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PrivateVPN Review

 97.696% 
(1,736 User reviews)
PrivateVPN screenshot
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

Ask Simon about PrivateVPN

Our Verdict

PrivateVPN is a cheap VPN that comes with a five-day 100% free trial. It's a safe and secure VPN, which works with over 30 Netflix libraries. It's not the fastest VPN we've tested, but it's quick enough to stream, torrent files, and encrypt unsecured WiFi networks.

Overall Rating: 8.9/10

PrivateVPN is a simple VPN service that hides your IP address and protects your data transfers with strong encryption. It has native apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV.

For this PrivateVPN review, we put each application through our comprehensive testing process to find out how it compares to other VPN services.

We found that PrivateVPN is one of the very best VPNs for streaming. It works with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer.

However, some servers are often overly congested and you can’t always stream titles in HD.

The VPN service is also a very good choice for P2P file-sharing. It includes dedicated torrenting servers, port forwarding features, and a functional kill switch on all desktop apps.

It’s also one of the cheapest VPNs around, with prices as low as $1.98 per month on a two-year plan.

It’s one of a small number of VPNs that keeps working in China and other highly-censored regions. It easily bypassed the Great Firewall in our tests.

The VPN is based in Sweden, a Fourteen Eyes jurisdiction, but its zero-logs privacy policy means the VPN’s servers won’t store any of your web data.

Although the server network of just 150 total servers is tiny compared to competitors, the VPN does a good job of providing worldwide coverage.

Another downside is that live chat customer support isn’t available at scheduled times. In our experience, it’s only accessible at random times of the day.

Overall, while it’s not perfect, PrivateVPN is a very good VPN aimed at streaming and torrenting fans on a budget.

PrivateVPN Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Unblocks Netflix, Disney+ & more
  2. Very cheap & offers a free seven-day trial
  3. Advanced features for torrenting
  4. Firestick app unblocks streaming apps
  5. Zero-logs policy & no IP address leaks
  6. Intuitive apps for all devices & platforms
Cons
  1. Unreliable speed performance
  2. No Smart DNS feature
  3. Live chat is not always available
  4. No browser extensions
  5. No WireGuard option

PrivateVPN Key Data

Data CapUnlimited
Speed94Mbps
Logging PolicyNo Logs
Data LeaksNo
JurisdictionSweden (14-Eyes Member)
Servers200
IP Addresses7,000+
Countries63
US NetflixYes
TorrentingUnlimited
Works in ChinaYes
SupportLive Chat
Cheapest Price$1.98/mo over 24 months
Official WebsitePrivateVPN.com

PrivateVPN Category Ratings

We test and review every VPN in eight key areas. Here’s how PrivateVPN performs in each category:

  • Privacy & Logging Policy: 9.5/10
  • Encryption & Security: 9.1/10
  • Speed & Reliability: 8.9/10
  • Streaming & Torrenting: 9.6/10
  • Bypassing Censorship: 9.4/10
  • Ease of Use: 8.3/10
  • Customer Support: 8.3/10
  • Price & Value for Money: 9.5/10

To learn more about our methodology, read our full VPN testing process.

PrivateVPN works with Netflix

Streaming & Torrenting

Streaming & Torrenting Rating: 9.6/10

PrivateVPN is a fantastic VPN for streaming, with a huge amount of servers that work with streaming sites from around the world. Our tests found the VPN always worked with US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.

PrivateVPN recently removed the dedicated streaming servers from its app. When we contacted it, a representative from PrivateVPN told us that this is because “all servers now work for streaming.”

However, after testing all of PrivateVPN’s servers with Netflix, we found that only 53% of servers unblock the streaming service. While this works out to be an impressive 32 Netflix regions, it falls far short of the 62 libraries that the VPN provider claims.

Screenshot showing PrivateVPN working with US Netflix.

PrivateVPN always works with US Netflix.

That said, our investigation into the best Netflix VPNs found that PrivateVPN is the second-best service for unblocking Netflix libraries. All 32 of these servers worked over months of our testing.

You can see the results of our study in the graph below:

Chart displaying the findings from our Netflix VPN research

PrivateVPN doesn’t only work with the usual streaming services, either. The VPN unblocks less represented sites from around the world. These include Hotstar, IPTV, and sports services like DAZN and Sky Go.

PrivateVPN’s servers change their IP address regularly, which prevents detection from geo-blocks. We tested all of these servers on iPhone, Windows PC, and Amazon Fire TV Stick, and they worked flawlessly. This means you’ll always be able to access your favorite service on all of your devices without any issues.

