German VPN with vague logging policy
Logging & Jurisdiction
ZenMate is a Germany-based VPN, which isn't the best for privacy. Its logging policy is obscure and vague, too, which means we don't fully trust the way it handles your data. After talking with ZenMate representatives and having them answer out questions, we're more confident that it's a safe service. However, its commitment to privacy needs to be clarified and put in writing.
“The above-mentioned Personal Data is not, at any point, associated with any kind of activity done by the user inside the ZenMate VPN tunnel, which is NOT recorded, logged or stored at all.”
The policy states that it doesn’t log any of this information when using the VPN itself. However, it doesn’t state the data it actually does log.
In short, ZenMate has written a vague no-logs statement that almost every VPN on the market uses.
We spoke to a ZenMate representative to clarify the situation. They stated that the VPN does not keep records of user activity, metadata, timestamps, or IP addresses.
The company knows how many users there are on a particular server at any given time, but it doesn’t know who these users are.
Based on these responses, it seems that ZenMate is a private VPN that keeps minimal information about its users and their activity.
Based on this ambiguity, the company would benefit from an independent audit that verifies its no-logging claims. As it stands, the the current level of ambiguity is not acceptable for a top VPN.
Who owns ZenMate?
It’s important to know about the company behind a VPN service because you’re trusting it with your sensitive data.
ZenMate is based in Berlin, Germany at the registered address: ZenGuard GmbH at Ritterstraße 12 10969. The holding company ZenGuard is also merged with Mobile Concepts GmbH, which is based in the town of Übach Palenberg, Germany.
This means that the VPN service falls under the jurisdiction of a key member of the European Union. This isn’t ideal for privacy as the EU has intrusive surveillance and data retention laws.
The European Union is also listed as an investor and/or partner in ZenMate VPN, which raises some concerns.
ZenMate was purchased by Kape Technologies in 2018. Kape Technologies owns a number of other internet security businesses including three other VPNs: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access.
We go into some of the controversy surrounding Kape in our CyberGhost review. However, the company has since taken great strides to prove itself as a legitimate internet privacy business.
Access to six Netflix libraries
ZenMate has lots of servers optimized for streaming sites across the globe but they aren't always reliable. At the moment, though, ZenMate unblocks BBC iPlayer, six Netflix libraries (including the US one), and Amazon Prime Video. It makes it a good VPN for streaming.
ZenMate is a mixed bag when it comes to streaming. It has lots of servers designed to get around georestriction blocks, but from our years of testing we’ve found that they don’t work 100% of the time.
But when it does work it works well.
The VPN offers servers that are optimised for the following streaming services:
- Amazon Prime
- Android TV (Germany, US)
- BBC iPlayer
- Fox Sport
- Netflix (FR, DE, IT JP, US)
- Zattoo DE
We encountered numerous problems when testing these servers. The VPN often failed to connect to them altogether. When it did connect, it did not succeed in unblocking the streaming website that was listed.
We tested Zenmate with the five Netflix libraries it claims to unblock: the US, Japan, Italy, Germany, and France.
The VPN worked to access the US and Japanese Netflix libraries. You can stream HD movies and TV shows in the US without any waiting time. However, a considerable amount of buffering was required to stream Japanese Netflix.
Sadly, Zenmate didn’t work with any of the three remaining Netflix libraries. We were redirected to the library from our physical location.
Zenmate recently removed its BBC iPlayer servers from all of its applications. We tested a normal Zenmate server in the UK and found that it did not work to unblock BBC iPlayer either. BBC iPlayer is becoming increasingly sophisticated at blocking many VPN services, including Zenmate – if you’re looking to stream UK content from overseas, we recommend finding another VPN.
Amazon Firestick & Fire TV
ZenMate doesn’t offer a dedicated app for Amazon Fire TV. The company claims to be developing one, but it “cannot guarantee that it will be available in the near future”. If you want to use a VPN to unblock content on your Firestick, you will have to install ZenMate at router level or check out our selection of the best VPNs for Fire TV Stick.
In summary, ZenMate is not a good VPN for streaming. It only unblocks two Netflix libraries – far less than promised – and it’s often buggy. There’s no Smart DNS tool or Amazon Fire TV app. It’s not a viable option for unblocking video content, especially when there are excellent VPNs for streaming available.
P2P file sharing allowed on all servers
ZenMate effectively hides your IP address, encrypts your data, and keeps your online activities safe from ISP snooping. This makes it ideal for torrenting.
P2P traffic and file-sharing is fully permitted on all of its servers, and 60 of its servers are specifically optimized for torrenting traffic, which should improve performance if you want to share large files.
