The free version of ZPN is one of the better complimentary offerings we’ve seen and has the potential to do very well – with a little bit of polishing.
The main things letting ZPN down are its limited server network and very slow speeds, along with a distinct lack of device compatibility compared to our top performers.
Speed & Reliability
If you need a VPN for anything more than general browsing and the occasional bit of streaming, ZPN is not the right provider for you.
Not only did it produce some of the slowest local speeds we’ve seen, peaking at a very unimpressive 17Mbps in the Netherlands, it was unreliable internationally, too.
Connecting out to the US from London produced speeds anywhere from 2Mbps to 8Mbps, which will leave you struggling to do just about anything. Even loading basic websites took a long time, and that’s without attempting to do anything on them.
Uploads were just appalling, coming in at a paltry 2Mbps on all servers worldwide (apart from the Netherlands which reached 15Mbps) – not that ZPN allows torrenting, anyway.
It does say on the website that free users are subject to limited bandwidth though, so it’s hardly surprising we were experiencing speeds this slow.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
ZPN’s server network is significantly limited for free users. The only options are in the US and Europe, so those not located on these continents are out of luck.
There’s no way of drilling down to specific cities, even in the US, so it’s impossible to choose the closest server to your physical location.
As is usually the case with free providers, South America, Asia and Africa have been overlooked. This means that users in these countries will be forced to connect over a long distance when using the VPN, which will negatively impact performance.
If you sign up for the (extremely overpriced) paid plan, you’ll be able to access 32 countries. We’d say it’s not worth it, though, especially considering there are providers like HideMyAss! with servers in over 190 countries for a much more reasonable price.
Platforms & Devices
ZPN currently only offers native apps for Windows, iOS and Android devices, with manual workarounds available for MacOS and Linux.
There are setup guides on the website to manually configure L2TP and OpenVPN, but it’s not currently possible to install ZPN at router level.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
The fact that you can’t install it at router level means you won’t be able to use ZPN on any sort of games console or streaming device, as there’s just no way of routing that kind of traffic through the VPN tunnel. If compatibility with these platforms is what you’re looking for, we’d recommend ExpressVPN.
Streaming & Torrenting
Considering there are no dedicated streaming servers, it was a pleasant surprise when ZPN worked to unblock both Netflix and BBC iPlayer on its US and UK servers.
VPN providers are in a constant game of cat and mouse with these kinds of services though, so there’s no way of guaranteeing which servers will work from one day to the next.
Bad news for torrenters though, as P2P isn’t permitted on any of ZPN’s free servers. If you choose to upgrade, however, there are a handful of premium locations optimized for file sharing.
Encryption & Security
As free VPNs go, ZPN is certainly one of the best in terms of the level of security on offer. Not only is encryption via top cipher AES-256 but its protocol of choice is OpenVPN, which offers the best balance between performance and privacy.
There isn’t an abundance of advanced features but the apps include all the essentials, such as a VPN kill switch and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks – our tests proved these to be totally effective, too.
There’s an alternative VPN protocol called API which is specifically designed for overcoming DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) in high-censorship countries such as China. You can also select a specific exit port if you require.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- Supports TCP Port 443
- VPN Kill Switch
In theory, ZPN should be a great VPN for China thanks to its proprietary API protocol that’s specifically designed to overcome content blocks such as the so-called Great Firewall.
While that could well be the case, we can’t find any evidence to suggest that it provides a reliable solution at all, nor is there a lot of information on the website. We did reach out to customer support but are yet to receive any response on the matter.
It’ll most likely do the job in countries with somewhat less aggressive censorship laws, such as Turkey or Iran – just bear in mind the size of ZPN’s server network, though.
The only thing ZPN monitors is bandwidth usage – this is to calculate the monthly quota given to free users. Premium users’ bandwidth is not collected or stored.
A little more concerning is ZPN’s decision to base itself in the UAE, one of the least privacy-friendly jurisdictions on the planet. The country is well-known for its aggressive censorship laws and intrusive online surveillance practices.
The silver lining is that if law enforcement agencies were to request any of your personal information, ZPN wouldn’t have anything to hand over. It’s still far from ideal, though.
Ease of Use
ZPN’s custom apps aren’t very aesthetically pleasing but they’re certainly functional. We don’t love the layout of the main screen, though – the connect button is far too small for our liking and it’s not clear where you need to click to change server locations.
The settings are organized into labeled tabs and turning them on is as simple as ticking the checkboxes. The contextual tips are helpful too, as is the bar at the bottom of the screen that tells you how much data you have left.
If you’re using ZPN on Windows, iOS or Android, all you have to do is download the app from the website (or the appropriate app store), enter your details and you’re ready to go.
Those who want to install ZPN on any other devices need to be prepared for a little more manual configuration – thankfully there are setup guides on the website to guide you through the process.
ZPN’s customer support isn’t bad at all for a free service, but if we were a paying customer we’d be pretty disappointed. The online resources will answer most standard questions but for anything more complex you’ll need to contact a member of the support team via the online form.
Annoyingly, we didn’t receive any sort of email confirmation to say our message had been sent, and even worse, we didn’t get a response to our (very simple) question. The layout of the site isn’t the best either, which could make it difficult to find what you’re looking for.
The Bottom Line
- Easy access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- User-friendly custom apps
- Minimal logging policy
- Slow, unreliable performance
- Very limited server network
- Torrenting not permitted
- Only one simultaneous connection
ZPN may not live up to the all-round experience offered by our top-tier providers, but it’s not a bad choice considering it’s completely free to use.
The 10GB monthly cap is up there with the most generous on the current market, and access to popular sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer will be a bonus for streaming fans.
It’s not bad on the privacy front either, which goes some way to making up for the below-average performance and limited number of servers.
It’s definitely not a service we’d pay for, though.