ProtonVPN Keeps Last Connection Timestamp
Logging & Jurisdiction
ProtonVPN is one of the best VPNs for keeping your online activity private and anonymous. The VPN doesn’t log any data that can be used to identify you, and its Swiss jurisdiction means it doesn’t have to adhere to any data retention laws.
ProtonVPN claims to have a true no-logs policy, but we found it does log some connection timestamps. However, these logs are minimal and still keep you private and anonymous online.
The VPN logs the specific time of your last successful login attempt, which gets overwritten each time you successfully connect to the VPN.
ProtonVPN’s support team confirmed this timestamp doesn’t contain identifying information, such as your IP address, and is only recorded in order to “protect user accounts from password guessing attacks.”
The single timestamp is detached from all other identifying characteristics and can’t be used to identify you from your VPN 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 simply hadn’t stored it.
ProtonVPN is part of a small number of VPN services to have had their logging policies verified by a real-world test.
The only other information 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 by signing up using a private ProtonID and Bitcoin.
All stored profile data is encrypted and stored locally on its servers and is immediately deleted when you terminate your account.
ProtonVPN is Based in Switzerland
ProtonVPN operates under the jurisdiction of Switzerland, which is a good base for a VPN service provider.
Switzerland is a good VPN jurisdiction for these reasons:
- Switzerland has strong privacy laws, a history of respecting user privacy, and does not require VPN providers to store data on users.
- Switzerland is not part of the EU, allowing it to sidestep all EU data retention laws, like the Data Retention Directive (2006).
- 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 since the company isn’t 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.
How Private Is ProtonVPN Compared to Other VPNs?
The table below compares ProtonVPN to five other private VPN services based on jurisdiction, data collection, and logging policy audits.
Several Pricing Plans but Overall Expensive
Price & Value for Money
ProtonVPN's monthly subscription is typically priced for a reputable VPN service, but the discounts available on the longer-term plans fall far shorter than those available on other VPNs. We recommend most users avoid the Basic and Visionary tiers, too.
ProtonVPN Subscription Prices
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.
US$7.49/moPlus Plan: Billed $7.49 for the first month, then $10 every month thereafter
US$5.99/moPlus Plan: Billed $71.88 for the first 12 months, then $96 every 12 months thereafter
US$4.99/moPlus Plan: Billed $119.76 for the first 2 years, then $159 every 2 years thereafter
Here is a table comparing the features of each ProtonVPN subscription plan:
|# of Devices|
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 $4.99, or you can lower the cost by 20% to $5.99 if you purchase annually. The two-year plan costs $4.99 a month, which is an overall saving of 33%.
Payment & Refund Options
ProtonVPN accepts payment via these methods:
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.
ProtonVPN Is a Fast VPN Service
Speed & Reliability
ProtonVPN's speed performance has improved significantly recently. It's now one of the fastest VPNs on the market, with impressive download speeds across its server network. The VPN's upload speeds aren't quite as quick, but you won't notice this in regular use.
Local Speed Test results before using ProtonVPN:
- Download Speed: 100Mbps
- Upload Speed: 100Mbps
- Ping: 1ms
Local Speed Test results with ProtonVPN:
Download speed loss when ProtonVPN is running: 4%
ProtonVPN’s local connection speeds are good, dropping just 4% to 96Mbps. Wherever you’re located, you’ll experience a similar speed drop connecting to a nearby server.
These fast short distance speeds to download files quickly and load web pages 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 impressive, with fast speeds recorded across the majority of locations.
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: 91Mbps (9% slower)
- Upload: 82Mbps (18% slower)
- Japan (Tokyo):
- Download: 75Mbps (25% slower)
- Upload: 27Mbps (73% slower)
- Germany (Munich):
- Download: 95Mbps (5% slower)
- Upload: 96Mbps (4% slower)
- South Africa (Johannesburg):
- Download: 83Mbps (17% slower)
- Upload: 49Mbps (51% slower)
- Australia (Melbourne):
- Download: 65Mbps (35% slower)
- Upload: 23Mbps (77% slower)
ProtonVPN used to be a slow VPN service, but its long-distance speeds are now consistently fast. As you can see from our results, the VPN impressively maintained download speed losses below 35% across every location.
