Once mysterious simply now mainstream, VPNs are services that protect your web traffic from existence snooped on past your ISP (and others) and arrive harder for advertisers to runway you online. ProtonVPN can’t claim to exist the biggest, the flashiest, or even the cheapest VPN, yet it’south even so the highest-rated VPN we’ve reviewed. It places an enormous emphasis on user privacy and has an splendid client that’s easy to use. It also offers a suite of advanced privacy tools usually reserved for more than expensive products. For all that, and for its excellent free version that has no limit on data usage, it’s an Editors’ Pick winner and one of the all-time VPNs. If you’re dipping your toe into VPNs, ProtonVPN a great place to start with no take a chance.
How Much Does ProtonVPN Price?
Nosotros don’t like tiered pricing schemes in VPNs because they’re usually a ploy to hide the real cost of a product and upsell customers. About VPNs have thankfully avoided this model, instead pushing longer subscriptions with increasing discounts. ProtonVPN does lock advanced features backside subscription tiers, but its approach seems to be less about upsells than about accessibility. You lot can get a perfectly skilful VPN experience with ProtonVPN without springing for the priciest plan.
The first subscription tier of ProtonVPN is its free VPN offer, which includes just 3 VPN server locations (Japan, Netherlands, and the The states) and only allows one device to exist connected at a time. You lot exercise have to create an account with ProtonVPN to admission its free tier. Neither Mullvad nor IVPN require any data for even their paid subscriptions.
Despite the fact that you must create an business relationship to use information technology, the free version of ProtonVPN is uniquely valuable because it does non limit the amount of data you can use. TunnelBear VPN’s free offer limits yous to 500MB of secured traffic per month, Hotspot Shield tops out at 500MB per 24-hour interval, and KeepSolid VPN Low-cal places no data restrictions on its free version but does limit users to a single server. Other free VPNs pile on other restrictions. Because of all that, we recommend ProtonVPN over all the other gratuitous VPNs nosotros’ve tested.
The second tier is ProtonVPN Basic, which costs $5 per month, $48 annually, or $79 every two years. This tier grants access to all the VPN locations ProtonVPN has to offer, but it limits yous to just ii devices and a subset of servers. P2P and BitTorrent file sharing are allowed at this tier, also as the NetShield advertisement and tracker blocker. Editors’ Choice winner Mullvad offers unfettered admission to its service for a smidge more than, at 5 euros ($6.03 at writing) per month.
For this review, we signed up for a $x-per-calendar month Plus account ($96 per year, $159 every two years), which is the third of four pricing tiers. This rate is most precisely the average monthly price of a VPN ($10.05 per month) and however less than what competitors charge for similar features, such as Editors’ Pick winner NordVPN. This tier lets you admission all the VPN servers in ProtonVPN’s network and use up to five devices simultaneously. Information technology too grants access to Plus servers, which are servers restricted to the highest two tiers of ProtonVPN and may provide better service by virtue of being less crowded. Plus subscribers also become admission to the Tor anonymization network via VPN, a rare feature. You don’t
to pay or use a VPN to admission Tor, but information technology’s nice to have. There are also peculiarly designated servers for streaming media at the Plus level.
If all that is even so insufficient, you tin can upgrade to a $30-per-month ($288 annually, $479 every ii years) Visionary plan, the top of the 4 pricing tiers. It includes all the features listed in the previous tier and raises the number of devices that tin be simultaneously connected to 10. What you’re really getting with a Visionary program is admission to the highest-paid tier of ProtonMail, the encrypted email service operated past ProtonVPN. That means 20GB of ProtonMail storage, 50 email aliases, back up for 10 email domains, and upwards to five users on a single electronic mail business relationship. ProtonMail too includes a secure accost book, private ProtonCalendar, and the forthcoming ProtonDrive file locker.
While ProtonVPN has an average monthly toll, the aforementioned isn’t true of its almanac fee. The boilerplate annual cost of a VPN we’ve tested is $71.58, thanks to the hefty discounts most companies offer for longer-term subscriptions. A ProtonVPN Plus account costs more at $96 per year or $159 every two years. Kaspersky Secure Connection, on the other hand, is simply $29.99 per year. Despite the savings, we caution against starting with a long-term VPN subscription. Instead, get a short-term or complimentary program and run across how the VPN works in your habitation and with the sites and services you need before making a loftier-toll commitment.
