ProtonVPN Review - 2021

Last Updated on

ProtonVPN comes from the world’s leading encrypted email provider ProtonMail, operating since 2014 out of Switzerland.

Why Choose ProtonVPN


ProtonVPN is by far one of the most thorough, efficient, and easy-to-use VPNs on the market, and with a solid pro-privacy stance. It’s not cheap, but you get excellent value for the money.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • 60-day money-back guarantee
  • Good for novice and advanced users alike
  • Sleek Windows client
  • Transparent privacy stance
  • Kill switch, DNS leak protection, Secure Core
  • P2P allowed, Tor-optimized servers
  • Accepts Bitcoin and cash
  • Has a free plan

Cons:

  • No native mobile apps
  • Not the cheapest kid on the block
  • Mac and mobile devices require manual setup

Pricing and Plans

ProtonVPN offers a Free plan, which lets you access low-speed servers in three countries from one device. Notably, there is no bandwidth quota.

Their three paid plans cover the needs of occasional users and heavy streamers alike. Basic costs $5/month or $48/year, and buys you access to high-speed servers in 14 countries, which is currently all of ProtonVPN’s network. You can connect from two devices simultaneously.

Plus kicks in at $10/month or $98/year, and affords you the highest speeds, access to all Plus servers in the 14 countries, and five simultaneous connections. Top that off with Tor-optimized servers and Secure Core, which tunnels your VPN connection through another layer of VPN servers in Switzerland and Iceland.

Visionary is a great choice if you are ready to go all-in with Proton’s security pack. For $30/month or $288/year, you get all the features of the Plus plan, ten simultaneous connections, and ProtonMail Visionary service bundled.

All plans support P2P, unlimited bandwidth, cross-platform support, and a 60-day money-back guarantee, which is exceptionally generous. ProtonVPN accepts payments via PayPal, credit cards, Bitcoin and even cash.


Features

You can set up ProtonVPN on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, as well as DD-WRT routers. Your customer’s dashboard gives you quick access to installer downloads, but there is also a neat config files generator if you choose to use OpenVPN software.

The knowledge base contains installation and setup guides for different platforms, as well as troubleshooting instructions for the most common issues. Their support is available mostly through email and tickets.

I tested their Plus plan and ProtonVPN’s native Windows desktop client. Even though it’s not the most lightweight software out there, its performance, ease of use, and design are top-notch.

ProtonVPN manages to cater to entry-level users and seasoned veterans at the same time. Options, settings, servers, connection profiles and extra perks are easy to sort out. Some features come with pop-up explainers so that you always know what you’re tweaking.

Usability and performance are excellent with ProtonVPN, and I’m a big fan of the app’s dark design since it reduces the eye strain.

On mobile, however, you’ll have to use OpenVPN app with ProtonVPN configuration files, but you’d only need to go through the hassle once.

Update: ProtonVPN is now available on Android as a free download from Google Play.

Users with premium accounts get access to all Proton’s servers but its free iteration is fully-functional with the US and German servers. It also provides a decent level of privacy and security relying on IKEv2 protocol backed by a DNS leak protection, Secure Core, Perfect Forward Secrecy, Tor, and Proton’s strict no-logs, no-ads, and no-data-sharing-with-third-parties policy.

Secure Core, when enabled, routes your traffic first through privacy-friendly countries like Iceland and Switzerland and then to the server of your choice.

The UI is neat, straightforward and stylish. You have a list of servers conveniently marked if they are P2P- or Tor-ready, a map, and a handy profile manager where you can create a custom profile with your preferred server. 

By default, ProtonVPN for Android comes with two profiles – fast and secure. I’ve tested their free US connections and managed to stream HBO without issues:

Overall, ProtonVPN’s free Android app is one of the few I’d wholeheartedly recommend to mobile users.

The desktop app is a busy place, and you can have it in full-screen, with the servers list, profile manager, advanced settings, a sleek connection map and stats displayed in a stylish black interface.

The app’s settings are chock full of toggles. You’ll find everything you need from a kill switch to DNS leak protection and protocol options. A handy profile tab lets you use two presets to connect without having to choose a server manually – Fastest and Random. You can also create your custom profiles and tweak them to your liking. Choose the profile’s color, name, preferred country, and server, and embed Secure Core, or leave it out – you’re the boss.

The connection map gives a useful visual insight into the geography behind your connections, so you can make informed decisions as to which server suits you best, especially when you connect with Secure Core enabled.

You can toggle the map on and off, and observe the down/up speeds as well as stats for data volume and session time. When you’re connected, the app also displays server load, which is also available from the servers list.

P2P is allowed, and optimized servers are marked with arrows – small feature, big usability advantage. Tor-optimized servers also come with respective onion icons.


Tests

ProtonVPN performed well in my performance and security tests. Even though it cut my connection speeds by 50% (sometimes more), which is not the best speed I’ve seen in a VPN, it maintained consistency for geographically close and overseas servers with and without the Secure Core’s double layered VPN.

Here is my default connection speed before connecting to the VPN:

Here is my speed when I connected to a US server:

and US server with Secure Core enabled:

Here’s my speed when I connected to a UK server:

And then again, to a UK server with the Secure Core feature enabled:

ProtonVPN did not leak my DNS, WebRTC, or IPv6:

Netflix recognized a VPN connection even with a double-layered protection, alas. But I successfully accessed the US repo of HBO, and UK library of BBC iPlayer when browsing with Secure Core:


Privacy and Security

ProtonVPN uses OpenVPN only, for the strongest security. They also support forward secrecy, which means a new encryption key is generated for every session. Top that off with a kill switch, DNS leak protection, built-in Tor support, and Secure Core, and you get watertight security for your browsing.

The provider’s ToS, Privacy Policy, and Transparency Report will please the privacy-paranoid users.

The provider doesn’t log usage, and only keeps the timestamp of your last login, which is overwritten the next time you log in.

If you subscribe to a paid plan, the service associates your email with your account, but you can use any email you like. If you sign up for a free plan, you’re not required to provide any payment details. The company accepts payment in Bitcoin and cash if you wish to stay below the radar altogether. But even if you pay with PayPal or credit card, the provider can not see your billing details since they rely on a third-party payment processor.

As if that’s not enough, Switzerland is not a part of the 14 Eyes mass surveillance group while ProtonVPN is exempt from the recently introduced Swiss data retention law.

ProtonVPN website doesn’t even use Google Analytics, which goes to show the provider’s meticulous approach to customer privacy – you don’t get this treatment from every VPN provider, mind you.


Final Thoughts

ProtonVPN is an excellent choice if you rely heavily on VPN for your everyday productivity and entertainment.

Alex Grant