To get the fastest speeds, make sure that ‘VPN Accelerator’ is enabled in the app’s settings. It can be found in the Connection tab.
ProtonVPN’s Speeds Versus Other Popular 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:
The results from our speed test tool closely match our manual test findings. ProtonVPN is a quick VPN, but it’s certainly not the fastest we’ve tested.
The graph above shows how ProtonVPN is matching PIA VPN’s speeds, however it still lags behind NordVPN, Mullvad, and ExpressVPN’s speeds.
ProtonVPN Streams US Netflix
ProtonVPN has recently improved its streaming performance. It now works with Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and Prime Video. The VPN's fast speeds mean you'll be able to watch in HD without any buffering, too.
ProtonVPN’s streaming ability depends on the plan you subscribe to. While its free and ‘Basic’ servers are blocked by Netflix, ProtonVPN work with US Netflix on its Plus servers.
Although ProtonVPN claims it works with Netflix “in almost every country,” our tests reveal it unblocks 10 regions.
Not only is ProtonVPN a great Netflix VPN, it also unblocks Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.
Below is a list of ProtonVPN’s servers we tested that successfully unblock 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|
ProtonVPN Is Good for Torrenting
Our P2P tests found that torrenting with ProtonVPN is private and secure.
The VPN service provides dedicated servers for P2P file-sharing and a suite of security features including an internet kill switch.
All ProtonVPN’s server locations allow torrenting through P2P VPN redirect, although there are also high-performance servers specifically optimized for torrenting.
The problem is ProtonVPN’s torrenting servers are located in only twelve countries: eight in Europe, two in North America, and two in Asia.
Despite this limitation, ProtonVPN delivered very fast P2P speeds in our VPN torrent tests.
That said, we don’t consider ProtonVPN to be one of the very best VPNs for torrenting. This is mainly due to the VPN service’s timestamp collection, and because it doesn’t support port forwarding.
A Port Forwarding setting, like the one we reviewed in PIA VPN’s apps, is essential for much faster file uploads.
ProtonVPN Is Highly Secure and Open Source
Security & Features
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.
ProtonVPN is one of only a few VPNs to have open-sourced its apps and published a third-party security audit.
The VPN’s Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS apps are all open source. The source code is freely available to view on Github and all vulnerabilities discovered so far have been fixed.
The benefit of open source 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.
This represents a level of transparency and commitment to security we rarely see from other VPN providers — we love that ProtonVPN has made the effort to do this.
ProtonVPN’s Highly Encrypted Connections
As part of our security tests, we inspected ProtonVPN’s connection logs to assess the level of encryption. We were impressed with what we saw.
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.
Our tests confirm ProtonVPN’s encryption exceeds the security needs of most users. The VPN’s encryption will protect and hide your data from any potential snooper or attacker.
ProtonVPN’s Advanced Security Settings
ProtonVPN’s applications include many advanced security and privacy settings. Below we listed the most important app features:
A VPN kill switch is a key security feature. Without one, you risk exposing your IP address to snoopers if your VPN connection suddenly disconnects.
ProtonVPN includes a kill switch on 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.
We put ProtonVPN’s kill switch to test by running 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.
Disappointingly, ProtonVPN’s Android and iOS apps do not have a kill switch. As explain later in the review, the ‘Always-on’ setting is not an adequate substitute, sadly.
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 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.
We tested split tunneling from 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 ADVICE: All apps you exclude from the VPN tunnel will use your true IP address exposed. Never use this setting for sensitive activities, like using free public WiFi.
ProtonVPN’s IP and DNS Leak Test Results
Before trusting a VPN with your sensitive data, conducting a real-world IP and DNS leak test is a good way to verify the VPN is working properly.
All ProtonVPN’s apps include IPv6 and DNS leak protection, but we needed to verify these tools actually work. 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 several ProtonVPN servers, including the US, South Africa, Germany, and Australia. ProtonVPN didn’t leak our true IP address on any server.
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, and therefore directly handles your DNS requests. This removes the risk of leaks from third-parties.
NetShield Is a Poor Ad Blocker
ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary subscribers have access to NetShield, the company’s ad, malware, and tracker blocker. You can enable this by clicking on the shield icon from the app home screen.
