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Psiphon Free Review

 80% 
(1 User reviews)
Psiphon Free 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 Psiphon Free

Our Verdict

2.32.3/10
How is this calculated?

Our overall rating is reached by combining several subcategories. The subcategories are weighted as follows:

  • Logging & Jurisdiction: 30%
  • Speed & Reliability: 25%
  • Security & Features: 20%
  • Streaming: 10%
  • Torrenting: 5%
  • Ease of Use: 5%
  • Support: 5%

See our full methodology in how we review VPNs.

Psiphon is a free censorship circumvention tool designed to unblock content in censored countries. While it may do that effectively, its major deficiencies as a standard VPN are unforgivable. It caps your speed at almost unusable levels, has a horrible logging policy, and its free version is packed with ads.

Ranked #60 out of 68

Psiphon Free Category Ratings

  • 2.12.1/10
  • 5.35.3/10
  • 3.33.3/10
  • 0.20.2/10
  • 7.27.2/10
  • 7.57.5/10
  • 2.52.5/10
  • 6.86.8/10
  • 5.15.1/10

Psiphon Free Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Free apps for Windows, iOS and Android devices
  2. No email address required to use
  3. Provides effective proxy tool for China
  4. Open source code increases transparency

Cons

  1. Very small server network
  2. Very slow speeds
  3. No apps for MacOS, Linux, or routers
  4. Doesn’t work with Netflix or torrenting
  5. Explicitly says that it’s not a privacy tool
  6. No VPN kill switch & leaks DNS requests

Psiphon is a free censorship circumvention tool highly-regarded among internet freedom advocates such as Access Now, but is its VPN service really that good?

The company says that it “strives to deliver the best, fastest, easiest, and most open circumvention solutions.” But in our tests we found it underwhelming.

Psiphon provides two distinct services within its desktop and mobile apps: its circumvention proxy technology, and its VPN service. We’ve tested both services in order to answer questions like:

  • Will Psiphon keep you safe online?
  • Is Psiphon fast?
  • Does Psiphon VPN work in China?
  • Are the apps easy to use?
  • Does Psiphon work with streaming sites like Netflix or torrenting services?

In this Psiphon review, we reveal the disappointing discoveries we made about Psiphon’s proxy and VPN services.

Read our review of the highly-rated ProtonVPN (Free)

Psiphon Free Key Data

Data CapUnlimited
Speed5.39Mbps
Logging PolicySome User Logs
Data LeaksNo
JurisdictionCanada (Five-Eyes Member)
ServersNot disclosed
IP AddressesNot disclosed
Countries22
US NetflixNo
TorrentingUnlimited
Works in ChinaUnreliable
SupportEmail & Online Resources Only
Official WebsitePsiphon.ca

Psiphon is not private

Logging & Jurisdiction

3.33.3/10
How is this calculated?

We dissect the logging and privacy policies of every VPN. A VPN should never log:

  • Your real IP address
  • Connection timestamps
  • DNS requests

A base of operations outside of 14-Eyes or EU jurisdiction is preferable.

We cannot recommend any VPN with a logging policy like Psiphon's. It keeps track of almost everything about you and what you do while connected. For a tool designed to be used in highly-censored countries, this has potentially dangerous implications.

Psiphon started as a project at Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, but 2007 it was made into an independent corporation, Psiphon Inc., also based in Toronto.

Being incorporated in Canada makes the company subject to highly intrusive surveillance laws and intelligence-sharing agreements with other countries such as the UK and USA.

When sharing information with third parties, Psiphon claims to ‘only ever [provide] coarse, aggregate domain-bytes statistics’ – meaning it never shares per-session information or any other information that could link your online activity back to you.

However, Psiphon clearly states that its software should not be considered a privacy tool and, therefore, we don’t recommend it as one.

Here are some privacy-friendly VPNs you should consider instead.

At the very least, Psiphon doesn’t require any you to give over any payment information or email details before using the free app, which we like.

Logging Policy

Psiphon collects detailed connection logs but this is explained in great detail in its extensive privacy policy.

Psiphon collects the following information:

  • Connection timestamps
  • Chosen connection protocol
  • Session count and duration
  • Total bytes transferred and bytes transferred for some specific domains
  • Your ISP
  • Aggregated server data
  • Region codes
    • This is defined as your country and city which are obtained through your IP address, but Psiphon claims to discard this information immediately

Psiphon admits to inspecting domain names (websites) users visit while connected, but not full URLs.

