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ProtonVPN Review

 100% 
(3 User reviews)
ProtonVPN 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 ProtonVPN

Our Verdict

ProtonVPN is an open-source and secure VPN service that’s perfect if security is your main priority. It works with Netflix and Hulu, but its slow speeds make it a poor overall VPN for streaming. Instead, we recommend it as a well-rounded VPN for privacy-focused users.

ProtonVPN is a security-focused VPN that exists as both a free and paid product. This page focuses on the paid subscription. If you’d like to learn more about the free VPN, you can read our expert analysis of ProtonVPN Free.

For this ProtonVPN review, our team of experts have put the paid VPN service through our scientific testing process to determine how it compares to the very best paid VPNs on the market.

The VPN is a product from the same team as the highly-regarded cybersecurity service ProtonMail. ProtonVPN was formulated in 2017 as an additional product for existing ProtonMail customers, but it has quickly established itself as a top VPN in its own right.

We found that ProtonVPN is an overall good VPN. Its use of AES-256 encryption with OpenVPN provides a safe way to protect your online traffic. It’s also backed by the Secure Core server network, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, and a minimal-logs policy — making it one of the best VPNs for handling sensitive data and for securing unsafe public WiFi networks. 

We tested the service with streaming sites from around the world and found that ProtonVPN unblocks US Netflix. However, the VPN struggles with DNS lookups and SSL negotiations on streaming sites — meaning you’ll often have to wait up to a minute for content to load.

Although we recorded decent internet speeds on local connections, ProtonVPN is not very fast when connecting to long-distance servers, so you may not be able to stream geo-blocked movies and TV shows in HD.

More positively, ProtonVPN is a safe VPN for torrenting and can also be used in conjunction with the Tor network. The app includes dedicated servers for both activities, so you can get online as quickly as possible.

In summary, ProtonVPN is great for privacy-minded users who want one of the most secure and trustworthy VPNs on the market. Though it unblocks a wide range of streaming services, ProtonVPN’s slow speeds and technical failings mean we don’t recommend it if streaming is  your primary reason for using a VPN. 

ProtonVPN Pros & Cons

  1. Open-sourced & independently audited apps
  2. Works with US Netflix, Disney+ & BBC iPlayer
  3. Secure Core servers provide extra encryption
  4. Includes servers optimized for torrenting
  5. Quick & easy connections to the Tor network
  6. Comes from a reputable & trustworthy company
  1. Slow speeds on long-distance connections
  2. Poor customer support
  3. Torrenting restricted to four server locations
  4. Paid plans are expensive
  5. Doesn’t work in China
  6. No live chat customer support

ProtonVPN Key Summary

Data CapSpeedLogging PolicyData LeaksJurisdictionServersIP AddressesCountriesUS NetflixTorrentingWorks in ChinaSupportCheapest PriceOfficial Website
PremiumFree
UnlimitedUnlimited
92Mbps60Mbps
Anonymous Server Usage DataAnonymous Server Usage Data
NoNo
Switzerland (Privacy Haven)Switzerland (Privacy Haven)
1,05016
1,050+16+
543
YesNo
RestrictedRestricted
NoNo
Email & Online Resources OnlyEmail & Online Resources Only
$6.63/mo over 24 MonthsFree
ProtonVPN.com

Does ProtonVPN Keep Logs?

Logging Policy

Despite claiming to have a true no-logs privacy policy, we found that ProtonVPN does log some connection timestamps. However, this logging is very minimal and will still keep you private and anonymous online. 

The VPN logs the specific time of your last successful login attempt, and this gets overwritten each time you successfully connect to the VPN.

ProtonVPN logging policy

Excerpt from ProtonVPN’s minimal-logs privacy policy.

After contacting it, a representative from ProtonVPN confirmed that this timestamp does not contain any identifying information, such as an IP address, and is only recorded in order to “protect user accounts from password guessing attacks.”

Although a true no-logs privacy policy is preferable, the single timestamp is detached from all other identifying characteristics and could not be used to identify you from your online activity.

This was put to the test in January 2019, when a Swiss court approved a request asking for information of a ProtonVPN user. ProtonVPN was unable to provide any user data, as it had not stored any relevant information.

This is really impressive and makes ProtonVPN part of a small number of VPN services which have had their logging policies verified by a real-world test. In short, you can rely on ProtonVPN to keep your information away from third-parties and private to you. 

The only other information that ProtonVPN retains is your email address, payment information, and support tickets. This is a common practice among VPN providers, but you can enhance your anonymity with ProtonVPN by using a private ProtonID and Bitcoin when signing up.

All stored profile data is encrypted and stored locally on its servers and will be immediately deleted when you terminate your account.

