Brad Smith

This is my unbiased Zenmate review. I’ll reveal all the cons and pros I could find.

ZenMate VPN is owned by ZenGuard GmbH.

The company is based out of Berlin, Germany, and was founded by Markus Hänel and Simon Specka in 2013.

I paid for a new ZenMate VPN account to compile data for this review. I’ll walk you through the overall experience with the software, usability, and customer support.

I’ll also show you the results of my speed tests using US, EU, and Asia servers.

But first, here are some fast facts about ZenMate.

 

ZenMate Background

The first visit to the ZenMate.com homepage shows off a professional, sleek, and minimalistic design.

ZenMate homepage

Here’s what they say about themselves, apart from claiming to have “The World’s Most Trusted VPN”:

“We are a team of passionate humans and 4 ZenDogs, coming from 20 different countries. We aim to deliver clever products with intuitive design, to allow you to enjoy a secure and private experience on the Internet – regardless of who you are, or where you are in the world.”

According to their website, there are also over 41 million ZenMate users across the world who use the tool “to access the web securely, anonymously and without restriction.

ZenMate was listed as the 9th best VPN of 2017 by TechAdvisor.co.uk, who says it’s a great VPN to get started with… however, they went on to say that “it is slow and there’s a lack of control and transparency that will deter serious privacy advocates.”

That doesn’t necessarily bode well for what’s to come in the cons section below.

ZenMate review

TechRadar also had the same concerns about privacy in their review of the VPN, saying that while the main website is fairly straightforward, the privacy policy and terms of service pages are not.

The 3 out of 5 star review says, “Just about every element takes longer to describe than it should, and seems written for lawyers rather than regular users.”

ZenMate TechRadar review

Legal-speak is definitely not a great sign. Especially when it’s your privacy and identity on the line.

Now, let’s move on to compatibility and features to see how their service works.

 

What Does ZenMate Offer + Compatibility

ZenMate is offered as a browser extension, mobile application, and desktop client.

Here are all of the devices supported by ZenMate:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Other browsers based on the Chromium Open Source Browser Project
  • Mac OS X
  • Windows
  • DrayTek routers and more

Fortunately, ZenMate has an option for you no matter if you’re browsing on mobile or desktop, Android or iPhone, Mac or Windows, or hooking up a router.

Overall, there are only 31 accessible servers (and 30 countries) at last count. That’s among the lowest server count I’ve seen. Some, like ExpressVPN, has over 1500 servers (that’s not a typo) in just about every city imaginable.

The other potential issue is that your access to these servers can be restricted based on the plan you choose. For example, their Chrome extension is free. However, you won’t get full access to all of their features or servers.

You can use one ZenMate account for up to 5 devices or platforms at once. You can manage connected devices by going to the “Devices” section of your ZenMate dashboard.

Just click on the X next to any device to remove it from your account.

This VPN also has a kill switch called EverSecure.

Kill switches are critical when you’re out-and-about.

For example, having your connection fail when at home isn’t a huge deal. But it is when you’re in an airport or even hotel.

You’re traveling for work and assume the networks at these big brand hotels are safe. Unfortunately, they’re anything but.

When your connection drops, for whatever reason, your VPN guard often falls, too. That can leave your existing browsing session wide open.

Kill switches act as a last ditch effort to sever your connection to make sure no one else can take advantage of this momentary opening.

If you upgrade to their Premium feature, you’ll have access to ZenMate’s full service on every platform, as well as all of their servers. More on that next.

 

ZenMate Pricing and Plans

With a premium ZenMate account, you’ll have access to all locations, platforms, and advanced features available in the full VPN service.

The free version claims to be just as safe as the premium one is, but locations and features are severely limited.

With the free version, users can only access these countries:

  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Romania
  • The United States

Both the free and premium features include encryption, an NAT firewall, and Anti-TCP/IP fingerprinting.

Premium clients will be able to access:

  • The Opera web browser extension
  • Faster browsing speeds on premium servers
  • Access to all 29 available country locations
  • Malware blocking
  • Tracking protection
  • A smart locations feature that allows you to pre-set locations to certain sites

ZenMate plans and pricing

For ZenMate premium, you can choose to be billed monthly, yearly, or every six months.

The monthly version costs $8.99 per month.

