Astrill VPN Review (2023)
Right off the bat, Astrill shoots itself in the leg by asking your name, email address, location, and – ta-da! – a phone number to verify you’re you during sign-up. That made me cringe even more as the verification SMS never came and I had to contact support to push through the signup process manually.
What we like
- 7-days free trial
- SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, SoftEther and PPTP
- Smart DNS and Proxy
- Ample customization options
- Cross-platform, ample Linux support
- Acceptable speeds
- Unblocks BBC iPlayer
- Good live chat support
What we don't like
- Requires phone number to sign up
- Uses your email to sign in to the VPN client
- Starred servers don’t connect
- Tedious to connect to many servers
- Poor usability both on the website and the desktop app
- Expensive for two simultaneous connections only
- Refund policy comes with prohibitive restrictions
- DNS and WebRTC leaked in my tests
Astrill VPN operates out of Seychelles since 2009, and the company has since secured its spot in the VPN market as a solid contender with a network of 335 servers in 50 countries.
I got to the tech guy who forwarded me to the sales guy who called me and then activated my account manually. When I asked how to set up their VPN to unblock Netflix the sales guy forwarded me back to the tech guy who just said – connect to the US server. That said, the two guys were friendly, casual, and helpful (at least one of them because Netflix didn’t get unblocked), which is what counts.
I hate to say it, but usability is not Astrill’s strongest point. In fact, it’s flat-out bad. The desktop app requires a PC restart, which gave me another cringe. The desktop app itself is a tiny window so jam-packed with stuff I wished there were fewer features and more space.
The same goes for their website. I had to Google their prices, and information about the add-ons is only available from the member’s checkout area. It’s incredibly frustrating when relevant information is walled this way.
I feel like whining about the Windows app a little more. For example, the defaults are weak – OpenWeb proxy instead of OpenVPN, which makes me wonder if the not-so-savvy users realize the difference. Also, the On/Off buttons are counter-intuitive – you need to click Off to connect, and On to disconnect.
If anything, you will probably enjoy the customization, as you can exclude websites/apps from tunneling, block apps when the VPN is disabled, enable DNS and WebRTC leak protection, port forwarding, and more – Astrill is definitely geared toward the advanced user.
The long list of servers marks the servers that support P2P with a star, and you can choose servers by right-clicking the bar icon, which offers better usability than the app itself.
Astrill’s speed tests are mixed – the starred servers never connect, and it takes a while to find a server that connects fast. The speeds drop was noticeable but acceptable for both the US and the UK servers I tried. Here’s my speed test without VPN during peak hour:
And here’s how it looks with VPN enabled (one for the UK, another for the US server):
Even with the leak protection enabled, Astrill failed my DNS and WebRTC leak tests, but passed the IPv6 leak test:
At this point I wasn’t expecting a miracle, so no, Astrill didn’t unblock Netflix US, but it worked surprisingly well for the BBC iPlayer. By the way, you now need to sign in to watch now.
OpenVPN, 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, and a dozen other toggles give you granular control over your VPN client, and when it works – it rocks.
Astrill VPN is geared toward the advanced user with all its bells and whistles and the painfully counter-intuitive client, but when it works – it gets the job done. It’s also quite expensive and raises privacy concerns with its obscured logging policy and intrusive sign-up process. So, make sure you take the full week’s free trial before committing