ProtonVPN is Based in Switzerland

ProtonVPN operates under the jurisdiction of Switzerland, which is a great base for a VPN provider

All VPN providers need to be incorporated in a country and adhere to the local privacy laws to continue operating. 

The extent of these laws ranges widely around the world, with the worst countries mandating intrusive data collection, and the best countries having no data retention laws whatsoever.

Switzerland is a good VPN jurisdiction for these reasons:

  1. Switzerland has strong privacy laws, a history of respecting user privacy, and does not require VPN providers to store data on users.
  2. Switzerland is not part of the EU, allowing it to sidestep all EU data retention laws, like the Data Retention Directive (2006).
  3. Switzerland is not a member of the 14 Eyes alliance or any other intelligence sharing coalition, meaning it does not have a formal structure set up for collecting and sharing surveillance data with other nations.

All of Switzerland’s privacy-hostile laws, like BÜPF and NDG, do not apply to ProtonVPN as they are not considered a “major telecommunication operator” nor a “major internet service provider.” This means ProtonVPN benefits from all the advantages of its Swiss base, while also not having to abide by the drawbacks.

In fact, Proton Technologies (the company behind ProtonVPN) was part of a group that successfully forced the NDG law to be put up for a national referendum after it was swiftly passed by the Swiss government, despite the law eventually passing following a majority vote from the public.

We rarely see this level of privacy advocacy from other VPN providers, which goes to show just how serious ProtonVPN is about protecting its user’s privacy.

SUMMARY

ProtonVPN is one of the best VPNs for keeping your online activity private and anonymous. The VPN doesn’t log any data that could be used to personally identify you, and its base within Switzerland means it doesn’t have to adhere to any data retention laws, either.

Pricing plans to suit different needs & budgets

Pricing

ProtonVPN Coupon

ProtonVPN Pricing Plan

ProtonVPN is unique in that it offers four different pricing tiers. In all, ProtonVPN has a free plan and three paid plans: Basic, Plus, and Visionary.

Here is a table comparing the features of each ProtonVPN subscription plan:

Free
Basic
Plus
Visionary
Monthly Price
Free
$3.29
$6.63
$24
# of Devices
1
2
5
10
US Netflix
No
No
Yes
Yes
Torrenting Support
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Countries
3
50
50
50
Secure Core
No
No
Yes
Yes
ProtonMail
No
No
No
Yes

From the table, you can see that the ProtonVPN Basic plan excludes too many key features to make it worthwhile over the free tier, and the Visionary plan is only worth it for existing ProtonMail customers. 

As a result, we recommend all paying customers opt for the ProtonVPN Plus subscription, primarily because it includes access to the Secure Core server network and unblocks streaming sites.

You can purchase the Plus plan monthly, every year, or every two years. The ProtonVPN monthly package costs $10, or you can lower the cost by 20% to $8 if you purchase annually. The two-year plan costs $6.63 a month, which is an overall saving of 34%.

Though the monthly subscription is typically priced for a reputable VPN service, the discounts available on the longer-term plans fall far shorter than those available on other VPNs. For example, the two-year plan from top services, like NordVPN, PrivateVPN, and Surfshark, are all more than 50% cheaper than ProtonVPN.

  1. Monthly

    US$10/mo

    Plus Plan: Billed $10 every month
  2. 12 months

    US$8/mo

    Plus Plan: Billed $96 every 12 months
    Save 20%
  3. 2 years

    US$6.63/mo

    Plus Plan: Billed $159 every 2 years
    Save 34%

All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee

Payment & Refund Options

Credit CardYes
PayPalYes
BitcoinYes

You can pay for any of ProtonVPN’s plans via:

  • PayPal
  • Credit/debit card
  • Bitcoin
  • Cash

The option to pay via cryptocurrency and physical cash is a nice touch if you don’t want your ProtonVPN account to be linked with any unique payment method. We rarely see these options from any other VPN provider, so its inclusion is notable.

There aren’t any international payment options, like AliPay, if you’re based outside of America or Europe.

ProtonVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee which is no questions asked, and not subject to any data usage restrictions. Just request a refund by emailing the support team and the money will be back in your account within 14 days.

Mediocre speed performance

Speed Test Results

By tunneling and encrypting all web traffic, every VPN will slow down your internet speed to some extent. The best VPNs will make this drop in performance unnoticeable, but this is not true for most providers.

To calculate ProtonVPN’s effect on connection speeds and performance reliability, we put it through a succession of manual and automated speed tests.

We found that despite ProtonVPN’s good local speeds, it is generally a slow VPN that performs very poorly over long-distance connections

From the UK, we measured an average speed loss of just 7% when connected to a nearby server, but saw a drop of as much as 60% when connecting to Canada and 78% when connecting to Australia.

