ProtonVPN is a renowned community-supported project developed by MIT and CERN experts who also brought us ProtonMail, one of the largest encrypted email services in the world. ProtonVPN was launched in 2016 and gained a lot of traction immediately primarily thanks to its free plan without any intrusive ads, bandwidth limits, malware or user activity logs. Since it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ProtonVPN operates under some of the strongest privacy laws in the world.
If these facts caught your attention, there is plenty more to come in this comprehensive ProtonVPN review, so stick around as we discuss its main features and policies and reveal the results of our exhaustive hands-on tests as well.
Speed & Performance
Our testing team in Belgrade, Serbia (Europe) experimented with 20 different ProtonVPN servers over a period of one week to determine the VPN’s overall performance quality and find out how the implemented encryption affects the average connection speed.
The free plan gives you access to the servers in the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, so we tested those locations first. The US servers were usually able to retain around 70% of our original speed, the locations in the Netherlands kept around 80%, and Japan provided us with subpar performance averaging at around 10% of our benchmark connection speed.
When it comes to our top performers, we have London at 90.55%, Stockholm at 86.03%, Frankfurt at 83.89%, and Amsterdam at 83.86%. The US servers in Denver and Los Angeles gave us decent performances with 64.32% and 51.88%, respectively. Apart from Japan, we also recorded subpar speeds in Latur, India (14.27%), Sidney (8.67%), Paris (15.36%), and Atlanta (12.99%).
During our tests for this ProtonVPN review, we did not experience any sudden disconnects or major issues of any kind. We were able to connect to any server relatively quickly and, once established, the VPN connection was perfectly stable at all times. ProtonVPN does not provide seamless server switching, so rerouting your connection to another VPN location will interrupt your downloads and expose your true IP to geo-restricted services.
|Location||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|New York, US||132||11.75||4.28|
|Los Angeles, US||180||18.61||6.66|
ProtonVPN currently supports Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and GNU/Linux. You can also use it on all the popular browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera, iOS Safari, Samsung browser, Chrome for Android, and MIUI browser. Apart from this, the official download page features OpenVPN config files for third-party VPN clients or routers. Note that if you are using native ProtonVPN apps, there is no need to handle these files manually.
ProtonVPN currently operates 1738 servers across 65 countries. The entire server network is split based on your subscription, so the Plus and Visionary options grant access to more servers than the free and Basic plans. The client provides you with load information for each server, which allows you to avoid crowds and ensure top speeds at all times. If you are not sure about the best server for your location, the Quick Connect option will pick one for you automatically. Note that the software will probably pick a location in your own country, so Quick Connect is not ideal if you are looking to geo-spoof certain popular services. Finally, the function can be adjusted to choose the fastest server for your location or pick one at random.
Plus and Visionary members also have access to the so-called Secure Core service, which simply routes your traffic through multiple servers within the company’s secure network and provides you with an extra layer of protection. This is what we call a multi-hop feature because your connection “hops” between multiple servers (usually in different jurisdictions) before it exits on to the regular Internet. This option will keep you protected even if one of the VPN servers gets compromised for whatever reason.
The ProtonVPN client allows you to create custom user profiles with pre-defined connection modes, countries, and servers for easier one-click access. The VPN comes with unlimited bandwidth, speeds, and server switching.
Finally, some of the servers in the client are marked as Tor-friendly, which means you can use them to access the Tor (Onion) network with VPN protection. In other words, you do not have to install the Tor browser in order to prevent your ISP from realizing you are using Tor’s hidden services.
ProtonVPN pays great attention to the physical security of its infrastructure as well. Its main hardware in Switzerland is located 1,000m below the surface in a former army fallout shelter. Its Iceland infrastructure is kept within a former military base and the servers in Sweden are located in an underground data center as well.
Safety & Security
ProtonVPN supports OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec connection protocols and does not offer any PPTP and L2TP/IPsec locations. Servers with these protocols are much cheaper to maintain, but these security options are extremely outdated. ProtonVPN supports both TCP and UDP connections.
When it comes to encryption, the company opted for AES-256 cipher with HMAC SHA-384 authentication and RSA-4096 handshake, which is a pretty solid configuration, according to modern cybersecurity standards. AES-256 is virtually unbreakable by modern computers and is used by the military and banks to secure sensitive information.
ProtonVPN also implements perfect forward secrecy, which means that a new security key is generated for every session. In other words, even if somebody managed to obtain your encryption key for that particular session, it would be rendered useless the moment you disconnect. Having said that, the level of encryption offered by ProtonVPN is unbreakable by today’s standards, so this is more of a failsafe that you will probably never have to use.
