ProtonVPN is the brainchild of the scientists, engineers, and developers from CERN and MIT who built the hugely successful ProtonMail – the largest secure email service in the world. The Swiss-based service was launched in mid-2017 and it has been generating quite a lot of attention, especially among those familiar with the ProtonMail project. For the purpose of this ProtonVPN review, we have conducted an in-depth analysis of this service, aiming to reveal everything that is right and wrong about this relatively new VPN.
ProtonVPN opted for a slightly gloomy color scheme with a white and light gray font and buttons on a dark gray background. The font could be larger and the whole gray-on-gray idea may not be the best solution, considering that not everyone has perfect vision. However, we like the uncluttered environment that allows for easy navigation and contributes to the intuitiveness of the software. Whether you prefer a country list or map view of the servers, you can easily identify and choose the desired virtual location and access all the basic features in one or two clicks or taps.
Downloading and installing the software takes virtually no time and it is as simple as it gets. As long as you have the most basic understanding of what a VPN is and how it works, you should have no problem getting used to this extremely user-friendly VPN service.
Performance And Reliability
ProtonVPN operates 112 servers in 14 world countries, mostly located in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia, with no unusual choices or particularly exotic locations. In addition to the fairly modest selection of standard servers, ProtonVPN allows you to enjoy an extra layer of protection with Secure Core servers – servers located in privacy-friendly countries, including Switzerland, Island, and Sweden. If you opt for Secure Core, your traffic first passes through ProtonVPN’s proprietary Secure Core servers and is then routed to the server in the location of your choice (Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Singapore or Japan). The employment of this method ensures that your location information and real IP address will not be leaked even if the endpoint server is compromised.
Generally speaking, ProtonVPN allows you to enjoy excellent speeds, particularly if you opt for one of the more expensive subscription plans. Most of the time, the diminishment in speed is barely noticeable and you can stream HD content with hardly any buffering. The performance is as good as expected and there are no IP or DNS leaks. So far, so good.
As far as compatibility goes, ProtonVPN does rather well, with desktop clients for Windows, MacOS, and Linux and mobile clients for Android and iOS. You can easily set it up on DD-WRT routers using the simple tutorial available on the website. For more good news, ProtonVPN is integrated with the Tor network.
There are no bandwidth limits, but the speed is limited with the free version of the software. The number of simultaneous connections you get to enjoy depends on your subscription plan and ranges between 1 and 10 concurrent connections.
One of the most prominent features of this VPN service is the one we have already mentioned in this ProtonVPN review – its Secure Core network that provides advanced protection against network-based attacks and makes your real IP virtually untraceable, with your traffic routed through multiple servers within the network. Furthermore, ProtonVPN exclusively employs ciphers that have Perfect Forward Secrecy, making it impossible for malevolent third parties to decrypt your traffic.
The software features DNS leak protection and comes equipped with a built-in kill switch that prevents your privacy from being compromised in case your VPN connection disconnects. It comes with built-in Tor support, so you can easily route your traffic through the Tor network and enjoy one-click access to Onion sites.
ProtonVPN supports P2P sharing and you can download torrents and share data with your peers on the majority of available servers. To enjoy the greatest speeds, you can connect to the fastest server in a single click. Furthermore, you can enjoy a personalized experience with custom connection profiles.
Security And Privacy
Striving to provide the highest possible level of security, ProtonVPN only supports OpenVPN, the most secure encryption protocol in existence. It uses the strongest AES-256 encryption, with key exchange executed with 2048-bit RSA and HMAC with SHA256 employed for message authentication. The previously mentioned Perfect Forward Secrecy eliminates the possibility of traffic decryption.
ProtonVPN is not required by law to store connection logs and the authorities cannot demand that a particular user’s activity is monitored. Thus, there are absolutely no logs kept, so there are none that can be turned over to third parties, including the government. Your private data remains private at all times.
Unfortunately, ProtonVPN does not offer support via live chat. Instead, you can send your requests via a support form or email, with the support form being the preferred method, as the support staff admits that the email inbox is not checked as regularly. Usually, you can expect a prompt and knowledgeable response, which somewhat makes up for the lack of live support. If you do not want to wait for a response, you can visit the Support Center and browse the answers to the most common questions neatly categorized into 5 sections. Browsing is further facilitated with the handy search option.
With ProtonVPN, you can choose between 4 plans: Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary.
With the free plan, there are no annoying ads and no bandwidth limitations, but the speeds are low. You can use the service only on 1 device at a time and you gain access to servers in only 3 select countries. No additional features are available, like Secure Core and P2P and Tor support.
The Basic plan allows you to access servers in all countries, use the service on 2 devices simultaneously, and enjoy high speeds. However, you cannot use any of the advanced features. The price is $4 per month with the monthly subscription.
With the Plus plan, you can use servers in all the countries within the ProtonVPN network, enjoy 5 simultaneous connections, as well as the highest speeds, and connect to the exclusive, high-speed Plus servers. Furthermore, you get to route your traffic through both the Tor network and the Secure Core network. The price is $8 per month with the monthly subscription.
Finally, with the Visionary plan, you get all the benefits included in the Plus plan, along with 10 simultaneous connections. The best part is that ProtonMail Visionary is included in the plan, so you get to use it free of charge. The price of the ProtonVPN Visionary plan is $24 per month with the monthly subscription.
No matter which paid subscription you choose, you can cancel at any time and you are covered by the 60-day money-back guarantee. The annual subscriptions come with a 20% discount. Payment options include major credit cards and PayPal.
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.
- Highly intuitive
- No logs
- Strong encryption
- Excellent speeds
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Secure Core network for increased protection
- Perfect Forward Secrecy
- Built-in Tor support
- P2P support
- Built-in kill switch
- DNS leak protection
- Custom connection profiles
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- 60-day money-back guarantee
- Free version
- Servers in only 14 countries
- No live chat
- Does not accept Bitcoin