At first glance the VPN.ac client doesn’t look too different from any other. The initial tab displays a simple connect button and the country list is easily accessible right below, which is enough for those looking to secure their connections as quickly as possible. But it doesn’t take much exploring to find that VPN.ac has much more under the hood than it might seem.
Altering between different security protocols or ports – which can also be added to the main screen – is already common these days, but VPN.ac allows its customers to tweak many other advanced features, too. These go from simply turning on the built-in kill switch to other actions such as blocking IPv6, opting for the safer LibreSSL instead of the faster OpenSSL, disabling DNS resolvers, and more. Best of all is how each function has a small explanatory text beside it so that even the less tech-savvy will know what they’re doing.
Double-Hop, P2P and China-Optimized Servers
The existence of double-hop servers only proves that VPN.ac is already quite an advanced virtual network provider as this is a feature still somewhat rare. This grants another layer of protection since traffic is routed via a second server, but even more impressive is how connection speed is only minimally affected. We’ll get into more detail on this later on, but our tests demonstrated that connecting directly to either a single server or using double hop – obviously to reach the same end destination – produces roughly the same speeds, which is impressive.
It should be noted, too, that VPN.ac supports P2P and provides a handful dedicated servers for that purpose. They have their own specific tab just for this in the app, as does servers optimized for users in China. The constant attacks on VPN services are already a commonplace part of the Asian country, but VPN.ac manages to get around them with frequent service updates and new mirror sites, ensuring that customers can continue to rely on the company.
Available on Chrome, Opera and Firefox, VPN.ac’s SecureProxy web extension offers yet another easy way to secure connections as with it HTTPS traffic will be encrypted and protection against DPI tracking will be provided. The whole interface is not much different to the main app’s and the country list is essentially the same including some double-hop and China-optimized servers, even though P2P is not an option and there are fewer features, too.
VPN.ac was the first in the world to introduce private DNS resolvers, a feature that makes the VPN exit nodes immune to DNS hijacking and logging. Actually, the company treats DNS issues – one of the major threats to VPN networks – very seriously, and so it’s a joy to see everything working as it should with no DNS leaks ever ruining the experience. It’s always better be safe than sorry, though, which is helped by a function within the app that is used whenever DNS leaks actually occur.
Unfortunately when it comes to numbers, VPN.ac is not the strongest contender, with ‘only’ 25 different countries to choose from out of a total of 111 servers. Some areas of the globe are completely empty – like the African continent, for instance – while South and Central America have only one location each, Brazil and Mexico. It’s worth highlighting once more, though, that some of these are optimized for P2P and Chinese residents.
VPN.ac USA Speed Test
VPN.ac USA Speed Test Using Double Hop
VPN.ac Spain Speed Test
VPN.ac Romania Speed Test
VPN.ac Taiwan Speed Test
Our speed tests were conducted from Europe but that didn’t affect anything with VPN.ac, which showed consistent results both on the closest servers and those that were further away. Also, different protocols and encryption levels were used, with each producing the expected outcome. The results displayed below correspond to the default settings on OpenVPN 256-bit, and considering the consistent speeds even on overseas servers, they should be considered pretty acceptable.
Once again, a word of praise must be given to VPN.ac’s double-hop servers which, unlike what would be expected, had an almost invisible impact on speed. As displayed in the results, connecting directly to a server in New York was only slightly faster than when routing through Germany first, even considering the higher ping of the latter.
Ever since VPN.ac first debuted, security was one of its highest concerns, something that is really proven by its innovative Elliptic Curve Cryptography and VPN obfuscation features. Nowadays, the Romanian provider has one of the most eclectic arsenals of security settings, including 4096-bit RSA keys, AES (GCM and CBC) 128 and 256 ciphers for tunnel data channel, PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) with hourly rekeying, and SHA512 for HMAC authorization. Additionally, VPN.ac is one of the very few in the world to provide ECC and XOR OpenVPN protocols – the latter for China-optimized servers – but given all this investment in security it’s quite the surprise to see that PPTP, which is an unsecure protocol, is also present. Other protocols include L2TP/IPSec and standard OpenVPN with both encryption cyphers.