One negative of using PrivateVPN for streaming is that the VPN does not offer a Smart DNS feature. Smart DNS allows you to spoof your location and bypass location restrictions on devices that are not VPN-compatible.

This absence means that PrivateVPN won’t work on devices like Apple TV, PS4, and Xbox. If you use any of these devices for streaming, then you should avoid PrivateVPN.

SUMMARY:

PrivateVPN is one of the best VPNs for streaming. It unblocked every service we tested it with, as well as over 30 Netflix libraries. It doesn’t come with a Smart DNS feature, which is disappointing, but it does have a fully-featured app for Amazon Fire TV.

PrivateVPN Is Excellent for Torrenting

PrivateVPN is one of the best VPNs for torrenting — with dedicated servers for P2P file-sharing, a kill switch that prohibits any IP leaks, and a no-logs privacy policy to prevent your activity from being traced back to you.

We tested PrivateVPN with various torrent clients, and each time we were able to download a torrent file without any interruptions quickly. Our most recent speed test results measured a bitrate of 5.1 MiB/s from our 100Mbps internet connection, which means you won’t have any trouble sharing large files like movies, music, and software with others.

A screenshot showing that the VPN allowed us to torrenting and P2P share successfully.

Our torrent file downloaded quickly while using PrivateVPN.

The VPN also operates its own no-logs DNS servers, which means there is no third-party involved in resolving your DNS requests. This is a must-have feature for private P2P file-sharing, so we’re glad to see PrivateVPN cover it.

Although torrenting is allowed on all of its servers, PrivateVPN recommends you only connect to a location from the ‘Dedicated IP’ server list. These servers are easy to find, and we’ve found them to be faster than PrivateVPN’s other servers.

These servers are owned and controlled by PrivateVPN, unlike all other servers which are rented from third-parties. A PrivateVPN representative confirmed to us that only PrivateVPN has direct physical access to these servers and no one else.

This allows for an additional layer of control and security, which is essential when it comes to keeping torrenting activity private.

Additionally, these servers allow most ports to be forwarded automatically, so there’s no need to configure any port settings on your torrent client. In fact, it’s our number one recommended VPN if you want to seed torrents. For the fastest speeds, we also recommend you connect to the dedicated IP server location that is closest to you. You can read all about PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers here.

PrivateVPN’s superb torrenting performance makes it an excellent choice for using Kodi, Popcorn Time, and all other torrent-based streaming platforms.

SUMMARY:

PrivateVPN allows P2P traffic and port forwarding on all of its servers, making it a great choice for private torrenting. The VPN’s use of AES-256 encryption, private DNS servers, and no logging ensures your torrenting activity will not be traced back to you.

Does PrivateVPN Keep Logs?

About & Logging

Privacy & Logging Policy Rating: 9.5/10

PrivateVPN protects your privacy because it doesn’t log any user data. Anything you do while connected to the VPN will remain hidden from your ISP, snooping governments, and PrivateVPN itself.

The only information that PrivateVPN does retain is your email address — used for logging in, resetting your password, and renewing your account. PrivateVPN confirmed to us that this is not linked to your activity in any way.

PrivateVPN is one of the very few no-logs VPNs because it doesn’t even log anonymous usage data. This level of privacy is typically reserved for more expensive services.

The privacy policy categorically states that:

“PrivateVPN does not collect or log any traffic or use of its service.”

PrivateVPN no-logs privacy policy

Excerpt from PrivateVPN’s no-logs privacy policy.

Although this statement is promising, it’s also short. We’d like the logging policy to explicitly state that it doesn’t log DNS requests, connection timestamps, or IP addresses, too.

PrivateVPN has not always fully disclosed its logging practices, either. Although it is no longer the case, the VPN previously logged user IP addresses when signing up for the seven-day free trial. PrivateVPN told us that these IP addresses were securely stored in a “dummy database” and linked to “no other data.”

Although this type of logging was done privately and only to prevent abuse of its free trial, the problem is that PrivateVPN did not disclose its logging anywhere.

This damages trust between the user and the VPN provider. This is no small issue, either, given the level of sensitive data that is handled by the VPN.

PrivateVPN has not conducted any third-party audits either — so you are forced to trust the information that it provides. You can read more about this in the section below.

Despite this, we are confident that PrivateVPN is now a true no-logs VPN and that this wrongdoing was a result of careless management rather than anything malicious.

