The same company that created the famous ultra-private email service ProtonMail also runs Proton VPN.
And if that isn’t enough to get you excited, then this VPN also features cutting-edge encryption, decent tunneling protocols, and just the right number of servers to prevent bottlenecks.
It gets better, too. Proton VPN can handle video streaming without interruptions or buffering issues too, thanks to its superfast network of servers. But the best bit is this: anyone can test out Proton completely risk-free with the free version, before deciding if you want to go for a paid subscription.
There are some drawbacks though and, most surprisingly perhaps, th main concerns are regarding activity logging: in fact, this has led some consumers to turn elsewhere and ditch Proton VPN altogether.
Overview: Proton VPN
ProtonVPN is a VPN provider with a solid reputation for its reliability, and also its high-quality security protocols. Its fleet of servers is well-maintained, so consumers never have to worry about buffering. In addition, it offers a free demo version for those curious about the service but who don’t want to pay.
The lack of a no-logging policy, however, takes some of the shine off, leaving you wondering if it’s worth it; some people may want to instead opt for a VPN with a stronger emphasis on privacy, like for example NordVPN or ExpressVPN.
- 🆓 Free forever plan
- 🔓 Open source apps
- 🔒 Bonus/extra privacy tools
- 🚀 VPN accelerator
- 📶 Unlimited bandwidth on ALL plans
- 🚫 No dedicated IP server add-on
- ❌ Limited customer support
- 💸 Can be quite pricey
- 🌎 Free servers are in 3 countries only
ProtonVPN *does* have many advantages too, including a fantastic free version, the ability to access geo-restricted content like Netflix, an fulld compatibility with file-sharing/torrent platforms like BitTorrent. Its apps are open-source, which is wondeful news for anyone who values their privacy and hates closed source VPN tools. Additionally, it now comes with extensive support for iOS and Mac users – and don’t overlook the fact that it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, too!
ProtonVPN has a lot going for it, but the premium cost may be too much for some folk – it’s certainly not a cheap VPN by any means. Anyone experiencing technical difficulties might also become frustrated by how long it takes for customer care to respond (more on this later). The other drawback to consider is, even though they’re pretty fast, there’s a smaller server network here versus some of its rivals. I’ll touch on this later, too.
|⭐ VPN Hound User Rating:|
|📝 No logs policy:||No logs|
|💯 Money-back guarantee:||30 days|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV|
|💵 Cheapest price:||$4.20/month (From)|
|💥 Current deal:||Click here for 85% OFF at Proton VPN|
Limited Offer: ⚠️ Click here for 85% OFF at Proton VPN — today only!
|⭐ Rating:||4.1 ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆|
|🥇 Overall rank:||#11 out of #28|
|📖 No logs policy:||No logs|
|💵 Price:||From $4.99/month for yearly plan|
|💳 Payment options:||Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, cash|
|🖥️ Servers:||2,100+ servers in 67 countries|
|🚀 Speed:||High-speed servers available|
|🔐 Security features:||DNS leak protection, Kill switch, AES-256 encryption|
|🎥 Streaming services:||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+|
|🎮 P2P support:||Yes|
|👨💻 Simultaneous connections:||Up to 10 devices|
|📱 Apps:||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|📧 Customer support:||Email, knowledge base|
Pricing – How Cheap is it?
ProtonVPN offers various privacy-friendly plans to meet different user’s privacy requirements, including both teh Free and the ‘Plus’ paid plan.
|Plan||🆓 Free||💰 Plus||💸 Unlimited|
|Countries||3 (US, NL, JP)||65+||65+|
|Pricing||Free||Monthly, Yearly, 2-Year||Yearly only|
|Discounts||❌||20% (Yearly), 33% (2-Year), 50% (2-Year)||20% (Yearly), 33% (2-Year), 50% (2-Year)|
|Payment Options||Card, Bank Transfer, PayPal, Bitcoin, Cash||Same as Free||Same as Free|
|Refund Policy||N/A||30-day money-back guarantee||30-day money-back guarantee|
Naturally enough, the Free plan comes with some significant limitations... Some of these are: you can only ever use 1 device at a time, servers are located in only 3 countries, and a distinct lack of features like peer-to-peer (P2P) support, DNS leak protection and there’s also no ad-blocker or anti-malware addons either.
However, both paid plans come with full streaming support, malware protection, and allow up to 10 devices to connect simultaneously across 1900-plus servers in 65-plus countries. That’s a huge step up from ‘Free’.
ProtonVPN’s Plus offers a monthly, yearly or two-year plan, with the latter recommended as you can save 50%. You can pay via card, bank transfer, PayPal, Bitcoin (crypto), or even cash and enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee. Note that Proton does not refund cash or bank transfer payments or subscriptions made outside ProtonVPN’s website and apps, though it’s still great that they accept it – the only other VPN we know that accepts cash is Mullvad.
