ProtonVPN Review

Andrey Doichev

Andrey Doichev · Read user reviews

In this review, I’ll test out their service and see how it performs vs. other free VPN providers. In short, it’s not that bad at all.

ProtonVPN comes from the same CERN Scientist and Harvard Physics PhD brains behind ProtonMail, the world’s largest encrypted email network.

So they’ve already created a free-to-paid, encrypted internet privacy service in one space. Surely they can do it in the VPN space, too?

That’s what we’re here to find out. Over the past few months, we’ve been comprehensively testing their OpenVPN protocol, encryption connection standards, speed, security, pricing, and more.

And you’ll hear about the good, bad, and ugly in this ProtonVPN review.

ProtonVPN review

 

ProtonVPN Pros +

ProtonVPN was founded on the back of security experts. So you know the protocol and encryption standards will be top notch. They also don’t disappoint in a few other key areas, like customer service and a rock-solid connection.

Take a look.

1. Exceptional Security & Privacy Standards

ProtonVPN comes equipped with OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) protocol, with the super-secure AES-256 encryption.

This is bank-grade, state-of-the-art encryption standards.

Put it this way:

If you are going to suffer a hack, it won’t be because they broke through this encryption. Because it’s never been done.

Instead, most hackers will cut their losses and go after other methods of breaking in, like guessing your password reminders.

2. Strict No-Logging Policy

We’ve analyzed 118 VPN logging policies over the past few years.

This is often boring, painstaking work.

But it’s important.

protonvpn no logging
Image from: https://protonvpn.com/support/no-logs-vpn/

Because pouring through this many terms and privacy policies has taught us where VPNs like to bury their privacy bodies.

For example, we’ve found that 7% of VPNs commonly log your connections data. And more than 30% of VPNs have suspicious (not straightforward) logging policy. These ones often use vague, technical jargon or legal terms to allow for ‘gray’ areas that might come back to haunt you.

Now, ProtonVPN has a solid reputation based on their past work.

But we’ve also confirmed that when they say “no logging,” you can actually trust it.

3. Decent Customer Support

Ticket-based support systems usually make us cringe.

That’s because we’ve all experienced the ~several day delay between each email, which requires a week long back-and-forth process to answer even the simplest of questions.

That initial thought flashed through my head when I laid eyes on Proton’s support options.

Reluctantly, I filled out the form with a few simple questions and hit “Send.”

However, a reply hit my inbox within around 24 hours.

And to my surprise, it wasn’t just a straight link to a knowledge base article on their site, either.

Proton customer support email

It wasn’t breathtaking or anything. But it didn’t need to be.

It just needed to be relatively fast and direct. And that’s what it was.

A pretty good experience all around.

4. Leak-Free Connection

DNS and Web-RTC leaks can accidentally expose your true IP address. These are typically caused by connection conflicts that open a teeny, tiny hole for your data to seep through.

Sounds minor. But it isn’t.

It allows your ISP, governments, and even two-bit hackers to spot you from a mile (or more) away. So it completely undermines your use of a VPN.

All without you even realizing it.

ProtonVPN’s connection came out leak free in every test we ran. Check it out.

protonvpn perfect-privacy.com dns leaktest protonvpn perfect-privacy.com check-ip leak test protonvpn iploak.net leak test

No WebRTC leaks either:

protonvpn browserleaks.com webrtc

But that’s not all.

We also ran their install files through VirusTotal.com and found them to be completely free of malicious software.

ProtonVPN virustotal score

5. One Netflix Server Worked (Out of Five)

ProtonVPN says on their site that Netflix will work on “certain servers.”

The trick, I guess, is figuring out which ones.

So we attempted this game of Netflix roulette, and won one out of five tries. (Vegas, here we come.)

We were able to successfully stream content on a Netherlands Netflix server.

Unfortunately, I have no clue what shows licensed under the Netherlands. Two U.S. servers failed, as did one in Canada and another in the UK.