We found NetShield stops malware and trackers effectively, but it was very poor at blocking ads.
Unlike other ad blockers, NetShield doesn’t fully prevent advertising elements from showing on web pages. Instead, it replaces them with a grey box, which is an eyesore.
On top of this, NetShield only works when you’re connected to a ProtonVPN server. Therefore, you’ll have to stay constantly connected to ProtonVPN to stop ads from showing.
Large Server Network Spanning 63 Countries
ProtonVPN operates a wide range of server locations with a total of 1,538 servers in 63 countries. This is a good spread of servers, even when compared to top VPNs, like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access.
Most of ProtonVPN’s servers are physical bare-metal servers and are physically located in their listed country. The only exceptions are the virtual servers in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, and Thailand.
In other words, most of ProtonVPN’s server network runs locally and barely uses virtualization software. We prefer this approach, as it improves the security of the VPN service.
That said, ProtonVPN rents the vast majority of its VPN servers from third-party data centers. We prefer VPN services to own most of their servers, as it reduces the possibility of server compromise or interference by bad actors.
A ProtonVPN representative told us the company has taken extra steps to ensure its rented servers are secure and do not log any information. ProtonVPN has always advocated for user privacy and security, so we trust them on this.
ProtonVPN does own a small number of its servers, too. These are part of its ‘Secure Core’ network.
ProtonVPN Offers Good Server Coverage
ProtonVPN’s servers cover every continent relatively well. Servers are located in popular countries like the UK, US, and Australia, as well as locations in other continents.
ProtonVPN also lets you connect to city-level servers in the following locations:
- Canada (3)
- UK (3)
- USA (12)
ProtonVPN also displays server loads based on how many users are connected to that server and how intensive their activity is. This display lets you pick less congested and therefore faster servers.
ProtonVPN’s Secure Core Servers
40 of ProtonVPN’s servers are owned by the VPN provider and make up its ‘Secure Core‘ network.
Enabling this feature, only available on ‘Plus’ and ‘Visionary’ plans, bounces traffic via a Secure Core server before relaying it onto a website or application.
Moreover, because ProtonVPN owns and has sole access to these servers, Secure Core is even more secure similar solutions like NordPVN’s and Surfshark’s Double VPN.
But, Secure Core VPN servers are only located in three locations: Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. These locations are purposely selected in light of the countries’ strong privacy laws.
The drawback of using Secure Core servers is that they noticeably slow down your internet speed.
Below are the download speed reductions connecting from the UK to UK and US normal servers compared to secure server connections:
- UK: 96Mbps (4% loss)
- US: 91Mbps (9% loss)
Secure Core Server:
- UK: 30Mbps (70% loss)
- US: 18Mbps (82% loss)
Download speeds are much slower using the Secure Core network given the increased encryption and distance the connection travels.
ProtonVPN Doesn't Bypass Internet Filters in China
We found that ProtonVPN doesn't work in China. ProtonVPN doesn't use proprietary obfuscation technology, nor does it route traffic through proxies. Its Tor-over-VPN solution is sometimes effective, though.
ProtonVPN doesn’t work in China. Over months of testing on our Shanghai test server, we have not been able to unblock websites from China once.
This isn’t a surprise, considering many VPNs struggle to work in highly-censored countries. However, a handful of VPNs still work in China, with impressive results.
Occasionally, ProtonVPN’s ‘TOR via VPN Server’ advanced feature works in China. However, using Tor over VPN is very slow and we don’t recommend it as a regular solution.
ProtonVPN is Compatible with Many Devices and Platforms
Platforms & Devices
ProtonVPN has apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. A fully-featured app with a user interface is also available for Linux. You can use ProtonVPN on up to three devices on the Basic plan, five on the Plus plan, and ten if you subscribe to the Visionary plan.
ProtonVPN for PC
As we’ve come to expect, the Windows VPN client is the most complete.
The app for PCs includes all ProtonVPN’s advanced features, including a VPN kill switch, split tunneling, and ‘alternative routing’ — a feature that bypasses some blocked websites by routing connections to different ProtonVPN servers.
