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ProtonVPN Review

By Simon Migliano | Updated November 15, 2019

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Ranked #7 out of 74 VPNs

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ProtonVPN is a VPN that wants to make two things known above all else: it’s safe, and it’s trustworthy.

That’s why its website features its Swiss base of operations front-and-centre, followed by a proud list of its unique security features.

Can you take ProtonVPN at its word, though? Our unbiased review reveals:

  • Is ProtonVPN trustworthy?
  • Is ProtonVPN safe?
  • How do you use ProtonVPN?
  • Where is ProtonVPN really located?
  • Is ProtonVPN safe for torrenting?
  • And, of course, is ProtonVPN a good VPN?

Note that this page is dedicated to the paid versions of ProtonVPN – you can find our review of ProtonVPN Free here.

Overview

ProtonVPN Pros & Cons

  1. Good VPN speeds
  2. Minimal logging & no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks
  3. Unlocks Netflix and other streaming sites
  4. Secure Core servers and Tor to help beat censorship & stay private
  5. User-friendly apps for PC, Mac, iOS, & Android
  6. 10 simultaneous connections allowed on Visionary plan
  1. Fairly small server network across 43 countries
  2. Doesn't bypass censorship in countries like China
  3. Torrenting restricted to four server locations
  4. No apps for niche devices, no browser extensions
  5. No live chat customer support

ProtonVPN Key Summary

Top Download Speed85Mbps
Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
IP, DNS or WebRTC LeaksNo
JurisdictionSwitzerland (Privacy Haven)
Servers560+
IP Addresses560+
Countries43
US NetflixYes
TorrentingRestricted
Works in ChinaNo
SupportEmail & Online Resources Only
Cheapest Price$4.00/mo over 12 Months
Official WebsiteProtonVPN.com

ProtonVPN is both fast and secure, up there with the very best VPNs on the market. It’s far from perfect, though – read on to see what we like about ProtonVPN and what we think needs improvement.

About & Logging Policy

Who is ProtonVPN?

ProtonVPN may have only been founded in the spring of 2017, but it comes from a company with pedigree in the world of cybersecurity.

ProtonVPN is operated by ProtonVPN AG but shares a management team, office, and resources with Proton Technologies AG – the same company as encrypted email service ProtonMail.

ProtonVPN AG operates under the jurisdiction of Switzerland.

This allows its users to benefit from some of the world’s strongest privacy laws, outside of EU data laws and the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.

While ProtonVPN will disclose the “limited data” it possesses if faced with a Swiss court order, the fact this isn’t personally identifiable means it isn’t something to worry too much about.

Logging Policy

ProtonVPN maintains a sensible minimal logging policy, which doesn’t store any personally identifiable information or log your online activities.

ProtonVPN only logs one thing:

  • a timestamp (time and date) of your most recent successful VPN login

This log is stored to determine that nobody else is using your account, and is overwritten every time you use the VPN service. Crucially, this data can’t be traced back to you in any way.

ProtonVPN doesn’t log:

  • IP addresses
  • The apps and websites (DNS requests) you visit while connected

Speed & Reliability

Above average speeds

ProtonVPN delivers great upload and download speeds when connected to same-country and nearby VPN servers, which will satisfy both privacy-conscious streaming fans and torrenters.

ProtonVPN slowed down our internet speeds by just 3%  when connected to a London server (we’re based in London), which is fantastic.

Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.

Before using ProtonVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    88.93

  2. UploadMbps

    88.29

  3. Pingms

    14

When connected to ProtonVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    85.89

  2. UploadMbps

    45.35

  3. Pingms

    27

Download speed without ProtonVPN: 88.93Mbps

Download speed with ProtonVPN: 85.89Mbps

Our download speed loss when ProtonVPN is running: 3%

ProtonVPN performs less well over international connections, with a drop-off of 45% when connected to the US East Coast VPN server.

However, depending on the speed of your internet (we have a 100Mbps fibre optic connection), this will still be fast enough for general use.

You can take a look at our speed test results connecting from the UK to various ProtonVPN servers below:

  • USA: 49Mbps (download) & 18Mbps (upload)
  • Germany: 80Mbps (download) & 41Mbps (upload)
  • Singapore: 33Mbps (download) & 15Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 19Mbps (download) & 6Mbps (upload)

Latency is fairly high on ProtonVPN’s servers – there are better VPNs out there for gamers.

