Top Level Overview
Italian VPN provider AirVPN was founded by a group of activists and hackers. As you might imagine, it is extremely privacy oriented, which is good news for users who are concerned with top-level security.
The downside is that AirVPN only has about 80 servers in 15 countries, which is frustrating for users who want a larger diversity of connection locations.
The company has been around since 2010, so it’s curious that they are still rather limited in their reach, as they only really cover Europe, the US, Canada and Hong Kong.
It is my hope that the company is in the process of adding servers in new countries, which is a necessity for travelers and business people. That said, as a smaller operation, entirely independently owned, budget is most likely a factor in this.
AirVPN customer service is sort of so-so. You can ask a question that will go to a ticket-based email system, but a response could take up to a business day or more. Another frustrating element of AirVPN’s service is the fact that responses are very jargon heavy, as is the website.
Non techies may find this confusing and unhelpful. In addition to the support system which can experience huge lags, the forum that AirVPN provides for users to self troubleshoot is far too heavy in tech speak to be useful to technology novices.
In short. AirVPN is a aimed at hacktivists, those running private servers and others operating in the underworld of the web. If you want easy to understand, secure and great customer service, check Buffered, Express, or Vypr.
AirVPN offers a 3 day “risk free” trial, which is nice for customers on the fence. However, AirVPN has one of the worst refund policies I’ve seen in the biz, though they do offer one.
According to their website, AirVPN “accepts only written refund requests sent to the addresses given in the Privacy Notice.” Again, this is designed to put off the average Joe. The type of person who signs up for Air is “in the know” and won’t be needing a refund.
AirVPN offers a variety of affordable plans for users:
- 3-Day Plan is $1.12/3 days.
- 1 Month Plan is $7.84/month.
- 3 Month Plan is $16.81 ($5.60/month) and is charged every quarter year.
- 6 Month Plan is $33.62 ($5.60/month) and is charged every half year
- 1 Year Plan is $60.51 ($5.04/month)
All plans include all of AirVPN’s features: no log policy, strong encryption (with PFS), DNS leak protection, Kill Switch, the WebRTC ‘bug’ correction, VPN over Tor, SSL and SSH tunnelling, port forwarding and 3 simultaneous connections.
One of the best features of AirVPN is DNS routing, which allows users to skip around some geo-restrictions that can block content based on your connection location. This is a huge deal for me, as I’m constantly trying to stream media from different global locations.
A lot of the time, my favorite streaming sites are blocked (Ahem, Netflix), but I didn’t have any issues bypassing these restrictions with AirVPN.
DNS routing is also a fantastic service for those who are experiencing internet censorship as it disguises the use of a VPN.
For residents of places like China, this is be a game-changer for unrestricted internet use.
AirVPN also offers VPN through Tor, which is pretty rare in the VPN world, but essential for those operating “underground”.
Basically, users will first connect to a Tor network, and then they can connect to the VPN service. Essentially, not even AirVPN will know your actual IP address, which is perfect for those seeking a high level of privacy and security.
I would expect nothing less from a group of hackers!
Signing up for AirVPN is very easy- all you need is an email address and a payment method. AirVPN accepts most major credit cards, services like PayPal, and of course the wildly secure Bitcoin.
After paying your dues, AirVPN will send you an email with setup instructions that will direct you to the system download that you need.
One issue with AirVPN is that the website is sort of complex and stuffed to the brim with information- not all of it easily understood.
Of course, I get the jargon. I speak it every day. But I review these services for everyday people who aren’t familiar with a lot of terms surrounding Internet security.
I had to search high and low for practical data, and even then it seemed obscurely located.
I disliked the AirVPN forum because it was a jungle of tech speak that would be intimidating and hardly comprehensible to most.
The desktop program (inexplicably named ‘Eddie’), is completely open source, which is a rarity for the VPN community, but a nice step in the direction of transparency.
The system is fairly easy to use, but like its website counterpart, there is an abundance of knowledge that can overload the user, especially if they’re unsure about what all of the metrics mean.
For those looking for a simple VPN service, this additional knowledge is extraneous and can make the client less than intuitive.
Security & Privacy
As I mentioned before, I have really come to expect that every serious VPN company is going to provide high grade 256-bit encryption, which AirVPN does.
I loved that AirVPN offered additional security features, like the Kill Switch, which is a necessity for locking down your personal info.
I am a complete wifi hog, so I’m always making purchases over public networks or booking tickets for travel. I’ve come to consider a Kill Switch as a necessary component of any VPN I’m using.
In another attempt to support unrestricted internet use, AirVPN has also incorporated a number of different features into their service, including alternative ports, and SSL and SSH tunnelling.
What AirVPN does is disguise OpenVPN web traffic as SSL traffic- the internet’s encryption- making it extremely difficult to detect the use of a VPN and making it nearly impossible to block that web traffic.
In case this fails, AirVPN decided to sort of doubly encrypt data with SSL and SSH tunneling- which is pretty much unbeatable.
This is really great news for countries with censorship standards as their governments are generally quite diligent about monitoring the web.
In addition, AirVPN also protects users against the WebRTC bug (a flaw that allows websites to view your true IP, regardless of VPN use).
Something else I want to talk about: AirVPN’s status as an Italian company.
Italy, as you may know is part of the Fourteen Eyes- a spying group that has partnered with groups like the NSA.
But good news, though! VPN providers in Italy are not required to retain and log data, so users can rest easy with AirVPN. It is the real deal.
Speed & Performance
Ok, onto speed. Besides security, speed is of the utmost importance to me as I primarily use the internet to stream media and also share large files.
AirVPN delivered pretty well. Speed is superb on US based servers. On UK servers, there was a bit of a lag, which dissolved as I tried servers closer to Western Europe, which I found interesting. The lag is barely discernible, however, and I’m sure it won’t be a dealbreaker for most. I still found that streaming was relatively quick, which made me a happy customer!
As previously stated, AirVPN’s customer service could use some improvement. They have an email ticket support system, but responses to questions could take as long as a day to reach your inbox, which is too long for me.
In addition, they offer an AirVPN forum on their support page, though I found combing through the pages of tech heavy jargon slightly tedious. I appreciate that they cater to a tech based audience, but would prefer for the information to be more clear and straightforward.
I think AirVPN’s refund policy is ridiculous. You have to submit a written request to a listed address which seems positively archaic. They also offer a 3-day risk free trial, which is fair, I guess.
Signing Up & Getting Started
With AirVPN, signing up is very easy. You just to enter an email address and some payment details (yes to Bitcoin!) and voila! You’ve got AirVPN. (Well, you’ll have to check your email for download links first)
AirVPN Review Conclusion
I love all of the features: DNS leak, Kill Switch, WebRTC bug correction and VPN over Tor. But I only recommend this service for techies and those in the “underworld” of the internet, so to speak.
It’s one of those services made for hacktivists for hacktivists, thus the customer service leaves a lot to be desired. That said, if you understand the lingo, you’ll find the answers you need online.
AirVPN’s speed for US and western Euro servers is a great. I got a tiny lag from UK servers at times.
- Amazing security features (PFS, DNS leak protection, VPN over Tor, SSL/SSH tunnelling)
- Open Source software
- Servers in only 15 countries
- Bit of a lag for UK servers
- Customer service is slim
- Too jargon heavy for non-VPN experts