ProtonVPN subscriptions can be purchased via major credit card or PayPal. Y’all can make bitcoin payments, but you must create an account outset. ProtonVPN says it will also accept cash sent direct to its headquarters, an option nosotros’ve only seen with Editors’ Choice winners Mullvad and IVPN.
If y’all find y’all demand more than simultaneous connections, ProtonVPN will allow you purchase them à la card. From the subscription portal, you add a ProtonMail Professional account. After that, you lot tin can add as many VPN connections as you wish for $2 per month, with a reduced toll for longer subscriptions. However, some VPN companies have washed away with these limitations entirely. Amongst the services nosotros’ve tested, these include: Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN. (Note that Encrypt.me and IPVanish are both owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)
VPNs are valuable tools for improving your privacy online, merely they can’t protect against all threats. We also recommend everyone use a password manager, actuate multi-factor authentication wherever it’s bachelor, and install an antivirus app.
What Are Secure Core Servers?
The ProtonVPN Plus tier also includes access to multi-hop Secure Core servers, which are a scrap unusual and merit further explanation. ProtonVPN says that these servers are but in countries with strong privacy laws and that information technology owns them directly. Physically, they reside in secure facilities (in one instance, on an quondam military base). When you connect via Secure Core servers, your VPN connection makes ii hops, first from your device to the Secure Core servers, and then onward to the VPN server you select.
While a VPN protects your information with its encrypted tunnel, that doesn’t matter if an attacker has taken control of the VPN server. The Secure Core server scheme guarantees that your information is secure from your computer to the Secure Core server, which is under lock and key. If the next VPN server yous connect to after the Secure Core server has been compromised, whoever has taken control won’t exist able to glean anything nigh y’all because your traffic will announced to be coming from the Secure Core server and not your actual computer. This setup is similar to what Tor uses, simply Tor is much more complex with many more hops in betwixt you lot and your destination.
Unsurprisingly, multi-hop connections tend to come at a hefty trade-off in terms of speed and operation, but it is a feature we rarely come across and should put even the well-nigh paranoid mind to rest. Other companies may offer like multi-hop VPN connections. Notably, CyberGhost boasts nigh the integrity of its NoSpy data center. And while most services limit multi-hopping to set paths, IVPN lets you hop between any 2 of its servers.
What VPN Protocols Does ProtonVPN Offer?
VPN technology has been effectually a long time, and there are many flavors of encrypted tunnels from which yous tin choose. The new hotness in VPNs is the WireGuard protocol. This open-source protocol can be freely examined for flaws, sports the latest encryption technology, and appears to offer significantly ameliorate internet speeds than other options.
ProtonVPN tells the states that it uses OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) and IKEv2, both splendid and secure options, in all its Android, iOS, Linux, and Windows apps. The macOS app is limited to just IKEv2. ProtonVPN announced total support for WireGuard, the latest open-source VPN protocol, in October 2021. It’s at present available on all devices.
ProtonVPN Servers and Server Locations
In terms of distribution, ProtonVPN covers a quite respectable 61 countries, higher up the 53-country average among the VPNs nosotros’ve reviewed. ExpressVPN, past comparison, covers an impressive 94. Having more than server locations is good considering it ways you’re more probable to notice a VPN server nigh to y’all, giving you better performance and more than options for spoofing your location.
ProtonVPN deserves credit for improving its geographic distribution. The company at present offers server locations in S America and Africa, 2 unabridged continents often ignored past VPN companies, too as Bharat. Importantly, the visitor has been steadily expanding its global presence and actively seeks feedback from users on which countries to add.
Having VPN servers in regions with repressive cyberspace policies does non necessarily allow users to circumvent censorship, simply it may provide a modicum of security and privacy to the populace. ProtonVPN covers several such countries, including China (Hong Kong), Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam.
ProtonVPN has nicely sized networks of servers, one that has grown steadily over the years. It now stands at 1,529, which is just always and then slightly below the manufacture average we rail. This is nevertheless a far weep from the 6,900 servers available from CyberGhost VPN. While numerous servers are certainly prissy, they don’t necessarily hateful better service.
