ProtonVPN is best suited to users looking for solid privacy features and access to major streaming services. Performance on local connections is quick and reliable, and servers optimized for P2P traffic make it a great choice for torrenters. User-friendly yet powerful custom apps are available for Windows, Mac and Android, however other platforms require some manual configuration.
Proton offers strong encryption and loads of advanced privacy features, including Secure Core servers to help unblock content in high-censorship countries. The logging policy is incredibly minimal, collecting only a timestamp of your last successful login to the VPN software. The server network covers off most popular locations but 14 countries might not be enough for some people. Customer service is so-so, with decent online resources but unfortunately no live chat feature.
Pricing & Deals
ProtonVPN offers a few different pricing plans to make choosing your ideal option as simple as possible. They’re all tailored to suit different use cases, so whatever your surfing habits, there will be a combination to suit you.
The Basic plan is the cheapest option at $4 per month, but this limits you to two simultaneous connections, compared to five on the Plus plan. The Plus plan comes in at $8, but also offers ‘secure core’ servers and servers optimized for use with TOR. The Visionary plan is the most expensive we’ve seen from any provider at a whopping $24 per month, but this includes everything in the other packages plus an extra five simultaneous connections and use of ProtonMail Visionary, which on its own costs $30.
ProtonVPN Pricing & Deals
The prices below include the coupon savings.
ProtonVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee which is genuinely ‘no questions asked’ and not subject to any data usage restrictions. All you have to do to request a refund is email the support team, and the money will be back in your account within 30 days. Proton will even consider refunds outside of the 30 day window, but this is purely on a case-by-case basis and usually only due to a fault with the service.
If you want to test out the service before committing to a paid subscription, Proton does offer a free plan that you can use for as long as you like. The downside of this is that you’ll only have access to servers in three countries and your speeds will be capped, however it is a good opportunity to see if you like the software before you hand over any payment details.
ProtonVPN unfortunately does not accept a very diverse range of payment options in comparison to other providers. Users can pay with most major credit or debit cards or through PayPal, but that’s it. We were disappointed to see no option to pay with cryptocurrencies or via any international methods.
Speed & Reliability
ProtonVPN’s speed test results are nowhere near the best we’ve seen but are incredibly consistent and more than quick enough for privacy-conscious streamers and torrenters. Performance is excellent on local connections and surprisingly good over longer distances, so unless you need to stream in Ultra HD across multiple devices you shouldn’t encounter any problems. It isn’t quite nipping at the heels of top-tier VPNs but we were pleasantly surprised by the speeds on offer.
Proton delivers consistently impressive download speeds on local connections, at 82Mbps in the Netherlands and 67Mbps in the UK and France. Connecting out to the US from the UK you can expect decent speeds of up to 54Mbps, which is more than quick enough for streaming HD video. Considering we test from London, performance was still very good even on more distant servers such as Australia and Japan, coming in at 35Mbps and 33Mbps respectively.
Gamers might want to look elsewhere as ProtonVPN’s latency is pretty sluggish compared to other providers, averaging around 9ms on same-country connections. This shouldn’t put off everyday users but there are options out there with much lower ping (some as low as 1ms) if you need latency to be as low as possible.
Proton takes a little longer to connect than we’d like, at around 12 seconds each time, however this isn’t a dealbreaker and only a few seconds slower than most top-tier providers. Once you’re up and running, we found performance to be incredibly reliable with almost no connection drops, so as long as you’ve got a stable internet connection you shouldn’t have any issues.
Uploads on local connections are very quick and more important reliable, making Proton a great choice for torrenters. European servers consistently reached upload speeds of over 80Mbps, and a certain number of servers are optimized for P2P traffic.
ProtonVPN is more than quick enough for everyday users and offers a decent level of consistency across its global server network. It’s true that there are providers that offer much higher speeds on individual servers, but for most people these simple aren’t necessary. A minor downside is the slightly sluggish latency, meaning gamers will want to consider other options, but fantastic upload performance means Proton is a great choice for torrenters.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How we test for VPN speed performance.
ProtonVPN’s server network is by far the smallest we’ve ever seen, with only 14 countries on offer. Should you only need to access the more popular locations such as the US and Western Europe you’ll have no problems, however if you require servers in more exotic locations you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly ProtonVPN operates an incredibly low number of individual servers with only 112 on its entire network, meaning you could experience some congestion at busier times. Thankfully you can check how busy each server is on the dashboard of the desktop app.
