PersonalVPN was launched in 2005 by WiTopia.
In this PersonalVPN review, you’ll learn two things:
- They do, in fact, have ludicrous speed.
- But that speed comes at a massive cost.
They are based in Virginia, USA, with over 300 servers in 44 countries.
They’re not one of the most well-known VPN providers in the space. But that doesn’t stop them from boasting a page entitled, “Why we’re the best VPN.”
Is it worth it? You’re going to have to read the rest of this review to find out.
PersonalVPN General Info
|OVERALL RANK:||#20th out of 74 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Mostly easy to use. But no seamless switching.|
|VPN PROTOCOLS:||Four – OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec, and PPTP|
|SPEED:||1st out of 74 VPNs|
|TORRENTING:||Technically not allowed but they say “they don’t go out of their way to block it.”|
|LOG FILES / JURISDICTION:||No logging. USA jurisdiction.|
|SUPPORT:||Contact options are snail mail, slow email, social media, a fast live chat, and a Knowledge Base.|
|COST:||$5.99 a month up to $59.99 for 6 months.|
PersonalVPN Pros +
PersonalVPN makes a few bold claims on their site. But unlike many other VPN competitors, they actually back several of them up.
Here’s a look at where they excel.
1. Really Freaking Fast
PersonalVPN is not humble about their speed.
But to be honest, we wouldn’t either if we delivered similar results.
Running your web traffic through a VPN almost always slows down your connection.
In other words, it’s common to experience at least a slight drop off vs. no encryption at all.
I say “almost,” because once in a rare while, a VPN’s server is so fast it outperforms all alternatives.
And that’s exactly what happened with PersonalVPN.
Our typical, if unspectacular, connection speeds were around 86.41 Mbps download and 33.67 Mbps upload, to begin with.
Next, we switched on the connection and ran the test again.
Check this out:
- Ping: 118ms
- Download: 125.53 Mbps (45% faster)
- Upload: 29.38 Mbps (13% slower)
Incredibly, the PersonalVPN U.S. server sped up our connection.
Turns out, this wasn’t a fluke, either.
We connected to another server in the EU and ran the test again.
EU Server (Netherlands):
- Ping: 118ms
- Download: 73.78 Mbps (15%)
- Upload: 40.69 Mbps (21% faster)
This time, upload speeds were through the roof.
The combined download score of 199.36 puts them as the fastest VPN we’ve tested (out of 74 alternatives).
2. Supports 4 Major VPN Tunneling Protocols
PersonalVPN supports four protocols – OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec, and PPTP.
Simply choose in the settings which one you would prefer to use by default.
Typically, you’ll open for OpenVPN when you can. iOS devices will often use an IPSec variation. While some older devices might need to downgrade to PPTP.
But you can freely switch around as you’d like.
3. Uses the Rock-Solid AES-256 Encryption Standard
PersonalVPN has the standard 256-bit encryption, plus a lot of other high-level security terms that will mean nothing to most people.
However, just the 256-bit encryption on its own will be enough to assure you that nobody is going to be hacking your encryption anytime soon.
The other reason this is noteworthy is that generally speaking, a rock-solid 256-bit encryption can slow down your connection.
But as we just saw, there’s no sign of any slow down.
That’s saying something. Some of the competition, like Private Tunnel, intentionally uses a lower encryption standard to boost speeds.
Yet PersonalVPN still blows them out of the water — even at a higher encryption. So you don’t have to risk security for performance.
4. Strong Device Support
PersonalVPN works with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Chromebook, Boxee, Blackberry, iOS & Android.
They also naturally integrated with the company’s CloakVPN router boxes.
They sell their own router boxes with their VPN integrated.
The Support section has detailed instructions for how to set up on every platform.
PersonalVPN also works with most routers and the Tor browser, according to their Live Chat support.
Interestingly enough, when I asked about gaming consoles and SmartTV’s, their support rep said you’ll need a VPN router to work with either (so there’s no native apps available).
One curious hiccup is that PersonalVPN does not actually have native apps to install on your smartphone or tablet, either.
Instead, you have to do a little manual labor that might confuse some beginners.