As you’d expect, paying Plus and Visionary ProtonVPN users benefit from the fastest available speeds. This is mostly due to a greater server capacity of 10Gbps and better hardware, but high-paying customers also benefit from less-congested servers, which has an impact on the speed performance.

In addition to speed performance, we also tested packet loss while using ProtonVPN. Packet loss occurs when network data does not get to its location and is discarded. These unsuccessful packets can interrupt and slow down your network speeds. ProtonVPN’s results impressed us with 0% packet loss, keeping our connection reliable and stable.

All of ProtonVPN’s apps do have a useful feature called ‘Quick Connect’. Based on a calculation of latency and distance, this automatically connects you to the fastest server from your location. However, we often found this produced slower results than when we manually connected.

SUMMARY

ProtonVPN is a fast VPN when connected to nearby servers, but speeds on long-distance connections are slower than other VPNs. This makes ProtonVPN a suitable choice for torrenting and anonymizing web activity, but it’s not always suitable for unblocking international streaming sites.

You can read the full breakdown of our speed test results in the sections below.

Short-Distance Speed Test Results

Before using ProtonVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    99

  2. UploadMbps

    99

  3. Pingms

    5

When connected to ProtonVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    92

  2. UploadMbps

    92

  3. Pingms

    15

To ensure our speed test results are calculated scientifically, we take extra steps to ensure all our testing is standardized and unbiased. For every VPN, we connect to a nearby London server using a UDP OpenVPN connection with AES-256 encryption applied. Our final result is calculated from an average, and we re-run these tests every month. 

We found that ProtonVPN’s local connection speeds are good, dropping just 7% to 92Mbps. Wherever you’re located, you’ll experience a similar speed drop when connected to a nearby server. 

This allowed us to stream, torrent, and game without any lagging. BBC iPlayer continued to stream in HD and web pages loaded instantly.

Long-Distance Speed Test Results

We tested ProtonVPN’s long-distance connection speeds using our same scientific manual speed testing method.

Our results showed that ProtonVPN’s long-distance speeds are disappointing, with poor speeds recorded across the majority of locations. Depending on your baseline internet speed, this may mean you’re unable to unblock Netflix and other geo-blocked streaming sites.

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

As you can see, ProtonVPN’s speeds suffer substantially when connecting to long-distance servers. Most notably, our download speed dropped a huge 47% when connecting to the US. Depending on your baseline internet speed, this may prevent you from unblocking Hulu and US Netflix content in HD. 

These international speeds will still be fast enough for general web activity and for downloading small-sized torrent files, but they do limit ProtonVPN’s viability as a streaming VPN.

How Fast is ProtonVPN Compared to Other VPNs?

To ensure our speed test results are as accurate as possible, we also run a series of automated tests on 18 VPN services. That way, you can see live information on how fast ProtonVPN is compared to the best VPNs on the market. 

These automated tests run four times a day on infrastructure owned by us, and we report the results directly from the data. This reduces any risk of biased or misleading information.

The graph below shows the latest results from our New York server when connecting to a server nearby:

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Use our Speed Test Tool to compare ProtonVPN’s speeds across different cities.

The results from our speed test tool are damning — ProtonVPN is slower than all other top VPNs. Over the previous eight weeks, the VPN recorded an average download speed loss of 64% on a local connection. This is a terrible result and could grind your internet connection to a halt. 

ProtonVPN’s poor speed performance is in contrast to almost all other premium VPNs, including privacy-focused ones like Mullvad and PIA. Over the same period, Mullvad experienced an average speed loss of 7%, while PIA fell by an average of 14% — comfortably beating ProtonVPN. 

ProtonVPN’s upload speed results were just as disappointing, sometimes falling as low as 82% — which is one of the worst results we’ve ever recorded. 

Overall, ProtonVPN is built primarily for privacy and security purposes, so its poor speed performance is not necessarily a dealbreaker. The VPN will be fast enough for general internet use. However, depending on your home internet connection, it may be too slow for streaming and torrenting.

Does ProtonVPN Work with Netflix?

Streaming & Torrenting

ProtonVPN’s streaming ability depends on the plan you subscribe to. All of ProtonVPN’s free and ‘Basic’ servers are blocked by Netflix, but we were able to stream US Netflix using the VPN’s Plus servers. These servers are exclusive to ‘Plus’ and ‘Visionary’ Plan subscribers.

Although ProtonVPN claims that it works with Netflix “in almost every country,” our tests found that the only libraries outside the US that the VPN unblocks are the UK, Italy, and Switzerland. This is a relatively small number, with other VPNs, like PrivateVPN and Windscribe, working with more than 30 Netflix libraries from around the world. 