What about Unlimited, you ask? Proton offers the Proton Unlimited plan, providing access to all its premium services, including Proton Mail, Proton Calendar, Proton Drive, and ProtonVPN, in one subscription, which would be my personal choice if you’re already using Proton Mail for sending emails, for example.
So I can get ProtonVPN for free?
Yes, but with caveats.
The free version of Proton VPN only allows literally one simultaneous connection and has servers in just three locations. However, if you value privacy while using public Wi-Fi and don’t want to spend any money on a VPN right now, this is certainly something to consider. The free package isn’t completely useless as it provides DNS leak prevention, a kill switch, and AES-256 encryption to safeguard your data, even if the speeds aren’t as fast as the paid versions. Unblocking Netflix and other services is possible with the free version as well.
Keep in mind that the free edition lacks premium features like P2P support and an ad-blocker, and that customer support is basically non existant.
With more than 1000 servers in 59 different countries, ProtonVPN (paid version) is able to offer its services in a wide variety of locations spanning Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The Americas have the fewest countries (10) and the most servers (700+), while Asia has the most countries (14) and the fewest servers (250+). In other parts of the world, like Africa, server availability is lower and I don’t recommend them.
🆓 Free users can only connect to servers in the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan. Unfortunately, there are no P2P servers available to free users.
Speed & Performance
Proton VPN is just one of many VPN providers that now use the WireGuard tunneling protocol – renowned for providing the fastest possible speeds over a VPN.
While it’s not surprising that Proton VPN’s speed results are often impressive, there are times when the speeds can be a tad inconsistent and even slow down your connection considerably. However, as long as you connect to servers that are closest to your location, you shouldn’t experience any issues – but let me know in the comments below.
By the way, it’s also worth noting that using the Tor Over VPN option will lead to a significant drop in speed, and that is because of the drawbacks of using Tor more than anything else; it’s up to you to research and then balance the level of speed/safety that you want.
Frankly, while there are VPN providers on the market that offer faster speeds, the speed of your Proton VPN connection will depend on the distance to the server, the connection protocol, and any additional features you are using. Despite not being the fastest VPN provider around (that’s widely considered to be NordVPN, just FYI)… Proton VPN still provides a speedy service. In testing I could hardly fault it.
Here are the results of my speed tests; results were powered by Ookla’s Speed Test.
|Provider||📍 Location||💾 Download Speed|
|ProtonVPN||🇩🇪 Germany||281 Mbps|
|🇺🇸 US West||390 Mbps|
|🇯🇵 Japan||187 Mbps|
|NordVPN||🇩🇪 Germany||328 Mbps|
|🇺🇸 US West||332 Mbps|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||243 Mbps|
|ExpressVPN||🇩🇪 Germany||214 Mbps|
|🇺🇸 US West||224 Mbps|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||203 Mbps|
So as you can see, while NordVPN is faster, the speeds from ProtonVPN’s ‘Plus’ servers in the same locations are mightily impressive.
Does Proton VPN Work with Streaming?
Yes, Proton VPN is a great choice for streaming on popular platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, ITV X, Crunchyroll, Peacock and even the UK’s BBC iPlayer.
The VPN comes with custom DNS and DNS leak protection too, which makes connecting to a server a breeze and there’s a decent enough number of servers located in 66 countries, but it’s a bit lacking frankly compared to bigger VPNs. If streaming is your main priority, you may want to consider NordVPN, which has an even larger fleet of 5,500 servers around the world.
Even while Proton VPN’s server network isn’t as large as NordVPN’s, it’s still quite good at getting around geo-restrictions and letting you watch the best content from anywhere in the globe. In my testing I was able to bypass regional restrictions on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and access content from countries like the United States and the United Kingdom all worked fine.
It’s worth noting that Proton VPN works with a wide variety of streaming devices too, including the Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, Android TV, and even Kodi.
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Netflix: Does it work with Proton VPN?
The short answer is: yes, it does.
Despite an initial connection issue, Proton VPN appears to be a dependable option for accessing the US Netflix in particular – though the non-library content was a bit iffy. Eventually, I was able to connect to a server, and the subsequent streaming experience was excellent. There was no discernible buffering, and loading speeds varied only a little even while connecting to libraries in distant countries. It’s a safe conclusion then, that in my opinion Proton VPN is one of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Proton VPN’s capacity to bypass HBO Max’s geoblocks is, without a doubt, outstanding, and it should be seriously considered by anyone who wants to view their preferred series/box-sets/movies on said streaming service from any location. Unblocking the content was simple and worked on the first try, and once I did, the video quality never dropped. It’s worth noting that Proton VPN can deal with high-quality video without any issues like buffering or lagging – this really sets it apart.
It can also unblock BBC iPlayer from any of the server location that I tested.