Upload speeds don’t quite match the pace of downloads, but on some nearby VPN servers (the Netherlands and France) the speed drop-off percentage is only 18%, so ProtonVPN won’t leave you hanging around.

If you’re interested in how we test VPN speeds check out our page on How We Review VPNs.

Server Locations

Small VPN server network covering 43 countries

Globe with a blue flag43Countries
Image of a city landscape57Cities
Image of a pink marker560+IP Addresses

ProtonVPN’s server network is a pretty small one in terms of locations – there’s only 43 countries available around the world. However, ProtonVPN is rapidly adding more and more server locations.

ProtonVPN’s selection of around 560 servers is a bit closer to average, though. These are all bare-metal servers, none are virtual.

Screenshot of ProtonVPN Server List in App

ProtonVPN covers Western Europe and North America well – the most popular locations like the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia are 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, while Brazil, Costa Rica, and South Africa are the only countries that cover Central/South America and Africa respectively.

If you need VPN servers in more far-flung locations it may be best to look into other providers – for example, NordVPN serves over 60 countries worldwide.

40 of ProtonVPN’s servers are a part of ProtonVPN’s ‘Secure Core‘ network. These servers bounce your traffic via a remote location (like Iceland or Sweden) before then relaying it on to your destination of choice.

Secure Core is similar to the Doublehop or DoubleVPN features you may have seen from other VPNs – it makes you much harder to trace, although it will slow down your connection quite a bit. All of these servers are owned and operated exclusively by ProtonVPN, too.

While ProtonVPN leases some of the servers in its network from trusted providers, you can rest assured that the VPN service owns all of its Secure Core VPN servers.

ProtonVPN has VPN servers in multiple cities within four countries:

  • Australia (2)
  • Canada (3)
  • UK (2)
  • USA (11)

Being able to drill down to city level in these countries is not only good for performance/speeds, but it allows users to access geo-specific content.

Streaming & Torrenting

Unlocks Netflix & very safe for torrenting

ProtonVPN is a good VPN if you’re looking unlock Netflix and Hulu quickly and hassle-free.

There is a handy article on ProtonVPN’s website telling users which VPN servers are currently working with Netflix and Hulu – currently access to the service is restricted to Plus and Visionary plan subscribers.

If you are on the ProtonVPN free plan or Basic, you’ll need to upgrade in order to watch Netflix and Hulu.

Unfortunately many other popular streaming services aren’t officially supported by ProtonVPN, including Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer – although we could watch the latter using a couple of UK VPN servers last time we tested.

Torrenting

Consistently high upload and download speeds make ProtonVPN good for torrenters, but P2P activity is limited to just four VPN server locations: Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Singapore.

P2P-friendly servers are marked with an icon showing two arrows. It’s a poor spread that may leave users in the Americas or Africa suffering from noticeable slowdown.

If you opt for the ProtonVPN Basic plan – rather than Plus or Visionary – torrenting is restricted even more. P2P isn’t permitted at all on the free plan.

That said, ProtonVPN is absolutely secure enough to keep you safe and private while you torrent, and its kill switch will stop your identity from being revealed should its connection drop.

Big P2P user? Take a look at our dedicated roundup if you’re looking for the absolute best VPN for torrenting.

Bypassing Censorship

Not a good choice for China

ProtonVPN is not a reliable VPN for connecting out of China, despite ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers and servers optimized for use with Tor.

Customer service reported that many users located in China are struggling to use ProtonVPN. One Reddit user has detailed a workaround that may or may not do the trick for you, but ProtonVPN is far from dependable.

If you need a VPN for use in the country, our guide to the best China VPN services is a good place to start.

ProtonVPN’s limited server network also rules it out for many other high-censorship countries such as Turkey and Russia as connecting over such a long distance will poorly affect performance.

Platforms & Devices

Limited range of VPN apps, but routers are supported

Apps

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

ProtonVPN’s custom apps are limited to:

It is possible to install ProtonVPN on Linux but this requires you to download the third-party OpenVPN software, which could be a little fiddly for first-time VPN users.

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

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

AppleTV LogoAppleTV
Amazon Fire TV LogoAmazon Fire TV
Chromecast LogoChromecast
Nintendo LogoNintendo
PlayStation LogoPlayStation
Roku LogoRoku
Xbox LogoXbox

ProtonVPN doesn’t have any native apps for streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV Stick nor any for games consoles like Xbox or PlayStation.

