| ZenMate can’t quite match its top competitors in the number of advanced features or server locations, but they’re still a VPN well worth considering. From broad device support and consistently quick servers to rock solid security and one of the lowest prices around, there’s a whole lot to like.|
- Good, consistent speeds
- Supports plenty of devices
- Allows P2P traffic
- Very affordable
- Has a free trial
- Poor customer care
- Some privacy question marks
- Client app needs work
Lightning speeds. That’s how ZenMate describes the performance of its servers. I wouldn’t go as far as that, but all in all, ZenMate did impress.
While ZenMate didn’t break any VPN speed records, my tests did indeed show some very respectable results.
My best server, as picked by ZenMate’s client and which I would expect to be fastest, clocked in at just over 80 Mbps for downloads and 60 Mbps for uploads. That’s plenty quick for just about anything, from streaming ultra high-quality video to torrenting and pulling down large files.
Further away, ZenMate also did well, with average download speeds of between 50 and 60 Mbps. Uploads were, for the most part, in the same range. Again, that kind of performance will do fine for anything.
What really impressed me, though, is how consistent the speeds were. With Australia as the only outlier, numbers at every other location all fell into the same range.
I like knowing that no matter where I connect to, I can expect similar results. Very few providers offer the kind of consistency ZenMate does, especially at speeds north of 50 Mbps.
One other thing I should also mention is that the rather large performance difference between my no-VPN and VPN runs is nothing to worry about. All my speed tests show it.
I very intentionally use an internet connection that is much faster than what any consumer VPN delivers. This way, we get to see the absolute maximum performance we can ever expect, instead of numbers which are capped by my connection.
So, without further ado, here are ZenMate’s speed test results for my best server, as well as the seven most popular locations around the world VPN users tend to connect to.
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In the crowded and booming consumer VPN market, it seems new providers are popping up on an almost hourly basis. By comparison, ZenMate can be considered something of an elder statesman in the industry, having launched way back in 2013.
In the years since, ZenGuard GmbH, the company behind the platform has been purchased by Isle of Man-based cybersecurity firm Kape Technologies (although ZenMate itself continues to operate out of Germany).
The acquisition now makes ZenMate the corporate cousin of fellow VPN service CyberGhost. ZenMate also has the unique distinction of being the only VPN service you can purchase via US shop-at-home giant QVC Network.
ZenMate offers a comprehensive suite of VPN products that cover a variety of popular devices, platforms, and web browsers. The service is also available in many flavors, ranging from a semi-limited free version all the way up to an ultimate plan designed to meet the needs of anyone who needs guaranteed bandwidth and the industry-standard encryption of OpenVPN.
Privacy and Security
From a security view, ZenMate is top notch. Their service relies on the TLS 1.2 protocol with 128-bit AES encryption via their browser extension and 256-bit AES via the desktop and mobile clients.
With Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) added to the mix, you have an airtight encryption system that would make it all but impossible for anyone to take a peek at your data. As mentioned, some of ZenMate’s plans also offer OpenVPN support, which adds another bulletproof security option to the mix.
ZenMate does, of course, collect the personal information you need to open and maintain your account (name, payment details, login information). But, that’s to be expected of any credible VPN service.
The only caveat here is that ZenMate does operate out of Germany, which is a member of the so-called 14 Eyes agreement. That means it’s impossible to exclude the possibility that they could be compelled to conduct surveillance of their users under certain circumstances.
Still, it’s worth noting that Germany is one of Europe’s biggest proponents of personal data privacy (having spearheaded the passage of GDPR), so it’s unlikely that ZenMate would find itself in that situation.
ZenMate is feature-rich and supports virtually any type of modern, internet-connected device imaginable. The VPN may be used with up to 5 devices at the same time so a single account can protect a small to medium-sized family (depending on their level of tech-obsession).
Major features of the platform include:
Kill Switch Technology
The ZenMate desktop clients include a built-in kill switch that will block all internet access if you’re ever unintentionally disconnected from the VPN server.
It helps to make sure you don’t accidentally send any data out over your unencrypted ISP-provided connection without realizing it.
DNS Leak Protection
ZenMate’s desktop clients also include a function that forces all DNS requests to use servers provided by ZenMate, and actively prevents any requests from going to servers provided by your ISP.
That eliminates the possibility that the ISP can track your behavior by logging DNS requests (which would identify what sites you’re visiting).
ZenMate also gives you the option of having your VPN connection start with your computer or device, ensuring automatic protection from power-up to power-down.
The client software lets you pre-configure which server to use for specific sites and services. That’s useful if you like to access geo-restricted sites that need switching server locations to operate.
With Smart Locations, the ZenMate app handles the connection switching in the background, so you can just connect and go wherever you please online.
As previously mentioned, ZenMate is available on many platforms, browsers, and devices, including:
- Google Chrome
In addition, ZenMate offers OpenVPN support. That functionality extends its reach to any device that is capable of using the popular open-source VPN standard.
Officially, ZenMate places no real restrictions on your use of its service. That means they don’t throttle connections or block access to any specific sites and services. It’s certainly something I would expect for a major VPN provider.
No restrictions mean you’re free to use ZenMate in any way you wish. But, there is some fine print to consider.
ZenMate’s Terms of Service does specifically prohibit using the service to violate any laws, including copyright protections on digital media. That means that although you can use BitTorrent on any of ZenMate’s VPN servers, they reserve the right to terminate your account if you use it to illegally download music and movies or anything else that you’re not entitled to.
That specific prohibition raises some thorny questions regarding ZenMate’s no-logging policy. I’m not sure how they could enforce such a ban without monitoring your activity in some way.
When you consider that Germany is notorious for being plagued by copyright trolls who threaten users with fines over copyright violations (sometimes for works they don’t even own), the combination of the TOS language and where ZenMate operates does make you wonder.
If there is a part of ZenMate’s service that I have always found lacking, it’s their customer service. It’s not that their customer service isn’t helpful. Far from it. They’re more than able of answering any questions in most instances.
The trouble is that it isn’t all that easy to actually contact someone who can help.
To begin with, ZenMate offers no 24/7 live chat. They instead make you submit an email support request via their website.
For the most part, those requests are answered within 24 hours but are frequently in the form of canned responses that don’t necessarily address your actual question. That means it can be days between raising an issue and getting meaningful help.
While ZenMate’s thorough and comprehensive help section does cover almost every common issue users may face, the lack of direct support might be a deal-breaker for novice VPN users.
For any one of us who requires a flexible VPN with plenty of servers and locations to choose from, there’s a lot to like about ZenMate. As I write this, their servers are available in 74 countries.
While that’s far from leading the pack, for all intents and purposes, ZenMate’s infrastructure covers just about every region and major population center on Earth most of us would want. They’re a great solution if you’re looking to get around geo-restrictions on websites or online services.