ProtonVPN is a relatively new, Switzerland-based VPN provider. You can choose the paid or free version of the software, owned by ProtonVPN AG. This company launched ProtonMail in 2014. ProtonMail quickly became the largest email provider, prioritizing anonymity, privacy and encryption. ProtonVPN quickly became the successor to ProtonMail.
VPN is designed to provide customers with a secure connection outside of email. These two projects, ProtonMail and ProtonVPN, have become two separate ventures to maintain the security and privacy of Proton customers.
The team behind ProtonVPN works tirelessly to change the world: training journalists, educating the public and confronting governments. In addition, they started a collaboration with Mozilla in 2018.
As their headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, they are not required to keep any records. ProtonVPN is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux. In addition, it has several customization options. You can also choose from many types of subscriptions, starting with a good free version.
Speed – How is the speed of ProtonVPN?
Most users want a fast VPN. You don’t want to wait forever for your YouTube video to load or to download some file just because you are using a secure internet connection. Streaming, playing games and browsing the internet should be easy and uninterrupted. Using a VPN can slow down your connection. If this becomes too evident, it is a major downside of the service.
To find out if a VPN slows down your connection (or maybe makes it faster), we tested the speed of all VPN providers in our review. Below, you will find several speed tests performed with ProtonVPN. We also tested VPN speed during daily use. In this way, you will have a good and complete idea of the effect of ProtonVPN on your internet connection.
- Speed – How is the speed of ProtonVPN?
- Security – Is ProtonVPN really secure?
- Usability – Is ProtonVPN easy to use?
- ProtonVPN Server Network
- ProtonVPN Features
- Conclusions – Our experience with ProtonVPN
ProtonVPN speed test result
In this section, you will find the results of the speed tests obtained with ProtonVPN. All tests were performed using ProtonVPN Plus, without enabling Secure Core. This special feature redirects your internet connection twice, which slows down your internet, so we left it out of testing. Please note that the numbers you get always depend on your location, internet provider and time of day. For reference, we added a speed test of our “pure” internet, without using any VPN.
Speed without VPN (speedtest.net):
These are the results obtained on speedtest.net when we tested our internet without any VPN. We will use this test to compare with the other results.
Speed with a local server (speedtest.net):
These are the results obtained on speedtest.net when we tested our internet, using a ProtonVPN server relatively close to us. Comparing to our first test, the ping remained exactly the same. This is a good sign. At the same time, the download rate almost halved, but the upload rate remained the same as well. It looks like ProtonVPN’s local servers are doing the trick.
United States server (speedtest.net):
These are the results obtained on speedtest.net when we tested our internet using a ProtonVPN server from the United States. Now the ping has increased considerably. Also, only a tenth of the download rate was lost, although the upload rate improved a bit.
Conclusion: although the American server seems quite slow, the local server performed very well in the tests.
With the results of these tests, we were curious to see how ProtonVPN would fare in the daily use test. When browsing, we found virtually no delay. We also had no problems downloading torrents: within fifteen minutes we were able to download a file of considerable size. Watching YouTube videos was also no issue, although some videos took a little longer to load.
With games, it was also smooth: it may have taken a little longer than usual to load graphics and pages, but the game worked as it should. Watching Netflix and streaming also worked well, but with a downside. To watch American Netflix, we need to use an American server. This connection, for us, is very slow and caused a big delay.
Conclusion: ProtonVPN speed
- Speed tests showed satisfactory results, especially with the local server.
- The American server turned out to be significantly slower than our local server.
- The speed in browsing, streaming and downloading proved to be good.
- Accessing American Netflix caused a bit of a delay.
Security – Is ProtonVPN really secure?
Security can be the most important quality in a VPN. VPNs are known for maintaining the security and privacy of their users. People use VPNs to browse the internet without being tracked or followed. To ensure that the VPN achieves this goal, we have checked the security of all VPNs we have reviewed.
In this section, you will find everything about ProtonVPN security. What protocols are used? Do they have a no-records policy? Do they have kill switches? What personal information do they ask you for? After answering these questions, we will give our final verdict on the security of ProtonVPN.
