Below is a summary of the differences between Proton VPN’s most popular paid plan, called Plus, and Proton VPN Free.
|Proton VPN Free
|Proton VPN Plus
|Cheapest Monthly Price
|Avg. International Speed
There is also an “Unlimited” subscription tier for Proton VPN, but it has the same VPN features as Plus. It only adds applications for email, storage, and a calendar.
As the table shows, Proton VPN Free has far fewer servers than the Plus tier, and they are only in 3 countries (the Netherlands, USA, and Japan). The servers are typically far more congested too, so we often experience slower speeds when testing them.
Proton VPN Plus unblocks 6 Netflix regions (including the US), BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. In contrast, the free servers are all blocked by streaming services.
Torrenting support is also excellent on Proton VPN Plus — it received a torrenting rating of 9.2 in our testing. Torrenting is allowed on all servers, and there are P2P-optimized servers too, plus support for port forwarding. Torrenting is not supported at all on the free servers at all.
There are also some key security features that you don’t get with the free version:
- Secure Core Servers: This is a network of first-party owned servers located in countries with strong privacy laws. When you use a Secure Core server, your traffic goes through one of these servers before it connects to your destination VPN server. If that destination server is ever compromised, they can only trace your traffic back to the Secure Core server, not your real IP address.
- Netshield: This is Proton VPN’s advert and malware blocker. It does stop malware and trackers, but we found the ad blocking ineffective in our VPN ad blocker testing. Ads are replaced with ugly gray boxes, and Netshield only works when you’re using the VPN.
Using Proton VPN Plus, you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time with one subscription. With Proton VPN Free, you can only use one device at a time.
In other respects, the free and premium services are similar. Privacy protections are the same, speeds are typically excellent, and there is no monthly data cap on either version.
You can learn about these differences in more detail in our review of Proton VPN’s free and paid software.
How Much Does Proton VPN Cost?
There are two paid subscription levels for Proton VPN: Plus and Unlimited. The Plus subscription tier is the full VPN service, which costs $4.99 on its longest term, or $11.49 per month.
This includes up to 10 simultaneous connections, 68 server locations, streaming support, and unlimited bandwidth.
The Unlimited plan has all the same VPN features as the Plus plan, but it also includes Proton’s Mail, Calendar, and Drive services. It costs $7.99 per month on a two-year subscription plan, or $12.99 per month. We recommend the Plus plan.
Should You Use Proton VPN Free?
Proton VPN Free isn’t just an excellent free VPN, it’s actually the best free VPN we’ve tested.
It’s highly-secure, ad-free, and does not require any payment details to sign up. It’s one of the only safe free VPN services that does not impose a data cap, too.
If you need a free VPN to protect your privacy while browsing the web or using public WiFi, Proton VPN Free is an excellent choice.
While impressive, the free version of Proton VPN does have drawbacks. It does not work for streaming or torrenting, and it doesn’t offer access to Secure Core servers, either. More pressingly, it only gives you access to 3 server locations.
Neither version of Proton VPN works in China. The Stealth protocol does beat censorship in Russia and Iran, but is only available on Android, iOS and Mac.
If you need a free VPN that supports streaming and torrenting, has a large number of server locations, or offers the best possible security, we recommend trialing the premium version of Proton VPN using the money-back guarantee. You’ll need to pay up front, but you’ll get all the features of Proton VPN Plus and can claim a refund within 30 days.
Is the Paid Version of Proton VPN Worth Paying for?
If you need a VPN to change Netflix regions, access geo-restricted streaming services, or to hide your IP address while torrenting, it’s worth paying for Proton VPN Plus over the free version — or using the Proton VPN free trial workaround.
However, while its paid version is better than the free alternative, Proton VPN does not offer the best value for money compared to the best VPN services on the market.
Put simply, other highly-rated VPNs are cheaper. NordVPN costs just $3.29 per month over two years, and Private Internet Access is just $2.03 per month over 26 months.