The VPN works with torrent clients like BitTorrent, Deluge, uTorrent, and Transmission, and its AES-256 encryption is the strongest on the market.
It also has an automatic kill-switch called ‘Secure Connect’, which cuts your entire internet connection to prevent data leaks if the VPN fails.
Servers optimized for P2P traffic are easily identified by the label ‘For downloading’ in the ZenMate app. There’s also a label for server load, which indicates the servers that are most congested at any given time. There are enough of these optimized servers spread across the globe to ensure smooth seeding.
Not all of ZenMate’s servers are fully optimized, but the vast majority are, and you can still torrent on its other servers.
Servers not optimized for torrenting include:
- South Africa
- South Korea
There are also no malware or ad blockers in its applications, which can be useful when torrenting. You can use our torrent IP leak test tool to confirm there are no leaks when torrenting with ZenMate, too.
ZenMate’s P2P-optimized servers, strong encryption and pro-torrenting policy should be enough for the average user. However, its slow speeds and vague logging policy may discourage some more serious torrenters.
Disappointing local and international speeds
Speed & Reliability
ZenMate disappoints when it comes to speeds. It's just not fast enough, either on short-distance connections (our speed was cut in half on a London to Londons server) or longer-distance ones where we only managed a 19Mbps connection to the US. This doesn't bode well for buffer-free streaming or fast torrents.
ZenMate’s speeds are disappointing.
We calculated local speeds by connecting to a London VPN server from our physical location in London. Here are the full speed test results:
Local Speed Test results before using ZenMate:
- Download Speed: 97.9Mbps
- Upload Speed: 99.59Mbps
- Ping: 1ms
Local Speed Test results with ZenMate:
Download speed loss when ZenMate is running: 52%
We recorded an average download speed of 47Mbps when connected to a nearby server, which is a 52% speed loss compared to not using a VPN at all.
It’s fast enough to browse the web freely, but it’s nowhere near the fastest VPNs available.
Long-Distance Speed Test Results
ZenMate’s speeds over long-distance connections are also disappointing.
We connected to servers in the US, Australia, Singapore, and Germany from London and measured our connection speeds before and after.
Here are ZenMate’s average speeds when connecting to multiple international VPN servers:
- Download: 19Mbps
- Upload: 78Mbps
- Download: 89Mbps
- Upload: 92Mbps
- Download: 11Mbps
- Upload: 32Mbps
- Download: 10Mbps
- Upload: 21Mbps
We measured losses of 90% when connecting to an Australian server and 80% when connecting to the US.
Latency was also very high, which makes it a poor choice for gaming. These speeds are mediocre overall – there are much faster VPNs available for activities like streaming and torrenting.
These local speeds are below average. It’s normal to expect large speed losses when connecting to a server far away, not when connecting to a server in the same city.
You’ll be able to browse, stream, and even torrent with these speeds, but you may experience some delays and buffering.
The VPN performed much better when connected to a server in Germany, with a speed loss of just 9%. It’s not clear why the German server performs better than the UK one, which suggests that ZenMate isn’t the most reliable VPN when it comes to speed.
Intercontinental speeds were much worse. Average download speeds in the US and Australia came in at just 19Mbps and 10Mbps respectively. Singapore was equally bad, recording a speed loss of 86% with 11Mbps.
These international speeds may present a problem if you want to stream Netflix from another country, for example. For improved long-distance connections, we recommend a VPN service like Hotspot Shield or ExpressVPN.
Overall, ZenMate’s speeds are mediocre at best. It is quick enough for casual online activity, but if you’re looking to use a VPN for long-distance activities like travelling or streaming, we’d recommend choosing an alternative.
3,900 VPN servers in 79 countries
ZenMate has a large server network. 3,900 servers across 79 countries is higher than average. The problem is that you cannot select city servers. That means ZenMate chooses the location for you. In large countries this could mean that you don't get an optimal location.
ZenMate offers 3,900 VPN servers in 79 countries around the world. This is a large server network that beats popular VPN services like NordVPN when it comes to the number of countries on offer.
These server locations are spread out well across the world, including countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and South America. Like most VPNs there is a European/North America bias, but it’s more diverse than many other services.
A network of 2,700 servers is certainly enough to avoid congestion. ZenMate claims to own all of its server network, meaning it doesn’t rent any of these servers, either. This is good for your privacy because your data isn’t handled by any other third parties.
