There's a lot to like about ProtonVPN. It's a security and privacy-oriented service, with fast servers, excellent software, and offering several handy features other providers don't bother implementing. Yes, they're on the pricey side, but if staying anonymous on the internet is your goal, few VPNs do a better job of it.
- Excellent privacy and security features
- Double VPN offered in every supported country
- No logs
- Easy to use client
- Good server performance
- Torrenting and P2P friendly
- Offers a free version
- No live chat support
- P2P servers in four countries only
ProtonVPN is known for its strong stance on security and privacy. But what good is a secure VPN when it’s so slow, you want to pull your hair out every time you use it.
Thankfully, that is not the case with ProtonVPN. Not even close.
They make several VPN industry-standard “High Speed” claims on their website, but, unlike many other providers, actually deliver on those claims.
And while not the fastest VPN around, ProtonVPN’s speed test results put them firmly in the upper tier of all provider.
Download speeds are solid across the board. The United States was a little slower than I would have expected based on what the other locations were doing. But, all in all, good numbers.
Even when connecting through Secure Core, ProtonVPN’s excellent double VPN implementation, things looked good. I saw a fairly consistent 1/3 speed drop over the regular connection, which, for a double VPN, is excellent.
On the upload side, the results were a little worse, but respectable nonetheless. Besides lower than expected speeds from the US servers, I also saw a sub-par performance from Canada and Australia.
However, since for most of us download performance is far more important than upload speeds, I don’t think this is a huge issue.
That said, I speed test VPNs regularly and will update the results posted here if there are any significant changes (in either direction).
It’s worth pointing out why the discrepancy is so large between my no-VPN baseline speed tests and those done through a VPN.
I intentionally run a fast internet connection – 500 Mbps down, 100 Mbps up. They’re speeds much greater than what consumer-grade VPN servers can currently offer.
Using such a fast connection has the benefit of revealing to us the real maximum performance of a VPN – without my ISP’s limitations skewing the results.
If, for example, I ran only a 50 Mbps down connection and a VPN server was capable of 75 Mbps, we would never know that.
ProtonVPN is a well-reviewed VPN that, like its parent company, ProtonMail, is based in Switzerland. That means a very privacy-friendly jurisdiction.
It’s a strict no-logs provider too and currently undergoing a security audit that’s expected to be publicly available soon.
For the privacy-conscious, these are all things that should merit some attention.
It’s also worthwhile to point out that ProtonVPN’s parent organization is well-known in internet privacy circles. It’s responsible for the OpenPGPjs and GopenPGP open-source encryption libraries and is an active participant in the digital community.
That grants ProtonVPN some privacy bona fides that no competitor can hope to match.
Privacy and Security
As you may have already guessed, ProtonVPN excels in both security and privacy. It’s the whole reason the service exists in the first place.
To that end, ProtonVPN deploys state of the art technology and a feature set designed to put data security at the center of everything they do.
However, as we’ve seen, they do so without compromising connection speeds.
To begin with, ProtonVPN only uses encryption and protocols with no known vulnerabilities. That means you won’t find PPTP access, even as a compatibility fallback option.
Instead, all connections make use of 256-bit AES encryption, 4096-bit RSA key exchange, and HMAC-SHA384 for message authentication.
In short, all phases of data transmission take advantage of the highest levels of encryption available. That does negatively affect performance and is probably why the speed test results aren’t as top-notch as for some of the other providers.
On PCs and Linux machines, the connectionpass over the OpenVPN protocol. That’s the current consensus standard in the industry, and ProtonVPN sticks to it.
On macOS, iOS, and Android devices, IKEv2/IPSec is the protocol of choice.
On top of that, the system makes use of rotating encryption keys and perfect forward secrecy to prevent attackers from decrypting data using compromised keys.
As I mentioned, ProtonVPN is also a strict no-logs provider. That means they keep zero records of anything you do while connected to the service.
ProtonVPN respects its users’ privacy and enforces a No Logs policy. This means your VPN connections remain private and we do not store information about your connections or the websites you visit.
For the purpose of securing your account and making sure it’s you who is signing in, we store a single timestamp of your accounts most recent login. Again, we do not store any information about where you signed in from or how long you were logged in.
ProtonVPN also only uses dedicated servers for its’ VPN servers and runs private DNS servers to prevent any user activity from falling into the wrong hands.
When it comes to keeping users shielded from prying eyes, this is one VPN provider that covers all the bases. And, as of January 2020, they even have a 3rd-party security audit report to prove it.
Privacy and security aren’t the only considerations when choosing a VPN, though. There’s also the matter of what features are available.