Psiphon is supported by ads, and it does share statistics with sponsors so they can see, for example, how often their sites are visited through Psiphon and from which countries. These are further aggregated by date, sponsor and region.

All of the data Psiphon collects is discarded after 60 days, which is a little longer than we’d like.

The logs are used mainly for troubleshooting purposes and to ‘determine the nature of major censorship events’, where sites and services can be suddenly blocked without warning.

Psiphon specifically states that it will not give detailed or ‘potentially user-identifying information’ to partners or any other third parties, but we still don’t recommend it for those seeking high levels of privacy.

Slow VPN speeds, even slower proxy speeds

Speed & Reliability

0.20.2/10
How is this calculated?

Speed ratings are calculated using upload speeds, download speeds, and ping (latency).

We test average speeds regularly using a dedicated 100Mbps connection in London, UK. Local download speed is considered the most important factor.

The free version of Psiphon VPN is slow. The mobile apps limit speeds to just 2Mbps, which is too low for almost all web activities. On Windows, speeds are limited by Psiphon’s automatic server location, which doesn’t correspond to your physical location.

We calculated Psiphon’s speed performance by comparing our internet speeds before and after connecting to a VPN server.

Here are our full speed test results:

Local Speed Test results before using Psiphon Free:

  • Download Speed: 97.69Mbps
  • Upload Speed: 98.52Mbps
  • Ping: 3ms

Local Speed Test results with Psiphon Free:

  • Download Speed: 5.39Mbps
  • Upload Speed: 1.42Mbps
  • Ping: 259ms

Download speed loss when Psiphon Free is running: 94%

Psiphon doesn’t allow you to select a VPN server in a specific country when you’re using the Windows VPN service, so we were only able to test performance on the automatically selected server, which was located in Singapore. Not great considering we test from the UK.

We clocked speeds of around 1Mbps up and 5Mbps down, which is super slow and just about enough for general browsing and low definition video streaming. Of course, you may get better speeds if Psiphon connects you to a nearby VPN server, but this isn’t guaranteed.

While the apps for Android and iOS allow you to choose from around 20 server locations, they throttle VPN (and proxy) speeds to just 2Mbps up and down.

You can pay for the premium version of Psiphon to experience “maximum speeds,” but $9.99 a month for just 5Mbps is a terrible deal.

Psiphon isn’t intended to be used for HD streaming, torrenting, or gaming, so if you’re looking to unblock censored sites, slow speeds shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Not intended for streaming

Streaming

2.12.1/10
How is this calculated?

Streaming is rated by the number of different services unlocked, how many regional libraries are viewable, and how consistently the VPN can access them.

Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, DAZN, and Amazon Prime Video are all tested on a weekly basis.

Psiphon isn't designed for streaming, so we can't fault it too harshly for not delivering. We were able to access both BBC iPlayer and All 4, but speeds are so slow that Full HD video is constantly buffering.

Psiphon isn’t a good VPN if you want quick, hassle-free access to popular streaming sites such as Netflix, as this simply isn’t what it’s designed to do.

We could watch BBC iPlayer during our tests on the Android and iOS apps – we could connect to a UK server on these – but it took a long time for the video to load due to slow speeds. All 4 also worked in our tests.

Netflix US was blocked during our tests, as were other premium services like Amazon Prime Video, DAZN, Disney+ and HBO Max.

If you’re looking for reliable access to these kinds of sites, you’re better off opting for a provider with lots of city-level choice in countries such as the US and UK, or, even better, dedicated streaming servers, like those provided by CyberGhost.

P2P speeds are fine, but shouldn't be trusted for privacy

Torrenting

5.35.3/10
How is this calculated?

We calculate the average download bitrate of every VPN using a bespoke torrenting setup.

Testing also factors in the percentage of servers which permit P2P, plus useful features like port forwarding.

Psiphon is a surprisingly fast torrenting VPN. Its real issues lie with its logging policy, security standards, and lack of features. Your file may well get downloaded quickly, but this is neither a private nor secure way to go about it.

We don’t recommend using Psiphon for torrenting or P2P due to the fact that Psiphon explicitly says that it’s not a privacy tool.

Psiphon doesn’t come with a VPN kill switch and it leaks DNS requests on the Windows app.

The privacy policy is pretty intrusive too. Psiphon doesn’t provide the necessary security tools to keep you safe while torrenting.