This isn’t too bad when you compare it with the competition. Some VPN products push you above $10 a month for their monthly plan (if they even offer it).

It’s a true month-to-month option, so it’s perfect if you want to test drive the service without getting locked in.

The six month option is $7.49 per month.

This option is billed as $44.99 every 6 months.

The discount here is miniscule, to be honest. So if you’re even considering it, you should just jump straight to the annual plan, instead. Otherwise, stick to the monthly one.

The yearly option is $4.99 per month

That annual payment comes to $59.99 each year, which is only slightly more than the six-month option.

This is a 44% discount. So there’s no surprise that it’s the most popular plan.

There’s also a 14-day money back guarantee on all plans.

That means you can try out their free browser version to start with. Then upgrade to the monthly one and take a full two weeks to decide if you’d like to stick with this provider (or not).

Now, let’s get into the actual pros and cons of the service.

 

ZenMate Pros

Like most VPN providers, ZenMate makes some bold claims on their site about being the “world’s most trusted.”

But this is where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to share my experience after paying for the service.

First, let’s start with the good stuff.

1. Usability

ZenMate’s user dashboard makes it really simple to view your account summary, devices, and find support.

ZenMate Chrome usability

The Chrome extension is also sleek, simple, and easy to use.

ZenMate Chrome extension

Changing your location is as simple as one click, too.

ZenMate location options

ZenMate is pretty straightforward (especially from a browser version).

They’ve managed to pack a lot of features into a simple interface and nice aesthetic.

Overall, I was very pleased with the experience.

2. Decent Download/Upload Speed

I tested out the download and upload speeds for ZenMate for servers in the E.U., Asia, and the U.S. Here is the raw data:

zenmate speed

EU Server

  • Ping: 39 ms
  • Download: 63.44 Mbps
  • Upload: 12.81 Mbps

Asia Server

  • Ping: 232 ms
  • Download: 24.33 Mbps
  • Upload: 2.81 Mbps

US Server

  • Ping: 204 ms
  • Download: 57.03 Mbps
  • Upload: 2.98 Mbps

So how do these stack up with the other reviews I’ve done?

They’re pretty average to be honest.

They’re not bad (which is why they’re still listed here under the pros), but they definitely aren’t anything special. Especially when you compare them with similarly priced competition.

Faster servers are available on other VPN software, such as Trust.Zone.

ZenMate’s speed is firmly middle of the road.

3. Torrenting is allowed (for paid customers)

ZenMate used to forbid torrenting. However, they’ve recently opened up their Premium plans to allow for anonymous torrenting and P2P downloads.

4. Money-back guarantee

Typically, ZenMate doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. However, we’ve received confirmation that if you sign up through us, you’ll get a free 30-day money back guarantee. That way, you can give their service a go and see what you think before being locked into a long-term purchase.

 

ZenMate Cons

ZenMate was super user friendly.

However, a lot of the details left me wanting more.

Here is a complete list of the drawbacks of using ZenMate.

1. Security Encryption (AES 126 – not 256)

According to ZenMate, they use “tested modern industry standards” to encrypt your data.

They use the latest TLS 1.2 (RFC 5246) protocol, and they support various cipher suites with PFS (Default for Chrome is TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_GCM_SHA256) and up to TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384.

ZenMate also says that no known attacks are currently targeting these ciphers.

They also use AES 128 rather than AES 256 because they claim that it seems to be more resistant to timing attacks.

However, AES 256 is usually the more common choice for other VPNs.

The main reason ZenMate cite’s to use the lower 128-version comes down to speed. It’s still secure, but can often produce faster performance.

Here’s my main gripe, though.

I’ve tested many other VPN services that have produced much faster speeds at AES 256 than ZenMate was able to deliver.

So I’m not buying that line.

Plus, many other VPN services will at least give you the option of switching between one or the other.

Then you, the person actually using the service, can decide for yourself whether you’d like to sacrifice privacy for speed.

Unfortunately, ZenMate doesn’t allow you to make that decision on your own.

2. Customer Support Could Be Better

ZenMate doesn’t offer live chat.

Instead, they send you over to their Support area that looks like this:

ZenMate Support AreaThere are three categories of pre-existing support to find answers to your questions about getting started, using ZenMate, or troubleshooting.

You can also search for answers to your question that may already exist.

