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ZenMate Review

Simon Migliano
By Simon MiglianoUpdated
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ZenMate screenshot

ZenMate: Ranked #26 out of 99 VPNs that we tested

ZenMate is one of the most popular VPNs out there. But is this popularity justified?

We put ZenMate through our rigorous, in-depth testing process to discover:

  • Is ZenMate as trustworthy as it claims to be?
  • How secure is ZenMate?
  • Does ZenMate protect you with  a kill switch?
  • Is ZenMate good for streaming and torrenting?
  • Does ZenMate hide your IP?

We reveal the answers to all of these questions, along with lots of other important questions, in our full-length VPN review.

  1. Pretty quick speeds
  2. Quick, easy access to Netflix
  3. Torrenting and P2P permitted on all servers
  4. Simple set-up on most popular platforms
  5. Connect securely to 30 countries
  1. Inconsistent speeds across the server network
  2. Customer support lacks live chat and email response is patchy
  3. Very few configurable settings
  4. Based in privacy-unfriendly Germany

Works with

Netlix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Sky, Now TV, HBO, SlingTV, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android

Price from

$1.75/mo

Speed & Reliability

Great local speeds, but disappointing long-distance

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

Before using ZenMate:

  1. DownloadMbps

    94.68

  2. UploadMbps

    97.5

  3. Pingms

    3

When connected to ZenMate:

  1. DownloadMbps

    86

  2. UploadMbps

    79

  3. Pingms

    20

Download speed without ZenMate: 95 Mbps

Download speed with ZenMate: 86 Mbps

Our download speed loss when ZenMate is running: 9%

ZenMate offers very fast speeds on local connections. We experienced impressive download and upload speeds on both UK and European server networks.

The problem is that ZenMate’s long-distance connections performed very badly, dragging it down overall. US and Australia server speeds were way below what we expect, coming in at an average of 13Mbps and 4Mbps respectively. 

ZenMate is also let down by a high latency/ping, both locally and on more distant connections, meaning gamers might struggle if they play while it’s connected.

Still, on nearby connections you can expect speeds more than capable of HD streaming, with far more consistency than we’ve seen from ZenMate in the past. 

We put all of the VPNs on the site through a rigorous scientific speed testing process, determining the average speeds from multiple locations across the globe. These are the average speeds you can expect to pick up from these locations:

  • USA: 13Mpbs (download) & 17Mbps (upload)
  • Germany: 76Mbps (download) & 76Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 4Mbps (download) & 3Mbps (upload)

Server Locations

Very small network of servers

Globe with a blue flag30Countries
Image of a city landscape31Cities
Image of a pink marker3,000+IP Addresses

For a fairly reputable VPN provider, ZenMate has one of the smallest server networks on the market. There are only 30 countries on offer, which is well below the average. We’ve seen some VPNs with as many as 190 countries – such as HideMyAss!

There are also no city-level servers, even in the US. Compare this to ibVPN, which offers more than 20 cities in the US alone. With large countries like US, Canada, and Australia we really need to see city-level servers spread from coast to coast to ensure maximum speeds. 

Likewise, the whole of Asia is limited to three locations, and there’s only one server apiece in Africa, Australia, and South America.

In terms of individual IP addresses, ZenMate only has 3,000. This small number is likely to lead to congestion, although hopefully the most popular locations receive a large percentage of them.

Screenshot of ZenMate Servers Map from the ZenMate Website

Streaming & Torrenting

Plenty of dedicated servers and works with BBC iPlayer

ZenMate is a good choice to unblock streaming services. 

The app comes with an option to view dedicated servers for streaming. Beyond offering dedicated servers for Netflix and BBC iPlayer, ZenMate also has dedicated streaming servers for geo-restricted content in a whole number of countries, including:

  • Comedy Central in the US
  • RMC in France
  • Yie in Finland
  • Digi Online in Romania
  • Fox Sport in Brazil

And a whole host of others. This is pretty rare, and a big bonus for TV addicts.

Our past tests showed that ZenMate was unreliable when it comes to BBC iPlayer, with your best bet for accessing it being through the less secure browser extension. However, with its recent update to ZenMate 5 which has included a dedicated BBC iPlayer server we had success in unblocking and streaming with no trouble. 

