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ZenMate Review

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated
Our Score7.2
User Rating
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Basic VPN with sleek, effective browser extensions. Access to streaming services.

What we like
  • Peak local download speeds of 36Mbps
  • 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 27 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 sometimes available through the desktop app, but almost always through the sleek browser extensions if not. Custom apps are available for the usual major platforms and are very user-friendly.

ZenMate offers a strong level of encryption and an appealing minimal-logging policy, however our preferred OpenVPN protocol is only available on the more expensive Ultimate plan and even then it requires manual configuration. Thankfully, both the Premium and Ultimate desktop apps include a VPN kill switch 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, split into two tiers, Premium and Ultimate, making it easy to find the best option for you. For each tier, the monthly price gets cheaper the longer you subscribe. The Ultimate tier is a recent addition and includes a few extra features on top of those already offered on the Premium plan.

A single month on Ultimate is the most expensive option at $12.99, but Premium will be enough for most and comes in at a reasonable $8.99 a month. If you commit to the Ultimate 12-month plan, the monthly cost is reduced by 38% to $7.99, which is still fairly pricey. However, the Premium 12-month plan gives you 44% off at just $4.99 per month. ZenMate is currently offering a whopping 68% its Premium 2-year plan, reducing the monthly cost to just $2.91.

ZenMate Coupon

ZenMate Pricing & Deals

Best Value Deal
12 Months
US$7.99/mo
Save 38%
Ultimate Plan - billed $95.99 every 12 months
2 Years
US$2.91/mo
Save 68%
Billed $69.99 for the first 2 years and $59.99 every 12 months thereafter
12 Months
US$4.99/mo
Save 44%
Premium Plan - billed $59.99 every 12 months
1 Month
US$8.99/mo
Premium Plan - billed $8.99 every month
Get ZenMate14-day money-back guarantee

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. 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 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. 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 below-average speeds across its server network, including on local connections, but if you choose a local server, you can expect good enough performance for HD streaming on on or two devices. Long-distance connections performed very badly and latency was also very high, meaning gamers might want to look elsewhere. It’s worth noting that we use OpenVPN in all of our speed tests wherever possible, but seeing as this protocol is only available on the Ultimate plan and even then on just two servers (US and UK), we decided to use the protocols baked into the app. Therefore, it’s difficult to make a fair comparison with other providers.

ZenMate performs fairly well on local connections, reaching a top download speed of 36Mbps in UK and averaging at 25Mbps throughout the rest of Europe (we test from London). Outside of these countries, performance is incredibly unreliable and not suitable for much else other than general browsing. Connecting out to the US East Coast you can expect speeds struggling to reach 10Mbps, with more distant connections coming in even worse.

ZenMate definitely isn’t a good choice for gamers with ping times on same-country connections coming in at a pretty laggy 14ms. There are definitely better options out there, with some providers boasting latency of below 1ms.

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 connection drops, which was pretty frustrating.

ZenMate performs much better on uploads than it does on downloads, with peak local speeds of up to 90Mbps in the UK. Speeds were pretty fast throughout the rest of Europe, reaching over 55Mbps. However speeds over long-distance connections were much worse, at just 5Mbps in Singapore. 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 that the app 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

27Countries27Countries
29Cities29Cities
3,000+IP Addresses3,000+IP Addresses

ZenMate has one of the smallest server networks in the current market with just 27 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, Canada 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. If you need to drill down to city level, other providers, such as ibVPN, boast 20+ cities in the US alone.

Two-thirds of ZenMate’s servers can be found in Europe, including countries such as Italy, Spain and a couple of more obscure options including Moldova and Latvia. The Asia Pacific region is limited to three locations: Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. We were really disappointed to find that there were no severs in Australia. If you need to connect to Africa you are limited to South Africa and users in South America will be disappointed to read that there are no servers in the region whatsoever.

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 Microsoft Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. The site offers manual setup guides for manual for those devices without custom apps, such as Linux, but they aren’t the easiest to follow.