Its download speeds are admittedly impressive, but that’s not a good enough reason to use this VPN for torrenting.

Strong encryption but lacking in any other security/privacy features

Security & Features

2.52.5/10
How is this calculated?

Top-rated VPNs offer OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols, AES-256 encryption, and a functional kill switch. We also consider additional security features and the global spread of VPN servers.

Psiphon shouldn't be used as a tool for privacy and security. It uses the outdated L2TP/IPSec protocol, none of its apps include a kill switch, and it leaks your data through WebRTC.

Protocols
  1. L2TP/IPSec
Encryption
  1. AES-256
Security
  1. Supports TCP Port 443
Advanced features
  1. SOCKS
  2. Split Tunneling

Psiphon is very transparent about online privacy on its website and says that the software “does not increase your online privacy, and should not be considered or used as an online security tool.”

The VPN operates exclusively on L2TP/IPSec rather than our preferred protocol OpenVPN. It’s fairly secure when used in combination with AES 256-bit encryption, but it’s needlessly weaker than the competition.

Psiphon’s proxies use SSH, SSH+ (obfuscated), and HTTP configurations. You can use the split tunneling tool with proxy configurations which tunnels server requests made within your home country outside of Psiphon’s servers, giving you faster access to these sites and reducing data usage.

Because Psiphon’s main goal is to access blocked content through the SSH+ proxy service, the apps don’t provide many advanced privacy settings at all. There’s no VPN kill switch feature, which would help to prevent your IP address from being exposed in the case of a connection drop.

While Cure53’s 2017 security audit of Psiphon revealed “no noteworthy security risks,” we did experience a few leaks during our testing which affected both the VPN and the proxy service.

We found WebRTC leaks while testing the proxies and DNS leaks while testing the Windows VPN. Both of these security flaws leave your personal data exposed to any snooping third parties.

Psiphon DNS Leak Test Results

Psiphon DNS leak test results. We test from London.

If privacy is your priority there are more reliable (and cheap) options out there, such as PrivateVPN which is a no-logs VPN. If you can’t pay for a VPN at the moment, there are a handful of quality free VPNs that will keep you safe online.

Proxy service works in China, the VPN service doesn't

Bypassing Censorship

7.57.5/10
How is this calculated?

Our remote-access server in Shanghai, China routinely tests if a VPN can beat restrictions and access a free, open internet. Obfuscation technologies and nearby servers are also a contributing factor.

This rating does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Security & Features rating.

The ability to beat strict web censorship is Psiphon's entire selling point. That the VPN service doesn't work in China is a huge disappointment. You can still use its proxy service to access the web, but your traffic will be left unencrypted.

Michael Hull, president of Psiphon, says there are 200,000 daily active users of the service in China.

But it’s not the VPN service that beats the Great Firewall – it’s Psiphon’s proxy service.

Psiphon warns users that the VPN configuration (L2TP, or Transport Mode) does not have strong censorship circumvention capabilities. In other words, Psiphon VPN will probably be blocked in China.

Screenshot of Psiphon Transport Mode Settings

The only way to connect out from these high-censorship locations is by using Psiphon’s proxy servers, as they provide additional layers of obfuscation (SSH+).

While the SSH proxies do encrypt traffic, encryption is limited to your browser traffic, leaving other apps unprotected. This means that if you want high levels of privacy you should steer clear.

Psiphon openly states that it isn’t designed to increase your online privacy, and shouldn’t be considered or used as an online security tool.

There are VPN services out there that work reliably in China, while providing strong privacy and security. You can read about our best VPN recommendations for China here.

One of the reasons that Psiphon’s proxy service is so popular in countries like China is that it provides a simple way for users to download the software from countries that block VPN websites and download pages, including Psiphon’s.

Users can send an email to get@psiphon3.com in order to receive the downloads and bypass government blocks, which is a good idea and something we haven’t seen before.

For that reason, if you find yourself unable to download one of our recommended China VPNs may find Psiphon a very useful tool for getting past government blocks. But be aware that Psiphon is not the most secure option.

One positive is that Psiphon can be used within China to gain access to the download page for a better VPN.

20+ locations available on mobile, no server selection for Windows

Server Locations

7.27.2/10
How is this calculated?

The global spread and coverage of the VPN server network is the most important factor here.

We also consider the number of city-level servers, plus how many IP addresses are maintained.