Logging Policy Is Verified Through Real-World Tests

PrivateVPN is one of the few VPN services that has had its no-logs privacy policy verified by a real-world case. The VPN has been unable to give away user data, despite being asked by law enforcement on several occasions.

While PrivateVPN’s logging policy states that it will provide data if “necessary in order to […] comply with a decision of a public authority or court of law,” this simply means that it is forced to respond to requests from law enforcement, not that it has to provide any information.

The important thing to know is that because PrivateVPN doesn’t store any user data, it has no logs to provide.

Although not known publicly, we have seen documents showing that, due to its no-logs privacy policy, PrivateVPN has always been unable to comply with law enforcement. We absolutely do not condone any illegal activities performed while using a VPN, but these real-world cases act as a trustworthy and practical test for a VPN’s logging practices.

This means you can trust PrivateVPN to keep you private and safe, though we hope to see a full third-party audit in the future.

PrivateVPN is based in Sweden

The company behind PrivateVPN is located in Sweden. Sweden is a relatively safe VPN jurisdiction, but it is certainly not perfect for user privacy.

Sweden is part of the 14 Eyes, a group of 14 nations that share surveillance information. Although we don’t typically recommend VPNs based in a 14-Eyes country, Sweden conducts less invasive VPN data collection and surveillance than its partners.

In Sweden, VPN providers are not considered an ‘electronic communications network’ nor an ‘electronic communications service’. This makes PrivateVPN exempt from Sweden’s intrusive laws, like The Electronic Communications Act.

On top of this, PrivateVPN’s no-logs policy means that it is unable to provide any information about its users, even if it was asked to comply with an investigation.

SUMMARY:

PrivateVPN is a verified no-logs VPN service that has never supplied user data to any third-party. A minor downside is its base in Sweden, which is a 14 Eyes jurisdiction, but this is offset by the private logging policy.

Exceptional value on all pricing plans

Pricing & Free Trial

Price & Value for Money Rating: 9.5/10

PrivateVPN is a bargain on all of its pricing plans. As is typical, the larger discounts are only available on the longer-term plans, but all PrivateVPN subscriptions come with the same advanced features and 30-day money-back guarantee.

Three billing options allow you to pay monthly, every three months, or every two years. The PrivateVPN monthly package costs $8.49, or you lower the cost by 77% to $1.98 if you pay for two years in advance. The three-month subscription costs $4.99 per month.

These impressive prices make PrivateVPN the best VPN choice if value is your main priority. By contrast, other cheap VPNs, like NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost, all cost at least $11.95 a month, making PrivateVPN a clear price winner.

PrivateVPN Free Trial

PrivateVPN offers a 7-day free trial on all platforms. This trial period comes with no data caps, it doesn’t throttle your speed, and it doesn’t require any payment details to sign up. For these reasons, it’s our favorite free trial from any VPN service.

To initiate the free trial, visit the PrivateVPN website to create your account. Once signed up, you’ll have access to all the same features as paying subscribers, including streaming and torrenting support.

If you want to test the VPN out over a longer period, it also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee for all users. You will need to provide a reason for asking for your money back, but all refunds are processed within five business days.

  1. Monthly

    US$8.49/mo

    Billed $8.49 every month
  2. 3 months

    US$4.99/mo

    Billed $14.97 every 3 months
    Save 41%
  3. 2 years

    US$1.98/mo

    Billed $47.52 the first 2 years, annually thereafter
    Save 77%

All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee

Payment & Refund Options

Credit CardYes
PayPalYes
BitcoinYes

Very fast speeds across the server network

Speed Test Results

Speed & Reliability Rating: 8.9/10

Our manual speed test results show that PrivateVPN is a fast VPN with impressive speeds. Our download speeds dropped by just 6% from 100Mbps to 94Mbps when connected to a nearby VPN server — making PrivateVPN fast enough for all web activities.

However, PrivateVPN suffers from inconsistent speeds due to its small server network. With just 150 total servers, most of PrivateVPN’s in-demand servers are overly congested — resulting in frustratingly slow speeds.

This issue is worsened as PrivateVPN does not show server load or latency on almost all of its apps. Server latency is only displayed on the Windows app, and load is not visible anywhere.

This means users are forced to guess which is the best server to use. There is also no server speed test feature or option to connect to the fastest available server automatically.

Some long-distance speed results were impressive, though. When connected to a Canada server from the UK, our download speed fell by just 16%, and our speed only dropped by 38% when connected to an Australian server.