Proton VPN is also known to unblock most popular streaming services, such as YouTube and Hulu, with relative ease. Though it’s recommended to select servers with lower loads to avoid slow buffering and helpfully Proton also offer hints and tips to help you unblock Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, ESPN+, and other popular services. I’ve not managed to put these to the test just yet but will update this review, when I do.
ProtonVPN: Servers & Locations
With a primary concentration on Europe, North and South America respectively, but also a presence in Africa and Asia, ProtonVPN has a large network of more than 1,900 servers in 65+ countries. Interestingly, in order to optimize its global reach, the company wants to hear from its customers about where you want future servers to be located, which is a nice touch.
|VPN||🔢 Number of Servers||🌍 Countries Available|
The smaller number of servers here – even with the ‘Plus’ plan – is a bit of a drawback. While it’s true that higher server numbers doesn’t always mean faster speeds, it’s more likely to be the case that streaming and torrenting will work better if there are more servers.
Regardless, all ProtonVPN servers use full-disk encryption to prevent data interception, and they offer several unique features on top, including Secure Core VPN and Tor Over VPN. The latter is something that I’ve not seen on any other VPN, but be aware that both of these features are exclusive to Proton Plus subscribers, so they don’t work with the Free version sadly. Not surprising – useful and unique things are rarely free!
All of these features combined together enhance the online privacy offered to ProtonVPN users – at least the ones who are willing to pay for it. 😉
When connected to servers nearer to your actual physical location, you should of course expect faster speeds and better browsing performance – but if you’re in any way confused, don’t panic: you can check the load metrics of each server and then select a server(s) with lower loads for improved performance. It’s a nice touch, that works well.
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The Kill Switch built into Proton VPN is an easy, welcome safety measure that prevents data leakage in the event of a VPN “connection drop”. By using it, you’ll disguise your actual IP address and location from the websites and services you visit while online, should the VPN drop out.
The kill switch has its uses, but it also has the potential to become problematic in some circumstances. Our tests revealed diffiuclties when re-establishing an online connection after severing ties with a virtual private network (VPN). The fact that this problem only occurred on Windows 10 (not 7 or 11 or MacOS) shows that it is probably an isolated one.
While VPNs have improved greatly in recent years, the kill switch feature is – in my opinion – still a vital security measure that protects your private information in the event of a sudden VPN outage.
While WireGuard is both the most well-known and fastest protocol (discussed above), Proton VPN does have many other options here: OpenVPN in TCP and UDP guise, in addition to the IKEv2/IPsec and Stealth protocols, each of which has its own set of pros and cons to be aware of.
Here at VPN Hound, we ran speed tests on these protocols at 8 distinct locations, using a download and upload speed of 100 Mbps as a reference point (baseline). The results were as expected, with WireGuard coming in first place with an average download speed of 83.08 Mbps and an average upload speed of 51.66 Mbps. WireGuard’s largest speed drop was in South Korea, at 92%, which makes sense considering the server’s location far from Europe.
Interestingly, stealth is a protocol that works solely on MacOS, Android, and iOS and has slower speeds than other protocols; its main usage is to circumvent limitations in tightly controlled nations like China.
|Protocol||🚀 Speed||🛡️ Security||📱 Apps|
|WireGuard||🔥 Very fast||🔒 Secure||💻 All platforms|
|OpenVPN (UDP)||⚡ Fast||🔒 Secure||💻 All platforms|
|IKEv2/IPSec||⚡ Fast||🔒 Secure||💻 All platforms|
|OpenVPN (TCP)||🐌 Slow||🔒 Secure||💻 All platforms|
|Stealth||🐌 Slow||🔒 Secure||🍎 MacOS, 🤖 Android (ish), 🍎 iOS|
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What’s this about ‘Secure Core’ servers?
Proton VPN is a youngster compared to some VPN companies – having launched in 2017. And though it’s relatively new, it’s already earned a reputation as a top VPN service; the company has clearly invested a lot of money in developing and releasing new apps and features throughout the years.
The service provider has, for example, recently unveiled a new ad-blocking tool called NetShield, which is designed to keep users’ online activities private. Proton VPN also unveiled a VPN Accelerator to boost your connection and guarantee the best possible speeds at all times.
Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers are one of the service’s distinguishing characteristics: for those who don’t know, this means you can effectively double the security of your VPN by connecting to two separate VPN servers at the same time using this function. NordVPN have a similar feature that they call Double VPN – but it’s not quite the same.
Secure Core vs. Double VPN
Secure Core by ProtonVPN allows you to connect to two VPN servers for added security. The first server is located in a privacy-friendly location and the second server is located in your chosen location. The connection passes through the first server before reaching the second server, making it more difficult for attackers to intercept the traffic.