Virtual servers are software-defined servers, meaning that a unmarried, concrete server tin can play host to many virtual ones. Virtual locations are VPN servers configured to appear somewhere other than their physical location. Neither are inherently problematic, just nosotros prefer VPN companies to exist transparent about infrastructure and where it is located. A representative for ProtonVPN told me that the visitor but uses “bare metal” servers, meaning they are dedicated machines and are exactly where they say they are.
In terms of physical security, ProtonVPN says it uses full disk encryption, then any seized server would be inaccessible. The company besides says that its dedicated servers are harder to attack by virtue of not being virtual servers, and whatever server that goes offline in “unforeseen circumstances” is immediately wiped and reprovisioned. Other VPNs accept gone further, having their servers run simply in RAM.
Your Privacy With ProtonVPN
It’s important that every VPN company respect your privacy and protect your personal information. Afterwards all, the main reason to utilize a VPN is to limit admission to your personal information. Later on reading ProtonVPN’south documentation and speaking with the company, we believe that ProtonVPN is interim in the best interests of its customers—but determining that with total certainty is all but impossible. If for any reason y’all experience you lot cannot trust a particular VPN company, wait elsewhere. There are enough to choose from.
A representative from ProtonVPN tells me that the company only makes coin through subscription sales, not by selling user information, nor does it “do whatever targeted advertising or any profiling.”
ProtonVPN is owned past the parent company Proton Technologies AG and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Information technology can be found in the Swiss Commercial Registry and operates under Swiss law. Equally such, it just responds to requests for information from an canonical Swiss court order, which likewise requires that the individual who is the target of the investigation be notified. Even if ProtonVPN were required to respond to a request, it would have footling or nothing to provide. The company’south transparency report indicates ProtonVPN received a valid asking for information in January 2019, but it did non have whatsoever information to provide. This is all excellent from a privacy and security standpoint.
ProtonVPN has open-sourced its apps, meaning any researcher can verify there are no potential vulnerabilities. It also manages a bug bounty, paying researchers for the bug vulnerabilities they submit, and had its apps audited by SEC Consult. That’s all expert, only we’d similar to see a thorough no-logs and infrastructure security audit released to the public. TunnelBear, for example, has committed to annual audits of its service. Audits are imperfect, simply still useful for establishing trust. ProtonVPN has announced information technology volition complete an audit in 2022, and we expect forward to the results.
Easily On With ProtonVPN for Windows
ProtonVPN offers clients for Android, Android Tv set, Chromebooks, iOS, macOS, and Windows. The company provides detailed instructions on how to configure a Linux machine to employ the service. We had no trouble getting ProtonVPN’s Windows app installed on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10.
Because ProtonVPN puts such a heavy accent on user privacy and technological excellence, you might expect ProtonVPN would exist an ugly, unusable mess. That’s non the case. ProtonVPN has a slick and well-designed app that’s like shooting fish in a barrel to use and doesn’t skimp on features. A handy row of buttons now gives quick access to ad blocking, Secure Core, and the app’s kill switch features.
When you start upwards ProtonVPN, the Quick Connect button makes information technology obvious how to get online, which we appreciate. The app as well shows your connection condition, a list of servers and so you can apace change VPN location, a real-time network traffic assessment, and a map showing the available servers. Clicking the small greyness arrow in the middle right collapses the map, leaving a thin strip.
Yous tin browse the available servers from the map or a list, or search for the location. We peculiarly similar that you can drill down to the specific servers within a location. The app besides displays how much load a particular server is experiencing, whether they are Plus servers (that is, servers reserved for Plus users), and which are specialized servers for Tor, streaming, file sharing, and so along.
In addition to the specialized servers, ProtonVPN includes Profiles for specific activities. Four default Profiles are included: one for connecting to the fastest server, one for connecting to a random server, one for connecting to P2P servers, and one for connecting to the Tor network. Yous tin can create your own Profiles by specifying a country and a specific server within that country with which you wish to connect. You can proper name your profile, mark it with a color, and require that it employ the Secure Cadre servers, likewise. If this is also complicated, y’all tin can easily ignore it.