You can use the same PersonalVPN account on up to five devices at the same time. The Premier account bumps that up to eight devices at a time.
5. Works with the Tor Browser
Connecting to The Onion Router will forward your web traffic through different ‘relay’ points. The purpose is to create so many twists and turns that it’s virtually impossible to figure out where your signal started.
But while the Tor network is great for anonymity, it’s not so great for security. Because there’s nothing to protect you from bad exit nodes or relay points.
The good news is that PersonalVPN is fully compatible with the Tor Browser. So you have no need to fear.
6. Mostly Easy to Use
Install only takes a few minutes and the client itself is fine.
There were no noticeable issues or lags along the way…
… until I tried to switch servers.
In order to switch servers, you must completely disconnect from the existing server first.
This seems to be a rather clumsy, especially when there is no kill switch to protect your data and hide your true IP address while you’re doing all this clicking around.
Otherwise, opening PersonalVPN will connect you to the last server you were on. The connection is extremely fast and easy.
“Quick Connect” will just randomly connect you to a server. But if you want to be on a particular one, you need to click “Advanced Connect.”
With “Advanced Connect,” you first choose your server.
Then the VPN Protocol. As you can see, OpenVPN comes most highly recommended. But you can choose your preference.
Then you choose your encryption level – but there is actually only one choice. So it’s not really a choice!
Then click “Connect” and you’ll suddenly be off to another country. Well, your computer IP address will be anyway.
7. Each Plan has a Ton of Features
Some VPN companies will offer a free or cheap plan that has major restrictions.
For example, they might only give you a few GB of data.
That means it works fine for a week or so. But it quickly becomes useless afterward.
Fortunately, PersonalVPN provides the following features on all paid plans:
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Server Switching
- Unlimited Speed
- Use on Multitude of Devices
- Access to Global Network
- NAT Firewall
- Witopia Secure DNS
- Multiple VPN Protocols
- Optimized Super-Fast IPsec w/IKEv2
- Military-Grade 256-bit Encryption
- Encrypted WiFi
- Zero Logging of Internet activity
- 24x7x365 LIVE Chat Support
- 30 Day Unconditional Money Back Guarantee
The Personal Plan Basic plan also offers:
- 5 simultaneous connections
- PPTP, L2TP/IPsec
- Optimized Super-Fast IPsec w/IKEv2
- Monthly Plan Available
The Personal Plan Pro includes all of those things, plus:
- Enhanced OpenVPN protocol with unique-per-User 4096-bit certificate, 256-bit Military-Grade AES Encryption, fully Customizable Gateways, and over 65,000 ports, TCP/UDP, and Ciphers
- Stealth Modes with TOR Technology
And last but not least, the Personal Plan Premier is the Big Daddy option that provides all that stuff, in addition to:
- Add your own VPN Router.
- Share your VPN throughout your home or office.
- Any device with ethernet or Wi-Fi can use your VPN, such as Smart TVs and gaming consoles.
- Exclusive VPN Router Set Up Tools.
- Free SecureMyEmail™ Encrypted Email
- End-to-End Encryption for Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Exchange/Office 365 and most any other email address.
- Mac, Windows, Android, with iOS and more coming soon.
- Easy Inviting of Friends and Colleagues.
PersonalVPN Cons –
PersonalVPN is lightning fast.
They also don’t skimp on encryption level or protocol options to deliver awesome performance.
At least, that’s what it says on paper.
We put PersonalVPN’s connection through a few tests and found tons of loopholes, unfortunately.
But first, let’s start with their logging policy.
1. Collects Some Logs
PersonalVPN does not collect logs of the online user’s browsing history or use of online services.
Ok. That’s kind of a lot.
So what, exactly, are they doing with all of that data?
Good news and bad news:
Nothing concerning your web browsing activity is kept.
However, payment information and your email address would be enough to identify you as a customer of PersonalVPN.
2. Inside the Five Eyes Agreement
PersonalVPN’s parent company, WiTopia, is based in Virginia.
That means they’re an official, card-carrying member of the U.S.’ 5 Eyes Jurisdiction.
This is where five countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — have agreed to pool their collective intelligence information.
This, of course, includes information about online users. And their activities.