These fast long-distance speeds show that this is a decent choice for secure torrenting and buffer-free HD streaming. However, the inconsistency of PrivateVPN’s performance mean we do not recommend it if speed is your number one priority.

We’ve compared the results from a regular PrivateVPN server with a congested streaming server in the table below:

These inconveniences can make PrivateVPN frustrating to use. The service should adopt other VPNs’ approach of unblocking streaming sites on all servers. This spreads server load across more servers, reducing congestion and improving speeds. If you want a VPN like this, read our latest Windscribe VPN review.

Short-Distance Speed Test Results

Before using PrivateVPN:

  1. Download100Mbps
  2. Upload99Mbps
  3. Ping1ms

When connected to PrivateVPN:

  1. Download94Mbps
  2. Upload95Mbps
  3. Ping12ms

To maintain fair and unbiased speed testing, we measured our internet speeds before and after connecting to a nearby London VPN server while using a UDP OpenVPN connection. We performed a series of tests over several days and then took the average number for each.

We recorded a speed loss of just 6% — from 100Mbps to 94Mbps — which is a really impressive result. You’ll experience similar results when connecting to a server near you, making PrivateVPN a great option for demanding tasks like torrenting and video calling.

Long-Distance Speed Test Results

PrivateVPN’s speed on long-distance connections was equally impressive. We recorded good speeds across a range of locations.

Despite experiencing mediocre speeds when connecting to a US server, it performed more admirably in other far-away locations like Australia and Canada. We were able to play online games and stream HD video from these countries without any buffering or interruptions.

Here are the full results we recorded when connecting to far-away servers from London, UK with a 100Mbps internet connection:

USA (New York): 

  • Download: 62Mbps (38% slower) 
  • Upload: 67Mbps (32% slower)

Canada (Toronto): 

  • Download: 84Mbps (16% slower) 
  • Upload: 65Mbps (34% slower)  

Germany (Munich): 

  • Download: 80Mbps (20% slower)
  • Upload: 95Mbps (4% slower)

Singapore:

  • Download: 32Mbps (68% slower)
  • Upload: 26Mbps (74% slower)

Australia (Melbourne): 

  • Download: 49Mbps (51% slower)
  • Upload: 31Mbps (69% slower)

Although PrivateVPN is not close to being the fastest VPN available, these speeds will still allow you to reliably stream, torrent, and browse the web without any issue. You do need to be wary of its slow congested servers, though, but through some trial and error, you will be able to find a fast VPN server.

PrivateVPN’s Speeds Versus Other Popular VPNs

To keep our speed test results as scientific as possible, we also record results using our in-house VPN speed testing tool.

These tests run automatically four times per day and the results are displayed exactly as we find them — so there’s no possibility for any bias or human error.

The graph below compares PrivateVPN’s average loss of internet speed to other popular VPNs while running on our New York server.

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Use our Speed Test Tool to compare PrivateVPN’s speeds across different cities.
These results show that PrivateVPN’s speeds are poor compared to other top VPN providers. Over the previous eight weeks, its speed performance has been very inconsistent — fluctuating between speeds of 73Mbps to 64Mbps on a same-city connection.

These speed test results are in contrast to other providers like Surfshark and NordVPN. As you can see, speeds from these services remained both fast and consistent, which is essential for reliability.

PrivateVPN performed slightly better on international connections. When connecting to London from New York, PrivateVPN often outperformed other top VPNs, like Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN. However, these speeds remained unpredictable.

PrivateVPN is a cheaper VPN service than some of its competitors, so congested VPN servers and slower speeds are somewhat expected. That said, we hope it can increase its server capacity and improve speed performance in the future.

Small network of 150 servers across 62 countries

Servers & Locations

Globe with a blue flag
63Countries
Image of a city landscape
75Cities
Image of a pink marker
7,000+IP Addresses

PrivateVPN covers a wide range of server locations, with servers in 62 countries around the world. Despite the decent number of countries covered, the network consists of just 150 servers. Its best city-level coverage is in the US, with a total of 11 servers across 10 cities.

Servers are available in popular locations like the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, Germany, and Canada. All of these include city-level servers, too, so you can connect to the nearest server to you in a specific country.

Sadly, the app does not allow you to connect automatically to the fastest server, and it doesn’t include any information about server load and latency, either.

PrivateVPN server locations

PrivateVPN has just 150 servers located around 62 countries.

Disappointingly, though, South Africa is the only African server available. There are plenty of VPN servers located near China, however, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam — making connections from behind the Great Firewall fast and reliable.