VPN.ac ensures that neither logs of specific user activity or data transfers are stored, nor that its official website uses tracking services such as Google Analytics. Still, it does hold onto connection history for one day for troubleshooting purposes. It’s noteworthy that the company is headquartered in Romania, though, where the EU’s data retention directives were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2014.
OS, Device Support
With a maximum of six simultaneous connections, users of VPN.ac can really make the most of its compatibility with most devices, whether via the provider’s native apps or through manual configurations. Windows 7 is the minimum required for running the app on Microsoft’s operating system, while MacOS users will need 10.8+ versions. Linux fans have an app as well, though this is still in a beta phase and therefore likely to be subject to some changes in the future. Both iOS and Android have their own apps, too.
Another surprise comes in the router department as there are more options than usual. The official website provides tutorials on how to configure not only DD-WRT devices with OpenVPN and PPTP, but also how to use OpenVPN on Tomato, AsusWRT and pfSense platforms. There are other tutorials covering OpenVPN GUI, Fire TV Stick/Android TV, and more.
At a time when more and more VPN providers are favoring long-term subscriptions, VPN.ac offers a great mix of packages for different lengths of time. It’s also a benefit that no service restrictions are imposed to indirectly force an account upgrade, since the four options bring the same full service without server blocks or speed and bandwidth limits.
The one-month price stands at $9, yet opting for the three-month plan is already 11% cheaper to result in a total cost of $24. But the greater discounts are reserved for the annual and biannual subscriptions, with the first billed at $58 – essentially $4.80 per month – and therefore almost half the price of the base monthly price. Choosing the two-year plan grants the greatest discount, however, saving 62% with the total price of $90, or only $3.75 each month. These prices a similar to the competition’s, but consider VPN.ac’s services as a whole and the service is priced pretty fairly – especially with the longer-term investment in mind.
Unfortunately, the company does not provide a free trial but does offer a week-long trial experience for only $2. VPN.ac provides a seven-day refund policy, which means an extra week of risk-free service. Preferred payment methods are PayPal and Bitcoin, but others are obviously accepted, too, such as credit cards, Alipay, Union Pay, and many more.
It is most important to emphasize here that, much like the actual VPN service, the company’s customer support is a self-hosted solution. This means that nothing gets to third-party services and that customer queries are kept in secret and handled directly by technicians. The recommended method of contact is ticket submission, but VPN.ac also uses Skype, GPG-encrypted email – which is separate from the ticket submission platform – and remote desktop assistance as a last resort. There’s also a blog and the company is present on social media, too, namely Facebook and Twitter.
Considering that the company was extremely helpful in providing us with as much information as possible during our tests, VPN.ac should take pride in its efforts with its customer support. Likewise, the overall level of the FAQ and knowledgebase pages is pretty satisfactory, successfully providing appropriate help for all kinds of customers.
VPN.ac is not yet a contender for a place at the top of the chart, but it still undoubtedly deserves more credit than it has been receiving. With some of the most devoted support in the VPN business, the Romanian provider is one of the most stable and consistent we’ve tested. The servers proved to be reliable, with no security issues and quite uniform speeds when using different tweaks and settings. The extensive built-in features, networking options and notable game-changing investments in security prove that the service is great all around, with the only downside being a relatively limited server network.
VPN.ac is at the forefront of making VPNs even more secure and reliable than it already is, and with an appealing pricing structure and apps for all kinds of devices, it may well be one of the most pleasant surprises for whoever is lucky enough to come across it.
- Great number of features
- Impressive security level
- Double-hop, P2P and China-optimized servers
- Consistent speeds and performance
- Attractive pricing
- Top customer support
- Limited server network
- Only one-week paid trial