This rating does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Security & Features rating.

Psiphon has a good number of server locations if you're on mobile, but the global spread is very poor. Users in Africa, Central or South America, and Oceania are given no options at all. And on desktop, you don't even get a choice of what server you're connected to.

Globe with a blue flag
22Countries
Image of a city landscape
22Cities
Image of a pink marker
Undisclosed number ofIP Addresses

The number of Psiphon VPN servers available depends on the app you’re using. Psiphon’s iOS app provides the most choice with 22 VPN server locations in total, the Android app follows just behind with 21:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark*
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia**
  • Spain
  • Switzerland**
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

*Available for Android, but not iOS
**Available for iOS, but not for Android

Psiphon’s Windows app does have 22 proxy server locations but if you want to use the Psiphon’s VPN service, you can’t choose which VPN server to connect to. Instead the app chooses for you, and it may not be a server location that’s convenient for you.

The majority of Psiphon’s VPN servers are in Europe and North America, covering popular locations like the US, Canada, the UK, and France. There are three servers located in Asia-Pacific: India, Japan, and Singapore.

Psiphon provides no servers in South America, Africa, or Australia, and you can’t drill down to city level in any of the country locations. If you need access to country-specific content, be sure to check that Psiphon provides a server in that location.

Usually being so far away from a VPN server would negatively impact performance, but considering speeds are throttled to 2Mbps on the basic plan, it won’t really make a lot of difference whether you connect to a nearby country or not – Psiphon will always be slow.

Psiphon doesn’t state how many servers it maintains nor whether it owns those servers or rents them from a third party.

Available on Windows, Android, iOS, but only on M1 chip Macs

Platforms & Devices

How is device compatibility rated?

A quality VPN should maintain functional, fully-featured applications and extensions for as many platforms and devices as possible.

This does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Ease of Use rating.

Psiphon has apps for Windows, Apple Silicon Macs, iOS, and Android. It can be downloaded from Psiphon’s website, the App Store, Google Play Store, or can be emailed to you if you live in a country that prohibits access to the site.

Apps

  1. Windows Logo
    Windows
  2. Mac Logo
    Mac
  3. iOS Logo
    iOS
  4. Android Logo
    Android

There are some basic setup guides you can refer to but nothing comprehensive, which is hardly surprising considering the software is free to use.

Beware that there are some fake Psiphon apps available outside of the official app stores, and one has been found to contain malicious spyware. Psiphon provides instructions so that you can verify if your Psiphon download is authentic.

If you’ve already downloaded a fake Psiphon app, read our Is Someone Spying On Your Phone? guide to find out how to check for and remove any spyware apps on your device.

Quick setup & easy to use but lacks contextual help

Ease of Use

6.86.8/10
How is this calculated?

This rating mainly consists of the intuitiveness of setup and everyday use.

Device or platform compatibility and customization options are also a factor.

It's not particularly good-looking, but Psiphon is still a simple enough app to use. Our main criticism is that, with so many niche proxy features, it would benefit from some extra explainer text and clearer language.

How to Install & Set Up Psiphon Free

The Psiphon apps are quick and easy to download and set up. They require no registration or email address.

Once installed, the apps are simple to use but do have a few annoying features that could catch you out if you don’t know what to look out for.

Each time you connect to the VPN a separate browsing tab opens displaying your new IP address. We’d much prefer this to be displayed within the app.

The Windows app also defaults to proxy mode, as this is Psiphon’s main anti-censorship tool, so if you want to use the VPN you’ll need to go to ‘Transport Mode’ in the settings tab and toggle on L2TP/IPSec mode.

For Android, you need to make sure that ‘Tunnel Whole Device’ is enabled in order to use the VPN, and for iOS be sure to use the main Psiphon app and not Psiphon Browser for iOS, which is a proxy.

There is also a huge degree of localization available on Psiphon’s apps (although not every language is on both mobile and desktop) – over 40 languages. The Android app offers multiple Asian and African languages (including Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Oromo, Swahili, Shona, etc.), as well as Arabic, Turkish, Russian, Hindi, English, Portugese, Spanish, and many more.

For non-English speakers – particularly those who don’t speak any European languages – Psiphon may be the only VPN available in your native language.

Very basic online resources & substandard customer support

Customer Support

5.15.1/10
How is this calculated?