ProtonVPN uses two different protocols on its VPN server network. These protocols help encrypt your data. Currently, ProtonVPN works with IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN. When using a ProtonVPN client, you can choose to use a UDP port (default) or a TCP port.
ProtonVPN developers decided not to work with servers that use PTTP and L2TP/IPSec. These protocols are cheaper to maintain, but not as secure as OpenVPN, for example. ProtonVPN wants to offer its customers nothing less than the best possible. Therefore, they only work with the best protocols.
Registration and Privacy
A VPN’s logging policy tells you whether the VPN provider collects and saves data about their customers’ internet usage. If so, this directly affects your privacy. Saved data can be shared with third parties or even stolen by hackers. Some VPN providers are subject to local laws that force them to hand over information to the government.
ProtonVPN is not subject to any of these laws. ProtonVPN’s headquarters are in Switzerland, a country known for its privacy legislation. The country is not part of 14 eyes and is exempt from any applicable laws in the European Union. For these reasons, Switzerland is seen as a great country for VPN providers. Providers based in this country do not need to keep records or hand over any data from their customers.
On its website, ProtonVPN claims to have a no-logs policy. No information about your connection and browsing will be saved. But things are not quite that simple: ProtonVPN does indeed collect some “connection logs”. This data is used solely to ensure that your account remains secure and in good working order.
For that purpose, they save a timestamp and date of your last access. This tag is replaced when you log in again. No information that informs your location, the time you used the VPN connection or even the location from where you accessed it will be saved.
These connection logs are necessary to ensure that your account is not breached. The timestamp is only connected to your account and not to your IP address. The last detected access will be saved as long as the account remains active, unless the user requests that this data be deleted.
ProtonVPN has a built-in Kill switch. You can enable or disable the kill switch in the VPN dashboard settings. The activated kill switch will ensure that you are not at risk if your VPN connection is temporarily lost: all internet traffic is automatically blocked, so it cannot be traced back to you
In addition to the kill switch, ProtonVPN also has a feature called “Always On VPN”. This option connects you to another server automatically when you experience a connection problem. So you will always be online and protected.
What information does ProtonVPN need?
To create a ProtonVPN account, you will need to share some information. This mainly comes down to your email and payment information. For the free version, all you need to do is enter your email address.
The payment page informs you that this email address will never be shared with any third parties and will only be used for issues related to your account, recovery and communication. Of course, you can easily create an anonymous email address that cannot be traced back to you (like ProtonMail).
For each ProtonVPN subscription, you will need to enter your payment information. When paying with Paypal or credit card, you will have to share some personal information. But there are also some anonymous options. We’ll come back to that later.
Conclusion: ProtonVPN Security
- ProtonVPN uses only the most secure encrypted protocols.
- Log Policy: Connection logs only, which consists of a timestamp of your last access.
- ProtonVPN has a built-in Kill switch and an option to automatically switch servers when the connection drops.
- To create an account, ProtonVPN needs your email address and a payment method.
Usability – Is ProtonVPN easy to use?
The VPN runs in the background on your device. Without much interference from you, it provides a safe and anonymous browsing experience. Therefore, it is important that the VPN is intuitive and easy to use. If installing and configuring the VPN is quick, you will be able to browse faster. A good support team and an affordable price are good attributes of an intuitive VPN.
To ensure you have the best experience possible, we’ll be using this section to see if ProtonVPN is really easy to use. We’ve looked at the website, the installation process, the software, the price, the customer service and given our opinion on each.
The ProtonVPN website
The homepage of the ProtonVPN website looks nice and easy to navigate. Right away, we see a link that leads directly to the payment page, with different types of ProtonVPN subscriptions.
Scrolling down a bit, you’ll find information about different features of ProtonVPN and the benefits of using a VPN. On the page, you will also find some tweets from users talking about their experiences.
The top bar allows you to browse the different pages on the site: information, features, pricing, blog and support. There is also an access button and links to ProtonVPN’s social networks. The website is only available in English.