So they get listed under Pros for having one success. But practically speaking, just keep in mind that your options might be kinda limited here.

 

ProtonVPN Cons –

ProtonVPN gets high marks for their attention to security detail. However, there are still a few drawbacks we uncovered.

Let’s take a look at each of them in-depth.

1. They are Located in Switzerland

Switzerland has a history of being a ‘neutral’ country. One that protects the privacy of its citizens and doesn’t like to get involved in domestic conflicts.

And all of that is true.

Swiss laws do protect privacy. Generally speaking.

The issue, though, is that Switzerland is also a cooperating member of the extended Eyes security alliance.

This is a worldwide agreement that essentially helps government agencies to spy on each others citizens in the name of “worldwide safety.”

I don’t mean that in a conspiracy-theorist way. This has already been happening for decades.

So a Swiss-based location means you’re mostly good. Your privacy is mostly safe.

The good news is that ProtonVPN doesn’t keep a lot of their customer data on file. But just keep in the back of their mind that their government might force them to cooperate.

2. Server Speeds are Too Slow for the Price  

Speed is the great equaliser.

All else being similar — pricing, features, security protocols, etc. — you’re going to go with the fastest option.

Because speed makes all things possible (streaming, torrent downloads, or just a dozen tabs up while you’re bouncing around between browsing sessions).

Unfortunately, ProtonVPN’s combined speed score only put them at 48th out of 74 VPN companies.

Here’s how we come up with that data:

  1. We use SpeedTest.net to get a reading of our benchmark, non-VPN internet connection. We got 97 Mbps download and 53 Mbps upload at the time of this review.
  2. Then, we connect to a few different ProtonVPN servers. We try to select random ones around the world to get a fair, unbiased view.
  3. Finally, we calculate the differences and come up with a combined score that gets ranked against all of the other reviews we’ve previously done.

Sound good? Check out each server test in detail now.

U.S. Servers (East & West)

ProtonVPN’s U.S. servers started extremely slow. The download speed, especially, would make most torrenting activities slow to a crawl.

  • Ping: 190 ms
  • Download: 24.6 Mbps (75% slower)
  • Upload: 36.4 Mbps (31% slower)

EU Servers (Switzerland)

The EU servers, on the other hand, didn’t disappoint. This probably also had something to do with our closer proximity to this servers. Even something as simple as physical distance between you and the connected server can impact performance. But credit where credits due.

  • Ping: 66ms
  • Download: 54.46 Mbps (44% slower)
  • Upload: 37.86 Mbps (29% slower)

Asia Servers (Hong Kong)

We thought the U.S. server speeds were bad. Until we saw the Asian ones out of Hong Kong. 85% slower across the board.

  • Ping: 317 ms
  • Download: 16 Mbps (84% slower)
  • Upload: 6.4 Mbps (88% slower)

UK Servers

And last but not least, a UK server feel somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on the ‘good’ side of the middle.

  • Ping: 46ms
  • Download: 52 Mbps (46% slower)
  • Upload: 47 Mbps (11% slower)

These results were disappointing across the board. Consistent, yes. But consistently slow is not good.

Companies like ExpressVPN, PIA, and Trust.Zone all offer better speed (at only a fraction of the price).

3. Limited Device Compatibility

ProtonVPN windows app

The best VPNs we’ve reviewed all provide pre-built apps for every device imaginable.

This way, all you have to do is point and click. No technical experience required. No manual labor needed.

ProtonVPN provides pre-built apps for Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android devices.

Unfortunately, that’s all they provide.

That means they do not have a native app for iOS clients at this time (July 2018). Instead, you’ll have to do a manual config using the OpenVPN app.

But even worse, it means there’s no pre-built option for routers, smart TVs, or gaming consoles.

No native router option also limits your ability to connect unlimited devices.

The silver lining? ProtonVPN’s paid plans provide up to ten simultaneous connections — this is on the higher end from what we’ve seen.