The split-tunneling feature allows you to route some of your apps through ProtonVPN while keeping the rest of them out of the secure VPN tunnel. You can use this to prevent any speed drops when handling secure and trusted applications that do not require encryption.
Our tests did not detect any IP or DNS leaks, so your real information will never be picked up by your ISP, government agencies, international spy networks or malicious hackers.
Logging & Privacy
ProtonVPN is very consistent in its attempts to record as little user data as possible. With that in mind, the company will NEVER log your online activity, throttle your connection or discriminate against certain applications, devices, and protocols.
Let us take a look at the personal data collected by ProtonVPN:
- Account creation – During registration, ProtonVPN will only collect your username, email, and password. You can also register by providing your existing ProtonID. In other words, you will never be prompted to provide your real name, address, and other personal information.
- Support – When you submit bug reports or support requests, ProtonVPN will store the contents of these interactions, including any information you choose to share with the company.
- Payment – If you opt for credit card or PayPal payments, the company’s third-party payment processors will store your name and the last 4 digits of your credit card. If you prefer to keep things anonymous, ProtonVPN also accepts Bitcoin and cash payments.
The stored information is used to communicate with you, provide you with the requested service, process payments, and provide customer support. When it comes to your rights, you can always access, rectify, and delete the collected information. You also have the right to data portability and you can even lodge a complaint to a competent supervisory authority.
When it comes to non-personal data, ProtonVPN might employ a local installation of Matomo and it also uses tools like Google Analytics. These tools are implemented to collect non-identifying data like screen resolution, titles of the pages you viewed on the official website, referrers, outlinks, and website and page speed. This data cannot be used to identify you since ProtonVPN does not record your IP address.
When it comes to accessing popular streaming platforms outside their countries of origin, ProtonVPN allowed us to stream Netflix US, Germany, UK and Japan from our location in Europe while serving us with a proxy error on Netflix Canada, and France. We were also able to access Hulu and Crunchyroll. As already mentioned in this ProtonVPN review, the speeds during our tests were pretty decent, which enabled us to stream our favorite content in full HD without any problems and buffering issues.
ProtonVPN DOES allow P2P filesharing and torrenting on its servers, but the company does not condone the use of BitTorrent-based applications to download and share any copyrighted materials. Having said that, since no logs of your Internet traffic are kept, ProtonVPN does not actually have a way of monitoring your online activities and detecting P2P traffic. In other words, the company implemented its no-illegal-downloads policy for legal purposes without any ways of actually enforcing it. Bottom line, if torrenting is your main reason for purchasing a VPN, Proton is definitely the way to go.
Plans & Pricing
Apart from its free plan that gives you access to 3 countries, medium speed, and 1 simultaneous connection, ProtonVPN offers 3 premium subscription options available on a monthly or annual basis.
The Basic subscription ($5 per month; $4 per month with the annual subscription) grants you access to all countries, P2P filesharing, fast speeds, and up to 2 simultaneous connections.
The Plus option ($10 per month; $8 per month with the annual subscription) goes one step further and provides you with Plus servers, Secure Core feature, secure streaming, and up to 5 simultaneous connections.
Finally, the Visionary subscription ($30 per month; $24 per month with the annual subscription) also comes with ProtonMail and up to 10 simultaneous connections.
As we already stated in this ProtonVPN review, the company accepts credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and even cash payments. Every purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and there is also a 7-day free trial, which gives you more than enough time to test the software and check if it meets your personal demands. When you download the free version of ProtonVPN, your Plus free trial will activate automatically without you providing payment information or any additional details.
ProtonVPN features a decent FAQ section on the official website, so you will be able to find answers to pretty much all the usual questions right there. You can always submit a support ticket or bug report in case you encounter a problem not covered in the FAQs. Sending an email is also an option, but the support staff admits that you will receive your answers much quicker if you submit a support ticket. Unfortunately, there is no live chat at the moment.
ProtonVPN Pros & Cons
At the end of this ProtonVPN review, here’s a quick overview of the features that wowed us and the aspects of the service that could use some improvement.
- 1,689 servers in 63 countries.
- Solid security configuration
- Unlimited speeds, bandwidth, and server switching
- No activity logs
- Perfect forward secrecy
- Split tunneling
- Automatic killswitch
- Built-in Tor support
- P2P allowed
- DNS leak protection
- Fully functional free version without any ads
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- 7-day free trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Bitcoin and cash payments accepted
- No live chat