If you click on Subscribe to ProtonVPN Now or Pricing, you will be redirected to the subscription page, where you can choose from ProtonVPN’s various subscription types. When choosing a subscription, you will automatically be taken to the payment page, where you can fill in the fields with your information.
In short: the site is very easy to navigate and also offers a lot of information about ProtonVPN and VPNs in general.
To use ProtonVPN, you will need an account. To create an account, you will need to provide some information, mainly your email (although it can be done anonymously with ProtonMail) and your payment method details.
You also need to think of a username and password. Once you’ve completed your account purchase, it’s time to download the ProtonVPN client software. This page is easy to find once you’re done creating an account, but it’s a bit hidden in general. To find it, scroll down to the bottom of the website and click download in the lower-left corner.
The dashboard can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux. In addition, the download page contains links to apps on Google Play and the App Store. We downloaded the client for Windows, and it is this process that we will evaluate and discuss here.
After clicking Download for Windows, we open the downloaded file.
The screen that opened was self-explanatory: follow the instructions and install ProtonVPN. The only thing we had to do was give permission for the program to be used on our device.
When the installation is complete, which takes no more than a few minutes, the software starts automatically and the panel appears. Here you can login with your credentials, username and password.
In short, the installation process itself is quite easy, but the download page is a bit difficult to find if you already have an account and just need to download the software.
ProtonVPN Appearance and Ease of Use
ProtonVPN’s software is easy to navigate and visually elegant, but a little cluttered. The dashboard contains a list of countries on the side of the screen, including a search bar and an option to enable ProtonVPN’s exclusive Secure Core (for ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary users). This option offers an extra layer of protection.
There is also a quick connect button, which automatically chooses and connects you to the fastest or closest server at the moment. In addition to the tab with the location of the servers, there is also a tab called “Profiles”.
Here you will be able to create personal profiles with your preferences, whether with a specific country, server or protocol. Your IP address is displayed at the top of the screen and will change to a ProtonVPN IP once you connect.
Most of the screen is filled by the world map. The triangles on the map represent the location of servers that you can choose and use. At the bottom of the screen you can monitor your download and upload during the current session, the connection speed and the duration of your session so far.
The appearance of the map is very attractive. Overall, the entire panel has a very professional and pleasant appearance.
ProtonVPN has many features. Many are available on the main screen. Other features are found in the settings. Go to About to learn more about your software version. Under Account you can introduce changes to your account and subscription plan. The Profiles tab displays the different profiles created by you.
In Settings, you can choose when and how the program will start and which notifications appear on your screen. You can still select the protocol, connect automatically or activate Quick Connect. In the Advanced tab you will find the kill switch, DNS leak protection and traffic splitting.
The advantage of ProtonVPN software is that many features can be used with just one click. You can easily customize your experience. This is very useful for people who are more experienced with VPNs, but can be a problem for beginners.
Prices and payment methods
ProtonVPN has four different types of subscriptions. Depending on the subscription you choose, a certain number of features will be available to you.
The free version of ProtonVPN gives you access to servers in three different countries (Netherlands, United States and Japan). This version only supports one device at a time per account. There is no speed limit, but the low number of available servers will affect your internet speed.
The more people using the servers, the slower your connection will be. Therefore, your internet speed may end up much slower than you are used to. ProtonVPN Free (free) has no data limit, so you can use it unlimitedly.
However, ProtonVPN Free does not give access to Secure Core software and does not support streaming, torrenting and Tor.
The most affordable paid option of ProtonVPN is called Basic. If you opt for an annual subscription, you still get a 20% discount on your subscription. This applies to all ProtonVPN subscription types. ProtonVPN’s Basic service gives you access to all available servers, lets you secure two devices at any time, and secures you with P2P.
The ProtonVPN Plus package is a little more expensive than the basic one, it includes everything from the first and a little more: it supports streaming and Tor, Plus servers and Secure Core. You can use this subscription on up to 5 devices simultaneously.