4. Limited Torrenting Available

Unfortunatley, ProtonVPN doesn’t allow unlimited torrenting.

It’s not allowed at all on free plans.

The reasoning is that “P2P would increase the load on our servers due to torrenting and this would put more pressure on us, ultimately not allowing us to subsidise the free accounts from the paid ones.”

That’s understandable.

It is allowed on paid ones, but only on certain servers. Again, the reasoning is that they channel P2P traffic through neutral “safe countries.”

However, they also take this moment to bring up Swiss law: “File sharing is only permitted for personal, non-commercial use.”

So yes, they allow it. But there are several restrictions which might make it impractical for you.

5. Limited Protocols (OpenVPN Only)

This last one is on the border.

ProtonVPN only offers the OpenVPN protocol.

Technically speaking, this is a GREAT thing. It’s the state-of-the-art industry standard. Almost everyone, everywhere should use ONLY use OpenVPN.

So why is this showing up under the Cons section?

Because not everyone has the choice of only using this protocol option.

Many older devices, or even some less expensive new ones like some Chromebooks, don’t offer OpenVPN support just yet.

Instead, you’ll have to connect through a different (albeit, less-desirable) protocol like L2TP or PPTP.

These other options aren’t nearly as secure. And in most cases you wouldn’t want to use them.

But that’s just the thing:

You don’t always have that choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

And for that reason, ProtonVPN might not work for large cross-section of potential customers.

ProtonVPN Pricing, Cost & Payment Methods

ProtonVPN pricing plans
ProtonVPN’s pricing in 2018

ProtonVPN has four plans to choose from, with optional discounts for paying annually.

So the prices below INCLUDE the annual ~20% discount.

Free: $0/month

Yes, Proton has a free VPN. But yes, it’s also pretty bare bones.

The service comes with only three server locations: The Netherlands, USA, and Japan.

It doesn’t come with any extra features.

But it does help you unlock a free seven-day trial of their paid plans. So that might be a good way to dip your toe into ProtonVPN’s waters without spending a single cent.

Basic: $4/month (we bought this)

Proton’s Basic plan is a marginal upgrade on the free one to be honest. You do get access to all countries, but not Plus, Secure, or Tor servers. Your speed access is “high” but not the “highest.”

Plus, you only can connect two simultaneous devices.

So kinda a bummer to be honest. Skip over this option.

Plus: $8/month

Proton’s Plus plan increases your connection limitation up to five devices. Speed is the “highest,” and you get access to Plus, Secure Core, and Tor servers.

This is probably the only plan you should go with to be honest.

The fourth plan, Visionary, is kinda the same as the Plus, but with a cross-sell for their ProtonMail offering. So that’s also a decent option at $24/month (paid annual) if you were already considering both encrypted options.

Otherwise, you can pay for all of these plans with either credit card or PayPal. Nothing else (cash, bitcoin, etc.) from what we’ve seen.

ProtonVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, you only get a prorated amount of the “unused portion.” In other words, if you use it for 10 days, you’ll get a refund for 20 days worth.

That’s not a great refund policy compared to others, like CyberGhost, which offers a full “no questions asked” money-back guarantee.

Refunds in the original currency or payment method you used will be given, too.

You’ll have to send an email to [email protected] to get your prorated share.

Do I Recommend ProtonVPN?

No, we don’t.

ProtonVPN features an awesome connection with the highest security considerations. Their customer service was good and Netflix even worked on one server.

Unfortunately, it’s a few other areas that let it down in the end.

A Switzerland home base is generally a good thing for privacy. But they are cooperative with other aggressive government agencies around the world.

Honestly, the server speeds were not good. Device options are limited.

And the pricing, even with a 20% annual discount, is still on the high end for what you’re getting in return.

There are just so many better options available, with the same connection strength, faster performance, and more devices, for far less.

Browse best premium VPNs here.