You cannot choose city-level servers
The biggest issue with ZenMate’s server list is that you can’t select city-level servers. The app will automatically select a city-level server for you depending on your location. We were quite surprised by this but had it confirmed by ZenMate support agents:
The countries where you may be connected to more than one city include:
- Australia (Melbourne, Sydney)
- Canada (Montreal, Toronto)
- Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt)
- UK (London, Manchester)
- US (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Washington)
The inability to choose a specific server can be frustrating. If you’re struggling to unblock Netflix from a certain country, for example, you may find it difficult to try multiple servers to find one that works.
The company justifies this by referring to its Dynamic IP system. This ensures users can’t connect to the same IP address more than once when using the VPN. This means every connection is unique, which is very good for privacy.
Overall, ZenMate’s server locations are diverse and well-protected. It claims to own them, which is impressive, and the Dynamic IP system adds to its privacy offering, too.
However, the inability to choose city-level servers takes a lot of power away from the user. If you’re an experienced VPN user looking for advanced features and the ability to curate your experience, ZenMate is not for you.
Safe but basic security suite
Security & Features
ZenMate does nothing wrong when it comes to security, but compared to the most advanced VPNs on the market it's lagging behind. It protects data with the unbreakable AES-256 and uses good default protocols, but there's no additional tools like split tunneling, obfuscation, first-party DNS, double VPN, and so on.
ZenMate is a secure VPN service that comes with AES-256 encryption, an automatic kill switch, and no data leaks that could compromise your safety.
While the Windows and Android apps use the secure OpenVPN protocol by default, its MacOS and iOS apps are limited to the less secure IKEv2 protocol.
WireGuard is only available on Android.
If you want to use OpenVPN or WireGuard on the Mac or Windows apps, you’ll have to set them up manually.
You can toggle DNS leak protection and disable IPv6 connections when connected to the VPN on Windows, and these features come with helpful descriptions explaining their function.
All of the ZenMate apps use the same level of AES-256 encryption, which is the most secure encryption cipher available.
ZenMate offers a standard level of security that is more than enough to protect your data on public WiFi networks. However, the VPN would benefit from investing in advanced features like a malware blocker, Double VPN, or obfuscation tools.
Without these features, ZenMate remains basic and unsophisticated when compared to the most secure VPN services on the market.
ZenMate also needs to upgrade its security on Mac and iOS. The inability to switch protocols on these platforms means it’s currently more secure on Windows and Android.
Data Leaks, Malware, and Tracking Tests
We put ZenMate through a series of security tests to ensure that it’s as safe as it claims to be. We first tested the app to see what permissions and trackers it installs on your Android device. Here’s what we found:
We found that the Android app contains 8 trackers and 10 permissions – none of which are considered out of the ordinary.
We also ran all of ZenMate’s installation software through a virus scanning system to ensure it presents no threat to your device. As you can see below, the app is perfectly safe and free from malware.
Finally, we tested to see whether Zenmate VPN leaks sensitive data like your IP address or DNS requests. We found it is perfectly safe to use and did not leak any of our browsing data.
You can test it for yourself using our free VPN leak test.
Compared to services with GPS spoofing, split tunneling, MultiHop servers, and more, ZenMate’s security offering is quite basic.
However, it’s still a reliable and simple service and that will keep your browsing data safe.
ZenMate doesn’t work in China
ZenMate might work in countries that have soft censorship capabilities like Turkey, Pakistan, and UAE, but it's definitely not capable of getting past The Great Firewall of China. It doesn't offer any obfuscation technology that could even make this possible.
ZenMate VPN does not work in China and hasn’t for a few years.
The company is open about this fact and doesn’t even sell its apps in China for this reason: “Because, unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that the product will work reliably.”
The VPN does still operate servers in Hong Kong and has confirmed that its service is still working there. Keeping these servers isn’t without risk, however, as the Chinese government may soon get access to Hong Kong ISPs and snoop on your online activity.
ZenMate doesn’t work in highly-censored countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran, either. The VPN recommends that you don’t subscribe to a premium account if you plan to use it in these countries.
The company’s honesty about its limitations is refreshing, but its inability to get around heavy censorship is disappointing.
The company does imply that its service is working in Turkey, Pakistan, and the UAE. However, this information was last updated over three-years ago, so the situation is likely to be different today.
Simply put, ZenMate is not private, effective, or reliable enough to be used as an anti-censorship tool. It doesn’t offer any obfuscation technology or the option to use SoftEther connections that may conceivably get around state censorship.
If you are looking to use a VPN in a highly-censored country, we suggest that you take a look at our recommendations for VPNs that work in China.
Apps for major devices
Platforms & Devices
ZenMate is compatible across a good number of devices and you can install it on router, which allows you to protect all devices connected to your home internet. There’s also free and paid extensions for many different browsers, which is good to see. But we’d like to see custom apps for Fire TV Stick and Linux.
