Avira’s free VPN service promises to turn you into an “online phantom,” but is this really possible when you’re not paying anything?
Many free VPNs can actually put your privacy at risk, so we put the free version of Avira Phantom to the test to check if this was the case, as well as answer questions such as:
- Is Avira Phantom Free safe?
- Will it work with Netflix?
- How fast is Avira Phantom Free?
- Does Avira VPN Free work in China?
- Can I torrent with Avira Phantom Free?
- Does Avira VPN Free keep logs?
We explore the answers to these, among many others, in our in-depth review of Avira Phantom’s Free VPN service.
Avira Phantom Free Pros & Cons
Avira Phantom Free Key Summary
|Top Download Speed||51Mbps|
|Logging Policy||Anonymous Server Usage Data|
|IP, DNS or WebRTC Leaks||No|
|Jurisdiction||Germany (14-Eyes Member)|
|Works in China||No|
|Support||Online Resources Only|
Carry on reading to see what we really thought of the free version of Avira Phantom, including the results of our hands-on testing.
Who is Avira Phantom Free?
About & Logging
Avira launched Avira Phantom VPN in 2016, but the company itself has been around since 2006. Even before then, Avira’s antivirus software was developed back in 1986 by its predecessor, H+BEDV Datentechnik GmbH, so the company has been around for a long time.
Avira currently has its headquarters “by the shores of Lake Constance” in Tettnang, Germany, but it also has offices in China, the Netherlands, Romania, and the US.
Normally we’d advise steering clear of VPN services based in countries such as Germany, as it’s part of the 14 Eyes data-sharing alliance, and also subject to EU data retention laws. Avira’s minimal logging policy means its jurisdiction isn’t an issue, though.
The only information Avira Phantom Free collects is:
- Total amount of bandwidth consumed while connected
- Amount of time a user spends online
- Whether a user’s account is Free or Premium
We really like that Avira Phantom Free doesn’t log or monitor any websites you visit, your true IP address, or the VPN server location you connect to. This means that Avira has no way of tracking your online activity back to you.
There is an optional setting which sends your diagnostic data back to Avira to help with product improvements, however, you can switch this off at any time within the VPN app.
Same-country downloads of around 50Mbps
Speed & Reliability
Avira Phantom is by no means the quickest free VPN we’ve seen, but it’s no slouch either. Connecting to the ‘Nearest location’ server option gave us speeds of just over 50Mbps, which should be enough to do pretty much anything you want online without an issue.
We were unable to test Avira Phantom’s speeds connecting out to other countries due to its lack of manual server selection, but as long as you end up connected to a server in your country your speeds shouldn’t suffer too much.
Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a Manchester test server.
Before using Avira Phantom Free:
When connected to Avira Phantom Free:
Download speed without Avira Phantom Free VPN: 96.63Mbps
Download speed with Avira Phantom Free VPN: 51.03Mbps
Our download speed loss when Avira Phantom Free VPN is running: 47%
A speed percentage loss of 47% might look like a lot, but in the world of free VPNs, it’s actually pretty good. Avira’s upload speeds were very quick, too, at over 70Mbps.
Avira’s latency isn’t the lowest we’ve seen at just under 20ms, but unless you’re a serious gamer this shouldn’t affect you too much.
Overall, Avira Phantom’s speeds are satisfactory enough for the everyday user.
Automatically connects you to the nearest server
Up until recently, Avira Phantom’s free users could connect to exactly the same number of VPN servers as its premium users. Now, however, that is not the case – in fact, Avira’s free users aren’t able to manually select a VPN server location at all.
Instead, when you open up the Avira Phantom app you’re only able to connect to the nearest VPN server location, with no indication of where this will be. For reference, we were connected to a server in Manchester, almost 200 miles from our physical location in London.
This won’t be a problem if you’re just looking to protect your privacy, but who need to select a VPN server in a specific country for any reason should avoid Avira Phantom.
A good example of a free VPN service that provides a decent spread of servers around the world is Windscribe VPN – check out our unbiased review of it here.
Won’t work for streaming, rules unclear on torrenting
Streaming & Torrenting
The free version of Avira Phantom is no good for streaming from popular sites such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer. This is due to its lack of manual server selection, limiting Avira users to the ‘Nearest location’, server rather than letting them choose a specific country or city.
Even though we’re actually based in the UK, we still weren’t able to stream BBC iPlayer using Avira Phantom, so it probably won’t work for those located in the US, either.