Virtual Server Locations

13% of PrivateVPN’s server locations are virtual — meaning they are physically located in a different country to the IP address. For example, we discovered that PrivateVPN’s South Korea server is actually located in a server park in the US.

PrivateVPN virtual server locations

PrivateVPN uses virtual server locations.

PrivateVPN uses a relatively small number of virtual server locations. This increases transparency and ensures that your data is not diverted to any country other than the one you’ve chosen.

Virtual server locations can also drastically hinder your internet speed if you think you’re connecting to a nearby server, when in fact it’s located on the other side of the world.

For this reason, the PrivateVPN app needs to highlight which server locations are virtual, and which are physically located. Other VPN services are very upfront about this. Take a look at our Cyberghost VPN review to see what we mean.

Although PrivateVPN does list all of its virtual server locations on its website, they are concealed and not easy to find.

Dedicated IP Servers

All of PrivateVPN’s apps come with a separate tab allowing you to connect to ‘Dedicated IP’ servers. These servers have several unique features which make them very useful for certain activities.

PrivateVPN dedicated IP servers

PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers are perfect for torrenting.

Firstly, PrivateVPN owns all of these servers, with none rented from third-parties. This makes these servers excellent for privacy and security, as it removes any additional intermediaries that are responsible for your data.

We spoke to a PrivateVPN representative and found that a subset of these servers are 100% owned by PrivateVPN — meaning it has full control of the hardware, servers, network equipment, and everything else.

These servers are:

  • Denmark – Copenhagen
  • France – Paris
  • Germany – Frankfurt
  • Italy – Milan
  • Spain – Madrid
  • Sweden – Stockholm
  • Switzerland – Zürich
  • The Netherlands – Amsterdam
  • UK – London
  • US – NYC 1

All of these servers have a 10GB dedicated internet connection, and as PrivateVPN wholly owns them, the bandwidth is not shared with any additional renters. This makes these servers particularly fast — great for demanding tasks like streaming.

Secondly, all ports are automatically enabled on PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers — making these servers perfect for torrenting and P2P file-sharing. With other servers, you are forced to manually configure your torrent client, which is often a lengthy and complicated process.

Having all ports open allows all incoming P2P connections to transmit directly to your device. Without this, you will get low priority from other seeds and your download rate would suffer.

Finally, these servers issue dedicated IP addresses — meaning that when you connect to one of them, your IP address will not be shared with any other user. These IPs are still dynamic, too, so you will get a different IP when you reconnect.

This makes these servers great for streaming sites like Netflix, as these services typically geo-block content by blacklisting crowded IP addresses. As you’re the only person using the IP address at any time, it appears as a residential IP and bypasses the location-based restrictions.

We like that these dedicated IPs are dynamic, too. Most other dedicated IP features allocate a static IP address to your account that persists for each connection. But as every PrivateVPN user can connect to these dedicated IPs, it’s almost impossible to trace any activity back to a specific user.

In all, PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers are one of the VPN’s main strong points — allowing tighter security, faster torrenting, and reliable streaming. However, the VPN does not promote these servers anywhere, nor does it provide guides to educate users about their use, so we’d like to see it focus on these more in the future.

Simple & attractive apps for all major devices

Platforms & Devices

Apps

  1. Windows Logo
    Windows
  2. Mac Logo
    Mac
  3. iOS Logo
    iOS
  4. Android Logo
    Android
  5. Linux Logo
    Linux
  6. Router Logo
    Router

PrivateVPN has native apps for all major platforms and devices, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Its apps are some of our favorites, prioritizing simplicity and intuitiveness over an abundance of customization options.

The apps function and look almost identical across all platforms, enabling a familiarity and a continuity that we appreciate.

The only notable difference is that the iOS app does not include a kill switch — so your true IP address is at risk of exposure if your VPN connection drops. However, many top VPNs, including ExpressVPN, struggle to provide a kill switch on iOS, so it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

For alternative platforms like Linux, PrivateVPN’s website provides plenty of manual setup tutorials to guide you through installation.

You can connect up to six devices at the same time, too, which makes PrivateVPN a good choice if you want to protect your family’s devices as well as your own.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

  1. AppleTV Logo
    AppleTV
  2. Amazon Fire TV Logo
    Amazon Fire TV
  3. Android TV Logo
    Android TV
  4. Chromecast Logo
    Chromecast
  5. Nintendo Logo
    Nintendo
  6. PlayStation Logo
    PlayStation
  7. Roku Logo
    Roku
  8. Smart TV Logo
    Smart TV
  9. Xbox Logo
    Xbox

As PrivateVPN is a VPN designed for streaming, we were very disappointed to discover that it does not offer a Smart DNS feature. This means the VPN cannot unblock streaming sites on devices like PS4 and Apple TV.