I tried several times to find out who PersonalVPN’s payment processing service is, but it seems like a great mystery they’re keeping.
We emailed twice…
We connected with live chat…
They couldn’t help either. (Unhelpfully claiming that they were only there for “technical questions.”)
At the time of writing this, nobody in the company seems to be in any hurry to reply to me.
That, in addition to their primary position in 5 Eyes, should leave you a little concerned.
3. TONS of DNS Leaks & WebRTC Leaks
When your VPN service tells you your computer is now sitting on a beach in Rio, do you take its word for it?
In theory, you should. However, your connection can often ‘leak’ data to not only expose what you’re doing online, but also your real physical location.
These leaks undercut the entire point of a VPN software in the first place.
Which is exactly why we’ve done over 70 VPN reviews several times to make sure they’re legit.
Unfortunately, PersonalVPN came up with two leaks right out of the gate.
- 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/ (one leak found!)
We also ran the VPN installation files through VirusTotal. Thankfully, that came back completely clean.
But for a VPN app supposedly “obsessed with security,” two leaks is pretty alarming.
4. No Kill Switch
The purpose of a ‘kill switch’ is to stop your actual IP address from being temporarily revealed when a VPN connection is dropped.
PersonalVPN does not offer one.
Ok. Fine. Not the end of the world.
But it was their reasoning that floored us:
Wait! It gets better:
The NSA is monitoring your web activity. But as long as you’ve got full access to Grace and Frankie, eh?
You know what my favorite part of this entire exchange was?
We then tested Netflix.
Because, you know, that’s why everyone is using PersonalVPN.
Except for one teeny, tiny problem…
5. Didn’t Work with Netflix
Despite Netflix geo-blocking being the primary reason to sign up for PersonalVPN (according to them, not me), we couldn’t stream a single thing across five different servers.
PersonalVPN / Witopia servers blocked by Netflix:
- United States: New York
- United States: Chicago
- United Kingdom: London
So, if you’re looking for a VPN for Netflix specifically, here’s our research where we tested 67 providers for Netflix.
6. Spotty Customer Support
Customer Support can be contacted via email, social media, snail mail, and Live Chat. There is also a Support section which you can check out before emailing them.
We tried emailing them a few different questions, but didn’t get a response.
- I know you have your own CloakVPN routers but do you support any other routers?
- Do you support connection to BitTorrent?
- Can you explain this “low profile mode” and what it does when it is switched on? Under what circumstances would I ever want to use it?
- What payment service do you use for credit card transactions?
- Does PersonalVPN support gaming consoles, the Tor browser, and SmartTV’s?
- Why do you have no kill switch?
Fortunately, we had better luck with the live chat.
But the entire experience, from the ignored emails, to the dumb answers, and the non-answers, left us a little frustrated.
7. Torrenting Kinda Allowed (But Not Officially Condoned)
Our live chat session revealed that PersonalVPN does not officially support torrenting.
That said, they won’t break a sweat trying to block you, either.
So you can probably get away with P2P, but it’s probably not a solid, long-term option.
PersonalVPN Cost, Plans & Payment Methods
You can either buy PersonalVPN monthly or annually.
If you pay annually, you get discounts for paying one, two, or even three years in advance.
That means it might only set you back $110 for three years of the basic plan.
You can pay for PersonalVPN with all major credit and debit cards. Visa and MasterCard gift cards are accepted. And PayPal is also welcome.
Each plan also comes with a free 30-day money-back guarantee. So you can take advantage of that awesome three-year deal and still have a month to back out.
Unfortunately, there is no support for cryptocurrencies, with the company says there is “too much potential for fraud” there.
Do I Recommend PersonalVPN?
Their speeds are really good.
They support a wide variety of platforms, even Chromebooks and Blackberries. Plus, they make their own router boxes.
And the plans are really cheap with BIG discounts the further ahead you pay.
However, they do have the following strikes against them.
- They are in the USA and in the Five Eyes agreement.
- They refuse to answer about who their payment processor is.
- They have no kill switch.
- They don’t support cash payments or Bitcoin.
- There is no official support for BitTorrent.
- Netflix unblocking doesn’t work, either.
Yes, they top our speed rankings.