It’s also a good choice for Kodi fans, as ZenMate’s software will work so long as it’s installed within an operating system that has a custom ZenMate app, like Windows or MacOS. 

Torrenting

P2P traffic has always been permitted on every ZenMate server. However, with its recent updates, ZenMate now also offers a number of dedicated servers for torrenting, most of which are European but also include Canada, South Africa, and Japan. 

This makes ZenMate a great option for torrenters to consider as their VPN. There is also a VPN kill switch, and its logging policy that collects only a minimum amount of metadata should make it safe.

Bypassing Censorship

No promises for getting around censorship

Following the 2018 VPN crackdown, ZenMate is no longer a suitable choice for China. It can’t publish its apps in China because there’s no guarantee that they will work reliably, and ZenMate advises that even if you choose to download the software not to purchase a premium account. 

We love ZenMate’s openness on the subject, but unfortunately, it only confirms that it’s not suitable for beating the censors. Click the link to take a look at our guide, Best VPNs for China.

Potential customers in Iran and Saudi Arabia are also advised against downloading the app for the same reason. ZenMate states that it is investigating ways to get around censorship issues, but can’t promise an immediate solution. 

Other high-censorship countries fare better, though – on the support section of the ZenMate site there is a list of all the supported, available platforms in Turkey, Pakistan and the UAE. Included in this list are ISPs that are known or suspected to be blocked, helping users work out the best way to connect.

Platforms & Devices

Standard range of apps

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid

ZenMate offers the usual range of native apps for various platforms including:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • MacOS
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Android TV
  • Amazon Fire TV

The site offers manual setup guides for those devices without custom apps, such as Linux, but we found them fairly tricky to follow.

ZenMate also provides one set of instructions for manually configuring a few other devices with its VPN, including routers and a couple of games consoles. Again, these aren’t detailed enough for our liking, and newbies may struggle.

Screenshot of Available ZenMate Devices Taken from the ZenMate Website

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

Since ZenMate’s 5th generation update, its app has worked with Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. 

If you want to use ZenMate on your games consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation, you will have to configure your router, which protects all connected devices.

ZenMate offers a setup guide on its website but it isn’t specifically for routers – more a general guide for devices that support the OpenVPN client. It’s pretty basic – you’ll be better off reading our own comprehensive guide for installing a VPN at router level.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

ZenMate actually started out as a browser extension. That’s very clear when you look at the full-featured extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

The browser extensions are really impressive, offering malware and ad-tracking blockers as well as a clever feature that allows you to set different ‘smart locations’ for specific websites. They are a reliable way to access major streaming services, however they do provide a slightly less secure encryption – AES 128-bit encryption.

Unfortunately we ran into a few bugs with the ZenMate Chrome extension, which led to us having to delete and reinstall it. We also experienced conflicts when running both the desktop app and the extension at the same time.

Encryption & Security

Decent level of security

Protocol

IKEv2/IPSec

L2TP/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Ad Blocker

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

ZenMate offers a decent level of privacy when compared to top-tier VPN rivals. 

For a long time, if you wanted to use OpenVPN (like we think you should), you had to undergo manual configuration and even then it was limited only to US and UK servers. Since then, however, ZenMate has made the OpenVPN protocol inbuilt within the app and is available across all the servers alongside IKEv2 and L2TP

Encryption is also very strong: ZenMate uses AES-256, a top cipher and considered ‘unhackable’.

ZenMate also has a VPN kill switch, which stops your true IP address from being leaked by blocking all web traffic should the VPN get disconnected for any reason.

DNS leak protection is another greatly-appreciated feature, preventing DNS requests being sent to your ISP and therefore keeping your online activity private.

Be sure to enable this setting before you connect as we found the app to leak DNS requests when it was switched off.

We would have liked to see first-party DNS servers at this level, however a near zero-logs policy goes some way to making up for this.

ZenMate also provides a couple of ‘premium features’ on its browser extensions such as malware blocking and tracking protection. These block malicious sites and prevent third-party services from tracking you and collecting information on your online activity.

