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ZenMate VPN Review

Brad Smith

Brad Smith · Read user reviews

Here is our Zenmate VPN review…

ZenMate review

Zenmate VPN offers their users both free and paid subscription.

Their free version has IPSec IKEv2 & L2TP protocols, only the premium version comes with OpenVPN tunneling protocol.

Many VPNs offer 256-bit AES encryption, but Zenmate has only 128-bit encryption.

They claim to have reached as many as 43 million users, founded loudly and proudly on three simple words: Fast. Secure. Easy.

But does ZenMate meet its promise?

Find out in this review…

General Information

OVERALL RANK: 63/74
USABILITY: 0/5
ENCRYPTION: 128-bit AES
VPN PROTOCOLS: IPSec IKEv2 & L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN for Premium Service
SPEED: 23/74
NETFLIX: 2/5 Worked
TORRENTING: Allowed With Premium Plan
LOG FILES/JURISDICTION: Logs Original IP, Germany (14 Eyes)
SUPPORT: Contact Form Only
COST: $5.99/mo
WEBSITE: www.Zenmate.com

ZenMate Pros

1. Safe Encryption, Strong Protocols

Your VPN protocol is what tunnels your signal around the world. It’s how you get from Point A to Point B.

VPN protocols for windows and mac

There are many different VPN tunneling protocols in use today, some far better than others.

For Mac users, ZenMate uses IPSec and IKEv2 protocols. This is a stable and secure protocol that performs well. It’s one of the fastest protocols out there and it’s super easy to set up, so, awesome.

It does have limited platform support, though, and may be vulnerable to firewalls.

Windows users have access to IPSec and IKEv2 as well, with the added option of L2TP/IPSec.

ZenMate Ultimate, their premium plan, is compatible with OpenVPN software. Through this system, users can “upgrade” ZenMate’s service to the infinitely preferable OpenVPN tunneling protocol. OpenVPN open sourced system is maintained by the entire cybersecurity community and is widely considered the industry standard for safety.

For encryption, ZenMate’s protocols support AES, which is used by fortune 500 companies and the federal government alike. It’s powerful and secure.

These protocols can run both AES 128 and 256. While 256 is stronger, ZenMate repeatedly states that they believe the 128 is more effective.

AES 128 preferred by Zenmate

They claim that the 256-bit AES used by government agencies is overkill on the individual level, and not worth the added cost. (It also makes it a little faster.)

Still strong enough to land it under the Pros.

2. Speed Loss is Within Acceptable Levels

There are VPNs which slow your internet speed to a screeching halt, and there are some which cause a hardly noticeable shift.

But make no mistake:

All VPNs will slow you down, at least a little bit.

So where does ZenMate fall between the atrociously slow and the moderately decreased?

Somewhere in the middle.

The EU test saw a strong download speed, with the upload falling more into the average range than we usually like to see.

zenmate EU speed test
Our speed without VPN was 97 Mbps Up and 53 Mbps Down.

EU Speed Test

  • Ping: 39 ms
  • Download: 63.44 Mbps (34.5% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
  • Upload: 12.81 Mbps (75.8% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)

The US server that we tested fared about the same, except upload speeds plummeted into unacceptable levels.

US Speed Test

  • Ping: 204 ms
  • Download: 57.03 Mbps (41.2% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
  • Upload: 2.98 Mbps (94.3% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)

So, while we consider these speeds to be in the pro column, it was a close decision.

Out of the 74 VPNs we’ve tested, we rank ZenMate #23 in terms of speed.

3. Works With Netflix

Have you ever cursed at this screen?

netflix unexpected error screenshot

That error code is the bane of a VPN user’s existence.

It’s a Netflix error blocking access to their service for using a VPN. Why do they do this? Because Netflix doesn’t want you duping its system.

Netflix’s content is geo-locked, so different areas have different television shows and movies to choose from.

We tested five of ZenMate’s servers and two of them managed to work with Netflix. It might be worth noting that both of those servers were located within the US.