It is possible to use ProtonVPN to protect streaming devices and games consoles, though – the simplest way is to manually configure your router with the VPN. Just make sure your router is compatible by looking on ProtonVPN’s support pages.

Once you’re done, all the internet-connected devices in your home will be protected.

Browser Extensions

ProtonVPN doesn’t provide any extensions or add-ons for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Opera browsers (click on the links to find out some VPNs that do).

Encryption & Security

Secure and safe VPN with some advanced features

Protocol

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 an excellent choice if you’re serious about privacy and you want to stay safe online.

Screenshot of ProtonVPN Settings Menu in App

The ProtonVPN desktop app exclusively uses OpenVPN, the most secure VPN protocol, so you can be certain that your web traffic isn’t being compromised. The ProtonVPN mobile apps use IKEv2, which is also very secure. Encryption is via AES-256, a top cipher considered unbreakable.

The fact that you can’t choose your protocol is a shame, but given that OpenVPN is our protocol of choice we don’t judge ProtonVPN too harshly for it.

ProtonVPN’s kill switch feature is absolutely essential, as it prevents your true IP address from being leaked should the VPN connection drop for any reason. The same goes for protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks, which our independent leak tests proved to be working effectively.

A screenshot of ProtonVPN passing all IP and DNS leak tests

ProtonVPN also offers Secure Core VPN, a mode which forces your traffic through multiple servers before it leaves the VPN network.

These servers operate on ProtonVPN’s own dedicated networks in selected countries with strong privacy laws, meaning you’re even further protected against cyber attacks.

Split tunneling is available for those who want to route certain internet traffic outside of the VPN tunnel, and servers optimized for Tor are ideal for those seeking even higher levels of privacy.

Ease of Use

Super simple setup and user-friendly VPN apps

How to Install & Set Up ProtonVPN

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. Follow the simple installation prompts and then log into the app.

ProtonVPN’s desktop apps are user-friendly without skimping on detail.

The main screen displays loads of useful information including stats about server load, upload and download speeds, and your new IP address.

The locations are listed alphabetically, making them easy to navigate. Servers compatible with Tor are clearly labeled, as are those optimized for P2P and torrenting.

The settings are limited to pretty basic stuff but this is where you can switch on the essential VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection.

ProtonVPN’s Android and iOS apps are sleek but they still lack in some features when compared to the desktop clients.

Customer Support

Basic customer support with slow email responses

Email support via an online formYes
Online ResourcesYes

ProtonVPN’s customer support is fairly limited and will only cover the most basic of queries. ProtonVPN has no live chat support.

The online support center offers a series of FAQs on various general topics, with a handy 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.

If your questions are left unanswered by the support pages, you’ll have to send an email as there is no live chat option. We found responses to be nowhere near snappy enough, so ProtonVPN will have to up its game if it wants to compete with ultra-customer-focused top-tier VPNs.

Pricing & Deals

Pricing plans to suit different needs & budgets

ProtonVPN Coupon

ProtonVPN Pricing Plan

ProtonVPN offers a few different service tiers tailored to suit different use cases, each with the option to pay monthly or yearly. Whatever your surfing habits, there will be a combination to suit you.

The Basic plan is the cheapest option at $4 per month on the annual plan, but this limits you to two simultaneous connections, compared to five on the Plus plan.

The Plus plan is $8 a month annually ($6.50 for Black Friday) and also comes with ‘Secure Core’ servers and servers optimized for use with Tor. This plan also provides Netflix access.

The Visionary plan is the most expensive we’ve seen from any provider at a whopping $24 per month (or $7.50 a month for two years), 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.

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

  • PayPal
  • Credit/debit card
  • Bitcoin or cash for higher levels of privacy, as long as you sign up for a free account beforehand

There aren’t any international payment options like AliPay for those based outside of America or Europe.

ProtonVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee which really 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 30 days.

If you want to test out the service before committing to a paid subscription, ProtonVPN does offer a free plan that you can use for as long as you like. You can read our independent review of ProtonVPN Free here.

The Bottom Line

Do We Recommend ProtonVPN?

One of the oldest and most familiar VPNs around, ProtonVPN may not be the market-leading choice it once was, but we still happily recommend it.

It’s not the fastest, and its customer support lags way behind higher-scoring VPNs, but ProtonVPN is still a well-rounded and safe VPN.

Alternatives to ProtonVPN

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Private Internet Access

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About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio

Top10VPN

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