X-VPN offers a free VPN service for iOS and Android but is severely limited compared to its premium counterpart. Local speeds are decent enough, but if you aren’t located near a free server performance will suffer. The custom apps are simple to use but, like many other free services, they’re riddled with annoying pop-up ads.
It uses strong AES-256 encryption and runs its own DNS servers, but there are far better (and more private) free options out there. X-VPN Free may just about do the job for casual users who want to connect and forget.
We want to clarify that this review is for the unpaid version of X-VPN. If you wish to read our review for the premium version, you can find it here.
This product is also one of many that featured in our investigation into the legitimacy of free VPNs.
Speed & Reliability
X-VPN Free automatically connects you to the ‘fastest server’ location – you don’t get a choice in the matter. We test from the UK and were connected to a London server, so we couldn’t test how well the VPN performs internationally.
We found local download speeds to be decent, while uploads were disappointing.
It’s worth noting that we test using the OpenVPN protocol as standard but X-VPN runs exclusively on its proprietary protocol, meaning that results can’t be fairly compared to our other reviews.
X-VPN’s local download speeds peaked at a fairly speedy 50Mbps and, while this isn’t a patch on those offered by top-tier providers, it will allow for quick, simultaneous downloads and HD streaming.
Uploads weren’t as quick, barely reaching 20Mbps on same-country connections but this will suffice for most. There are far quicker options out there for keen torrenters.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
X-VPN free users are limited to one automatically-selected server location, the ‘fastest server’, which is most likely the one nearest to your physical location. Customer support reassured us that there are thousands of free servers in different countries, but didn’t specify which countries are covered, meaning that you may find yourself far from a server.
Annoyingly, there is a button labeled ‘Select Location’ on the main screen which presents you with a full list of premium servers. If you click on one of these, you are prompted to start a free trial for the premium plan, after which you will automatically be charged the annual fee.
The fact you can’t choose a server location is very stingy, even for a free service. Customer support confessed that this is an attempt to push free users into upgrading to the premium plan “due to the challenge of maintaining servers for free”.
Platforms & Devices
X-VPN’s free service is mobile-only, with custom apps for iOS and Android. You can test out the other apps, including Windows and MacOS, but these are subject to a 500MB limit – and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. If you’re considering spending a little money to cover all your devices, desktop and mobile alike, we would strongly recommend ExpressVPN.
X-VPN does offer a free solution for protecting your PlayStation 4 by allowing your smartphone to share the VPN connection with the games console – a process which it clearly and concisely walks you through in-app.
Streaming & Torrenting
The free version of X-VPN is a bad choice for streaming fans since it doesn’t allow you to connect to a specific country in order to access geo-specific content. The app teases users with dedicated streaming servers for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer, but upon clicking on these you’re prompted to upgrade to a premium subscription.
Unfortunately, our automatically selected server didn’t succeed in unblocking Netflix, but since we were connected to the UK (which you may not be), we were able to access BBC iPlayer. If streaming is a priority look for a provider that offers dedicated servers for this purpose such as SaferVPN.
Customer support told us that P2P activity is permitted on all servers, but when we put this to the test our torrent failed to download. As soon as we disconnected from the VPN, it resumed downloading right away, suggesting that X-VPN blocks at least some P2P activity. Poor uploads and a lack of privacy extras are further reasons to not use this service for torrenting.
Encryption & Security
X-VPN offers a basic level of privacy, but some essential security features included in the premium app are missing from the free version.
Rather than standard VPN protocols, X-VPN uses its own baked-in proprietary protocol, ‘X’. It’s closed-source, and customer support were unwilling to reveal any technical information about it, which means it’s not possible to tell how it measures up in terms of security.
Within the app, you can configure the protocol to prioritize speed, security, or for unblocking censorship.
We were pleased to find out that X-VPN operates its own DNS servers, which prevents your ISP or other third parties from seeing your online activities, and we didn’t experience any DNS leaks during our tests. However, the VPN kill switch is limited to premium users only – a very disappointing omission.
Those seeking the highest level of privacy should look into more secure providers – we like PrivateVPN.
- First-party DNS
When we asked customer support about using the app in China we were told that it ‘[doesn’t] support service in [the country] due to some related policies’. We can only assume that this is due to China’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, which makes connecting out from the country almost impossible unless you have obfuscation tools to hide the fact you’re using a VPN.
If you need to use a VPN to unblock restricted content in China we’d suggest taking a look at our top picks here.
X-VPN has a fairly clear and transparent logging policy, even if it isn’t the most privacy-friendly.
Most importantly, X-VPN doesn’t log your browsing history, DNS queries, or original/new IP address.
However the following VPN connection data is collected for troubleshooting and service optimization purposes:
- Server location
- Connection timestamp (date and time)
- Choice of protocol
- Network type
- Server CPU and bandwidth
The fact that it collects a detailed timestamp could be used by the authorities to prove that you have visited certain sites. However, all metadata is erased after 96 hours, making it highly unlikely to happen.
There are some other logs used to “better understand [its] users and product planning,” but these can be deleted upon request:
- Device information
- App version
- Data usage
- City-level location
X-VPN also collects anonymous aggregated data of the sites visited via its servers. None of these can be attributed to a specific user.
X-VPN is incorporated in Hong Kong, a jurisdiction that has no data retention laws. However it does state that it will cooperate with data requests ordered by a ‘court of competent jurisdiction’.
As X-VPN doesn’t log your IP address and the VPN connection logs it does collect are deleted after 96 hours, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Ease of Use
X-VPN’s iOS and Android apps are very easy to use but, like most free services, are riddled with annoying pop-up ads. It’s frustrating that free users are limited to the ‘fastest server’, even though it presents you with a list of premium ones.
Most of the services promoted at the bottom of the home screen are for premium users only, as are most of the tabs in the settings menu – a disappointing and transparent effort to get free users to pay for a subscription.
You can still change the proprietary protocol settings, though. They are labeled from ‘A’ to ‘H’ and differ depending on speed, security, and their ability to unblock censorship. The star rating gives some contextual information about each option, which is nice, but we’d prefer to see some standard VPN protocols, like OpenVPN, too.
Downloading and installing X-VPN on your iOS or Android device is super easy and won’t trouble even complete beginners. Simply find the app on either the Google Play Store or iOS App Store, tap ‘Install’, and accept the terms of service and VPN connection request.
X-VPN’s customer service isn’t wonderful but is better than many of the other free VPNs we’ve reviewed. Live chat is supposedly available 24/7, but it can take anywhere between a couple of minutes and a few hours to receive a response.
The support agents are mostly friendly and helpful but were occasionally unclear in their answers. Nevertheless, we eventually received answers to all of our questions, both simple and complex.
Unfortunately, the online resources aren’t as reliable, with just a handful of basic setup guides and troubleshooting tips. These mostly advise rebooting your device or contacting live chat for more information.
The Bottom Line
- Peak local download speeds of up to 50Mbps
- Simple setup on Android & iOS devices
- Helpful live chat support
- Can’t choose server location
- No kill switch feature
- Intrusive pop-up ads
- Live chat responses can be slow
X-VPN is a decent free VPN provider, but its free service is definitely lacking in comparison to the premium version.
Performance is fairly good on local connections, but you can’t choose to connect to a specific location, and speeds will take a hit if you live far from your assigned free server. This also makes accessing streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer a real lottery.
You get a basic level of privacy, but the free version lacks the essential VPN kill switch. It’s also mobile-only, with pop-up ads a regular occurrence. Good free VPNs are hard to come by, but you can still do better than this.