 50 countries
- High speed servers
- Filesharing/P2P support
- No logs policy
- All Basic plan features
- 5 simultaneous VPN connections
- Secure Core
- Highest speeds
- Access blocked content
- All advanced security features
- All Plus plan features
- 10 simultaneous VPN connections
- ProtonMail Visionary account
While the ProtonVPN provides a good option if you are cash strapped, it is pretty bare-bones. It features only three server locations – The Netherlands, USA, and Japan and does not support Netflix or torrenting.
If you want to enjoy most of the VPN’s top features, you may have no option but to get a premium plan.
The basic package is the cheapest premium option, but it lacks several key features as well:
ProtonVPN provides four payment options:
ProtonVPN comes with the standard 30-day money-back guarantee, but their refund policy is not close to what you may be used to.
Uniquely, the provider refunds only the unused portion of your subscription.
That means if you use the service for 15 days, you will only get back half of what you paid.
And this refund is only applicable if you subscribed to the service directly through the official website.
Is ProtonVPN a Scam?
ProtonVPN is as legit as they come. They operate with professionalism and my experience with them was nothing but pleasant.
Does ProtonVPN Steal Your data?
ProtonVPN does not collect or store any activity or connection data. They also do not share your information with any third parties.
Is It Safe to Use ProtonVPN?
Absolutely. ProtonVPN’s military-grade encryption, zero-logging policy, and lack of IP leaks make it safe to use. The provider is also located in a privacy-friendly country.
How Much Does ProtonVPN Cost per Month?
The cost of ProtonVPN depends both on the package you choose and the duration of that subscription. The basic plan costs $5/mo, the Plus plan is priced at $10/mo, and the Visionary plan will set you back $30/mo on a month to month basis.
If you opt for the long-term 1-year or the 2-year plan, you will get a 20% or 34% discount respectively.
Do I Recommend ProtonVPN?
Yes, I recommend ProtonVPN.
The VPN comes with robust encryption and top-of-the-line secure features and is easily one of the most secure VPNs in the market.
Their customer service is decent and the service works well with Netflix.
Although I feel ProtonVPN could use some improvements in terms of speed, overall, I was impressed.