More pleasingly, with ProtonVPN we were able to watch content from Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.  

The following is a list of ProtonVPN servers we’ve recently tested that successfully unblock the most popular streaming services:

Streaming Service Server IDs
Amazon Prime Video US-FL#36, US-CO#11, US-AZ#2
BBC iPlayer UK#35, UK#11, UK#39
Disney+ US-TX#18, US-WA#10, US-CA#19
Hulu US-FL#13, US-IL#40, US-IL#42
US Netflix US-NY#11, US-CA#14, US-GA#20

However, we discovered one major drawback that means we do not recommend ProtonVPN if streaming is your number one priority. In short, ProtonVPN is very slow to load Netflix content — often taking longer than 40 seconds to load a TV show or movie. 

To discover the cause of this issue, we conducted an in-house analysis of the networking packets and data.  

Our research found that when using ProtonVPN with Netflix, our DNS lookups and SSL negotiations took over 10 seconds per request. In addition, many of these requests failed, with perpetual reattempts taking place until the process worked. You can see this in the screenshot below.

ProtonVPN slow with Netflix

ProtonVPN often takes over 40 seconds to load Netflix content.

We repeated these tests on a range of devices and found the same problem to be consistent across all platforms, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

Although these technical issues can sound confusing, it’s important to understand their implications. Put simply, these errors cause slowdowns that make ProtonVPN a frustrating and poor VPN for streaming.

SUMMARY

Despite working with a good number of streaming sites, ProtonVPN suffers from frustrating technical issues that make it very slow to load Netflix content. ProtonVPN is not recommended if you prioritize streaming and unblocking video content.

ProtonVPN Is Good for Torrenting

Using a VPN while torrenting is essential due to the risks involved with P2P file-sharing. These include exposing your IP address to all others in your torrent network and revealing your download history to your ISP.

Our tests found that ProtonVPN is a safe and secure choice for private torrenting. The VPN comes with dedicated servers for P2P file-sharing, a minimal-logs privacy policy, and a suite of robust security features including an internet kill switch.

Although P2P file-sharing is allowed on many of ProtonVPN’s servers (through P2P VPN redirect), the VPN also includes high-performance servers that are specifically optimized for torrenting. These servers are easy to find in the app and are labeled by a two-arrow icon. 

Sadly, ProtonVPN’s torrenting servers are only available in five countries: Switzerland, Netherlands, Iceland, Singapore, and Sweden. Although you’ll likely experience slower speeds if you’re located far-away from these regions, we recommend all torrenters use these servers at all times for extra security.

ProtonVPN torrenting

ProtonVPN includes servers optimized for P2P activity.

We tested ProtonVPN with the most popular torrent clients, including uTorrent and BitTorrent, and we were able to download all of our files without any interruptions.  

That said, we don’t consider ProtonVPN to be one of the very best VPNs for torrenting. Its mediocre speed performance meant we were often left waiting a while for our files to download and, unlike many other top VPNs, it does not support port forwarding. This feature allows you to increase the number of torrenting peers and improve your download speeds, so its omission makes ProtonVPN a worse option than some competitors.

For a full breakdown of how well ProtonVPN works for torrenting, read our in-depth guide.

SUMMARY

ProtonVPN is a good choice for private torrenting, but it is certainly not the best. The VPN comes with an impressive privacy policy and strong security features but is let down by its slow speeds and small P2P server network.

Highly secure, open-source VPN with advanced features

Encryption & Security

Protocols

IKEv2/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

First-party DNS

IPV6 Leak Blocking

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Split Tunneling

TOR via VPN Server

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

ProtonVPN is one of the safest and most secure VPNs available. The service will reliably encrypt your data, hide your IP address, and keep your online activities hidden from any third-parties.

ProtonVPN is one of only a few VPNs that have open-sourced their apps and published a third-party security audit. The VPN has done this for its Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS apps. The source code for each is freely available to view on Github and all found vulnerabilities have been fixed.

The benefit of open-sourcing its apps is that anyone can view and contribute to their development. This improves the app’s security due to the error checking of a larger community. You can also verify what the app does yourself — ensuring there is no malicious code running the background. 

This represents a level of transparency and commitment to security that we rarely see from other VPN providers — we love that ProtonVPN has made the effort to do this.

In addition to this, ProtonVPN’s website claims that it utilizes the most advanced security features, ensuring that an “attacker cannot eavesdrop on your connection.” To verify this, we inspected the VPN’s connection logs and were impressed with what we discovered.