ProtonVPN includes a Kill Switch that halts web traffic on your machine should the VPN link become asunder. That prevents your traffic from being exposed, fifty-fifty if only briefly. A new option on the kill switch, called Permanent Kill Switch, prevents the computer from communicating with the cyberspace even if it is rebooted. The app besides has an easy tool for split tunneling—that is, routing the traffic from specific apps or IP addresses either into or outside of the VPN tunnel. ProtonVPN also lets you run
the traffic of the apps you select through the VPN and run the rest in the articulate.
It’southward hard to watch Netflix with a VPN considering Netflix wants to enforce its distribution deals. In our testing, we had no problem streaming from Netflix while connected to a U.s.-based VPN server. That said, the conflict between VPNs and streaming sites is ongoing, and what works today may exist blocked tomorrow.
Ideally, a VPN will not leak information about your ISP, your true IP address, or your DNS requests. In testing with the DNS Leak Test tool, the server nosotros used protected our information and changed our public IP accost. Note that we only tested one server, other servers may exist configured incorrectly.
Recently, ProtonVPN partnered with Invizbox to provide routers preconfigured to work with the VPN service. This extends VPN protection to every device on your network, and those devices will non count toward your simultaneous connection limit. However, this may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Speed and Performance
When you lot use a VPN to secure your spider web traffic, your data won’t be taking the optimal route to and from the cyberspace. Mostly, a VPN will increment latency while reducing upload and download speeds. To get an impression of that impact, nosotros perform a series of tests using the Ookla speed exam tool and find the pct change betwixt when the VPN is on and when information technology is off. Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’southward publisher, Ziff Media. You tin can read How We Test VPNs for a complete breakdown of our methodologies, as well as the limitations of our testing.
In our initial testing, we found that ProtonVPN reduced download and upload speed test results by 72.7% and 81.6%. Our tests showed ProtonVPN increased latency by 77.8%. We tested the service once more after it deployed WireGuard across all its clients. This time, we constitute significant comeback. ProtonVPN reduced Speedtest download and upload results past but 14.7% and 0.8% respectively—the all-time upload consequence we’ve even so seen. Nosotros as well found that ProtonVPN increased latency only ever and then slightly above average, past 57.one% in our testing.
This year, we’ve opted to conduct our speed tests in a rolling style, providing you with more timely results. This is likewise necessary because of our limited access to the PCMag Labs test network due to the ongoing COVID-nineteen pandemic. The chart below shows the virtually recent results. You tin can find more data in our fastest VPN characteristic.
Keep in heed that while our testing is useful for comparison, your results may differ profoundly. Also, we believe that security, privacy, and overall value are far more than important differentiators than speed, which should not be the primary consideration when choosing a VPN.
Does ProtonVPN Become Faster if You Pay More?
On its pricing page, ProtonVPN includes speed classifications for its subscription tiers. These are simply estimations based on the expected number of users. ProtonVPN does not throttle your speeds, regardless of the subscription y’all use. The Free subscription has “Medium” speeds considering ProtonVPN expects it will take many users crowded into a few servers, while the paid subscriptions have “Loftier” speeds because they accept access to more servers and fewer users per server. ProtonVPN also includes the Secure Core servers characteristic, which has a profound bear upon on speeds.
Nosotros reran the tests to compare the various means of connecting via ProtonVPN. The results are shown in the charts below. The Secure Core test results were based on a multi-hop connection from the US to Sweden. For the Bones tier examination, nosotros looked upwardly a Basic server and chose one manually. For the Gratuitous tier, we used a Complimentary account and let the app select a server automatically. Nosotros have re-run these tests since ProtonVPN rolled out WireGuard. The original, not-WireGuard results are shown in blue, while the WireGuard results are colored green.
Our initial testing showed that the Costless tier had a 98.4% reduction in download speed examination scores, the Basic tier a 68.ix% reduction, and the Plus tier a 72.7% reduction in speed test scores. Using Secure Core reduced download speed test results past 75.8%. On the upload side of the test, nosotros initially found that Secure Core servers reduced upload speed test results by 98.9%, with the Complimentary tier close behind at 97.iii%. The Basic tier reduced upload speed test results by 85.4%, and the Plus tier by 81.vi%. All these results were worse this year than the year earlier.