As you might expect from a European-based company, Europe and North America are the best served, accounting for 10 of the total 14 countries. The US is the only country with city-level servers, with 6 state-specific choices. It’s nice to see a few options in the Asia Pacific region including Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, however there are currently no servers in South America or Africa, which could be a dealbreaker for some.
You can find the complete list of ProtonVPN server locations by country and purpose on their website below.
Platforms & Devices
ProtonVPN’s custom apps are unfortunately limited to Windows, Mac and Android devices. It is possible to install it on Mac and iOS but this requires you to download the third-party OpenVPN software, which could be a little fiddly for first-time VPN users. In the future it’d be great to see dedicated apps for a wider range of platforms to bring Proton up to speed with its rivals.
It isn’t possible to buy a router with ProtonVPN already installed, however you can manually configure the software to work with your existing router, provided it’s a compatible model (check the support section of the website for the list). The setup instructions they provide are very comprehensive with loads of helpful screenshots, so you shouldn’t struggle even if you’ve never done it before. Installing the VPN at router level is always an advantage as it saves you having to install individual apps on all the devices you want to protect.
ProtonVPN doesn’t offer browser extensions for Chrome, Safari or Firefox and has no plans to do so in the near future. Most other top-tier providers will offer at least a proxy extension for Chrome or Firefox, and ExpressVPN offers full-featured VPN extensions for all popular browsers. This probably won’t be a dealbreaker for most, however heavy browser users seeking a more lightweight experience might want to look elsewhere.
Console & Streaming Devices
If you choose to manually configure your router to work with ProtonVPN, any device that you connect to it (including your games consoles and streaming devices) will be routed via the VPN. This includes devices such as Apple and Android TV, PlayStation, Xbox and Roku, as well as many others.
If your router isn’t compatible or you simply can’t face fiddling with loads of settings, you’ll find it very difficult to use Proton with anything outside of the three main platforms. A lack of dedicated apps for streaming devices makes it clear that this isn’t Proton’s priority. If you’re looking for plug-and-play solutions, you’re better off looking at other providers such as ExpressVPN or IPVanish.
Streaming & Torrenting
ProtonVPN is a great choice if you’re looking for quick, hassle-free access to major streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. There is a handy list on Proton’s website of the US servers that are currently working with Netflix, however potential customers should note that these are only available on the Plus Plan. We’ve had absolutely no issues accessing the site so far, and fantastic speeds on US servers mean you can watch your favorite shows in buffer-free HD.
iPlayer is currently working on all of Proton’s UK servers, however the BBC is constantly trying to block known VPN providers, so access is not always guaranteed. Thankfully we’re yet to experience any problems when running our tests, and brilliant performance in the UK means you can also take advantage of the HD option. Consistently high upload speeds mean Proton is also a fantastic choice for torrenters, although be aware that P2P traffic is limited to just three European servers, so US-based customers might want to consider other options.
Encryption & Security
ProtonVPN is an excellent choice if you’re serious about online privacy. The desktop app exclusively uses OpenVPN, the most secure VPN protocol, so you can be certain that your web traffic isn’t being compromised. Encryption is via AES-256, a top cipher and considered unbreakable.
The VPN killswitch is absolutely essential, as it prevents your true IP address from being leaked should the VPN connection drop for any reason. ProtonVPN also offers a Secure Core setting, which forces your traffic through multiple servers before it leaves the network. These servers operate on Proton’s own dedicated networks in selected countries with strong privacy laws, meaning you’re even further protected against cyber attacks.
Servers optimized for use with TOR are great for those who need an extra layer of privacy. Protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks are added bonus features not offered by many other providers, and Proton even operates its own zero-log DNS servers, making it one of the most secure VPNs on the current market.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- First-party DNS
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- VPN Killswitch
- TOR via VPN Server
ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers make it a fantastic choice for users in high-censorship countries such as China as they mask the fact you’re connecting through a VPN. Because your web traffic is routed through countries with strong privacy laws, such as Iceland and Sweden, before reaching your destination, it’s impossible for your online activity to be traced back to you as an individual.
Servers optimized for use with TOR are another way of enabling users to access government-blocked content without being detected by the censors. This applies in countries such as the UAE, Iran and Turkey too, where the internet is strictly regulated. The only downside is Proton’s limited server network, as it means you may not be able to connect to a nearby country for the best possible performance.
