THE BOTTOM LINE: ProtonVPN easily ticks all the right boxes if you're looking for a VPN with an unshakeable commitment to user privacy and security. Their physical infrastructure is second to none, boasting of an underground data center, their own double-hop VPN server configuration, and a VPN accelerator that can boost speeds by over 400%. Truly, you can't expect anything less from the maker of ProtonMail! Open source and independently audited, find out how this Swiss-based security company is changing the VPN landscape.
- Based in Switzerland, which is known to be strong on data privacy and protection
- Strong security protocols — WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, PPTP, and L2TP.
- Numerous advanced features not commonly found in other VPNs
- Secure Core server network
- No leaks, zero logs
- Independently audited
- Up to 10 Gbps high-speed connections
- Has ad-blocker feature to stop ads, malware, trackers, and spyware
- Open-sourced native apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iPhone/iPad, Linux, and Chromebook
- Supports a multitude of routers — Invizbox, AsusWRT, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, pfSense, Tomato router (legacy), FreshTomato, Vilfo, and more
- More pricey than other VPNs on our list
- Tiered pricing can be confusing
- Smallish server network
- No phone or live chat support
Security and Privacy Features
Most VPNs we've tested uses military-grade encryption, so it's hardly anything to brag about these days. ProtonVPN's infrastructure, however, is really something else. Sure, they use the same AES-256 encryption and protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard, and it has a Kill Switch feature, no-log policy, and DNS Leak Prevention. That's where the similarities end, though.
First of all, ProtonVPN sends your internet traffic through a cache of privately owned servers to protect your connection against hacking, data breaches, and other network-based attacks. It's not just your usual VPN servers, either. Secure Core, ProtonVPN's network of servers, is buried deep in an underground military bunker. And where is this bunker located? A thousand meters below the Swiss Alps – if that's not taking physical security to the next level, I don't know what is.
Speaking of the Swiss Alps, since ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, they can't be coerced by your ISP, government agencies, mobile phone networks, and email providers into sharing user information. Their apps are also 100% open-source and independently audited, so you know that the company isn't hiding anything from you. That's not all. Shake off surveillance once and for all with the following additional features:
Tor over VPN: to make your forays into the dark web safer, ProtonVPN has Tor over VPN functionality built-in. It sends your traffic through several random nodes making it nearly impossible for your online activities to be traced back to your IP address.
Forward Secrecy: protects your online messages and chats from prying eyes. This feature generates a new encryption key for every message, call, or page load, making it hard for anyone to eavesdrop on your conversations online.
VPN Accelerator: Using multi-core processors and reducing latency and TCP congestion, ProtonVPN can speed up your connection by up to 400%. Bear in mind that this is primarily applicable when you're connecting to a geographically distant server. When connecting to a nearby server, the benefits may not be as noticeable.
Adblocker (NetShield): Stops ads, malware, spyware, and trackers from loading to make your everyday browsing experience fast, safe, and ad-free.
ProtonVPN has a fairly small network with just 1,429 servers in 61 countries. This shouldn't put you off, however. After all, a lot of these server titans in the industry inflate the numbers with virtual servers. What ProtonVPN lacks in quantity, they more than make up for in quality. ProtonVPN Plus servers are not only optimized for gaming or downloading large files, but they also offer the highest VPN speeds, with up to 10 Gbps connectivity in most locations.
Speed and Reliability
While using a VPN, you can expect your internet speed to slow down by 10-20%. Our connection usually clocks in at 100 Mbps, so this means enabling ProtonVPN should give us around 80-90 Mbps. We tested ProtonVPN to see the actual numbers. Connecting to nearby servers reduced our speed by about 5%. On the other hand, it was about 22% slower on long-distant servers. A bit higher than the expected 20% max speed loss, but we could still play multiplayer games without any issues.
Compatible Platforms and Devices
Keep every piece of your devices secure at home or on the go. ProtonVPN has open-sourced native apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iPhone/iPad, Linux, and Chromebook. You can also protect your entire household by installing ProtonVPN on your router! It is compatible with Invizbox, AsusWRT, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, pfSense, Tomato router (legacy), FreshTomato, Vilfo, or any router that supports OpenVPN or IKEv2 as a "client."
ProtonVPN adopts tiered pricing and currently has three price plans on top of their free offering: Basic, Plus, and Visionary:
Here's what you get with the paid tiers:
• 350+ servers in 40+ countries
• 2 VPN connections
• High speed
• Strict no-logs policy
• Adblocker (NetShield)
• 300+ servers in 61 countries
• 10 VPN connections
• Highest speed (up to 10 Gbps)
• Strict no-logs policy
• Adblocker (NetShield)
• Secure Core VPN
• Tor over VPN
• All Plus plan features
• ProtonMail Visionary account
Price ranges from $4-24/month with 20% off on their annual plan or 33% off on a 2-year subscription. Indeed, Swiss security doesn't come cheap as ProtonVPN falls at the upper end of the price spectrum. In any case, if you think that the service is not right for you, you can get a refund within 30 days of the initial purchase date.
For its price, one would think that ProtonVPN offers multiple support channels. At the very least, it should have live chat support. Unfortunately, there's only one way to contact ProtonVPN's support team. You can open a support request or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. With that said, when we sent a question through their online form, we received a reply in just a couple of hours. The response was clear, detailed, and helpful too! If you can't wait a few hours, you might wanna take a look at their support center page. It's not much, but you'll find frequently asked questions regarding downloads and setup, content access, billing, troubleshooting, and more.