ZenMate also provides one set of instructions for manually configuring a few other devices with the VPN, including routers, Amazon Fire TV Stick and a couple of games consoles. However, again, these are a little too simplistic for our liking and newbies may struggle. Unfortunately, there are no pre-configured routers available, which is something most top-tier providers offer.

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 Google Chrome, Mozilla 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 they do provide slightly less secure encryption.

Unfortunately, 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.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

The only way you can use ZenMate on your games consoles or streaming devices is by configuring your router, which would protect all connected devices. This includes devices such as Xbox, PlayStation, Apple/Android TV, Roku and many more. However, there are currently no native apps for any of these devices, which is something we’d like to see in the future.

ZenMate offers a setup guide on their website but it isn’t specifically for routers, but is a general guide for devices that support the OpenVPN client. It’s pretty basic, which is not ideal for newbies. You can read our more comprehensive guide for installing a VPN at router level here.

Streaming & Torrenting

ZenMate is a decent option for easy access to major streaming services, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer. However, access to Netflix is currently only possible through the browser extensions rather than the main apps, which unfortunately don’t provide the same levels of security. If you pay extra for the Ultimate plan, you can connect to a dedicated US streaming server, which supposedly grants one-click access to Netflix through the desktop app, but we haven’t found this to always be the case. Many providers offer hassle-free access to Netflix at no extra cost.

The situation is similar with BBC iPlayer, which was sometimes accessible through the main apps but not always. There is also no UK streaming server included with the Ultimate plan. 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.

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 offers an incredibly basic level of privacy in comparison to top-tier VPN providers. The only protocols available on the Premium plans are IKEv2 and L2TP, so you’ll have to pay extra for the Ultimate plan if you want to connect through our preferred protocol, OpenVPN, which provides the highest level of protection. However, this still requires some manual configuration and you are limited to just two servers (UK and USA). ZenMate have told us they will add more European countries depending on demand. Encryption is via AES-256, a top cipher and considered ‘unhackable’.

ZenMate boasts a VPN kill switch 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. Other providers, such as Astrill, offer many more security extras if you are looking for higher levels of security.

Protocol
  • IKEv2
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
Encryption
  • AES-256
Security
  • DNS Leak Blocking
  • VPN Kill Switch
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. If you need a VPN for use in China, we have put together a list of our top picks here.

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 kill switch 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. If you opt for the Ultimate plan, you can install the OpenVPN configuration files onto your device by following ZenMate’s simple instructions, however we’d prefer to see this protocol included as an option within the custom app itself.

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’s customer support is very limited in comparison to top-tier providers, with no live chat feature and a lack of basic information about the technical specifications of the product. What’s more, email responses were pretty much nonexistent, 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, such as VPNArea, that offer genuine 24/7 support from actual humans.

On the plus side, we love the general privacy information in the Academy section of the ZenMate site, covering everything from public Wi-Fi safety to Net Neutrality issues. The presentation is basic but the content is very good. 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

What we like
  • Speeds of up to 36Mbps on local connections
  • Access to Netflix through browser extension
  • Very user-friendly. Quick set-up on most major platforms
  • Connect securely to 27 countries
  • Advanced privacy features including a VPN kill switch
What we like less
  • Inconsistent speeds across the server network
  • Customer support lacks live chat and email response is patchy
  • Very few configurable settings
  • OpenVPN protocol limited to Ultimate plan
  • 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. The Premium package also offers good value for money, however the Ultimate package is a little pricey considering many other providers offer ZenMate’s ‘extra’ features as standard. Speeds are decent on local connections, but those wishing to connect internationally on a regular basis should look elsewhere. Access to Netflix and other popular streaming sites is incredibly reliable via the browser extensions but is a bit more hit-and-miss with the main apps, even if you pay extra for the Ultimate plan.

Privacy-wise, ZenMate really lags behind top-tier providers. You can only use our preferred OpenVPN protocol if you’re on the Ultimate plan and even then it requires some manual configuration, meaning you will have to rely on less secure options if you opt for the Premium plan. 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.

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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