As these devices do not allow for the installation of VPN apps, most top VPNs include Smart DNS. This tricks websites and apps into thinking you’re connecting from a country different to your own without the need for a full  VPN.

Due to its absence, you will have to install PrivateVPN at router-level if you want to unblock streaming sites on a games console or streaming device. Unlike many other VPNs, PrivateVPN does not offer any pre-installed routers for sale, either, so you will have to do it manually.

To do this, read PrivateVPN’s router setup tutorial. This process is complicated if you’re inexperienced, so double-check each step before starting.

Alternatively, you could use PrivateVPN’s Fire TV app if you want to stream movies and TV shows from around the world on your TV. Amazon Fire TV Sticks are very affordable, too, so it’s a good option. You can read more about this in the section below.

Amazon Firestick & Fire TV

PrivateVPN features a great app for Amazon Fire TV Stick, with the ability to unblock over 30 Netflix libraries directly onto your TV.

The app comes with the same choice of servers as the desktop and mobile apps, so you can also stream sites like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max.

Some other VPNs, like Private Internet Access, struggle to unblock streaming services on Firestick due to the device’s stricter VPN-detection techniques. However, we connected to PrivateVPN’s US, UK, Australia, Japan, and Canada servers and they all worked with Netflix.

One drawback to the app is that it hasn’t been optimized for Fire TV — so it’s left looking like a blown-up version of the Android app. As it was originally designed for touch input, it makes it difficult to decipher what setting you’re controlling at any given time. The only indication being that the element in focus gains a faint green-colored border.

Image of PrivateVPN's app for Amazon Firestick

PrivateVPN unblocks Netflix on Fire TV.

The main negative to PrivateVPN’s Firestick app is that it doesn’t feature a kill switch. This is particularly problematic for Kodi streamers, as if your connection drops for any reason, you may accidentally reveal your IP address.

Overall, PrivateVPN is a great choice if you regularly stream content on an Amazon Firestick. It works flawlessly for unblocking geo-restricted apps.

Browser Extensions

Unlike all other top VPNs, there are no browser extensions available for PrivateVPN.

VPN browser extensions provide a fast and convenient way to unblock streaming sites, like Netflix and Hulu, so PrivateVPN’s lack of options is disappointing.

It is worth noting, though, that most VPN browser extensions merely work as an internet proxy — failing to encrypt any of your non-browser internet traffic. This leaves activities, like photo syncing and torrenting clients, outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel.

As a result, if privacy is your priority, the absence of browser extensions will not be an issue. However, if you’re a streamer that wants a quick way to change server locations, the lack of browser extensions might be a regular frustration.

If VPN browser extensions are essential to you, you can find our picks for the best extensions for Chrome and the best for Firefox in our dedicated guides.

Does PrivateVPN Work in China?

Bypassing Censorship

Bypassing Censorship Rating: 9.4/10

Due to the strict nature of the Chinese government, it’s very difficult to test VPNs in China from outside of the country.

To ensure our reviews are 100% accurate, we have servers physically located in Shanghai that run Windows 10 on a virtual machine. This allows us to make a real connection within China remotely, just as if we were in the country itself.

Our latest tests found that PrivateVPN works in China. Using the VPN’s Stealth VPN protocol, we were able to beat the Great Firewall of China and unblock websites and services like Netflix, YouTube, and WhatsApp.

Image of PrivateVPN working in China

PrivateVPN works reliably in China.

It is worth noting that despite being branded as a bespoke PrivateVPN protocol, Stealth VPN routes traffic through the open-source Shadowsocks proxy. Shadowsocks is not unique to PrivateVPN and is available from many other VPN services. It’s simply not as safe or effective as custom VPN obfuscation tools.

In contrast to PrivateVPN, some VPNs, like Astrill, have developed proprietary technology for bypassing censorship. These don’t rely on proxies and are a safer option if you regularly connect out from China.

EXPERT TIP:

Make sure to download and install the app before entering China. PrivateVPN’s website is blocked by the Great Firewall, so you won’t be able to once inside the country.

Is PrivateVPN Safe?