Nosotros retested all the tiers again using the same methodology merely manually selecting WireGuard as the VPN protocol for each exam. We also ran only one baseline exam and compared all the VPN speeds against that result. Since these were run close together and on the aforementioned machine, we don’t believe it afflicted the outcome.
With WireGuard enabled, we saw marked improvement in virtually of the results. ProtonVPN reduced download Speedtest results by only 16% for the Plus tier, 36.2% for Basic, a whopping 99.9% for the Free tier, and a surprisingly good 42.viii% for Secure Core. The download tests were equally encouraging. ProtonVPN with WireGuard reduced upload Speedtest results by 54.3% for the Plus tier, a mere five.3% for the Basic tier, a pregnant 99.nine% for the Gratuitous tier, and xc.ane% for Secure Core.
Unsurprisingly, the latency results were lopsided to the point where the chart above is of questionable utility. Our pre-WireGuard testing showed that the Basic tier increased latency by 55.6%, the Plus tier by 77.eight%, the gratis tier past 500%, and the Secure Cadre servers by v,055.6%. Notably, the previous twelvemonth’s testing showed the Complimentary tier with an 8,500% increase and the Secure Core server with a nine,800% increase.
Comport in mind that latency is primarily a function of altitude from the server, and so we didn’t await to meet marked improvement with WireGuard. The difference between these results and the ones recorded previously likely have to practise with which servers we used in testing. ProtonVPN with WireGuard increased latency by 75% for the Plus tier, a mere 25% for the Basic tier, 2,337.five percent for the Free tier, and 5,525% for Secure Core.
In that location are a few conclusions to be drawn from this. Beginning and foremost, the eccentricities of the VPN server y’all utilize (and when you use it) have an enormous affect on performance. Simply getting admission to a few more than servers dramatically improved functioning for us. Also, while WireGuard led to improvements in most categories, information technology had nearly identical results on the Free servers to our pre-WireGuard testing. New engineering science helps, but information technology can’t solve every trouble.
Nosotros likewise found that the departure between the Basic and Plus servers is fairly small, suggesting you could enjoy expert service without springing for the highest tier. WireGuard made this deviation a little larger, simply nosotros still believe that the Basic tier performed quite well. Especially on the upload test with WireGuard, where the Basic server did remarkably well.
Finally, the changes from year to year indicate significant improvements on the Secure Core performance. The latency results, for example, look much meliorate in 2021 than they ever take.
Hands On With ProtonVPN for Mac
ProtonVPN’s macOS VPN app is available via the company’due south website but not the Apple App Store. The interface is black, grey, and green, and there is a very large Quick Connect button that makes it clear how to become started. A quick tutorial makes the app a piddling more than user-friendly and takes you through its abilities. Every bit in the Windows version, at that place is a row of buttons for the Kill Switch, NetShield, and SecureCore features.
You lot can really customize your experience with this app, which puts information technology a pace to a higher place a reliable only non-so-specialized service like Tunnelbear’south VPN for macOS. Yous can cull the city and server you lot want to connect to, as well as the type of connection. There’due south also a tab where you can create a custom contour based on the type of connection you want, whether it’s P2P, TOR, or SecureCore.
While testing the macOS version of ProtonVPN, nosotros used a MacBook Air (M1, 2020) running OS Big Sur version 11.2.2. We performed a DNS Leak Test while connected to a server in Belgium. The app did not leak our IP address or DNS information, though note that we only tested a single server. ProtonVPN had no trouble playing YouTube videos instantly, and Twitch streams loaded quickly and played without buffering or interruptions.
Easily On With ProtonVPN for iPhone
The company’south iPhone VPN exudes a businesslike, not particularly fun air, unlike Tunnelbear and Mullvad’s colorful apps. When you lot first sign in in that location is a reddish and blackness bar at the acme of the screen letting you know your connection is unsecured. When yous connect to a server, the bar turns greenish with white font to let you know that you lot are connected. Regarding extra features, a key feature is NetShield, a malware and advertizement blocker y’all tin toggle on and off.