Because of this, ZenMate made it onto our list of VPNs that work with Netflix.

4. Sizable Server Park and Kill Switch

According to the main page of their website, they have 298 servers located within 31 different countries. That’s pretty impressive, considering a year ago they barely had 40.

zenmate server location map

They’re big into the bypassing of censorship, which is especially helpful if you’re using their service in a country that restricts internet use.

They allow five connections per account, which is pretty similar to most VPNs we’ve reviewed.

zenmate streaming screenshot

One of my favorite ZenMate features is its built-in kill switch. This is an added layer of protection that will abruptly end your session if your signal becomes unsecured. This has become a common feature of most of the best VPNs that we review.

5. Unlimited P2P Torrenting

ZenMate used to get a lot of heat for not allowing torrenting on their servers.

But they’ve seemingly wisened-up in recent years, offering unlimited P2P traffic on their premium and ultimate packages.

It should be noted, however, that in their terms of service, ZenMate talks about banned activities, and includes something that sounds an awful lot like torrenting.

Zenmate VPN TOS

Torrenting utilizes peer to peer communication to download small bits of large files from multiple people. There’s a danger associated with this, of course. You’re letting strangers into your system.

That’s why most torrenters like to use a VPN as an extra layer of armor between their private information and cybercriminals who want to loot and plunder their system.

Many companies have taken to banning the use of P2P torrenting on their servers, but I’m happy to see ZenMate and others continuing to support this valuable service.

6. No Viruses

We always check our VPNs for viruses, scanning the program in search of 66 different viruses which could be betraying system security.

ZenMate received a clean bill of health.

zenmate virustotal scan result

7. Supports Many Devices

Thanks to the recent edition of OpenVPN software, ZenMate has become a much more versatile VPN alternative.

zenmate supports many devices

ZenMate works across web browsers, desktop computers, and mobile platforms. Smart TV devices aren’t officially covered, but they can be used with OpenVPN software.

zenmate openvpn compatibility

You can officially use ZenMate with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and on the Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers through their downloadable VPN service.

zenmate device download option

This impressive lineup, coupled with the recent addition of OpenVPN software makes ZenMate a VPN that you can use on a wide variety of devices anywhere in the home.

 

ZenMate Cons

While there’s much to love about this service, there’s still quite a bit to be nervous about.

Unclear logging policies and a jurisdiction placing it right in the crosshairs of a multi-nation surveillance alliance make me antsy.

On top of that, their customer support leaves much to be desired, consisting of a contact form with less-than-stellar responses.

Let’s dive into the other side.

1. Logs Your Original IP Address

ZenMate claims that they don’t log or hold onto any of your activity or data.

zenmate answer on what user data they store

They say in their official privacy policy, “Our objective is that no personal data is collected, processed or permanently stored.”

Digging a little deeper, I found some more information:

zenmate data collection policy

Collecting information about my browser and operating system are not a violation of my privacy. It’s not identifying information, so I’m good with this.

ZenMate-logging-original-IP-address

Whoa.

Back up.

They’re logging my original IP address, assigned by my ISP?

That’s identifying information that they’re saying in the same breath can and will be handed over in the event of “a statutory obligation.”

Your IP address can be traced back to your ISP. The ISP can then identify you based on that information. So how anonymous is this service?

It’s important to note that the company makes sure to stress that information is not stored once the VPN is enabled. But if you can be identified as someone who is using a VPN, it’s not truly anonymous service, even if your activity remains safe.

2. Located in Germany (Within 14 Eyes Jurisdiction)

ZenMate’s German location falls under the scope of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance, the infamous espionage alliance.

How secure is “secure” when 14 different governments can have their hands in your information?

3. IP Leaks Detected

DNS and WebRTC leaks can completely unravel a VPNs ability to protect your information.

Whether it’s a DNS server ignoring your VPN tunnel or WebRTC APIs undoing your security, the end result is the same.

Your original IP is out for the world to see.