But if you want the complete package, ProtonVPN Visionary is for you. With it, you will have all the benefits of the Plus version, access to up to 10 devices simultaneously and ProtonMail Visionary. So, you’ll also get ProtonVPN’s amazing privacy-focused email and also their VPN.
Depending on the type of subscription you want, there’s sure to be an option that’s right for you from ProtonVPN. One of the perks of ProtonVPN is that it offers a great free VPN option. Plus, ProtonVPN’s subscription options are fairly priced.
ProtonVPN accepts the following payment methods:
- Visa, Mastercard
As you can see, there are several payment methods for ProtonVPN. It is possible to make the payment anonymously, for example using Bitcoin. You can also pay cash as long as you have a ProtonVPN account. You can find more information on the ProtonVPN website. If you choose to pay using PayPal, you will need to provide some personal information.
However, ProtonVPN works with payments protected by SSL encryption, so in addition to your data being sent to ProtonVPN for payment, your security is not compromised.
All paid ProtonVPN subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee: if you’re not satisfied with the service, just send us a message, and you’ll get a refund. But there’s one thing to note about this: if you’ve paid anonymously, it makes it much more difficult for the provider to refund your money.
There is a large collection of FAQs on the ProtonVPN website with answers to all sorts of queries and questions. They call it the “knowledge bank” and it can be found under the “Support /Support” tab. If your questions aren’t on the list or the answer didn’t solve your problem, you can always contact the ProtonVPN support team.
There is a link at the bottom of the support page that takes you to a contact form. Enter your operating system, username, email address and explain your problem. The support team will respond by email within 2 business days.
When we present an issue to the team, we receive a response within 1 business day. Customer service gave us explanations, sent a link to a page of their FAQs, and asked us for more information. After we responded, several solutions were presented to us. What we can conclude is that the support team is very meticulous, careful: they try to find out exactly what is causing the problem, and they do their best to solve it.
While it takes time for the ProtonVPN team to respond, it was a relatively good experience. The only way to optimize this service would be if ProtonVPN provided a live chat service.
Conclusion: ProtonVPN usability
- The ProtonVPN website contains a lot of information, but it is easy to navigate.
- The installation process for ProtonVPN is quick and relatively easy.
- The ProtonVPN software has countless options, which can be a hurdle for beginners.
- ProtonVPN has a free version, with limited servers.
- When you opt for the annual subscription, you get a 20% discount.
- ProtonVPN accepts several forms of payment, including some anonymous ones.
- The customer service is excellent, but it only operates through forms and emails.
ProtonVPN Server Network
Having a vast network of operational servers is a big plus for any VPN for many reasons. First, a large network is very useful if you want to avoid geo-blocks. The more server locations the provider has, the greater the chance that the country you want is one of these locations.
Mainly if you want to watch American Netflix from outside the United States, but also if you want to read some specific newspaper that is not available worldwide.
In this section, we will evaluate the different locations and servers offered by ProtonVPN. We will also talk about the possibility of requesting a dedicated IP.
Number of servers and location
As of this article’s publication, ProtonVPN has around 550 servers in 40 countries. The location of the servers is listed below:
ProtonVPN works continuously on its server network, which means the countries and servers available change constantly. Visit the ProtonVPN website for the updated list.
All ProtonVPN servers are owned and dedicated by the provider, but not all are available to all users. The number of servers you have access to largely depends on your subscription type. With the free version of ProtonVPN, you will only have access to specific and free servers in Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. Basic, Plus and Visionary subscriptions allow access to all servers.
ProtonVPN also offers access to P2P-only servers (in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden) and servers that support dual-use with Tor (in Hong Kong, the United States, and Switzerland).
Finally, using servers in Secure Core mode works a little differently. Secure Core servers provide an extra layer of protection for your connection by creating a double tunnel. This means that you will be connected to the server at the location you choose via a Secure Core server , in Switzerland, Iceland or Sweden. These are the servers offered by Secure Core:
|SECURE CORE SERVER||LOCATION OF SERVERS|
|Iceland||Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, United States|
|Sweden||Estonia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan|
|Switzerland||Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, India, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States|
Dedicated IP address
ProtonVPN does not currently offer dedicated IP. This means that you will only use servers that are also available to other users. In other words, you will share an IP address with multiple people.