Here are ProtonVPN’s encryption specifications:

  • Traffic is securely encrypted using the AES-256 cipher.
  • Connections established via an RSA-2048 handshake.
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy via an ECDH key exchange.
  • Authentication is provided using an SHA-384 hash.
AES-256 encryption

ProtonVPN uses the most secure encryption protocols and ciphers.

Although this may sound confusing, all you need to know is that ProtonVPN’s encryption exceeds the security needs of any user. Your data will be protected from any potential attacker and kept private to you.

The one drawback is that ProtonVPN does not support the newer and faster WireGuard protocol. The company announced that it planned to add the protocol to its apps back in 2018. As so much time has elapsed since then, it’s disappointing that ProtonVPN has not yet added WireGuard as an option for users. 

For more information about encryption ciphers and protocols, check out our dedicated guide to VPN encryption.

Kill Switch

A VPN kill switch is an essential feature if you want to guarantee your security online. Without one, you risk exposing your activity to your ISP if your connection suddenly disconnects. Kill switches block all traffic when your connection drops, so you aren’t left accidentally exposed.

ProtonVPN includes a kill switch on both its Windows and Mac apps. It’s not enabled by default, so make sure you turn it on in the ‘Connection’ tab within the Preferences menu.

To verify that ProtonVPN’s kill switch provided sufficient protection, we ran a series of manual IP and DNS leak tests while disconnecting the VPN connection. In all cases, the kill switch worked perfectly and did not expose our true IP address.ProtonVPN kill switch

Disappointingly, ProtonVPN’s Android and iOS apps do not have a kill switch. The VPN does include an ‘Always-on’ feature for its mobile apps, which automatically re-establishes a connection to the VPN in the event of a drop. However, this initiates too late and fails to protect your IP address, leaving your connections vulnerable when using ProtonVPN on mobile.

Split Tunneling

With split tunneling, your VPN creates a separate tunnel that goes directly through your ISP, just like you weren’t using a VPN at all. 

This feature is particularly useful for retaining compatibility with devices and services that require a local IP address, like online banking and a wireless printer, for example.

ProtonVPN includes split tunneling on its Windows and Android app, but it isn’t included on MacOS or iOS. To use it, simply toggle on the apps that you want to be excluded from the encrypted VPN tunnel.

ProtonVPN split tunneling interface

We tested the feature from our base in the UK and were able to watch BBC iPlayer and access devices on our local network, all while using a Netherlands VPN server to safely download a torrent file.

EXPERT TIP

Remember that all apps you exclude from the VPN tunnel are not encrypted, leaving your true IP address exposed. Never use this feature for sensitive activities, like securing unsafe WiFi networks.

Leak Test Results

Before trusting a VPN with your sensitive data, conducting a real-world leak test is a good way to verify that the VPN is successfully concealing your identity.

All of ProtonVPN’s apps include IPv6 and DNS leak protection, but we wanted to make sure they were performing properly. We ran these tests using ProtonVPN on both MacOS and Android. 

To test for any IP address leaks, we used ipleak.net. We connected to a range of ProtonVPN servers, including the US, South Africa, Germany, and Australia. ProtonVPN did not leak our true IP address on any server.

ProtonVPN does not leak IP addresses

ProtonVPN concealed our true IP address.

We then used dnsleaktest.com to test ProtonVPN for any DNS leaks. DNS leaks occur when your browser routes DNS requests through your ISP instead of the VPN, but we experienced no DNS leaks with ProtonVPN. This is no surprise, as ProtonVPN operates its own DNS servers, thereby removing the risk of leaks from any third-parties.

ProtonVPN does not leak DNS

ProtonVPN protected us from any DNS leaks.

These results mean that ProtonVPN’s security features are as functional as they claim, and the VPN can be trusted to keep you private and your data secure online.

SUMMARY

ProtonVPN is one of the most secure VPNs available. It uses best-in-class protocols and encryption ciphers and it easily passed all of our leak tests. ProtonVPN can be trusted to mask your true IP address and encrypt your data.

Mid-sized server network spanning 54 countries

Server Locations

Globe with a blue flag54Countries
Image of a city landscape74Cities
Image of a pink marker1,050+IP Addresses

ProtonVPN operates a medium-sized server network of over 1,000 servers in 54 countries. All are physical bare-metal servers and are physically located in their listed country.

This means that ProtonVPN’s entire server network runs locally and does not use virtualization software at any stage. Simply put, this limits the number of locations the VPN can cover but improves security, so we’re pleased ProtonVPN chose to prioritize this.

That said, ProtonVPN rents the vast majority of its VPN servers from third-party data centers. We prefer VPN providers to own as many of their servers as possible, as it reduces the possibility of a server being compromised or interfered with by any bad actors.