Out of six tests, ZenMate only failed one, but even one failure is enough to put a VPN’s safety into question.

zenmate IP leak test
  • https://ipleak.net/ – Failed
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip – Passed
  • https://ipx.ac/run – Passed
  • https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Passed
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ – Passed
  • https://dnsleak.com – Failed
zenmate webrtc test

That’s a major issue.

4. Buggy, Crashing, and Wouldn’t Start

I attempted to use ZenMate for Windows.

Please note the word “attempt.”

When I first clicked the download link on their website, I was shocked at how fast it loaded onto my laptop. It was downloaded and opened within 10 seconds.

Then, my astonishment turned to frustration very quickly.

zenmate windows blank white screen after login

That blank white screen was all I got. If I moved the mouse over where login fields should be I got a cursor, so this was clearly just an issue with the program.

I minimized the window and opened it back up.

zenmate windows black screen

The blank white screen turned into a blank black screen.

I stopped banging my head on my desk, took an ibuprofen, and reached out to their customer support department, receiving the following email the next day:

zenmate customer support email response

This was irritating as it is clearly a ‘copy and paste’ response. I had already sent them the two screenshots with my ticket submission, so it seems like my initial request for help was barely read.

If I were a consumer and not a reviewer, I would have uninstalled their program immediately and moved on with my life.

Instead, since I love my job, I answered their questions and sent them the screenshots for a second time.

Still no response.

5. Timely, But Vague Support Response

ZenMate uses a contact form for their customer support tickets. I was very impressed by how much their system has changed since I first tried to use it in early summer 2018.

First, you click on the support link at the top of the page.

zenmate support link in the menu

Once you’ve arrived at the Support page, you’ll notice a small “Help” button in the lower right-hand corner.

After you’ve clicked on that, their customer support contact form pops up.

customer support contact form

I asked about their torrenting services, and whether or not the TOR service works on their network. My request was sent through at around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, 2018.

Customer support question form

I was dismayed to find that I received no automatic email confirming that my question was received. This is usually a good service as it gives a consumer peace of mind knowing that someone has received their query and will be in contact.

Instead, I was left scratching my head and wondering when or if I would receive any response.

I received a response less than 24 hours later, though I wasn’t thrilled with it at all.

Zenmate Support Response

This was a timely response, however, it doesn’t really answer my questions. I asked if their service allows TOR and torrenting. They answered questions related to torrenting service but they never directly addressed my initial query.

I know from my own research that they allow P2P services with their paid plan. I think that’s what Adam here is trying to tell me, but he doesn’t come out and say it.

Instead, they pushed their premium service on me without ever acknowledging the initial question.

While they’ve definitely stepped up their customer support game over the years, ZenMate still has a long way to go in this regard.

ZenMate VPN Costs, Plans, & Payment Options

ZenMate Pricing options

There are three tiers to ZenMate, the first being a free option.

Like most free services, it’s quite limited. You’ve got TLS encryption, their firewall services, browser extensions, and servers located in Germany, Hong Kong, the United States, and Romania.

But since the free service is limited only to the browser extensions, it’s a proxy and not a full VPN. It encrypts the data passing through the browser, but not through other services on your computer.

Otherwise, you gotta pay.

The Premium package comes with the full desktop VPN client for Windows or Mac, the fastest speeds, the use of almost 300 servers in 31 countries, Malware blocking, and tracking protection.

It is priced at $9.99 per month on a month to month basis, which is on par with what most VPNs are charging for no commitment. For a six month plan, you’re saving a dollar and paying $8.99 per month. If you want to use it for a whole year, the price drops down to a more reasonable $5.99 per month.

The Ultimate Package includes everything you get with the premium, plus a streaming guarantee.

Zenmate guarantees streaming

All paid plans come with a 14-day money back guarantee, which is great. I love to see companies standing behind the performance of their product.

As far as payment options go, you have a few choices.

zenmate payment options

You can use PayPal, credit card, Union Pay, or Qiwi Wallet. No cryptocurrency, unfortunately.