Encryption, Privacy & Security

Protocols
  1. IKEv2/IPSec
  2. OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
Encryption
  1. AES-256
Security
  1. DNS Leak Blocking
  2. First-party DNS
  3. IPV6 Leak Blocking
  4. Supports TCP Port 443
  5. VPN Kill Switch
Advanced features

    Encryption & Security Rating: 9.1/10

    Despite not offering many configurable security features, PrivateVPN is a trusted safe VPN and does the basics very well. You can rely on the service to encrypt your data and keep your online activities private and anonymous.

    The VPN’s website claims that the very strongest encryption methods are in use — including the AES-256 cipher and 2048-bit RSA handshake. To verify this claim, we analyzed the VPN connection logs, and we were pleased with what we found. 

    After our research, we discovered that PrivateVPN’s encryption and security are tough. The VPN implements its encryption as follows:

    • OpenVPN connections are established via an RSA-2048 handshake.
    • Perfect Forward Secrecy via an ECDH key exchange.
    • Authentication is provided using an SHA-384 hash.
    • Traffic is securely encrypted using the AES-256 cipher.
    Image showing PrivateVPN's encryption protocols

    PrivateVPN uses the best encryption protocols and ciphers.

    Although the technical details of this may sound complicated, these protocols work in tandem to ensure your data is kept safe, secure, and private.

    Kill Switch

    A kill switch is an essential feature for any VPN user as it stops your internet connection altogether if your VPN connection drops at any point. By doing this, the kill switch protects your IP address and your true identity is never exposed.

    PrivateVPN has a kill switch for Windows and MacOS to keep you safe if your connection drops. It’s not enabled by default, though, so make sure to have it turned on within the ‘Connection Guard’ tab of the settings menu.

    To test the effectiveness of PrivateVPN’s kill switch, we performed a number of IP leak tests while manually disconnecting the VPN. The kill switch worked flawlessly and our true IP address did not leak.Image of PrivateVPN's kill switch

    A kill switch is essential for many online activities, like unblocking streaming sites and torrenting, so we’re glad to see it included. However, a major drawback is that there is no kill switch on PrivateVPN’s iOS or Amazon Fire TV app — leaving connections from these devices vulnerable. 

    Split Tunneling

    Unlike so many other big-name VPNs, PrivateVPN does not offer a split tunneling feature. This means that you are unable to exclude any apps from using the VPN connection, which may result in PrivateVPN stopping them from working properly. 

    Although it may seem unusual to leave some of your traffic unprotected, there are some situations where this feature is necessary. A VPN will interfere with your wireless printer and smart home devices, for example.

    As a result, we were unable to use any of these local services while running PrivateVPN. Without this feature, PrivateVPN lags behind some of its competitors and may become useless to you, depending on your use case.

    Leak Test Results

    Although PrivateVPN encrypts all VPN traffic with gold-standard protocols, data leaks can still occur. This happens when traffic is transmitted outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel, making your identity visible to third-parties.

    Thankfully, PrivateVPN comes with IPv6 and DNS leak protection. To verify that these features are fully functional, we put PrivateVPN’s Windows and iOS apps through a series of real-world leak tests.

    To test for any IP address leaks, we used ipleak.net. We used PrivateVPN servers in the US, UK, Australia, and Sweden. PrivateVPN did not leak our real IP address at any point — keeping our identity private and anonymous.

    Image showing PrivateVPN passing our IP leak test

    PrivateVPN concealed our real IP address.

    PrivateVPN also passed our DNS leak test without any issues. This is helped by the fact that PrivateVPN operates its own DNS servers that resolve all your DNS requests, thereby removing any risk of leaks from third-party servers and data-handlers.

    Image showing PrivateVPN passing our DNS leak test

    PrivateVPN easily passed our DNS leak test.

    In sum, these results show that PrivateVPN is safe and can be trusted to protect your identity as you browse the web.

    SUMMARY:

    PrivateVPN is a secure VPN, but it doesn’t have enough advanced features to match other top VPNs. The VPN doesn’t offer RAM-based servers, double hop, or split tunneling. That said, it does come with AES-256 encryption and a kill switch, so it’s secure enough for standard web activities.

    Inconsistent customer support

    Customer Service

    Live chat SupportYes
    Online ResourcesYes

    Customer Support Rating: 8.3/10

    PrivateVPN has good customer support but it is inconsistent in both availability and quality of service. The support team can be contacted either through live chat or via email.

    Despite being operational 24/7, its live chat is not always available. After reaching out to the company for an explanation, we were told that there are only four customer support agents in total, so the live chat system is shut down temporarily if there is a large queue or if the agents are on break.

