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ZenMate Review

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated
ZenMate
Our rating: 3.65
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Basic VPN with sleek, effective browser extensions. Access to streaming services.

What we like
  • Fast download speeds on local connections
  • Quick, easy access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Torrenting and P2P permitted on all servers
  • Simple set-up on most popular platforms
  • Connect securely to 30 countries

ZenMate is a simple VPN that provides a good enough level of privacy for most. Speeds are decent on local connections but performance is far less consistent across its wider network, such as connecting to the US from Europe. Access to Netflix and iPlayer is very reliable through the slick, full-featured browser extensions. Custom apps are available for the usual major platforms but unfortunately routers are not supported.

ZenMate offers a strong level of encryption and an appealing minimal-logging policy, however this is undermined by the lack of our preferred OpenVPN protocol. Thankfully a recent update introduced a VPN killswitch and DNS leak protection. Customer support is subpar, with no live chat option and non-existent email responses, but some good information on the site.

Pricing & Deals

ZenMate offers a range of pricing plans, making it easy to find the best option for you. These all have the same features but get cheaper on a monthly basis, the longer your subscription.

A single month is the most expensive option at $9.99, which is still very reasonable compared to the majority of providers. You can save yourself 10% if you choose the 6-month plan, coming in at a reasonable $8.99. The biggest reductions can be found on the 12-month plan, which is reduced by 40% to $5.99 per month, which is great value.

ZenMate Pricing & Deals

The prices below include the coupon savings.

12 Months
US$5.99/mo
Save 40%
Billed $71.99 every 12 months
6 Months
US$8.99/mo
Save 10%
Billed $53.99 every 6 months
1 Month
US$9.99/mo
Billed $9.99 every month
Get ZenMate30-day money-back guarantee

ZenMate offers both a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 7-day 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 30 of your subscription. All you have to do is send an email to the support team with your payment details, and the funds will be returned to your account.

You can also take advantage of ZenMate’s 7-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. If you choose not to continue your subscription, you’ll simply revert back to the free version.

Payment Options

ZenMate accepts the usual range of payment methods, including most major credit and debit cards, PayPal and UnionPay. You can also pay by UK or international bank transfer. This is pretty limited in comparison to top-tier providers, who will usually accept cryptocurrencies as well as a much wider range of international options.

Speed & Reliability

ZenMate offers above-average speeds on some of its European servers but is very inconsistent across its wider server network. We use OpenVPN in all of our speed tests wherever possible, but seeing as this protocol isn’t offered by ZenMate it’s difficult to make a fair comparison with other providers. If you choose a local server, you can expect good enough performance for HD streaming, however long-distance connections performed very badly. Latency was also very high, meaning gamers might want to look elsewhere.

ZenMate performs fairly well on local connections, reaching a top download speed of 85Mbps in Germany, more than enough for buffer-free streaming and multiple file downloads. We were also impressed by speeds in the UK and France, coming in at 72Mbps and 66Mbps respectively. Outside of these countries, performance is incredibly unreliable and not suitable for much else other than general browsing. Connecting out to Australia you can expect speeds struggling to reach 8Mbps, and the US isn’t much better, coming in at a paltry 17Mbps.

An average ping time of 13ms means ZenMate definitely isn’t a good choice for gamers. The lowest latency we found was 10ms in London, but even this is pretty laggy for a same-country connection. There are other providers out there that are much better suited to gamers’ needs.

We found ZenMate’s performance to be fairly unreliable, with lots of fluctuation in speeds from one day to the next. One day Euro servers could max out at 15Mbps and the next they could be as much as six times as fast, so if you’re looking for consistency you should look elsewhere. We also experienced a few connection drops, which was pretty frustrating.

ZenMate’s upload speeds are very similar to its download speeds, in that performance on local connections is very good but unreliable everywhere else. Some countries such as Germany and the UK peaked at over 80Mbps, however speeds over long-distance connections were absolutely shocking, at just 4Mbps in Australia and 6Mbps in Japan. P2P traffic is permitted on all servers, however inconsistent performance might push torrenters to look elsewhere.

ZenMate offers good enough speeds on local connections for streaming and general browsing, however keen gamers, torrenters and those who need to connect internationally should look into other options. Considering it doesn’t even operate on OpenVPN, the most secure protocol, you are sacrificing a level of privacy and not even receiving any compensation in terms of performance. There are providers out there that offer much more consistent speeds and a higher level of security.

To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How we test for VPN speed performance.

Features

Server Locations

30 Countries30 Countries
31Cities31Cities
3,000+IP Addresses3,000+IP Addresses

ZenMate has one of the smallest server networks in the current market with just 30 countries on offer. Obviously not everybody needs to connect to exotic locations, so if all you care about are the most popular locations such as the US, Australia and western Europe then you’ll be covered. If you need access to a more diverse network then there are other options out there.