Do We Recommend ZenMate?

No, we do not.

Protocols and encryption are decent. I was happy to see their embrace of OpenVPN, effectively bringing the service to multiple platforms. Definitely a positive step in the right direction!

But…

The fact that it’s logging my original IP address and is located within the jurisdiction of a surveillance alliance makes me nervous.

The leaks we found were worrisome. If I’m using a device for security I need to know that it’s bulletproof.

My hands-on test was an utter disaster, and I couldn’t get the program to work. That solidified my recommendation.

Had the customer service team actually walked me through the issue I was having, I would have been more forgiving. But they clearly only skimmed my questions and offered the most basic non-personalized responses they could muster.

Out of the 74 VPNs we’ve reviewed, we rank ZenMate at number 63. It missed our bottom 10 by one slot.

I recommend getting a VPN like ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Don’t waste your time (and money) with Zenmate.

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4 user reviews for ZenMate VPN

Chris Hardaker 10/10 August 22, 2018

Sorry about Windows

I am the V.P. of Product at ZenMate (ZenGuard is the parent company).

I am truly sorry that you had problems with the Windows client. We would love to work with you on trying to find the fault. Normally Windows, although problematic at times, works perfectly. Almost all of our Windows users are happy, but yes, we do have the occasional problem. We work hard on trying to clear every fault and our Windows development team will see if they can replicate this problem.

With regards to some of your comments.....

"Copy and Paste" - With over 40 million accounts in existence, you can imagine the number of times we are asked these questions. Therefore, yes, our support team has a batch of macros where they can add answers that are pre-written. If they had to write out the answers for every user, we would need to quadruple the team size and increase prices.

Yes, we do record your IP Address. However, this is not a risk for our customers. As with any business, we like to measure the performance of our website, and this includes our dashboard where most of the service control is. As such, we use standard tools like GA to monitor this. At no time is your IP Address attached to your user account, and as we do not record any usage information, the best we can say is "yes, this email address has an account. Yes, this IP Address did visit our site. No, I cannot tell you if that is the same person. No, I cannot tell you if they ever actually used our service."

With regards to Torrenting, our standard answer is the we do not condone copyright infringement. However, we also note that P2P networking is not illegal in most countries. Personally, Linux distribution via P2P is a legitimate use of the technology and they is how I get most of my distributions. As such, P2P systems do work through us, as long as you use the desktop client and not the browser client.

I hope that clears up those issues. If not, please feel free to email me and I would be happy to answer any further questions.

Kind regards
Chris Hardaker
V.P. Product
ZenMate

Bruno 7/10 December 9, 2017

Free version gets the job done.

While using the free version of Zenmate, I can’t say it’s bad. It’s actually pretty decent, offering an easy to use interface with 4 different servers to use from. It helps with routing issues to different platforms, which is mainly why I use it. With that said, latency is often quite high while browsing, it being Zenmate’s biggest fault.

Laurie Richings 4/10 November 14, 2017

A relative long term user but now disenchanted with Zenmate

I have used Zenmate for about four years on my MacBook Pro up to  High Sierra version 10.13.1. Up to early November, I have been quite satisfied with the product and support and I have been happy to pay the annual subscription.

I now cannot use my computer using Opera, my normal browser, and in order to report my problems to Zenmate I have had to resort to using a Win 10 machine just to provide details and screenshots.

I have not been able to get a human to contact me on how to resolve my difficulties, just a series of Bot responses asking for more information.

In the past, if the problem was not getting resolved, Zenmate support would take over my machine and get to the bottom of the issue.

David 10/10 October 27, 2017

Zenmate against government censure

When my country, the Netherlands, started censoring the Pirate Bay in an attempt to curb online piracy, I wasn’t quite the happy camper. I used the website quite often for products not marketed towards my country, and books no longer in print.

Thankfully Zenmate’s free browser plugin for Google Chrome was quickly found, and could conveniently route my internet traffic through the United States so I could still get my reading fix, and I’ve never had an issue with it.