ZenMate is available to download as an application on the major platforms, including:
It can also be installed on routers, but it doesn’t have a custom app for Amazon Fire TV or Linux.
There are setup guides on the ZenMate website for the various custom apps on offer.
ZenMate offers an unlimited number of devices under one subscription. This means you can protect as many devices as you’d like without paying more.
The company also sells business VPNs that come with managerial support and a management dashboard.
This is useful for companies looking to share confidential information and protect themselves from cybercriminals at a time when corporate hacks are frequent.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
It’s possible to install ZenMate on your router, which will encrypt the traffic from every device connected to your home network. This means that you can technically use ZenMate on gaming consoles and TVs, including:
However, it’s only possible to do this with ZenMate on DD-WRT routers via manual OpenVPN configuration.
ZenMate has a router installation guide for this process but states that “you need to have at least some technical understanding.”
ZenMate’s slow speeds and high latency mean it’s not a good VPN for gaming anyway. Gamers need super-fast speeds and low ping, or ideally a Smart DNS feature – none of which ZenMate provides.
If you’re looking to use a VPN with your Xbox, we suggest checking our updated list of the best VPNs for gaming.
The same applies to its compatibility with Linux. There’s no ZenMate app for Linux so it requires manual installation.
Using ZenMate with games consoles and streaming devices like the Amazon Fire Stick ultimately requires a lot of manual work and technical understanding.
Helpful information on this process isn’t easily found, so we suggest looking for a VPN with wider compatibility.
There are ZenMate browser extensions for:
Most VPNs settle for Chrome and Firefox, so it’s good to see ZenMate cater to alternative browsers.
The extensions themselves are simpler than the full VPN apps, and come with a ‘Quick Tour’ on installation.
These extensions can be added to your browser directly via the ZenMate website. They are not free, but come included as part of your VPN subscription.
There is, however, a free version that is limited to four servers and restricts streaming.
ZenMate’s premium browser extensions come with tracking blockers, malware blockers, and WebRTC leak protection. They also come with the same number of available servers to connect to as the VPN app.
The encryption protocol used is AES-128 bit, which is less secure than the desktop and mobile VPN apps. They’re worth installing if you want to browse the web lightly, but we recommend using the full VPN service to ensure full protection and anonymity.
Basic apps designed for simplicity
Ease of Use
ZenMate is very easy to use, but this comes at the cost of features, tools, and customization options. Newcomers will appreciate the simplicity, but advanced users might want more from their VPN. But we can't take away the fact that this VPN is consumer-friendly and well-designed.
How to Install & Set Up ZenMate
ZenMate’s VPN applications are extremely basic, designed for functionality and simplicity. There’s not much more you can do other than select servers.
That’s great for newcomers, but if you’re looking for advanced technical features you should consider a VPN with more customization options.
What’s frustrating about ZenMate is that the service is very different depending on what device you’re using.
To make things simple, we’ve put together this comparison table:
Between all of the ZenMate apps, the Windows client is by far the most advanced and best-performing. Its settings menu offers more diverse options, including the ability to change your connection protocol, auto-connect on start-up, use random-port to connect, and disable IPv6 connections when connected to the VPN.
The home screen consists of a big connect button and the option to change server location by selecting the arrows on the left hand side. It also includes servers optimized for streaming, torrenting, and regular servers.
The Windows app defaults to OpenVPN and, unlike on MacOS and iPhone, you can easily change protocol via a drop down menu. The only other protocol available is IKEv2, so the choice is limited.
In the settings menu you’ll find simple switches and drop-down menus for:
- Auto-connect on start-up
- Automatic server selection
- Automatic kill switch
These options come with small explainers, which make the technical aspects of ZenMate easier to understand.
The Zenmate app for Mac is much simpler. The only setting available is the choice to automatically run ZenMate on start-up or not. You can also deselect the option to ‘Automatically check for updates’.
There is strength in simplicity, though, particularly in the way that ZenMate organises its servers in distinct categories for streaming, torrenting, and favorites.
ZenMate on mobile
The ZenMate Android app is slightly different and more unsightly than its counterparts. Its blue background is darker and the font lighter, which makes for a less visually-appealing app.
But ZenMate’s Android app is the only one that has the WireGuard protocol.
ZenMate on iOS is identical in arrangement to its Android counterpart but lacks any of the additional settings, making it more like the threadbare MacOS app.
It’s incredibly simple to use and has been arranged so that you can select servers easily. You can choose between ‘All’, ‘Streaming’, and ‘Favorites’ but, like on Android, there are no P2P-optimized servers available on iPhone.