Unless a VPN service has the right feature set, no matter how fast it is, it can be a poor fit depending on what you’re trying to do with it.
ProtonVPN offers a kill switch on its Windows and macOS clients.
A kill switch blocks all internet traffic on your device in the event of a disconnection from the VPN. That makes sure no data leaks out through the unencrypted ISP-provided internet connection your device would typically use.
DNS Leak Protection
Another way that your privacy may be compromised online is through records kept by the DNS servers you use. A DNS server can reveal every site and service your visits as well as your ISP-provided IP address.
ProtonVPN operates its own DNS servers and enforces their use anytime you’re connected to the service.
Their DNS, just like their VPN, keep no logs, giving you maximum privacy.
ProtonVPN also offers a double VPN configuration that they call Secure Core.
Secure Core enhances security and privacy by routing connections through a second VPN server. All those servers are located in secure facilities in privacy-friendly countries.
This mechanism guarantees your data is safe, even if it eventually passes through a country that participates in surveillance agreements or keeps tabs on internet traffic within its borders.
Double VPNs will slow down your connection a bit, and ProtonVPN’s Secure Core implementation is no different. Expect about a 1/3 speed reduction when using these servers.
Support for Tor
For some of us, no amount of guaranteed privacy is enough. That’s why ProtonVPN allows connections to the Tor privacy network via its VPN service.
Doing so enables a second layer of protection for anyone deeply concerned about staying anonymous. This includes journalists, political dissidents, and whistleblowers for whom exposure could bring real-life danger.
Throwing Tor into the mix will negatively affect both upload and download speeds. Because the Tor network is run by volunteers, expect performance drops larger than those when using Secure Core.
- Although ProtonVPN offers no guarantees, they’re one of the few remaining VPN services that can still connect users to Netflix – at least in the US.
The same goes for Hulu, ITV, and All 4.
Users of the BBC’s iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video won’t have any luck, though. But, that’s becoming an increasingly common fact of life for VPN users.
There are no concerns on the performance front. ProtonVPN’s server network is more than fast enough for even 4K video streaming.
BitTorrent and P2P Support
ProtonVPN also allows for BitTorrent and other P2P file-sharing through a specific subset of its servers.
Since they’re a no-log provider, you can be confident that when you use such services, it will be free from the genuine threat of copyright trolls.
Multiple Device Support
As a ProtonVPN user, you can connect multiple devices to the service with a single subscription.
If you sign up for the Basic plan, you can connect up to two devices – with the Plus plan that number jumps up to five.
If you spring for the Visionary plan – and it’s not cheap – you can use up to ten devices at once. As a nice bonus, you’ll also get a ProtonMail account.
Streaming Service Support
ProtonVPN doesn’t enforce much in the way of restrictions on its users. There are certainly no bandwidth or speed limits.
While using P2P services to violate copyright or for other questionable uses is forbidden by their terms of service, their no-logging policy renders that prohibition unenforceable.
There are, however, feature differences between the available service plans which can indeed be interpreted as restrictions.
For example, Basic users can use P2P on specified servers but are limited to a much smaller number of them. Basic also means no secure core, no Tor support, and no streaming support.
Plus plan users get all of those things, which is a significant upgrade.
The only benefit of the Visionary plan is the addition of a ProtonMail account. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re subsidizing the free tier for people in countries for whom it is a literal lifeline.
For users that need help with the service, ProtonVPN offers direct email support, which has an average response time of fewer than 24 hours. However, in most cases, you won’t wait nearly that long.
Their representatives are knowledgeable and provide complete answers to questions.
To augment “human” customer support, the ProtonVPN website’s support section has a comprehensive self-help section that covers all of the most common issues you can face.
While there is no live chat or phone support, the overall level of customer service should be good enough to satisfy the average user.
Plus, ProtonVPN has a reputation for not leaving users hanging – they’ll stick with you until your problem is solved. In my books, that certainly makes up for any perceived support deficiencies.
ProtonVPN Server Locations
ProtonVPN’s server network is one of the smaller ones you’ll encounter. It includes 54 countries and is made up of 1065 individual servers at the time of this writing.
As some of its competitors offer networks many times that size – like NordVPN and its 59 country, 5328 strong server network – ProtonVPN is somewhat lacking here.
What they lack in size, however, they make up for in quality.
ProtonVPN’s network is mature and stable, meaning they don’t suffer many service outages. As the speed test results demonstrate, performance is also great.
Toss in the fact that the Secure Core servers are located in places like a 1000m deep former Swiss army fallout shelter, and ProtonVPN’s network shortcomings are easier to overlook.