However, after we reached out to it, a representative from the VPN provider stated that the company has taken extra steps to ensure these rented servers are secure and do not log any information. ProtonVPN has always been a consistent advocate for user privacy and security, so there’s good reason to trust it here.

ProtonVPN does own a small number of its servers, too. These are part of its ‘Secure Core’ network, which you can read more on in the section below.

ProtonVPN covers Western Europe, South America, and North America particularly well — the most popular locations like the UK, US, and Canada, are all available, as well as some options in each of the other continents.

Hong Kong, Israel, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore are available for users in Asia, with Australia not too far away, while South Africa is the only available location in Africa.

A screenshot of ProtonVPN's app, showing the choice of server locations.

ProtonVPN also allows you to connect to city-level VPN servers in the following locations:

  • Australia (2)
  • Canada (3)
  • UK (3)
  • USA (12)

Being able to connect to city-level VPN servers is great for speed and reliability, as it reduces congestion and the potential for interruptions on the network.

This is made better by the fact that ProtonVPN informs you of the server’s relative load, which is determined by how many users are connected to that server and how intensive their activity is. With this feature, you’re able to connect to a VPN server with as little congestion as possible for the very fastest speeds.

If you need VPN servers in more traditionally underrepresented locations it may be best to look into other providers — for example, HideMyAss serves a massive 190 countries worldwide.

Secure Core VPN Servers

40 of ProtonVPN’s servers are owned by the VPN provider and make up its ‘Secure Core‘ network. These servers improve user privacy and data security and are a major benefit of using ProtonVPN.

Secure Core servers are only available to ‘Plus’ and ‘Visionary’ subscribers, and they can be enabled by toggling them on within the home screen of the app.

This feature works by bouncing traffic via a Secure Core server before relaying it on to the destination of your choice. This is similar to the Double Hop or Double VPN features you may have seen from other VPNs. 

However, unlike most of these services, ProtonVPN owns the network, it’s the only party with physical access to the machines, and it has implemented stricter security measures. This makes Secure Core more trustworthy than similar options from other providers.

ProtonVPN only has Secure Core VPN servers in Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. These locations are purposely selected due to the relatively strong privacy laws in the respective countries.

Image showing ProtonVPN's data center in Switzerland.

ProtonVPN’s Switzerland data center.

Although impressive, the drawback of using Secure Core is that it noticeably slows down your internet speed. Here are our test results when connecting from the UK to a UK and US server via the Secure Core network:

When connected to both locations, our speed was over 65% slower than a typical VPN connection. This is because your traffic is diverted to another location on its journey, the time it takes to get rebounded back to you is increased. ProtonVPN is quite a sluggish VPN in the first place, so the addition of this feature will significantly hinder your connection speeds.

This is to be expected, though, given the increased encryption and distance applied. These speeds will be fine for specific highly-sensitive activities, but we don’t recommend you enable Secure Core at all times unless you truly need the maximum level of security. 

As a privacy and security-focused VPN, we wish ProtonVPN would take the extra step and own its entire fleet of servers, not just a select few. This would improve the security and reliability of all its VPN servers, and not just those that are part of the Secure Core network.

Does ProtonVPN Work in China?

Censorship

We found that ProtonVPN does not work in China and we do not recommend it for bypassing censorship.

The Chinese government’s strict enforcement of censorship laws makes it difficult to test VPNs in the country. As a result, most claims of a VPN’s ability to circumvent the Great Firewall of China are based on guesswork and not from real tests.

To ensure our information is up-to-date and correct, we rent a test server that’s physically located in Shanghai. This server runs Windows 10 and all VPNs are put through the same series of tests. From here, we’ve tested 70 against the Great Firewall, providing us with the same results you can expect when connecting out from China.

We were not able to connect to the VPN from China, leaving us unable to unblock any websites or apps, including Google, Instagram, or YouTube.

ProtonVPN admits this fact, stating “the Chinese government is blocking access to ProtonVPN [….] we are investigating the situation and working on countermeasures.” 

Unlike most other top VPNs, ProtonVPN does not use any proprietary obfuscation technology nor does it route traffic through proxies, so it’s not a surprise that the VPN doesn’t work in China.

We had more successful results while using ProtonVPN alongside the Tor network, but this still rarely worked. You can read more about Tor in the section below.

If you want a VPN that we do recommend for anyone living or traveling to a high-censorship country, check out our rundown of the best VPNs for China.

Using Tor With ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN exceeds most VPNs as it includes dedicated servers that route all traffic through the Tor anonymity network. After connecting to these servers, we were able to access hidden .onion sites, including ProPublica and SecureDrop.