ProtonVPN is very upfront about its minimal logging policy. It is about as close to zero-logs as you can get, collecting only a single timestamp of your most recent successful login in order to determine that nobody else is using your account. This is overwritten every time you use the service, and is crucially non-personally identifiable information that can’t be traced back to you in any way.
Proton doesn’t store information about your connections or any of your online activity, including the websites you visit. It also doesn’t log your originating IP address, the device you used to log on, or how long you were logged in for. It’s an approach we really like.
ProtonVPN operates under the jurisdiction of Switzerland, which allows its users to benefit from some of the world’s strongest privacy laws. It’s also not subject to any US or EU data laws or intelligence-sharing agreements with privacy-unfriendly countries.
Ease of use
ProtonVPN’s desktop apps are incredibly user-friendly, with a main screen that displays loads of useful information. We love that you can see some stats about the location you’re connected to, such as the server load, upload and download speeds and your new IP address. Our only real gripe was the huge world map with the speed graph running underneath, which we felt was a bit unnecessary given the detailed server list.
The locations are listed alphabetically, making them really easy to navigate. Servers are also laid out by speed and labelled if they are compatible with TOR, and those suitable for P2P and torrenting are clearly marked so you know exactly where you need to connect for the best performance. The settings list can be found behind the burger menu in the top left-hand corner, but this is limited to pretty basic stuff with very few configurable options.
The Android app is much better than most other mobile VPN apps, however it still lacks in some features when compared to the desktop client. The only protocol option is IKEv2 rather than OpenVPN, but thankfully mobile users still have access to the full server list. It would be great to see custom apps for a wider range of platforms in the near future.
Getting ProtonVPN up and running is incredibly easy and the whole process only takes a couple of minutes from start to finish. Once you’ve chosen your subscription, simply log in to your account on the website and download the appropriate software for your device. There are step-by-step guides for all popular devices which are super simple to follow and contain loads of helpful screenshots.
Once you’ve downloaded the software, all you have to do is follow the prompts in the installation wizard until the process is complete. This usually just means clicking ‘next’ and then ‘finish’, and it’s pretty self-explanatory, but the set-up guides are there to help you should you get stuck. Once this is done, all that’s left to do is log in and you’re ready to start using the VPN.
ProtonVPN’s customer support is fairly limited and will only cover the most basic of queries. The online support center offers a series of FAQs on various general topics, with a handy search feature to look up keywords. Other than that, your only option is to contact the support team via a form on the website, and wait for a response from them.
It was nice to see some detailed set-up guides for devices that need to be manually configured and even some simple troubleshooting advice, but more experienced users might not find this to be enough. Email responses were nowhere near snappy enough to make up for the lack of live chat, which left us feeling frustrated when we had a small problem that could have been easily solved by an online agent.
The Bottom Line
- Download speeds of up to 82Mbps on local connections
- Quick, hassle-free access to popular sites including Netflix and iPlayer
- User-friendly apps. Speedy set-up on Windows, Mac and Android
- Secure Core network helps users in high-censorship countries
- Very strict zero-logs policy
- Extremely small server network with just 14 countries
- Custom apps only available for three major platforms
- Customer support could be a lot better
- Best features limited to the Plus Plan
ProtonVPN is a great choice for privacy-conscious users that don’t need access to an extensive server network. There are cheaper providers out there but Proton offers excellent value for money on the Plus Plan. Both upload and download speeds on local connections are excellent, and we were equally as impressed by performance across longer distances. Servers optimized for P2P traffic will appeal to torrenters, and access to both Netflix and BBC iPlayer will be a bonus for streaming fans.
Proton offers an incredibly high level of privacy, with a very minimal logs policy and loads of advanced privacy settings such as a VPN killswitch and DNS leak protection. We really like the Secure Core network, which masks the fact you’re using a VPN and makes you completely untraceable as an individual. The fact it’s based in privacy-friendly Switzerland means your personal information is kept safe from prying eyes.
The software is really user-friendly and easy to navigate, however the app is only available for Windows, Mac and Android, with other platforms requiring some manual configuration and installation of the OpenVPN app. Customer support is decent enough but we really miss the livechat option. Proton is a fantastic provider if you’re looking for raw power and good local speeds, however the tiny server network of 14 countries is bound to be a dealbreaker for some.