Add your own ProtonVPN review

16 user reviews for ProtonVPN

Graham Martin 1/10 May 12, 2018

This is RUBBISH

Downloaded the free version to see if it was any good.

It took over my computer and stopped programs such as Skype and Mozilla Firefox from working. It changed all my passwords to god knows what. The best thing I done was remove it off my computer. BUT, it still comes up as working when I start my computer. It’s like a bad dream , keeps coming back to piss me off. WORST VPN known to man.

Eli 9/10 April 28, 2018

Excellent

I said 90, but on a scale of 1-10 I never give out a 10, so...

We use a corporate VPN to hurl huge amounts of data around, and when traversing 3,000+ miles latency issues definitely affect speed across the public Internet. ProtonVPN is better.

For general web use ProtonVPN appears to be quite usable. I do not include streaming audio and/or video in that evaluation, however.

When watching a video otherwise blocked by country….ProtonVPN has been adequate.

IMO, the security and privacy issues are paramount. News events and OSINT/SOCMINT are desired and usable.

Entertainment….well, maybe someday.

Pete 1/10 April 10, 2018

No VPN and no refund!

The 6 day free trial was great … fast speeds and no disconnects. HOWEVER when the trial was up I paid for the Plus upgrade and was shocked with the extremely slow speeds (less than 5 Mpbs) and multiple disconnects. Sent them a cancellation email as per their terms and conditions and they blocked my VPN service and refused to refund my money. Over a month later and my credit card company had to do a charge-back to recover my funds.

Z 8.5/10 March 27, 2018

Reliable

Yes, they aren’t easily usable, or have great support. I’ll freely admit they’re not the greatest.

But I find the review here to be excessively tough on them; especially considering that they actually *deliver* on their claims of security. Even the claims of low speeds are quite hyperbolic. For example they criticise the speeds while listing them.

US – These speeds actually aren’t that terrible. While they’re not industry leading or fastest by any stretch, they are functional speeds.

Asia – These speeds are also not as bad as they’re made out to be, but I’ll admit they’re not that great.

I feel the method of speed measurements are also lacking. They failed to purchase a plus Plan and test; therefore I feel like speed discussion is weak. Furthermore they didn’t exactly use the most reputable way of measuring speed. Ookla’s speedtest.net is known for offering their “services” to US ISPs. Furthermore Speedtest.net allows ISPs to self host test servers; drastically reducing the reliability of the test, and allowing ISPs to effectively cheat on their speed tests by being able to use QOS to prioritize testing servers. Multiple measurements aren’t needed. I could accept speedtest.net results if it were paired with other results (like from Ooniprobe or othet lesser known speed test sites which ISPs have less ability and motivation to cheat on.

In my personal experience, Speedtest.net results have never accurately reflected my true performance. This article is lacking in both proper quantitative and qualitative measurements for speed.

Chris Wall 9/10 March 7, 2018

Decent!

I think it’s worth pointing out what seem to be some flaws in the review.

1. I’m sure the author is being hyperbolic about VPN requiring a network degree (more below)
2. Fast and secure do not always go hand in hand. Free is usually off the table for either of those.
3. It’s faster than TOR and…
4. When have a vendor I can trust, I can relax.
5. My use cases do not include torrenting files.

As with any solution you need to weigh your needs/wants and prioritize them. Personally, based on research, ProtonVPN is taking a solid ethic and doubling down on making sure they are transparent, don’t log, and are innovating **but not for innovation’s sake**.

Now, as someone who doesn’t have a networking degree (what a weird benchmark to set in a review), I can say that the documentation and support have been obscure but straightforward enough. For transparency, I had a CCNA that lapsed a decade ago, and was a UNIX engineer by trade. That said, Linux sucked until the kernel hit 2.x. The openness of the project helped adoption and robustness. I think that’s where ProtonVPN is headed as well.