If streaming is important to you, check out the best VPNs for streaming for 2019. For reliable access to major streaming sites, you’ll most likely have to pay for a VPN service, as very few free VPNs provide consistent access to sites like Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
There are no clear rules on torrenting with Avira Phantom, and there’s actually no mention of it on the website. From what we can see, it looks like P2P activity is permitted on some of Avira’s servers, but it depends on the laws of the country in which the server is located.
For a better torrenting experience, it’s worth looking at our list of the best free VPNs for torrenting – the current top pick is Windscribe Free.
Not a good VPN service for China
The free version of Avira Phantom is not a good VPN service for users in China, and it looks like that has unfortunately been the case for quite some time now.
One user took to Avira’s customer forums to let others know that they’d tested Avira Phantom with various ISPs such as China Mobile and China Unicom, and the VPN wouldn’t work while connected to any of them.
This is most likely due to the fact that Avira uses OpenVPN, which is very easily detected and blocked by government censors, and it has no additional obfuscation tools to hide your VPN connection in any way.
Avira Free’s lack of manual VPN server selection means it’s also probably not a good choice for users in other high-censorship countries, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, as you have no way of choosing which VPN location you connect to.
Take a look at our Best VPN Services for China for a comprehensive overview if you’re planning on connecting out from that country.
Works with most devices but not routers
Platforms & Devices
There are free Avira Phantom VPN apps for most popular devices, including:
- Microsoft Windows
Sadly, it isn’t possible to install Avira Phantom at router level, so you the only way to use it is to individually download and install it onto all of the devices you wish to protect.
The good news is that you can use Avira Phantom on as many devices as you want at the same time. Remember, however, that these all use data from the same stingy allowance of just 1GB per month, so be careful.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Due to its lack of router compatibility, the only way you can use Avira Phantom’s free VPN on any of your games consoles or streaming devices is by sharing the VPN connection with another device running the Avira app, such as a laptop or smartphone.
Avira doesn’t offer any setup guides for this, but we walk you through the process in our step-by-step guide to how to install a VPN on Amazon Fire TV Stick – simply use methods three or four.
Avira Phantom currently provides a free browser extension for Google Chrome users. It’s really easy to install and add this to your browser, and it works in exactly the same way as the desktop and mobile apps.
Unlike the proxy extensions we see from most VPN services, Avira Phantom provides a full VPN extension, which encrypts all of your browser traffic. There isn’t a VPN kill switch in Avira’s Chrome extension, though, which is a shame.
Offers a basic level of security with no kill switch
Encryption & Security
DNS Leak Blocking
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
Avira Phantom does the bare minimum to ensure your online safety while you’re connected to the VPN service. It uses top-class encryption (AES-256) and the most secure VPN protocol (OpenVPN), but there are no advanced settings at all.
As a bare minimum we’d expect to see a VPN kill switch, but Avira Phantom Free doesn’t even provide one of these. This means that if the VPN connection were to drop without you noticing, your true physical location could be exposed.
One very good feature of Avira Phantom Free is that it operates its own VPN servers, and there’s also built-in protection against DNS leaks, which we found to be 100% effective in our latest tests.
If you’re looking for loads of configurable settings to fiddle with, Avira Phantom isn’t for you, but it does a decent job at protecting you online – we really would insist on seeing a kill switch in the future, though. iOS users should also note that the iPhone and iPad app uses IKEv2 rather than OpenVPN.
Simple apps lack advanced features
Ease of Use
How to Install & Set Up Avira Phantom Free
Avira Phantom’s free VPN apps couldn’t really be any easier to use, regardless of whether you’re on mobile or desktop. Avira’s home screen is limited to an on/off button, your VPN server location, and the amount of data you’ve consumed so far.
You can view Avira Phantom’s full list of VPN server locations by clicking on ‘Nearest location’, but they are all labeled as ‘Pro’ and you won’t be able to connect to them. Clicking the ‘On’ button will connect you to Avira’s closest free VPN server.
Avira’s settings are behind the cog icon in the top right-hand corner. These are very minimal, though, and are pretty much limited to whether or not you consent to sending your diagnostic data to Avira.
Avira Phantom is a great free VPN solution if you’re just looking to click-and-forget, but it’s not a good choice for those who want a ton of configurable settings.
No personalized support for free users
Avira Phantom’s free users are currently unable to access any personalized customer support. This means users with free VPN accounts can’t email or call Avira support agents unless they upgrade to premium subscriptions, which we unfortunately see all too often from free VPN services.
Avira Free users are only able to access the FAQs and ‘Educational Videos’ on the website – thankfully, these are fairly comprehensive and should cover most problems. You’re also able to view questions and answers on the user forums, although these aren’t updated very frequently.
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