On the other hand, Double VPN is a bit different. This is a feature offered by NordVPN that routes traffic through two VPN servers in different, random locations. The traffic is encrypted and passes through the first server before being forwarded to the second server, where it is decrypted and forwarded to the destination.
The main difference between the two features is that Secure Core emphasizes privacy-friendly locations for the first server, while Double VPN emphasizes using two different locations for added security (often randomzied locations). Not hugely different, but important to understand the differences.
In any case, the use of two VPNs has the disadvantage of making the connection slower. However, Secure Core’s added layer of protection & peace of mind is something I love, despite the drawback and I recommend you use it if you’re looking for an ultra secure VPN.
About ‘Tor Over VPN’
Tor Over VPN is a special feature offered by Proton VPN that enables you to connect to both the Tor network and the VPN service at the same time.
This effecitvely means sending data across the Tor network before sending it to the VPN server; the ability to access the dark web without the need for the Tor browser is a major benefit of Tor Over VPN. However you really should be aware that the extra layer of encryption and routing through the Tor network will cause speeds to be lower than those of standard VPN connections that you’re used to.
So in summary Tor Over VPN, in general, can be helpful for those who value anonymity and want to take additional measures but don’t mind the slow-downs.
Why is this better than just regular Tor?
Glad you asked! For a number of reasons.
- First, using Tor with a VPN is obviously more secure: by encrypting all of your data before it even enters the Tor network.
- Secondly, using Tor with a VPN allows you to access sites that may be blocked or restricted on Tor, as the VPN server you connect to can be located in a different country with more relaxed restrictions.
- And of course, if you’re using Tor and a VPN, you’ll have a much better user experience all round. Why? Well… have you ever used Tor? It’s ugly, has a steep learning cuve and being able to avoid dealing with poor speeds and compatibility concerns, as well as having to configure your computer to use the Tor network, are all big pluses.
With the release of their VPN Accelerator feature, Proton VPN told me that they hope to further improve the speed and functionality of their VPN service. This setting is always enabled by default – so you don’t need to do anything – it’s already set up and ready to enjoy a quicker VPN connection.
The VPN Accelerator is effective because it overcomes difficulties inherent in using VPN protocols like OpenVPN. Instead of relying on the processing capability of a single core on the server processor, it uses many processes to take advantage of the available cores. So by optimizing & rerouting traffic through a more direct path, VPN Accelerator further boosts speeds.
Proton VPN’s goal with the VPN Accelerator was to provide its users with a “more streamlined and accelerated VPN experience” – and I’m glad to say in my testing I did notice the difference versus before it was enabled. However, as I explored in the ‘speed’ section above, ProtonVPN still isn’t as fast as NordVPN – which uses the proprietary NordLynx protocol (and does speed enhancements/tuning even better too).
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No-Logs & Encryption
A key factor that boosts the security credentials of Proton VPN, is its no-logging policy. Here, the provider promises not to collect any user information or keep logs of any kind, this ensures that there’s basically no record of the websites you visit, the files you download, or any other online activities that could potentially be traced back to you.
Proton offers powerful AES military-grade encryption (AES-256) and supports tunneling protocols like WireGuard, OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), IKEv2/IPSec, and even the Stealth protocol – which I covered in more detail above. But where it gets interesting is this: all of the provider’s apps are open-source, which means that anyone can inspect the code and verify that it’s safe to use. This transparency gives you a higher level of confidence in the security of your data while using ProtonVPN and suggests that their integrity is something they take seriously.
Interestingly, there has been a major shift in how Proton VPN handles user privacy. Previously, they followed the practice of many other VPN services and kept their source code closed (closed-source). However, in a bold move, they decided to make all of their apps and code available under an open-source license – if you’re interseted, you can review the source code on their GitHub page.
Proton VPN has confirmed to us here at VPN Hound that they’re quote “committed” to spending money on independent security reviews and third-party audits. Sadly, this is where it goes quiet: as the outcomes of these audits aren’t yet public, I have significant issues in recommending Proton currently as a ‘secure’ VPN.
The only audit that *is* public, is an audit of their no-logs policy (and that’s it). Securitum, a security auditing firm, did this recently and their audit found no major issues with the provider’s no logs policy at all.
All that beside, there’s still clearly work to do here if ProtonVPN want to win over customer’s trust; there are, frankly, much better VPNs out there with stronger audit policies.
In terms of account creation, you’ll have to provide confirmation that you are “human”: among the possible options for this are using another email address, getting an SMS, or making a small donation. All of these require you to give up some of your privacy and you should be aware of the drawbacks before doing so. Of course, ProtonVPN claim they don’t store information on this – but can you trust them fully?
What other VPNs should I consider?
|ProtonVPN||From $4/month for yearly plan|
|NordVPN||From $3.30/month for 2-year plan|
|Surfshark VPN||From $2.49/month for 2-year plan|