Alex Sung 10/10 February 25, 2018

Best privacy vpn with average speed

I am paid protonvpn suscription for 2 years using Professional plan. After using for the past 2 months with secure core, although the speed are not impressive but I am confident with their setup after been using vpn services with PIA, Torguard, Airvpn, VPN.ac & few more vpn service providor for more than a decade.

The downside is that they restricted to port used and encryption used are not using 4096 bit RSA keys size, stating the duration of Diffie-Hellman key exchange DHE key duration & HMAC SHA256 to compensate for speed instead of maximum security.

Overall, if you are privacy paranoia then this is best vpn for you over connection speed & price.

Sully 8/10 February 21, 2018

Linux friendly, great speed/ease of use.

I’m using the free service and have had no issues. I have not experienced any serious speed issues, and have not seen any of the connectivity issues reported below. I am using linux, which is very well supported due to the openvpn protocol. It was so easy setting this up on my machine that I honestly wonder about the competency of this reviewer and of the readers whose comments below. I have not used the windows app, but openvpn is a cinch to get setup on my machine. Protonvpn gives you everything necessary to easily get everything working in minutes. The instructions are provided with absolute clarity.

I am grateful that this service exists, and while it may not be the best VPN out there, it is certainly very high up in my recommended list of VPN providers. If you want to have the worlds best speeds use something else. If you want some of the best available security minded IT engineers in the world encrypting your traffic, choose ProtonVPN.

Jonathan 2/10 January 11, 2018

Slow and steady does not win the race.

I’m a paid Protonmail user and they did offer a deal on adding VPN service at a discount because I was a subscriber. Took them up on the offer and I’ve regretted it in almost every way. It is painfully slow. As a paid user you can choose from the fastest connections but even they are way too slow. It’s a dilemma; You pay for 60Mbps internet connectivity, and suddenly it is slowed down to about 3Mbps. One could argue that is the price of being secure.

Customer Service is excellent for email related problems. Not so good assistance for VPN.

I was in the middle tier. Not the free plan but not the fastest. Perhaps it would be better if Proton offered free service and paid service rather than Tier 1 and Tier 2 plans. I couldn’t help but feel that even as a paid user I was still being throttled.

Pros: Good interface. Simple to install and use.

Cons: Slow, sometimes unusably slow. Dismissive customer service. Two levels of paid service means you had better go for the top tier; otherwise, you may find yourself crawling along, even with a high-speed connection.

John 4/10 January 8, 2018

Not as good as I expected

I purchased the basic plan (billed $48 for 12 months of service) after initially taking advantage of their free plan. Initially I was very happy, speeds (on the free plan) were not too great but I understood free was limited, and expected speeds to improve with a paid plan. Their selection of locations was very comprehensive, and they had for many locations multiple servers to choose from (some allowing p2p, some not). So after a week of testing the service out I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a subscription, to ensure that at least my computer and phone had VPN. And that’s where the problems started. While the phone app worked fine, the computer app which was working fine for the trial week started misbehaving. Basically any attempt to login would hang at “assigning IP”, meaning the VPN was not usable. I tried to use their support through the website and it was a nightmare, It took multiple days (not tries, days) to even submit a support request for my problem (keep in mind, everything was functioning fine until I paid for a subscription). The support provided was completely generic, and after a week of back and forth going through what felt like an infinite loop of repeating the same process, I gave up, cancelled my subscription and sought a different VPN provider. To be absolutely fair, the part of the service that worked for me (the iphone app) was fine, good speeds, good response times from both North American and EU servers (which is what I mostly used). But unfortunately having service for half of what I wanted was not acceptable for me.

hector lagos 9/10 January 5, 2018

great

Got the FREE subscription and I must say that I’m surprised by the quality of their software. Connection is rather good, no disco at all, no leaks, clean IPs, browsing is easy and flawless.