Sharing the same IP address with other users using the same VPN is great for your security and privacy: if everyone uses the same IP, especially if all data is encrypted, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to track online traffic to you. For this reason, ProtonVPN only has dynamic, shared IP addresses.
Conclusion: ProtonVPN Server Network
- ProtonVPN has around 550 servers in 40 countries.
- The number of servers you have access to largely depends on your subscription type (free vs premium).
- ProtonVPN does not currently offer dedicated IP.
In addition to the features available in the software, as shown in the ease of use section, ProtonVPN has a number of other additional features. With ProtonVPN, you will have (unlimited) access to Netflix and will be able to download torrents anonymously using one of its exclusive servers. In this section, we’ll talk more about each of these features, as well as ProtonVPN’s Secure Core.
ProtonVPN and Netflix
Something that is always asked about any VPN is whether you can use it to watch Netflix. Netflix tries to prevent VPNs from accessing its content to comply with their geo-restriction obligations in their contracts. However, there are many VPNs that continue to fight and try to bypass these blocks. ProtonVPN also tries to keep Netflix available to its users, with mixed results.
ProtonVPN states in its FAQ that it does not encourage infringement of copyright laws and statements provided by Netflix. Still, their opinion is that Netflix shouldn’t ban the use of VPNs, as they offer security and privacy. ProtonVPN wants its users to be able to watch Netflix safely, not necessarily use it to bypass geo-restrictions.
In any case, it is possible to watch American Netflix from outside the United States using ProtonVPN. After connecting to a US server, you will be able to watch series like The Office US, which would not normally be available to us. Charging may take longer than usual. Other than that, we didn’t find any problems.
Please note that this only applies to the US version of Netflix. Currently, ProtonVPN does not support Netflix anywhere else, as reported on their website.
ProtonVPN and torrents
Downloading torrents with the software is quick and easy. We were able to download a sizable file in a short time. While the download finished, we browsed the internet without any apparent delay. We use a dedicated P2P server from ProtonVPN, which is essential.
If you want to download something using ProtonVPN and you want to make sure your connection remains secure, always use one of the P2P servers, or you will be left unprotected.
A unique feature of ProtonVPN is the Secure Core network. With Secure Core, users are even more secure. Secure Core creates a double VPN tunnel that keeps the connection safe from network attacks. Secure Core redirects your internet traffic to multiple servers before leaving ProtonVPN’s network. Secure Core dedicated servers used for this purpose are hosted in Switzerland, Iceland and Sweden, where ProtonVPN’s databases are located.
Secure Core is available for ProtonVPN Plus and ProtonVPN Visionary and can be manually turned on and off. Also, as described below under “Server network”, you can choose the Secure Core server you want to send your data to, depending on the location of your outgoing server.
Conclusion: Features of ProtonVPN
- Possibility to watch American Netflix, although loading is slower than usual depending on your location.
- ProtonVPN has specific P2P servers, which allow you to download torrents securely.
- ProtonVPN’s Secure Core offers extra protection.
Conclusions – Our experience with ProtonVPN
|Easy to install||Support team only available through direct contact|
|Easy to navigate website||The many options available can confuse beginners|
|Access to Netflix|
|Offers Secure Core for better security|
ProtonVPN already has a great reputation. They take great care of the security of their servers and offer many options to improve this security even further. Secure Core ensures that premium users can protect themselves using a double VPN tunnel.
Also, the VPN is reasonably priced, works well with Netflix, downloads, and looks attractive. Our local servers showed minimal variation in speed. Unfortunately, the American servers didn’t perform well for us. Also, the customer service is a bit time-consuming, although the help we got was good and thorough.
Overall, ProtonVPN is definitely a good choice if what you are looking for is a VPN with many features and strong encryption.