    The chat box will display either red or green depending on whether it’s available. It can be initiated from the bottom-right corner of the PrivateVPN website and it will prompt you to enter your name, email address, and question before proceeding.

    Image showing PrivateVPN's live chat customer support as unavailable

    PrivateVPN’s live chat is not available 24/7.

    This is extremely poor for a top VPN service. 24/7 customer support is now an expectation for good VPNs and, if not, then live chat is always available during set times of the day.

    With PrivateVPN, though, the availability of a customer support agent is unpredictable and random — which can be extremely frustrating if you want a quick answer to a query.

    In addition, PrivateVPN’s support agents differ substantially in helpfulness. Some agents are very knowledgeable, prompt to respond, and courteous. However, some others are very ill-informed, misunderstand queries, and are slow to reply.

    Image showing a conversation with PrivateVPN's live chat customer support

    If live chat is unavailable, your question will be forwarded to PrivateVPN’s email support. This email support runs 24/7 and, in our testing, we frequently received a reply within an hour. The email support team is generally more knowledgeable than the live chat staff, so make sure to contact them if you have a more advanced query.

    For any general issues, PrivateVPN’s online resources and FAQs page should suffice, but these are limited and only cover the basics. We would like to see more video walkthroughs and an update of the tutorials. Many still use screenshots from the old PrivateVPN app, for example.

    Easy to install and set-up

    User Experience

    How to Install & Set Up PrivateVPN

    Ease of Use Rating: 8.3/10

    One of the best features of PrivateVPN is its easy-to-use and simple apps. The apps have been recently updated, too, further enhancing their intuitiveness and attractiveness.

    From the app’s home screen, you can only connect or disconnect from the VPN using the large on/off button, or change your server location. However, the app is more configurable than it first seems as it allows you to choose between this ‘simple view’ or an ‘advanced view’.

    Image showing the PrivateVPN app's simple and advanced modes

    PrivateVPN’s desktop apps feature both a simple and advanced view.

    From the app’s advanced view you can manually configure a range of settings. You can adjust the VPN protocol, the level of encryption used, as well as turn on advanced features like the kill switch and Stealth VPN. This makes the advanced view great if you want to tailor the service to suit your preferences.

    The simple view, on the other hand, is perfect if you’re a VPN novice who wants a quick and easy way to connect the VPN and change server location.

    Overall, the user experience of PrivateVPN’s apps is one of the very best we’ve seen — they’re easy to use and navigate, they don’t include any bloatware, connecting is quick, and they’re very stable.

    PrivateVPN is a very good VPN choice

    The Bottom Line

    PrivateVPN is an excellent VPN service overall. It comes with intuitive apps for beginners, advanced security and encryption, as well as some of the most affordable prices on the market.

    PrivateVPN is particularly well suited for streamers who want a quick and easy way to unblock streaming sites from around the world. The VPN accesses 32 different Netflix libraries, Hulu, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer. However, we do wish PrivateVPN offered a Smart DNS feature, as users are left unable to stream content on devices like Apple TV or games consoles.

    The VPN is also our number two pick for torrenting — coming with a robust kill switch, a zero-logs privacy policy, and fast bitrate speeds. In our tests, we were always able to download torrent files quickly and safely.

    PrivateVPN is also one of the best VPNs for China, with its Stealth VPN protocol easily bypassing the Great Firewall in all of our recent tests.

    However, we encountered some highly unreliable speeds when testing PrivateVPN. The VPN’s tiny server network and lack of information about server load means that servers are often overcrowded. It’s therefore impossible to decipher whether your speeds will be fast or slow before connecting. This is the VPN’s most significant drawback and will often frustrate your Netflix streaming with interruptions and buffering.

    Overall, PrivateVPN is an excellent VPN for most users. It will work with any streaming service, hide your torrenting activity, and it will secure data on public WiFi. However, if you want a more fully-featured VPN with the fastest speeds, Smart DNS, browser extensions, 24/7 live chat, and numerous server locations — you’ll have to look elsewhere.

    Alternatives to PrivateVPN

    Surfshark VPN logo

    Surfshark

    Surfshark is a similarly-priced VPN that comes with more features. It’s based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, live chat is available 24/7, and it allows unlimited simultaneous connections. Read Surfshark review

    The new ExpressVPN logo

    ExpressVPN

    If money is no issue, then ExpressVPN is the best VPN available today. It delivers very fast long-distance speeds, and it reliably unblocks streaming sites around the world in HD. Read ExpressVPN review

    About the Author


    • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

      Simon Migliano

      Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio


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