And most of all Proton is TRUSTABLE! I like their ethics…

Robert 1/10 December 29, 2017

Horrible Customer Service

They have the WORST customer service I have ever seen. I’ve been using the free service for the past few weeks, randomly I keep getting disconnected with a message claiming that I have been disconnected because I am using P2P when I’m NOT.

It seems to happen whenever their server starts to get busy. I don’t even use the service but for about 20 minutes a day so it’s not like I was on there all day or something.

I contacted customer service, told them THREE TIMES that I only have 1 P2P app on my computer and it IS NOT RUNNING when I am using the VPN. I know they don’t allow p2p and I am not freaking stupid.

I even gave them a screenshot of my task manager showing unequivocally there were NO P2P applications running ON THE SAME SCREEN with the error message and they sent me back the same canned message claiming I have p2p running AGAIN.

OH, and every reply from them took 3 days and came from a different person. No one ever actually tried to look into my problem AT ALL. The ONLY thing they did was blame me for the problem OVER AND OVER.

The service was painfully slow even when they were working. I usually got something like 4 Meg download speed even when the servers were showing less than 10% activity according to the software.

UNINSTALLED. Stay away from these IDIOTS IF YOU WANT DECENT VPN SERVICE.

Julie Richards (PhD Computer Science) 9/10 November 12, 2017

Disagree with the review

After testing ProtonVPN paid account, I completely disagree with the “thebestvpn” review of this service. I have run several tests on the security of this service and I am impressed, ProtonVPN stood up to all tests using a multitude of tools on Kali Linux; dns leak, IP leak, data leaks, man in middle and all attempts to break the VPN tunnel from the Intranet and Internet sides all failed. I tried several ways to triangulate the original source and again was unsuccessful. In reference to cost, you get what you pay for and this level of security is worth every penny. Ease of use, it’s easy nothing much else to say.

The only thing that is needed is support for other platforms and this is coming, I was reliably informed by ProtonVPN after email conversations.

I don’t agree with your review.

Rick 9/10 November 9, 2017

New ProtonVPN User via pfsense

I wanted to try ProtonVPN as I have had their free email for quite some time now and I am a fan of their devotion and commitment to privacy and security.

We use all Linux in our home and run our network through a pfsense router made from an old Dell Optiplex GX620. Using a “Matya’s Blog” article, I managed to get the ProtonVPN setup easily such that all of our traffic is now protected. I can’t comment on support or client-side applications as I do not use these, but as far as speeds I get around ~30mbps connecting through a SecureCore server here in the U.S. on my 50mbps connection. No DNS leaks, no issues with content streaming, and our regular sites we visit work as expected.

So far so good, and being that this is new from Proton, I expect much more coming from them ?

rw 8/10 October 2, 2017

using proton

Finding proton a bit difficult to understand, vis-a-vis connection speeds. Still in the “7-day” premium trial period, comparing proton to cyberghost. I get the same, or nearly the same, speed test results with cyberghost free as with the proton trial period. Cyberghost claims paid subscriptions have faster speeds, but I cannot test that without making a non-refundable payment.

It will be interesting to see how proton speeds compare once the trial period ends. On a second note, I do like proton’s display of server loading. I don’t know if the data is reliable, but i have noticed speed differences between low and high use server sites.

Mark 10/10 September 22, 2017

ProtonVPN is developing great

I am using ProtonMail on Mac which I agree is a painful process. But as they state on their social media channels, the BETA for Android and Mac for https://protonvpn.com/ are undergoing as we speak.

I think it’s smart that they launched the product even if unfinished and they can develop the other apps according to their users needs. I love Proton products and I trust them. I’d vouch the new apps will kick a lot of as* in the industry.

Doug 3/10 September 13, 2017

Lacks usability

I’m always eager to try out new (free) VPNs and I decided to go with them. Unfortunately, I’m running on mac and I had to go through a painful set of instructions which led me to nowhere.

Although I think I’m computer savvy, protonVPN is definitely not the best pick for someone using other than Windows.