Diagram of data passing through the Tor network

A simplified illustration detailing how your data passes through the Tor network.

There are only three Tor-connected servers, with one each in the US, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. For the best performance, connect to the nearest one to your current location.

Within the app, these servers are labeled with an onion symbol and “TOR” within their server ID. You connect to these servers the same as all other servers and ProtonVPN will automatically channel your connections through the Tor network.

ProtonVPN Tor network

ProtonVPN’s dedicated servers connect to the Tor network quickly and safely.

Alternatively, you can make use of ProtonVPN’s underrated ‘Profiles’ feature for Tor connections. This feature allows you to create a shortcut for connecting to a specific server, so you can pin your chosen Tor server to the top of the app. You can read more about Profiles further down in this review.

Although Tor can be a useful free tool for avoiding surveillance and unblocking websites from censored regions, we recommend only using this method of anonymization if absolutely necessary

Tor over VPN’s biggest drawback is that the several layers of encryption will dramatically reduce your connection speeds. Our tests found that our speeds fell by 98% when connected to a Tor-connected ProtonVPN server. 

If you’re doing anything more intensive than casual web browsing, your internet speed will struggle to keep up.

To learn more about the merits and limitations of the Tor network of, read our full Tor vs VPN guide.

Compatible with all major devices & platforms

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux
Router LogoRouter

ProtonVPN has apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. A ProtonVPN command-line tool is available for Linux but requires manual configuration. With the VPN’s useful set-up guides, we had no trouble installing the app on our test devices.

We find ProtonVPN’s apps to not be very attractive or enjoyable to use, though, with the VPN prioritizing function over design. That said, we do prefer its layout and design to most other security-focused VPNs, including IPVanish and Mullvad.

As we’ve come to expect, the Windows app is the most complete. It includes all of ProtonVPN’s advanced features, including a VPN kill switch and split tunneling, as well as ‘alternative routing’ — a feature that bypasses some blocked websites by routing connections to different ProtonVPN servers.

The Android app is the best of ProtonVPN’s mobile apps and it retains most of the same features as the Windows version. However, it does not include a VPN kill switch. In contrast, the iOS app is very limited and does not include split tunneling, a kill switch, or alternative network routing. 

The MacOS client is very poor for a desktop VPN app. Although you can enable a kill switch, OpenVPN is not included and the app is limited to IKEv2 connections only. There is also no split tunneling or alternative network routing. 

You can see the full summary of the differences between ProtonVPN’s apps in the table below:

You can use ProtonVPN on up to three devices on the Basic plan, five on the Plus plan, and 10 if you subscribe to the Visionary plan.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

ProtonVPN does not have an app for Amazon Fire TV, nor does it come with a Smart DNS feature for unblocking video content on devices that are not VPN-compatible. This means you’ll be unable to use ProtonVPN with devices like Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, or a PS4.

Although Smart DNS is still only offered by a select few VPNs, all top VPNs come with an app for Amazon Fire TV Stick. Its absence leaves ProtonVPN’s decent streaming capabilities useless for when you want to unblock content on a larger screen. 

The only workaround is to install ProtonVPN on your home router, but it’s unlikely that your router will be supported. You can find the full list of compatible router models on the support section of ProtonVPN’s website

Alternatively, you can buy a router pre-flashed with ProtonVPN. This removes the difficult set-up process but is expensive.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to use a VPN on your streaming devices, there are better alternatives to ProtonVPN. Check out our recommendations for the best VPNs for Firestick or the VPNs that offer Smart DNS, for a much simpler and quicker set-up.

Browser Extensions

Unlike most other top VPNs, ProtonVPN does not offer extensions for any browser.

VPN browser extensions can be an easy way for changing locations on the fly. This makes them a particularly great feature if you want to quickly change Netflix regions, so ProtonVPN’s lack of support is a further frustration for streamers.

However, browser extensions are often misleading. Most only work as simple web proxies and fail to encrypt non-browser traffic, leaving apps like your torrenting client exposed. Given ProtonVPN’s status as a security-focused VPN, you’d be missing out on full-system protection even if it did offer a proxy.

If you still think you require a VPN browser extension, you can find our recommendations for the best extensions for Chrome and the best add-ons for Firefox in our dedicated guides.

Functional apps with useful advanced features

Ease of Use

How to Install & Set Up ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN’s apps are not very attractive or easy to use, with the clients prioritizing functionality over usability. We prefer a simpler and more obvious interface, so ProtonVPN may not be a good choice if you’re a beginner.

The app is dominated by a large world map from which you can browse all of ProtonVPN’s server locations and connect to the one you want. If you don’t like map interfaces (we don’t, particularly) then you can collapse the app down to a skinny window that’s similar to a mobile app.

