PrivateVPN is a Sweden-based VPN company founded in 2009 and growing ever since thanks to a complete service geared toward streaming, P2P, and online security fans. The app for computers and mobiles is properly configured for both beginners and advanced users, who can easily connect to the best server using default settings, or customize their connection by choosing different protocols and encryption levels. Along with a global server network, the different plans with attractive prices are some of the best aspects of PrivateVPN, a company that allows its customers to request a 7-day free trial and enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee after purchasing.
The first glimpse at PrivateVPN shows a nice, user-friendly app that will surely please customers who prefer not to concern themselves with custom settings. By default, PrivateVPN will connect to one of the Swedish servers using OpenVPN with 128-bit encryption, which is perfect for streaming fans that live relatively close to the Nordic European country. Also, PrivateVPN features unlimited bandwidth.
But for those who like to look under the hood before taking a ride, PrivateVPN offers an interesting range of features between automatic functions and other components that can be modified for each occasion. Not only can users filter the VPN server list by streaming service for instance, but they can also expand the minimalistic app to a dashboard that contains all the settings and customizable features, including connection protocols, encryption levels, and the so-called Stealth VPN mode.
Connection Guard and Stealth VPN
The connection guard tab within the dashboard is where most PrivateVPN’s security features are located. Users are invited to interact with these by enabling or disabling such useful functions as IPv6 and DNS leak protection, the kill switch, and the app guard. The latter allows customers to choose which apps should be terminated when disconnecting the VPN, and is particularly useful when torrenting.
Another interesting feature is Stealth VPN. Just like the above, it comes in the form of a simple switch that’s much more important than it seems. Enabling it will allow VPN traffic to bypass blocks and DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) firewalls and can be the solution for accessing the more restricted websites.
In addition to all this, PrivateVPN delivers port forwarding. However, this is an automatic feature and therefore doesn’t allow any user interaction. Not all servers support it but, in dashboard view, clients are still able to check which port is being used for this method when connecting to a determined location.
PrivateVPN offers a global network of 150 servers in 60 countries – including some quite unusual locations – and ensures that a few countries have servers in multiple cities. Overall, the server count is small when compared to some of its bigger opponents, but the number of countries is surely competitive. Another piece of good news is that PrivateVPN users are 100% protected and anonymous, as the IPv6 and DNS leak prevention features work flawlessly.
When it comes to connection speeds though, things are not so bright. Having an extensive country list but not so many servers comes at a cost: except for the U.S., the UK, and other countries with multiple locations, the remainder have a single server. Therefore, users choosing the same location are clustered onto one server, making it slower for everyone.
This explains the incoherent VPN performance. All the tested locations delivered different results after the first test, and some of the more distant servers were often faster than closer ones. Our test session’s best connection was in Turkey, a server that is not the closest to our real location by any means. The latency displayed on the VPN’s app was a good indicator though, rightfully pointing us to this server. By contrast, the locations with the highest latency were intolerably slow.
Unfortunately, this means that having a decent streaming session seems to be a matter of luck. For such a streaming-oriented service such as PrivateVPN, the slow and inconsistent speeds are true letdown for many users.
By default, PrivateVPN uses AES-128 (CBC/GCM), which is secure enough for most users and allows a slight boost in connection throughput. But like many other aspects of the program, customers can alter this to their preference and raise the encryption level to the military-grade AES-256 bit (CBC/GCM).
Likewise, connection protocols can be changed based on user preference as well. The go-to option is of course the default OpenVPN, which is presented in a handful of variations, but L2TP/IPSec and PPTP are also available. The latter provides the best speeds, but it’s unsafe and not recommended since it features no encryption. In this context, if a little speed increase is needed (when visiting safe websites only), then it’s always preferable to go with L2TP, which is faster and only slightly less safe than OpenVPN.
When it comes to its log policy, PrivateVPN is in a gray area. To quote the official FAQ, the company “NEVER produces logs of any data traffic”, but each customer can consult their own connection time stamps within the app itself. Also, it’s worth mentioning that PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, a country that must fulfill the related EU directives.
OS, Device Support
If there’s something PrivateVPN can be praised for, it’s the excellent device support. The company offers apps for Windows (7+) and MacOS X computers, plus iOS and Android mobile devices with at least versions 9.0 and 4.0 respectively.
There’s also a Kodi add-on, and the official website offers manual configurations with different protocols for other operating systems too, such as Chromebook or the older Windows XP. PrivateVPN’s guides are quite informative and useful with every step of the process being accurately explained. These also ensure that PrivateVPN’s protection can reach Linux, HTTP and SOCKS5 proxies, routers, and other devices that don’t support VPN software by default.
The pricing section is another great highlight of PrivateVPN. Obeying the usual three-plan scheme, the good news is that there are no service restrictions in any of them, meaning that no one is forced to purchase the most expensive offer to obtain extra features or a more complete server network. Likewise, all the purchases include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The annual plan (which actually corresponds to 13 months) is the best option since it costs a total of $49.62. This translates to a monthly cost of $3.82 at a 65% discount, which is very competitive pricing considering the range of features included. However, those who don’t want an annual subscription can always resort to the three-month option for a total of $14.63 ($4.88 each month), or the monthly plan at $7.67.
While it may seem that PrivateVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, the truth is that all customers can request a code for a 7-day free trial. The company hides this information in its FAQ section, so make sure to pay it a visit and use the contact form on their website for this. On top of this there’s always the 30-day money-back guarantee, which allows for a full month of risk-free testing. While there are no bandwidth limits, to be eligible for this refund users cannot exceed 100GB in data transfers. Payment options include credit cards, PayPal, wire transfer, and Bitcoin.
Those in doubt about some of most simple questions should visit the FAQ page (and maybe even find a few hidden pearls), but the most important thing to note about PrivateVPN’s customer service is that email and live chat are great options for direct contact with the company. Sadly, phone support is not available, but help is provided via remote desktop for those who require it, too.
PrivateVPN is also present on the most important social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube.
With both beginners and expert users in mind, PrivateVPN’s user-friendly app offers a great level of customization to whoever wants to alter connection and overall security settings. Port forwarding, trustworthy IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and the Stealth VPN option are only some of the features available in this comprehensive service that also offers a global server network. The attractive pricing and multiplatform support are more of the strong, positive points of PrivateVPN.
However, we can’t help but have a bittersweet taste about this program, mostly due to the inconsistency of the connections. A few bumps here and there are always expected, but a streaming-oriented VPN such as this one needs to provide top-quality speeds and stable connections. Therefore, despite being a provider with great experience, PrivateVPN can and should be able to show something more.
- Suitable for beginners and advanced users
- Good range of features and customization
- P2P support and trustworthy leak protection
- Multiplatform support
- Attractive pricing
- Free trial (by request)
- Slow speeds and unstable performance
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