BlackVPN is a Hong Kong-based VPN service from BlackVPN Ltd.
But their 31 servers in 18 countries pales in comparison to the thousands offered by competitors like NordVPN.
That’s not always a deal breaker.
VPN servers aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Many times, they’re rented or completely fake.
So we set out in this BlackVPN review to determine whether a limited network should matter or not.
Does the rest of their service make up for this? Or do they fall short in multiple areas?
Let’s find out.
BlackVPN General Info
|OVERALL RANK:||#13 out of 78 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Easy-to-use client with one-click server switching|
|ENCRYPTION:||Industry-standard AES 256-bit|
|VPN PROTOCOLS:||OpenVPN, PPTP, or L2TP/IPSec|
|SPEED:||61st out of 78 VPNs|
|NETFLIX:||2 out of 5 servers worked (only TV and Global plans)|
|TORRENTING:||Yes, but only with Privacy and Global plans|
|LOG FILES / JURISDICTION:||No logging. Hong Kong|
|SUPPORT:||Email, snail mail, social media, live chat, and FAQ|
|COST:||EUR 49-99 per year|
BlackVPN has a user-friendly logging policy. Encryption is locked-down airtight. And customer support was surprisingly fast.
Here are the biggest positives we experienced with their service.
1. Does Not Collect Logs
BlackVPN does not collect logs your browsing history or online services.
In addition, they don’t keep DNS logs or a record of your real IP address connecting to their VPN.
They do keep your email address and payment details, though. But they wouldn’t be connected to online logs showing what you did.
So in that respect, your exposure is pretty limited.
2. Supports Three Protocols, with Strong AES-256 Encryption
BlackVPN supports the following tunneling protocols: OpenVPN, SSTP, or L2TP/IPSec. OpenVPN is the default option, with ready-made clients already setup to work out of the box.
BlackVPN follows this up with the 256-bit encryption, which is used and approved by governments the world over.
So it should be good enough for you in most cases, too.
There were two slight issues, though.
The first is that you can’t connect to the Western United States. Weird.
The second was that you have to close the app to change locations. Pain the butt.
Fortunately, this last one is covered by an always-on kill switch.
All BlackVPN clients have a built-in kill switch that’s activated by default. So no need to worry about accidentally exposing your location or browsing data when switching servers.
3. Easy Setup and Use
BlackVPN’s OpenVPN clients are extremely simple to set up and get started.
Go to the top of the main page, choose VPN setup, then choose your platform. You will then get the installation files. Go ahead and install the main program to download the server files.
When installing, you’ll be walked through adding the servers. This part is super easy.
Next, sign into the box to connect your account.
You can drop the server list down to switch server locations. The number you ultimately have access to will depend on which plan you’re paying for.
Only the Global plan gives you access to all twenty. Whereas the TV plan gives you a pathetically-low four servers.
When you choose a server, you will be notified it is connecting. And in some cases, you may be asked to enter your username and password again.
To connect to a new server, you will have to disconnect from the current one first. Then choose your new one from the drop-down list.
4. Works with Tor
BlackVPN is fully compatible with the Tor Browser.
Tor is known for adding an extra layer of privacy to your browsing sessions. Random relay points are set up to help redirect and conceal your true location.
The only downside is that your data is not protected in anyway. Your connection is still exposed and can be intercepted in any one of the relays you’re passing through.
If concealing your location is of the utmost importance, make sure your VPN works well with Tor to keep you protected.
5. Customer Support Is Fast, Friendly, & Professional
If you ever run into any problems or questions, BlackVPN’s customer support is only an email, tweet, or chat away.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after reviewing over seventy VPNs, it’s that you can’t trust a company based on face value alone.
Just because they offer all of these options doesn’t mean they always work flawlessly.
Thankfully, BlackVPN defied my expectations by replying quickly within 20 seconds of connecting to their live chat.
In addition to being friendly and fast, their support rep, Damien, was also very knowledgeable. A great experience all around!
There’s a lot to like about BlackVPN. We were blown away by their customer service (in a good way).
Unfortunately, there were a few hiccups along the way.
Here are some of the biggest gripes we experienced.
1. Based in Hong Kong
Technically speaking, Hong Kong is outside of the extended ‘Eyes’ security agreement.
So they don’t share data collected with other top intelligence agencies from around the world.
That’s a good thing, right?
Yes and no.
After all, Hong Kong is under the control of the People’s Republic of China. And the only VPNs allowed in China are ‘government-sponsored.’
Maybe I’m a cynic. Or a conspiracy theorist. Or a dumb American. Or all three.
But anything ‘government-sponsored’ by a totalitarian regime seems questionable.
Make of it what you will.
2. No Leaks, but Viruses Detected
This is one of those good news, bad news things.
On the plus side, we didn’t find any DNS leaks present. That means if your VPN connection says you’re located somewhere in Amsterdam or the Australian Outback, that’s what everyone else is seeing, too.
No need to worry about your VPN connection giving up your true location without even realizing it.
BlackVPN passed each of the six DNS leak tests with flying colors. Great start!
- https://ipleak.net/ (none found)
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip/ (none found)
- https://ipx.ac/run (none found)
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc (none found)
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ (none found)
- http://dnsleak.com/ (none found!)
To make this test accurate, we used their Australian, Netherlands and UK servers. None of them leaked your IP address:
After completing these five DNS leak tests, we run the VPN installation files through VirusTotal.