ProtonVPN app interface

The ProtonVPN app can be collapsed down to a discreet window.

Although the app is quite simple, it’s sometimes difficult to understand what the labels mean if you’re inexperienced. 

For instance, dedicated torrenting servers are not situated in a discrete section of the app and you can’t search specifically for them, forcing you to locate them yourself. They’re not clearly labeled either, with an ambiguous two arrow icon the only indication of their functionality.

The most unique aspect of ProtonVPN’s apps is its ‘Profiles’ feature. From many combinations, Profiles allows you to create a unique VPN connection to exactly suit your needs. The feature allows you to choose from the type of server, the server location, and whether you want to connect to a specific server. You can even name and color your profile, too.

For example, if you know there is a specific server that always works with US Netflix, Profiles allows you to create a shortcut to that specific server that will remain pinned to the top of the app. This is an advanced feature that’s meant for power users, but it’s one of ProtonVPN’s very best features.

ProtonVPN profiles interface

The Profiles feature allows you to quickly connect to specific servers.

Other than that, the ProtonVPN functions like most other VPN apps. There’s a large button to quickly connect to the fastest server, and the app also shows you information about your current session. You can see your new IP address, the amount of data transmitted during your session, and live information about server load.

Support only available through email

Customer Service

Email support via an online formYes
Online ResourcesYes

If you require any assistance, ProtonVPN provides a standard amount of online guides in the support section of its website, or you can contact the VPN’s customer service team via email

The online support center offers a series of FAQs on various general topics, with a useful search feature to look up keywords. There are also detailed set-up guides for devices that need to be manually configured and some simple troubleshooting advice, too.

However, unlike all other top VPN services, ProtonVPN does not provide support through live chat. We expect live chat availability as a minimum from the best VPNs, so its absence from ProtonVPN is frustrating. 

After contacting the VPN’s support team via email, we sometimes had to wait over three days for a response. Such slow response times mean that some time-sensitive and pressing queries, like what servers currently work with US Netflix, are not worth asking.

That said, ProtonVPN’s customer service team is very knowledgeable and helpful when they do respond. We required assistance regarding the VPN’s use of virtual server locations and its torrenting-optimized servers. For every question we asked, the support agent was able to answer our questions thoroughly and personably.

Overall, ProtonVPN’s customer support options fall below what you should expect from an expensive VPN service. Although its customer service team is very capable, the lack of live chat means you’ll be unable to receive any instant answers, forcing you to endure an undefined period of waiting.

Do We Recommend ProtonVPN?

The Bottom Line

We recommend ProtonVPN as one of the best services if privacy and security is your primary reason for using a VPN. ProtonVPN has exceeded most other VPNs by open-sourcing all of its apps, and it comes from one of the most highly-respected companies in the cybersecurity space.

Although the plans are relatively expensive, ProtonVPN includes enough features over the free plan to make it worth upgrading to. ProtonVPN’s Secure Core network adds an additional layer of encryption to highly-sensitive network traffic, and it includes a range of servers optimized for fast P2P activity and for connecting to the Tor network.

Although it unblocks US Netflix on most of its US servers, its slow speeds and DNS lookup failings make it a poor overall VPN for Netflix. We didn’t experience these problems as noticeably with other streaming services, so it may still be a good option if you want to stream sites like Hulu, Disney+, or BBC iPlayer.

Despite the positives, ProtonVPN does not have an app for Amazon Fire TV Stick and it doesn’t include a Smart DNS feature. The VPN’s mobile apps lack a kill switch, and ProtonVPN’s customer service is the slowest to reply of all top VPN services, so we were often left days without a resolution to our queries.

Overall, we rank ProtonVPN as a good VPN and it’s a safe option for most VPN users. It includes every desirable feature for privacy and security, but it misses out on being a great VPN due to its poor streaming speeds and poor customer support availability. If you want a feature-packed VPN with the fastest speeds, browser extensions, and 24/7 live chat — there are better VPNs available.

Alternatives to ProtonVPN

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access matches many of ProtonVPN’s privacy and security features but includes a lot more to make it a more fully-featured VPN. PIA is the fastest VPN on the market, it has an app for Firestick, it comes with browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, and it has 24/7 live chat customer support. Read Private Internet Access review

Mullvad VPN logo in horizontal orientation.

Mullvad

Mullvad is very similar to ProtonVPN but includes a few unique features to make it a desirable alternative. It too has open-sourced its apps, with a primary focus on providing the most advanced primary and security features. The VPN runs exclusively on the WireGuard VPN protocol, making it one of the fastest and best-performing services available. Read Mullvad 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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