However, it’s disappointing that these aren’t available on the desktop client.

Other providers offer many more security extras if you are looking for higher levels of security – one we’d recommend is Astrill.

Logging Policy

No-logs VPN

ZenMate’s privacy policy is one of the more confusing ones we’ve come across.

However, after looking through it in detail and contacting the service, we are confident that ZenMate is a no-logs VPN.

We asked ZenMate a series of questions, and they responded as such:

Screenshot of email exchange with ZenMate

Excerpt of email exchange with ZenMate

As you can see, ZenMate know very little information about its users activity.

They know the number of people using a specific server, but not who.

They also know the amount of data being transferred through a specific server but, again, not who.

This makes it impossible to identify individual users. 

This is about as close to a zero-logs policy you can get whilst still maintaining performance.

Screenshot of ZenMate Privacy Policy

Excerpt of ZenMate privacy policy

Jurisdiction

Since October 2018, ZenMate has been owned by parent company Kape Technologies, which also owns a number of other internet security businesses.

ZenMate itself operates under the jurisdiction of Germany, making it subject to EU detention laws. That’s less than ideal, but ZenMate’ near zero-logs policy means this shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

The only time ZenMate will pass on user information to third parties is in accordance with the law when it is obliged to provide inventory data, data on usage, or invoicing data.

Considering the limited amount of data it collects, it’s fairly unlikely that will affect you. So far there is no record of anybody being convicted as a result of ZenMate’s cooperation with the authorities.

Ease of Use

As simple as a VPN service gets

How to Install & Set Up ZenMate

ZenMate’s range of custom apps have always been simple, but the updated ZenMate 5 has made it even more appealing. The desktop app is the most basic of all, good for beginners with a one-click secure connection.

There are configurable settings to change the protocol and turn on the kill switch and DNS leak protection. It’s far from exhaustive, though. We’d like to see a few more advanced features to tweak as well as greater transparency about the details of our connection, such as the new IP address. 

The ZenMate browser extensions provide a great user experience, but unfortunately only encrypt your browser traffic, meaning it isn’t possible to use them as a complete substitute.

 

Customer Support

No live chat or basic information

Email
Online Resources

ZenMate’s customer support is very limited in comparison to top-tier providers, with no live chat and a lack of basic information about the specifics of the product.

What’s more, email responses were very unreliable, which is incredibly frustrating when you can’t find the answer to your question in the list of FAQs.

Even if you do eventually get a reply, it’s usually from ‘Rosa the SupportBot’, and mainly consists of irrelevant answers copied and pasted from the website.

ZenMate really needs to do better on this front in order to compete with other providers – there’s a number that offers genuine 24/7 support from actual humans, such as the very impressive VPNArea.

On the plus side, we love the general privacy information in the Academy section of the ZenMate site, which covers everything from public WiFi safety to Net Neutrality issues.

The troubleshooting FAQs are also well-organized and clear but could benefit from some extra images and video to make them a little more accessible.

Screenshot of ZenMate Support

Pricing & Deals

Special deal is cheap, but monthly subscription is pricey

ZenMate Coupon

ZenMate

Get 83% off ZenMate's 2-year plan

  • Tested

ZenMate Pricing Plan

On a 12-month plan, ZenMate is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market. Following a recent price drop it now costs just $1.75 per month – an 82% saving. The single month subscription continues to be quite pricey at $9.99.

ZenMate also offers a money-back guarantee and a free trial. The money-back guarantee is genuinely ‘no questions asked’ with no hidden data caps or restrictions, as long as you cancel before the end of day 14 of your subscription.

You can also take advantage of ZenMate’s seven-day free trial. This gives you unlimited use of the service for one week, and the great thing about it is that you aren’t automatically upgraded to the paid version, meaning you don’t have to hand over any billing information when you sign up.

ZenMate accepts the usual range of payment methods, including:

  • Most major credit and debit cards
  • PayPal
  • UnionPay

You can also pay by UK or international bank transfer. This is pretty limited in comparison to top-tier rivals, who will usually accept cryptocurrencies as well as a much wider range of international options, which is a far more privacy-friendly payment option.

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

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