ZenMate maintains over 3,000 individual IP addresses, which may seem like a lot but is actually a fairly limited number in comparison to other top-tier providers, with some operating over 100,000. One major downside of a network this small is that it’s much more likely to get congested and harder for you to get ‘lost in the crowd’.

Unfortunately ZenMate doesn’t offer any kind of city-level choice throughout its network, only allowing you to select a host country to connect to. The only exception to this is the US, but even then you only get a choice between East and West, which isn’t really that helpful if you need a specific state.

Two-thirds of ZenMate’s servers can be found in Europe, including countries such as France, Spain and a couple of more obscure options including Moldova and Latvia. The Asia Pacific region is limited to four locations: Australia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. If you need to connect to South America or Africa you can only choose between Brazil and South Africa.

You can find the complete list of ZenMate server locations by country and purpose on their website below.

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid

ZenMate offers the usual range of native apps for a various platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Unfortunately there are no manual workarounds for those devices without custom apps, such as Linux or Amazon Fire TV, which is a little frustrating.

Unlike many other providers, ZenMate isn’t supported by any types of routers, nor are there any pre-configured routers available. This means that you have to install individual apps on each of your devices, rather than being able to install the software on your router and protect several devices at once. We would have liked to see compatibility with a broader range of devices.

Browser extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
FireFox LogoFireFox

ZenMate actually started out as a browser extension and that’s very clear when you look at the full-featured extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera in comparison to the basic desktop and mobile apps. We prefer the browser extensions to the other apps, as they offer malware and ad-tracking blockers as well as a clever feature that allows you to set different ‘smart locations’ for specific websites. They are also the most reliable way to access major streaming services.

However, we did run into a few bugs with the Chrome extension which we had to delete and reinstall. We also experienced conflicts when running both the desktop app and the extension at the same time, which isn’t ideal. It’s also important to remember that browser extensions only encrypt that browser’s activity, leaving other apps and connections unsecured, but if you’re a heavy browser user looking for a more lightweight option, ZenMate is ideal.

Console & Streaming Devices

Due to the fact that ZenMate isn’t supported by any routers, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use it with any of your games consoles or streaming devices. The only way you could possibly get it to work would be to piggyback off another device running the VPN software, such as a laptop or smartphone, however the lack of any manual tutorials on this subject suggests that any devices outside the main platforms aren’t ZenMate’s top priority.

ZenMate’s lack of compatibility with consoles and streaming devices probably won’t be a problem for most, however if this is the main reason you want a VPN you’ll need to look elsewhere. The free trial could come in useful here to check which devices, if any, you can use the software with.

Streaming & Torrenting

ZenMate is a great option for hassle-free access to major streaming services, however this is mainly through the browser extensions rather than the main apps. Using the ‘Smart Locations’ feature we had absolutely no problems watching Netflix, as everytime we visited the site our location was automatically switched to the US. This is not the case with the desktop app, which took a lot more trial and error, so the extension is definitely your best bet.

The situation is the same with BBC iPlayer, which was sometimes accessible through the main apps but not always. With the browser extension however, we just set our ‘Smart Location’ for iPlayer to the UK and were able to access all the content with no issues. Great speeds on that server mean you can also watch your favorite shows in buffer-free HD.

ZenMate is also a good choice for Kodi fans, as the software will work as long as it’s installed within an operating system that has a custom ZenMate app, such as Windows or Mac. Solid local upload speeds make it a decent option for torrenters, as unlimited P2P traffic is permitted on every server, however inconsistent international speeds could be a dealbreaker for some.

Encryption & Security

ZenMate only offers an incredibly basic level of privacy in comparison to top-tier VPN providers. The only protocols available on the apps are IKEv2 and L2TP, with no option to use OpenVPN even through manually-installed third-party software. Whilst these are still secure, OpenVPN is by far the preferred protocol and provides the highest level of protection. Encryption is via AES-256, a top cipher and considered ‘unhackable’.

ZenMate’s latest update includes a VPN killswitch feature, 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 new addition, preventing DNS requests being sent to your ISP and therefore keeping your online activity private. 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.

Protocol
  • IKEv2
  • L2TP/IPSec
Encryption
  • AES-256
Security
  • DNS Leak Blocking
  • VPN Killswitch
Advanced features
  • Ad Blocker

Bypassing Censorship

Following China’s recent VPN crackdown, ZenMate is no longer a suitable choice for those wishing to connect out from that country. It no longer publishes its apps in China because there’s no guarantee that they will work reliably, and advises that even if you choose to download the software not to purchase a premium account. We love ZenMate’s transparency on this subject, as it means that people won’t waste their time trying to get the service to work when it probably won’t anytime soon.

Potential customers in Iran and Saudi Arabia are also advised against downloading the app for the same reason, as they won’t receive refunds if the service is inaccessible. ZenMate states that it is investigating ways to get around censorship issues, but cannot promise it will be working in these countries in the ‘near future’.