ProtonVPN for Mac
The macOS client recently added support for OpenVPN, WireGuard, and alternative network routing, which is a big improvement over previous versions. However, it does not support split tunneling.
ProtonVPN for Android
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.
The Android VPN app does include an ‘Always-on’ feature, which automatically re-establishes a VPN connection in the event of a drop. In our tests, this initiated too late and failed to protect our IP address.
ProtonVPN for iOS
In contrast, the iOS app is very limited and does not include split tunneling, a kill switch, or alternative network routing. ‘Always-on’ is present, though.
ProtonVPN for Linux
ProtonVPN has developed native VPN software for Linux, with a full graphical user interface (GUI). This is rare among VPN services, and worthy of praise.
You can see the full summary of the differences between ProtonVPN’s apps in the table below:
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
ProtonVPN doesn’t have a Smart DNS feature for unblocking video content on devices like Apple TV or PlayStation.
The only workaround is to install ProtonVPN on your home router, but it’s unlikely your router is supported. The full list of compatible router models is available 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.
ProtonVPN’s Android TV App
ProtonVPN comes with apps for Android TV and Chromecast with Google TV.
We found the app easy to use and intuitively laid out, so you won’t have a problem using it.
ProtonVPN’s .apk File for Fire TV Stick
There is no ProtonVPN native app for Firestick, so you’ll need to side load the VPN’s .apk file onto your device.
While this is process is not too complex, it is disappointing ProtonVPN hasn’t built a custom VPN app for Fire TV.
Functional Apps with Useful Advanced Features
Ease of Use
ProtonVPN’s apps prioritize functionality over usability. Though it's simple to connect and disconnect to a nearby VPN server, we would like the app to be better looking and for features to be explained better.
ProtonVPN’s apps are 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.
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.
Profiles Feature Is Useful & Convenient
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.
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.
Live Chat Support Available but Not 24/7
ProtonVPN’s customer support options fall below what you should expect from an expensive VPN service. Although its customer service team is knowledgeable, the absence of a 24/7 live chat option is disappointing.
|Email support via an online form||Yes|
ProtonVPN recently introduced live chat customer support for all paying subscribers. However, the service needs improvement.
Firstly, the live chat feature is not straightforward to find. To use it, you have to log into your account on the VPN’s website. Then, click your name at the top right, select ‘Get help’, and click ‘Chat with us’.
Secondly, unlike other top VPNs, ProtonVPN’s live chat is not available 24/7. It operates between 9 AM to 5 PM (CEST), which is a poor time for most of the world. For instance, if you live in New York, you can only use this feature between 3 am and 11 am.
If you require assistance outside of these times, you can either use the service’s online guides and FAQs, or contact the customer service team via email.
Email support is very slow, sadly. At times, we waited over three days for a response. Time-sensitive and pressing queries, like what servers work with US Netflix, are simply not worth asking.
At least, ProtonVPN’s support team is knowledgeable and helpful in its responses, despite the long wait.
ProtonVPN Review Summary
The Bottom Line
Overall, we recommend using ProtonVPN if privacy and security is your primary reason for using a VPN.
Although the paid plans are rather expensive, ProtonVPN’s Secure Core network adds a strong extra layer of encryption to highly-sensitive network traffic.
The VPN also provides a range of servers optimized for fast P2P activity and for connecting to the Tor network.
Recently, ProtonVPN has also become a good VPN for streaming, with regular and fast access to US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more.
The main downside of using ProtonVPN is its limited device compatibility. There is no native Fire TV Stick app, no Smart DNS feature, and no browser extensions. Plus, the mobile apps lack an internet kill switch.
ProtonVPN Compared to Other VPNs
Use the table below to see how ProtonVPN compares to other top VPNs in key performance categories:
As you can see, ProtonVPN can’t quite match the very best VPN services. That said, it stands out in certain categories and, if it continues to improve, it could soon compete at the very top.
Additional research by Luke Williams
Alternatives to ProtonVPN
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 fast, it comes with browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, and it has 24/7 live chat customer support. Read Private Internet Access review
Mullvad is very similar to ProtonVPN. It too has open-sourced its apps, with a primary focus on providing the most advanced primary and security features. It's one of the fastest VPNs, and it's available for a cheap monthly price. Read Mullvad review