Michael Talks Tech

ProtonVPN – Review

I have been using ProtonMail for a while now, and when I had seen a couple of mentions about them starting a VPN service on Twitter I had to have a look and see what it was all about. This lead to me reading up on there new services ProtonVPN. And once on there website I was blown away! Some of the features and use cases that they mention show that they truly care about the people using their services. And protecting there users is paramount to them, you can tell from the fact that they offer an end to end encrypted email service. For people in a position were there privacy might be invaded while using the internet.  So after reading all of this on the website I saw all of the features that it boasts, these include:

 

So after reading all of the information listed above it was clear that ProtonVPN was not messing about, and frankly it was offering stuff that I didn’t even know I needed. And some other stuff I had never heard of before. This was mainly the “Secure Core” but the look and style of the windows application was also a huge draw.So the next step was to sing up and start using it, this was a very simple and straight forward process as I already had a ProtonMail account so I logged in using that and then went to active the VPN. I was given a few different packages ranging from free to around about $30 a month

The first thing that drew me into the ProtonVPN was after looking on the website, seeing something they call “secure core” after a little digging it turn out that the secure core adds a second layer of protection by routing your traffic through multiple servers. Meaning its a huge amount harder to track. This is something that I have not seen on any of the other services I have used that have all been highly rated across the web. And understandably every ones use case for a VPN service is going to be drastically different to one another but as I said before the company Proton cares about its users privacy. This leads onto another key selling point and that is that the company is based in Switzerland, and if you know anything about the Swiss law they have amazing privacy laws. And don’t extradite information to countries such as the UK or USA. This was shown during the huge amount of time that the PirateBay way one of the largest torrenting sites in the world and remained relativity untouched until  about the past 5 years. This all adds up to some pretty good things to brag about.

The next thing to consider with any VPN is the price and if its worth it when there are so many others on the market, well I personally feel that ProtonVPN hits the market at right about the sweet spot. This is not only because they offer a free service (Obviously there are restriction, and due to the heavy demand much like when ProtonMail came out there is a waiting list to start using it) But even then the next step up is only $4 a month if an annual subscription is purchased, or $5 a month if paying monthly is more your thing. As you can see from the image below even the highest tier package is not hugely unrealistic for people to pay. It is also bundled with ProtonMail Visionary (This package is the top tier for the ProtonMail services that in my opinion is targeted at business due to some of the features they offer.

I decided to go for the middle ground and singed up to the Plus package costing $8 a month and bundled it with ProtonMail plus saving me 20% and after adding a second custom domain cost me the grand total of $13.60. And after using some other services and a little bit of research most of the other VPN’s out there tend to cost between $6 and $10 roughly. So this is not costing any more than your average VPN and is boasting features that I had not seen advertised anywhere before. And if you throw in a ProtonMail Plus subscription as well your not paying much more than you would for the top Netflix package.

So after signing up and getting into my ProtonVPN account I was excited to download the Windows application after seeing some screen shots on the website and there is a good reason to get excited. Unlike any of the other VPN’s that I have used it has a really pleasant GUI (Graphical User Interface) and an ascetically pleasing feel to it. This is done from the map of the world that it displays and the screen lines to show your active connections. They have managed to make it look really good and almost something that you can leave open on a second screen as a sort of wallpaper. When you compare this to other services such as SurfEasy and ExspressVPN it wins on looks hand down. Its not following what I believe is the standard VPN GUI and that’s a little window that lets you log into the services and then a drop-down box that offers you connection and then a connect button. And that’s amazing, so not only does it hit the sweet price spot while offering features that most other don’t it also looks and feels nicer to use than others on the market.

 

So the next thing I was looking for after signing up as mobile compatibility, naturally I use both my iPad and my smartphone on public WiFi networks. So I like for my VPN service to run on my mobile devices and ProtonVPN does run on mobile devices but not quite in the matter that I was expecting it to. This is because it use’s an application called OpenVPN this was something that I had never heard of before and was a little skeptical on using a 3rd party application to receive my VPN tunnel. But I proceeded anyway, and download the OpenVPN application and then went onto the ProtonVPN website to download the files I needed to set up my connection to the service. This was the first hurdle I faced with ProtonVPN, and that was largely due to not being able to download the files I needed through either my safari browser or my Firefox IOS application, a small work around however was if I downloaded all of the files as a Zip document I was able to download the file, and open it using the Files application (IOS 11) from there I downloaded an application to view and extract Zip files on my IOS devise. I wont say which as there are so many on the app store it will not be hard to find one that works. One the Zip file had been extracted to my devise I was simply able to share the file to the OpenVPN application. From here it was a simple matter of putting in my ProtonVPN login credentials and hitting connect. At first trying to get it to work seemed to be a daunting task but after managing to get it done on my iPad it took me mere minuets to do the same on my iPhone. Again the mobile versions offered are all the same connection as the Windows application uses, it also offers the secure cores as well they are just stored in a different folder to download. Although I have not used either Linux or Mac with this VPN I do know it is done using the OpenVPN application so I would imagine the processes of connecting is a very similar one to that of the IOS devices.

 

 

 

The next and final thing I am going to look at is the performance of the VPN its self, as with any your download speed will be effected by using the service and some of them slow your connection down more than others so I was interested to know how ProtonVPN would do in comparison to my standard internet speed. As the images below show on the left we have my connection without using the VPN and on the right my connection with the VPN connected. That works out to be around 10% of my original speed. Granted to a lot of people 51mbps is a huge speed, and when using the VPN it is silky and smooth with no noticeable drop outs or failed connections. Unlike some of the other VPN’s that I have used and had failed connections becoming a regular occurrence .

 

So to summarize I feel although ProtonVPN is the new kid on the block I feel it is a very nice VPN that not only looks good but delivers are service that you cannot complain about. And for the price even as a student I do not find it to be unreasonable. and if I was going to give it a rating I would go as far to say 4.5/5 due to all of the features that it offers that I haven’t seen anywhere else. And due to the company’s mantra about protecting peoples internet privacy.