ZenMate is still a fairly good choice for users in other high-censorship countries due to its ongoing battle to keep the software working in all regions. To help with this, on the support section of their site there is a list of all the supported platforms and which ones are available in Turkey, Pakistan and UAE. Included in this list are ISPs that are known or suspected to be blocked, helping users work out the best way to connect.

Privacy

Logging Policy

ZenMate’s privacy policy is definitely one of the more confusing ones we’ve come across. However, after looking through it in detail we’re confident that only a minimum amount of connection metadata is collected, with IP addresses temporarily stored on ZenMate’s servers to “prevent against attacks”. It states its objective is that no personal data is “collected, processed or permanently stored”, which is reassuring, although we would like to know how long your true IP address is stored for.

The only other information that’s collected is the amount of data you transfer and receive, and this is only on accounts with limited data volumes. This is about as close to a zero-logs policy you can get whilst still maintaining a good level of performance and ensuring that servers don’t become overloaded.

Jurisdiction

ZenMate operates under the jurisdiction of Germany, making it subject to EU data retention laws. Many users will see this as a potential red flag, however its near zero-logging policy means this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most as no logs of user behavior or website connections are collected.

The only time ZenMate will pass information onto third parties is in accordance with the law, when it is obliged to provide inventory data, data on usage and invoicing data. Considering the limited amount of data it collects, it’s fairly unlikely that this will affect you, and so far there is no record of anybody being convicted as a result of ZenMate’s cooperation with the authorities.

Ease of use

ZenMate’s range of custom apps are about as simple as they could possibly be, which will really appeal to more inexperienced VPN users. The desktop app is the most basic of all, with the main screen consisting of server location selection and a big connect button. Be aware that for Windows it’s a system-tray app that only appears when you find and click the icon, which can be a bit fiddly.

A short list of configurable settings can be found behind the cog icon along the bottom of the app. This is limited to just a few basic options, including the killswitch and DNS leak protection, and it’s very easy to turn each one on or off. We would have liked a few more advanced features to tweak and also a bit more transparency about the details of our connection, such as our chosen VPN protocol or new IP address.

ZenMate’s apps are perfect for those who love the idea of a ‘click-and-forget’ VPN, however if you like lots of manual settings to play with then it’s not the right choice for you. The browser extensions offer a much better experience but unfortunately only encrypt your browser traffic, meaning it isn’t possible to use them as a complete substitute.

Getting started

Even if you’re a VPN newbie, installing ZenMate is an incredibly simple process and only takes a matter of minutes from start to finish. There are basic set-up guides on the website for most popular platforms which are very easy to follow.

The general process is to download the relevant software from the site, then run the installation file once the download is complete and follow the prompts it gives you. These are pretty self-explanatory so you shouldn’t have too many issues, but if you do you can always refer back to ZenMate’s installation guides. Once you’ve done this, simply enter your email address and password and log in, and you’re ready to use the VPN.

  • Installing software
  • How to use the app

Customer Support

ZenMate operates under the jurisdiction of Germany, making it subject to EU data retention laws. Many users will see this as a potential red flag, however its near zero-logging policy means this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most as no logs of user behavior or website connections are collected.

The only time ZenMate will pass information onto third parties is in accordance with the law, when it is obliged to provide inventory data, data on usage and invoicing data. Considering the limited amount of data it collects, it’s fairly unlikely that this will affect you, and so far there is no record of anybody being convicted as a result of ZenMate’s cooperation with the authorities.

The Bottom Line

What we like
  • Speeds of up to 85Mbps on local connections
  • Access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer through browser extensions
  • Very user-friendly. Quick set-up on most major platforms
  • Connect securely to 30 countries
  • Advanced privacy features including a VPN killswitch
What we like less
  • Inconsistent speeds across the server network
  • Customer support lacks live chat and email response is patchy
  • Very few configurable settings
  • Limited to less secure protocols rather than OpenVPN
  • Based in privacy-unfriendly Germany

ZenMate is a great choice if you’re looking for a simple, user-friendly VPN that offers basic protection and privacy. It also offers very good value for money with one of the cheapest plans in the current market. Speeds are surprisingly fast on local connections but less consistent across the wider network, so those wishing to connect internationally on a regular basis should look elsewhere. Access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer is incredibly reliable via the browser extensions but is a bit more hit-and-miss with the main apps.

Privacy-wise, ZenMate really lags behind top-tier providers. There’s no way you can use the preferred OpenVPN protocol, meaning you have to rely on less secure options. There is a VPN killswitch and DNS leak protection, however we were disappointed at the lack of first-party DNS servers. A near-zero logs policy partially mitigates the fact it’s based in Germany and therefore subject to EU data retention laws.

The software is well-designed but lacking in configurable options, which could deter more experienced VPN users. We found the browser extensions much more enjoyable to use but we did run into a few bugs which was frustrating. The apps are no longer available to download in China as ZenMate can’t guarantee they will work, but there are other providers that still do. ZenMate isn’t ideal for those seeking complete online anonymity, but if all you want to do is mask your true IP address and access censored content, it’ll definitely do the job.

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