ZenMate is a simple VPN that provides a good level of privacy, decent local speeds and reliable access to Netfix.
Performance is far less consistent across its wider network, though, while BBC iPlayer access can be hit-and-miss.
The minimal-logging policy is appealing, however an element of manual configuration is required to use our preferred protocol OpenVPN. It’s far from the complete package, but it’s a decent VPN at a decent price.
Pricing & Deals
ZenMate offers a range of pricing plans that get cheaper the longer you subscribe. A single month is the most expensive option at $11.99, but if you commit to the 12-month plan the monthly cost is reduced by 67% to just $3.99.
ZenMate is currently running a special deal where it’s only $2.05 per month on the two-year plan, saving a massive 83%.
Get 83% off ZenMate's 2-year plan
ZenMate Pricing & Deals
ZenMate offers both 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 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 below-average speeds across its server network and its performance is unreliable with fluctuating speeds and connection drops.
Long-distance connections performed very badly and latency was also very high, meaning gamers will want to look elsewhere. It’s worth noting that we use OpenVPN in all of our speed tests wherever possible, but this protocol is available on just two servers (US and UK) and requires manual configuration. This means it’s difficult for us to make a totally fair comparison with other providers.
Still, on local connections you can expect good enough performance for HD streaming with download speeds of 36Mbps in the UK. Outside of Europe, performance is about good enough for general browsing and latency is also very high.
Connecting out to the US East Coast you can expect speeds struggling to reach 10Mbps, with more distant connections coming in even worse.
We found ZenMate’s performance to be fairly unreliable, with lots of fluctuation in speeds from one test to the next, just seconds apart. We also experienced a few frustrating connection drops.
Considering that the app doesn’t operate on OpenVPN, the most secure protocol, you are sacrificing a level of privacy and not receiving heightened performance in recompense.
To find out about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
ZenMate has one of the smallest networks on the current market with just 30 countries on offer and no city-level choices. The one exception to this is the US, but even then you only get a choice between East and West. For comparison, ibVPN offers more than 20 cities in the US alone. The whole Asia Pacific region is limited to three locations, and only one apiece in Africa, Australia, and South America.
There are also only 3,000 individual IP addresses, which is likely to lead to congestion. But the most popular are covered (US, Canada, and Western Europe).
Platforms & Devices
ZenMate offers the usual range of native apps for a various platforms including Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. The site offers manual setup guides for manual 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, Amazon Fire TV and a couple of games consoles. Again, these are a little too simplistic for our liking and newbies may struggle.
ZenMate actually started out as a browser extension and that’s very clear when you look at the full-featured extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera in comparison to the basic desktop and mobile apps.
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 also the most reliable way to access major streaming services, however they do provide slightly less secure encryption.
Unfortunately we ran 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.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
The only way you can use ZenMate on your games consoles or streaming devices is by configuring your router, which protects all connected devices. That’s useful, but what we’d really like to see in future is dedicated apps for these 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 might be better off reading our own comprehensive guide for installing a VPN at router level.
Streaming & Torrenting
ZenMate is a decent option for access to major streaming services. It offers a dedicated US streaming server for Netflix, which makes watching your favorite shows quick and hassle-free.
The situation isn’t as reliable when it comes to BBC iPlayer as there’s no UK streaming server. We found access on the general servers to be inconsistent, but more often than not you can unblock the service using ZenMate’s browser extension.
It’s also a good choice for Kodi fans, as the software will work so long as it’s installed within an operating system that has a custom ZenMate app, like Windows or MacOS. Solid local upload speeds make it a decent option for torrenters, as unlimited P2P traffic is permitted on every server.
Encryption & Security
ZenMate offers an incredibly basic level of privacy in comparison to the top-tier VPN providers. The only pre-installed protocols are IKEv2 and L2TP, and connecting through our preferred protocol, OpenVPN, requires manual configuration – and even then you are limited to just two servers (UK and US). Encryption is via AES-256, a top cipher and considered ‘unhackable’.
ZenMate 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.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- VPN Kill Switch
- Ad Blocker
Following China’s 2018 VPN crackdown, ZenMate is no longer a suitable choice for the country. It can’t publish 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 openness on the subject, but unfortunately it only confirms that it’s not suitable for escaping 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.
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 performance.
ZenMate operates under the jurisdiction of Germany, making it subject to EU data retention laws. That’s less than ideal, yes, however its near-zero-logs policy means this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
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, but be aware that for Windows it’s a system-tray app that only appears when you find and click the icon.
It offers a short list of configurable settings, but it’s limited to just a few basic options like kill switch and DNS leak protection, and it’s very easy to turn each one on or off. We would like 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.
You can install the OpenVPN configuration files onto your device by following ZenMate’s simple instructions, however we’d rather see this protocol included as an option within the app itself.
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.
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.
If you have any issues you can always refer back to ZenMate’s installation guides.
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 offer 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.
The Bottom Line
- Speeds of up to 36Mbps on local connections
- Hassle-free access to Netflix
- Very user-friendly. Quick set-up on most major platforms
- Connect securely to 27 countries
- Advanced privacy features including a VPN kill switch
- Inconsistent speeds across the server network
- Customer support lacks live chat and email response is patchy
- Very few configurable settings
- 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.
Speeds are decent on local connections, but those wishing to connect internationally on a regular basis should look elsewhere.
Privacy-wise, ZenMate really lags behind top-tier providers. Using our preferred OpenVPN protocol requires some manual configuration, and is limited to just two server locations. There is a VPN kill switch 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, and its browser extensions are some of the best on the market.