We conducted our tests using the CactusVPN Windows client. Finding and installing the software is a quick and easy process. This clearness is a general characteristic of the CactusVPN client, as the connection page is similarly minimalistic. This means that establishing connection does not require you to be a tech expert: the information you encounter is presented in an obvious manner.
As for settings, you will find the common options in an instant: you can have your client launched during the startup of your computer, sign in automatically at start, and to disturb you even less, you can even set this process up to have your client start minimized. Connection settings include connecting to a server right away, automatic reconnection, and most importantly, DNS leak protection. Since all accounts use a shared static IP address, protecting this one source is essential.
Another good feature is the Application Killer. It is a manual use option that lets you select programs that will automatically close along with your client. Also, if your connection is dropped or disrupted, they will automatically restart once your internet connection is established again. This is mainly advantageous if you are planning to use torrents or similar software, as the Application Killer will make your activities a lot safer.
You can connect your CactusVPN account to up to 3 devices simultaneously. This is an average value, considering that a lot of providers do not even offer more than 1, while some packages comes with 5+, or even an unlimited number of connections in a single instance. Furthermore, all packages offer unlimited bandwidth – a standard addition, but important to state nonetheless.
Overall, we are content with the client’s features. Though there are few extra features available, those that are present serve the safety of your connection and serve it where it could hurt otherwise.
We must say a few words about CactusVPN’s SmartDNS service. The biggest advantage of it is that unlike elsewhere, where the product is jammed into certain pricing plans as an excuse to raise costs, here it is available as a standalone purchase. And even better, the package that provides the full experience does not cost significantly more than regular plans. The smart DNS service helps you in accessing streaming websites and content that is restricted outside the given country’s borders. This is especially true for the U.S. and the UK, where a pretty sizeable list of sites is unlocked for you. Furthermore, the unblocked content goes beyond the available VPN locations: you also view sites only available in Poland, Germany and Ireland.
CactusVPN gives you virtual shelter in just four countries, which is a very limited number for a VPN provider this size. The U.S. is naturally best represented in this country selection, as is the UK. Those two countries are best represented because they’re the prime streaming countries in the world. The Netherlands and Romania further complete the list, and are the two countries you can connect to for torrenting.
One of the most unique notable options with CactusVPN, is the choice between 5 different connection protocols. While almost all other providers offer OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP at most, CactusVPN takes the win by offering SSTP and they are one of the first to offer the SoftEther open-sourced VPN protocol.
We were impressed by the speed values of CactusVPN: since there are 4 countries only, testing all of them came naturally. Next to the great numbers below, we must also highlight how little momentum was lost upon connecting to the USA – even going as far as another continent CactusVPN still provides better service than some other companies inside Europe. It’s clear that CactusVPN chooses quality over quantity, by making sure their small number of servers perform to the best of their power.
CactusVPN offers SSL, 256-bit AES encryption with a 2048-bit key under OpenVPN which is military-grade encryption: wrongdoers will have a hard time bypassing the thorns of your CactusVPN connection. SoftEther and the rest of the security protocols are less safe in general, although they do produce faster connection speeds. We recommend trying out all of them, except maybe PPTP, which is becoming obsolete, especially in terms of protection.
CactusVPN’s log policy is good, but it doesn’t go that far. The company does keep logs for 3 days for the purposes of troubleshooting and identifying potential errors. This is an intriguing difference compared to other providers that keep constant logs about general information instead this solution, temporary ones.
We must also highlight the importance of Moldova as a location. The country is not a member of the EU (even though it aspires to be one), meaning that the data retention laws present there have nothing to do with the VPN connections CactusVPN has to offer. It is easy to draw parallels to countries like Bulgaria, Switzerland or Panama: Moldova is a similarly favorable place in this matter.
OS, Device Support
CactusVPN offers device support for an average selection of devices at first sight, but on closer inspection you will find that there are some hidden gems you can access your VPN with. For operating systems, Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista and XP are supported. Mac OS is also welcome, along with Chromebook and Ubuntu Linux – this completes the list of operating systems.
For mobile devices, selection is similarly standard. Android and iOS machines are supported (with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod even), but Windows Phone is a rarer addition. iOS and Android users can download a native app that provides a similarly pleasant experience as the desktop software. For other devices, BoxeeBox is on the table, with DD-WRT and Asus routers also compatible with CactusVPN’s services.
There are also extensive tutorials provided for each of these, even being divided based on the security protocol you intend to use. Furthermore there are some additional guides available for more specific topics such as sharing a Windows 7 VPN using Wi-Fi, sharing a PPTP connection with Mac OS X, and bypassing specific websites.
CactusVPN practices an irregular, but smart pricing model. Since the company offers few locations to connect to, packages are divided based on these. This means that there are individual plans offered for connecting either to the USA or the UK, as well as a Liberty VPN plan that combines access to the Netherlands and Romania. All of these come at a $4.99 monthly price each, with a 14% off discount for 3 months and 35% off for 12 months – these are good prices. We must also note that reason the Netherlands and Romania are in one bunch is that both locations allow torrent access.
There are two other plans available for purchase. The VPN + SmartDNS one offers full access, with all 4 locations and 16 servers and the smart DNS service included for $6.99 monthly. This is already a favorable price in our opinion, and the 35% discount that reduces the price further to $4.58 per month makes it even sweeter when choosing for annual billing. You can also purchase the smart DNS service as a standalone product for $4.99 monthly, unblocking a wide range of websites not only from the countries available for VPN, but from Poland, Germany and the Irish sports network, even. CactusVPN has a 30-day refund policy on all of its plans, but you can only acquire one if you cannot connect to any of their services. A 24-hour free trial of the complete VPN + SmartDNS package is also available for all users curious to try out CactusVPN.
In terms of payment options, we have good news, as the list is quite extensive. The only downside to it is that all payments must be done through the Paypro system with any of the following credit or debit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Alipay, Webmoney, Yandex Money, Boleto Bancario and Qiwi.
Overall, we were satisfied with pricing. The fact that individual locations are available separately is great, as you will not suffer any disadvantage – the full service is still available on a price that only marginally costs more, complete with smart DNS. Add to this the great speed values and you have a friendly pricing model unfolding in front of your eyes.
CactusVPN’s customer service offers few opportunities. The only way to establish contact with the company is via submitting a ticket. Still, even with the ticket submission system being great, you are left alone otherwise. We do have to add though, that CactusVPN has a very extensive knowledgebase that offers information in anywhere from basic knowledge to advanced settings. The company also has widespread social media presence, but only for providing news. They can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedln.
CactusVPN was a pleasant surprise for us. At first, the lack of locations was intimidating, and we still long for more in this matter. However, they made up for this in other areas, and you could argue that the basic supply of countries is just a consequence of CactusVPN’s smart choice to manage a small set of its own servers rather than leasing hundreds of servers. With great speeds and simple navigation in the desktop client and mobile apps, the company is a good choice, especially since there are 5 security protocols available alongside a decent smart DNS service, all for a reasonable price.
- Great speeds
- Reliable and stable
- Favorable pricing
- Payment options
- Smart DNS
- Few locations
- Shared static IP
- Few support options