This rating is based on our assessment of each VPN’s:

  • Email support
  • Live chat support
  • Online resources

Not every VPN offers all of these, and they often vary in quality and response time.

Some decent online resources are Psiphon's main medium for customer support. There's an email address, too, although it's far too difficult to find on the website. The responses we received were detailed and technical, although after a few messages Psiphon's support simply stopped responding to us.

EmailYes
Online ResourcesYes

Psiphon’s customer support is very limited, even if you’re a paying customer.

There are some FAQs on its website which will cover basic troubleshooting issues, app compatibility, and a few other potential problems but not much else. The user guide shows you how to use the Windows and Android apps too.

The only way to get in contact with the Psiphon support team is via the email address we found on the website. We have sent them a few queries in the past and they did reply with a very comprehensive, helpful response, but our most recent email has gone unanswered.

For a VPN with so many complexities and features, combined with the high-stakes nature of its main selling point, we really want to see a better level of customer support from Psiphon.

Primarily a free service, with an expensive premium plan

Price & Value for Money

How is price & value rated?

Many free VPNs offer premium subscriptions for users who are willing to pay for a better overall experience.

The most popular perks for premium subscribers include unlimited data caps, faster speeds, and ad-free apps. However, the best free VPNs include these features as standard.

We have reviewed the free version of Psiphon on this page. However there are premium versions available. While we haven't tested them fully, we have provided a breakdown of their costs and payment models.

Psiphon is free to download and use on Windows, Android, MacOS, and iOS devices. However, mobile users have the option of ‘upgrading’ to an ad-free version that isn’t capped at 2Mbps, granting “maximum speeds” – which are only 5Mbps.

The cost of this varies by device and length of subscription – the longer you sign up for the cheaper it works out on a monthly basis.

The ad-free plans costs $2.99 per week for iOS or $4.99 for Android. You can pay monthly, which is $9.99 for both Android and iOS.

iPhone users can also save just under 20% by signing up to the yearly plan, which works out at $8.33 a month.

  1. 12 months

    US$8.33/mo

    Billed $99.99 each year - iOS only
    Save 20%
  2. Monthly

    US$9.99/mo

    Billed $9.99 every month for iOS and Android users

Payment & Refund Options

Android and iOS users wishing to upgrade to Psiphon Pro are limited to the payment options accepted by the App Store and Google Play Store:

  1. American Express logo
    American Express
  2. Mastercard logo
    Mastercard
  3. PayPal logo
    PayPal
  4. Visa logo
    Visa

Psiphon is primarily a free service but offers a 30-day free trial if you choose to sign up to Psiphon Pro for Android, or a three-day free trial for iOS.

Because this is done in-app, just be sure to cancel via the App Store or Google Play Store before the end of the free trial to avoid being charged. This is a great way to run a few speed tests and investigate whether or not the performance boost is worth spending a little bit extra on each month.

In the absence of a Pro app on Windows and MacOS, you are restricted solely to PsiCash.

PsiCash is a premium currency purchasable only through the Psiphon app while it’s connected. With it, you can purchase a speed boost. The speed boost takes Psiphon’s cap from 2Mbps to 5Mbps – which is still horrifically slow.

PsiCash is, to be blunt, as pretty terrible deal. 1,000 PsiCash costs $1.00. One day of barely-increased speeds costs 800 PsiCash. That means that a whole year of the higher speed cap will cost you $292 in PsiCash. That is, with no exaggeration, the worst deal we have ever seen from any VPN.

Even its strengths aren't that strong

The Bottom Line

Psiphon is an honest VPN which markets itself as a censorship circumvention tool. It doesn’t claim to keep you secure or private, nor is it meant to work with streaming services or keep you safe while torrenting.

But Psiphon’s greatest sin is that it’s not even that good at the one thing it strives for. There are a number of better censorship-beating VPNs out there, available at very fair prices.

Psiphon is slow, insecure, and logs far too much data. There’s no real reason to use it. Instead, consider the two VPNs below.

Alternatives to Psiphon Free

AstrillVPN landscape logo

Astrill

8.58.5/10

Astrill is the best VPN for beating censorship - it's in a league of its own. In all the months we've been testing VPNs in China, it's never failed us once. Read Astrill review

Windscribe

Windscribe

8.68.6/10

If you don't want to spend any money, Windscribe Free is a superior VPN to Psiphon in almost every way. It's great for bypassing web blocks, but is also fast and safe. Read Windscribe 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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