For this test, we used an iPhone XS running iOS 14.4. The app had a trivial trouble connecting to its servers the get-go two times nosotros tried to log in, merely the third time it continued. With ProtonVPN for iOS we could narrow our search all the way down to the individual server, unlike Tunnelbear VPN. Nosotros went to DNSLeakTest and ran an extended test to determine if ProtonVPN was leaking our real IP accost or DNS requests. We didn’t find any leaks during the test, but nosotros just tested 1 server in Hong Kong.
Connecting and disconnecting from ProtonVPN’s servers is a slower process than any of the other VPNs nosotros’ve tested. Once nosotros continued, the speed was excellent, and nosotros were able to lookout man Twitch streams and YouTube videos without interruptions while continued to a Hong Kong based server. ProtonVPN’southward iOS app is fast and gets the job washed.
Hands On With ProtonVPN for Android
To test ProtonVPN’southward Android VPN client, nosotros used a Samsung A71 5G running Android version 10. Like ProtonVPN’southward iPhone app, the Android version is very clean, without much color beyond the grey, black, and green scheme. The app connected to a server in Hong Kong without any problems. The app directs you to utilize the fastest server in the country of your selection, but too provides a listing of other servers you can employ. For these tests, we opted to utilise the fastest server in each country.
We used DNSLeakTest to see if ProtonVPN was leaking DNS data. We didn’t find any leaks when we tested a unmarried server in Sofia, Bulgaria, and ProtonVPN did successfully change our public IP accost.
The Bulgarian VPN server’s speed was great, too. Nosotros were able to watch YouTube videos without any noticeable load time and no interruptions. Alive streams from Twitch.idiot box took a fiddling longer to load, merely the video quality was splendid, and we didn’t experience any lag.
Easily On With ProtonVPN on Chrome OS
Installing this app on our Dell Chrome 3100 with an Intel Celeron Processor was tricky. Attempts to download the app direct from Google Play resulted in download timeouts. We then went to ProtonVPN’s website and followed the link to download the app for Chromebook, and the download failed once again. Finally, we followed the link on the website to the Android app, and the download worked.
The side by side fleck of trouble came when trying to connect to a VPN server. Connecting using the default Smart protocol resulted in connexion errors. We had to modify the protocol to OpenVPN UDP for whatever VPN server connections to work. The higher up feel is not ideal, and certainly not a convenient way to connect to a server.
The ProtonVPN Android app has a decorated interface, with a list of available VPN servers taking up almost of the screen and a small connection push at the bottom. There’southward also a map view to allow users to choose server locations from a map rather than a list.
Proton VPN’south Android app on ChromeOS has a lot of helpful features. You lot can choose to enable an Ever-On VPN or the Kill Switch from the Settings menu. There’s also NetShield, which blocks ads, malware, and trackers. Divide tunneling is another feature found on ProtonVPN’south Android app, and you tin can also enable something chosen Culling Routing, which finds culling connection paths if a service or site blocks ProtonVPN. Finally, there’s a feature called VPN Accelerator, which claims to increase VPN speed by up to 400%. Nosotros didn’t see much difference in speed with this option toggled off on our Chromebook, only the characteristic stays on by default and doesn’t seem to cause any impairment.
A Smart and Flexible VPN
At get-go blush, ProtonVPN’s tiered pricing plans might seem off-putting, just those tiers provide flexibility nigh competitors can’t match. The company as well offers a rare, truly free experience that doesn’t limit your bandwidth or push ads. Critically, ProtonVPN has staked its reputation as a privacy-focused company, which is a refreshing alter afterwards seeing then many other VPNs emphasize speed and video streaming. Information technology likewise has a remarkably adept-looking customer, which is not something every VPN tin can claim. All that, coupled with the company’s recent introduction of WireGuard, is a powerful combination.
Since we first reviewed ProtonVPN, the service has more doubled its number of servers and server locations. The visitor has shown that information technology can scale upward its production without sacrificing its integrity. It’s an Editors’ Choice winner. ProtonVPN earns a slightly higher score than its co-winners because of its fantabulous free version and rich collection of privacy features.