Here’s where things went off the rails a bit.
Our test showed two big issues with the very files you’re able to download and run on your machine:
Let me bring this full circle:
A ‘government-sponsored’ software that just so happens to also feature two viruses in their install files?
Draw your own conclusions.
3. Not Compatible with All Platforms
BlackVPN covers the basics.
They work with Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android devices. The menu at the top right-hand corner of the page has a drop-down menu for the installation files for each platform.
BlackVPN also works with routers and the Tor browser.
All good news.
Except, it is not compatible with SmartTV’s or gaming consoles. Not officially, anyway.
Customer support said that there’s a workaround if you connect them to a router using BVPN.
Since BlackVPN operates on OpenVPN (including the BlackVPN app itself), there are not actually any actual apps to install on your smartphone and tablet. Instead, you have to do setups with the OpenVPN app, and then connect manually to servers by installing the servers.
On the plus side, you can use the same BlackVPN account on up to seven devices at the same time.
4. Slow Server Speeds
Testing server speeds is pretty easy in reality.
First, you test your connection without any added encryption. My default one started at 97.00 Mbps download and 53.00 Mbps upload.
Then, you connect to different VPN servers and re-try.
You’ll almost always notice a drop off in both categories. But ideally, the difference is negligible.
That was NOT our experience in this scenario. Here’s what we saw on the U.S. servers:
- Ping: 113
- Download: 15.23 Mbps (84.3% slower)
- Upload: 22.50 Mbps (57.5% slower)
Holy Moly! That is terrible! The download speed is 84% slower?
Let’s double-check an EU server to see if this was a one-time thing.
- Ping: 42
- Download: 66.04 Mbps (24% slower)
- Upload: 43.01 Mbps (18.8% slower)
Ok. Not bad, but not great.
Part of the reason for this skewed performance?
My true physical location was pretty close to the Amsterdam server at the time, and not the U.S. one.
It really is that simple.
The closer you are, the better performance (generally speaking).
That’s still a problem in this case, though.
Remember that BlackVPN only has 31 servers in 18 countries. Limited networks like this typically make it harder to:
- Find servers ‘free’ from the demands of too many other users, and
- Find these ‘free’ servers that are still relatively close to your starting location
So it’s not just that these one-time speed tests were bad. It’s that based on a limited network, we can probably predict pretty slow speeds in the future, too.
5. Works with Netflix on the Two Most Expensive Packages
More good news, bad news.
First, the good.
BlackVPN said that Netflix would work on the United States West Coast server.
I tested and confirmed this is true.
That’s a pretty big feat, considering Netflix is cracking down on most VPN usage.
The bad part is that the U.S. East Coast server did not work. Neither did servers in Canada, the United Kingdom, or the Netherlands.
The other negative aspect is the working server is only available under the most expensive plan options.
So you’re going to have to pony up more dough if unlocking geo-restricted content is important to you.
6. Limited Torrenting
BlackVPN allows torrenting.
But only on selected servers that are available only on selected plans:
The cheapest one (Privacy), and the most expensive one (Global).
Speaking of the pricey Global plan, despite paying extra money, you’re still not allowed to use the US or UK servers for torrenting.
Their reason was a little puzzling:
Isn’t hiding your location a primary reason for using VPNs in the first place?
So if you can be traced in the US and UK, it sounds like this VPN provider might not be doing its job?
They even put this torrenting issue front-and-center in their terms of service when you’re signing up
So yes, technically, they allow torrenting. But there are so many restrictions that it’s practically a wash.
7. Features Limited Heavily by Plan
We’ve alluded to this one in the past few points.
But your plan features are heavily influenced (read: limited) based on how much you’re paying.
- Privacy: 16 VPN locations, but NOT the UK and US. You also get unrestricted P2P/Bittorrent. No TV streaming.
- TV: 4 VPN locations (3 in the US and 1 in the UK). With this package, you can also “stream TV from the USA and UK”. No P2P and Bittorrent.
- Global: 20 VPN locations (including 3 in the US and 1 in the UK). You can also stream TV from the USA and UK, as well as have unrestricted P2P/Bittorrent. However, the sting in the tail with this package is that you cannot use the US and UK servers for P2P and Bittorrent.
Most other VPNs we’ve reviewed will give you full access in each plan. The only difference is the signup length and pricing.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case here.
BlackVPN Cost, Plans & Payment Methods
BlackVPN plan pricing starts at EUR 49 (~58 USD) and goes up to EUR 99 (~117 USD).
You’ll also notice that their pricing plans are only available in annual installments currently.
You can pay for BlackVPN through a myriad of options, including:
- Credit card, bank transfer, gift cards, and e-wallets, using PaymentWall
- FORTY Altcoin cryptocurrencies for anonymous payments
Unfortunately, you can buy this app using cash.
But they do also offer a free three-day trial, along with a 14-day money-back guarantee and there’s no bandwidth limit like Betternet has. That way, you’re free to try out the service for almost two and a half weeks before committing to that annual payment.
Do You Recommend BlackVPN?
I do like the pricing options, the fact it works with Tor, the fast customer service, strong encryption, and no logging.
But the main issues center around slow server speeds, and the fact that you only get torrenting or ability to unblock Netflix on certain servers on certain plans.
Not to mention, their questionable jurisdiction complete with ominous virus warnings we found.