Helpful live chat and customer support
ZenMate has a good customer support system in place, including a 24/7 live chat on its website and a number of online resources. But the live chat agents didn't seem to have technical expertise and many of the web pages lack detail. For complex questions, you need to contact via email.
|Live chat Support||Yes|
ZenMate offers 24/7 live chat support, an online knowledgebase, website FAQ, and in-app ticket system.
This has come a long way from when the service had no live chat, unhelpful support bots, and slow email responses.
Our experience with ZenMate’s customer support was mostly positive. It runs a friendly 24/7 live chat support system with polite agents. Sometimes we had to wait a considerable amount of time for a response, but the wait was a matter of minutes – not hours.
When the agents did respond, they answered with very little technical detail. In other words, ZenMate’s live chat is still lacking an expert angle and human touch. And we got the impression that they wanted to wrap it up as soon as possible.
Its online knowledgebase is fairly limited, too. Here you’ll find installation guides and troubleshooting FAQs. While there appears to be plenty of online resources, many of these pages are not very detailed at all and very often out-of-date.
Difficult questions are best directed towards the ZenMate support email. This service is slower than live-chat but provide answers that are typically more in-depth and useful.
ZenMate’s customer support doesn’t rival the exceptional support of other major VPN services. It’ll cover simple questions and troubleshooting, but it’s unlikely to solve any complex technical problems.
One of the cheapest VPNs
Price & Value for Money
At $1.64 per month, ZenMate is easily one of the cheapest VPNs on the market. But that doesn't mean it's the best value for money. It's a basic 'click and protect' service, with few additional features. Believe it or not, but there are actually even cheaper services available – and better ones.
ZenMate is available to buy on three plans:
US$10.99/moBilled $10.99 every month
US$4.49/moBilled $53.88 every 12 months
US$1.64/moBilled $59.00 every three years
All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee
ZenMate is a very cheap VPN – just $1.64 per month on its three-year plan.
That’s $59.00 for three-years of protection – an incredibly good deal.
This three-year plan saves you 85% compared to the one-month plan, which costs $10.99 per month. We don’t think the short-term plan is worth paying.
ZenMate’s one-year deal costs $4.49 per month too – charged as $53.88 every 12 months.
ZenMate runs a student discount for UK users too, which is a great option.
While ZenMate is cheap, it isn’t the cheapest VPN available. There are other VPN services that are just as good and often better than ZenMate that come with a smaller price tag. They can be found in our list of the cheapest VPNs.
We think ZenMate is appropriately priced given the small number of features it offers. Just because the price is low, it doesn’t mean it’s good value.
Payment & Refund Options
ZenMate can be purchased through these payment methods:
These options are basic and limited. Some competing VPN services offer payments via cryptocurrency or cash to maintain user privacy.
For a privacy-focused app, it’s worth offering BitCoin or other private payment options.
ZenMate comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can sign up to any of these plans and get a full refund within the timeframe.
It’s a ‘no questions asked’ refund, so you don’t need to worry about any hidden conditions. This is generous but standard practice that allows you to thoroughly test the ZenMate experience before committing further.
You can also download a seven-day free trial, available on MacOS, Windows, Android and iOS. This way you can avoid the initial payment that comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
To activate the trial you have to set-up a ZenMate account and follow instructions. Or just talk to live-chat and they can guide you through it. It doesn’t automatically upgrade you to a paid subscription if you forget to cancel, either.
If you’re interested in other VPNs with good free trials, take a look at our list of the best free trials on offer.
Budget option for basic browsing
The Bottom Line
ZenMate is a basic VPN service that offers a simple way to hide your IP address and encrypt your browsing data.
Its speeds and security are good enough for casual users but it doesn’t offer anything exceptional.
The VPN is extremely easy to use, but this comes at the expense of any advanced features.
ZenMate will work if you’re only looking to stream US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or torrent occasionally. But there are more reliable services for this.
Casual users looking for a ‘click-and-protect’ service for public WiFi could also consider ZenMate, particularly as it is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market.
While its price is low and it has majorly improved in recent updates, ZenMate needs to continue improving its service before it represents real value for money.
Additional research by David Hughes
Alternatives to ZenMate
Surfshark does everything that ZenMate does but better and cheaper. It’s faster, more secure, just as effective at unblocking streaming, and offers all the advanced features that ZenMate is lacking. Read Surfshark review
ExpressVPN is our #1 overall recommendation. It’s a super-safe, extremely quick service that does everything you could ever want a VPN to do. If you’re prepared to spend a bit more, you won’t regret avoiding all doubt and going straight to the top of the pile. Read ExpressVPN review