The “Getting Started” section provides a guide on account subscription and setup, product setup, and information about ZenMate itself.

The “Using ZenMate” section gives answers to some questions users may have about their account and payment, privacy and security, and using the VPN for a browser, desktop, or mobile.

This section also covers ZenMate’s Sense Antivirus Security.

The “Troubleshooting” section gives answers to FAQs about fixing issues with the service.

Under these three categories, there is an area where you can contact ZenMate support directly via a fill form that looks like this:

ZenMate Support RequestI submitted a question to ZenMate to review this feature myself.

You have to choose which platform you’re using to submit a question:

ZenMate Platform support

And you also have to select a contact reason from their drop down menu. You also have the option to upload an image file at the bottom of the fill form.

ZenMate support contact reason

I wanted to find out if ZenMate was compatible with Safari or Microsoft Edge as an extension. Here’s the question I submitted.

ZenMate issue description

Notice the small text under my question stating, “ZenMate Support replies in English, in regards to our international user base.”

About a minute later, this response came into my inbox:

ZenMate request received

It was basically a response letting me know my question was received, stating that I should expect to hear back in about one to five business days.

I also received a support ticket number.

A little over an hour later, I received another email from ZenMate support:

ZenMate support bot Rosa

Basically, the answer was from a chatbot named “ZenBot Rosa” letting me know which platforms ZenMate supports, which led me to infer that the answer to my question is no, ZenMate does not support Safari or Microsoft Edge.

However, it made me wonder if this was a preset response to my question based on the contact reason I had to preselect.

So I asked a different question about how to use ZenMate with Netflix.

I was eventually sent the exact same email from “ZenBot Rosa” in an hour. However, both emails did state that I could reply to the chat bot’s email to speak with a real person.

Overall, I was disappointed that this method is the only way to get in touch with customer service.

A live chat or ticketing option in addition to “ZenBot” email support would improve the overall customer support of this VPN.

3. ZenMate Doesn’t Seem to Work on Netflix

I was excited to see if ZenMate worked with Netflix once being connected to their servers.

Unblocking Websites” is one of the big benefits their site trumps.

So you’d think that Netflix is on that list, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

ZenMate seemed to work with Netflix at first, because I chose Germany as my country and saw this title when I logged into my Netflix account:

ZenMate Netflix Germany

However, when I clicked on the title to watch it, Netflix knew I was using some sort of VPN.

I was greeted with this message:

ZenMate Netflix streaming error

This is a letdown for international Netflix users hoping to use ZenMate to access the thousands of shows available on Netflix in the US that they don’t have regular access to.

Update: We spoke with a rep from ZenMate who was able to fill in the following details:

“Netflix usually blocks us twice a week on average. If they release a new show, they try to block us several times a day. We have automated system in place and it takes us usually few minutes to unblock them again. I just double checked with our team and currently Netflix is up and 100% working.”

So it looks like their Netflix access comes down a timing issue. If you’re looking to get access to Netflix using a VPN, read this.

4. Questionable Logging Policy

Here’s what ZenMate’s homepage says about logging:

ZenMate logging policy

However, many people across the web say that ZenMate logs your metadata and sells it, and their privacy policy supports these theories.

According to the policy, ZenMate collects your data on the following occasions:

pasted image 0 31

(Image Source)

Overall, I can’t put a lot of trust or faith into their logging now.

Update: We received some clarification from ZenMate directly about what they do (and don’t) log to help clear this up:

“We don’t log nor store any data related to browsing and Internet activity. The screenshot in your review applies only to information such as emails, servers that users are using (for us to be able to optimize load/speeds), or payment information (our service is subscription based).”

Do I Recommend Zenmate VPN?

While ZenMate could be useful for someone who is just starting to get acquainted with a VPN, the sketchy privacy policies of the site are difficult to navigate through.

And since the whole point of using a VPN is to protect your privacy, this is a huge problem.

Plus, not being able to access Netflix with this VPN is a bummer for people across every country.

Customer service of ZenMate could be better with the addition of a live chat to their site, too.

Overall, I would not recommend this VPN. There are better VPNs to choose from.

Pros:

  • Supports several devices
  • Offers a kill switch
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Torrenting & P2P allowed
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Lack of servers
  • Customer support could use improvement
  • Encryption is questionable
  • ZenMate logs your data

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