PrivateVPN Review: Quick Expert Summary
PrivateVPN has good security and privacy features, is easy to use, and provides fast speeds for streaming and torrenting. PrivateVPN has a small server network (only 150 servers), but I like how the servers are evenly distributed across the world, which prevents overcrowding and provides good speeds on both nearby and distant servers.
PrivateVPN is one of my favorite VPNs for unblocking geo-restricted and censored sites. In my tests, PrivateVPN unblocked all popular streaming sites (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, etc.), and my colleagues in countries that place heavy internet restrictions (like China and Indonesia) confirmed that PrivateVPN is able to bypass government firewalls.
In addition to standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a no-logs policy, and a kill switch, PrivateVPN also includes:
- Torrenting on all servers — I tested PrivateVPN with all major torrent clients (BitTorrent, Deluge, and Vuze), and I was able to seamlessly download torrents from all of them.
- Tor support — Provides added security (by masking your IP address) when you browse .onion sites in the Tor browser.
- Leak protection — Includes DNS and IPv6 leak protection, but is missing WebRTC protection.
- And a lot more…
PrivateVPN is a good VPN, but I wish it included more “extra” features that some top VPNs include — it doesn’t have split-tunneling, double VPN, or an ad blocker. PrivateVPN’s iOS and Mac apps also don’t have a kill switch, which is a possible security risk. And I’d like to see PrivateVPN add troubleshooting guides, so users could find answers to their questions on their own instead of having to contact support.
PrivateVPN lets you connect up to 6 devices at the same time, and it has a 1-month, 3-month, and 2-year plan, which are all backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|Overall Rank||#5 out of 45 VPNs|
|Number of Devices||6|
|Starting Price||per month|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 days|
PrivateVPN Full Review
I spent a couple of weeks researching and testing PrivateVPN to see whether or not it has good security, fast speeds, and intuitive apps. I also compared PrivateVPN to other top VPNs to see whether or not it’s a good value.
PrivateVPN doesn’t come with as many “extra” features as other VPNs, and it has a smaller server network than most competitors. But it has pretty good privacy features, it performed well in all of my speed, streaming, and torrenting tests, and it’s very easy to use across all apps. It’s also cheaper than a lot of other VPNs.
PrivateVPN has the following standard security features:
- 256-bit AES encryption. This type of encryption has never been cracked and it’s used by banks and militaries around the world to protect sensitive data.
- No-logs policy. PrivateVPN doesn’t log your online traffic or personal information.
- Kill switch. This feature shuts down your internet access if your VPN connection accidentally drops, preventing any possible traffic and data leaks. The kill switch is only available for Android and Windows.
PrivateVPN includes 4 internet protocols — OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), IKEv2/IPSec, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. While these protocols are good enough for most users, I’d like to see PrivateVPN offer WireGuard, like CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) offer. In my tests, WireGuard provided slightly better speeds than the other protocols, so this is something I really hope PrivateVPN will add, too.
I really like that PrivateVPN’s apps have built-in DNS leak protection and block IPv6 traffic. PrivateVPN prevents DNS leaks by sending traffic through its encrypted DNS servers. I performed 10 DNS leak tests while connected to 10 different servers and my IP and DNS addresses were never exposed.
Unfortunately, PrivateVPN doesn’t include WebRTC leak protection — many top VPNs like ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN include in-app WebRTC leak protection, while other VPNs like CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) offer browser extensions that disable WebRTC. PrivateVPN doesn’t have browser extensions, so you’ll need to use a third-party app (like uBlock Origin) to prevent WebRTC leaks.
PrivateVPN doesn’t have extras like an ad and malware blocker and split-tunneling. Competitors like ProtonVPN and Private Internet Access have ad and malware blockers that get rid of online ads (allowing websites to load faster) and prevent you from visiting malicious sites. Split-tunneling lets you choose which apps go through the VPN server, and which traffic goes through your local network. These are definitely extras I’d like to see included in PrivateVPN.
But PrivateVPN has a couple of extra security features, including Stealth VPN (obfuscation tool) and Tor support.
Stealth VPN is PrivateVPN’s obfuscation feature that is used to hide your VPN traffic from your internet service provider (ISP) and your government. When you connect to a VPN that doesn’t have obfuscation, your ISP knows that you’re using a VPN to browse the internet (but your ISP doesn’t know what you’re doing online because of the VPN). However, VPNs like PrivateVPN that provide obfuscation hide your VPN traffic and make it seem like you’re using the internet without a VPN — this is how VPNs are able to bypass internet restrictions and VPN blocks.
Stealth VPN is great at bypassing government blocks. I asked my colleagues in censor-heavy countries like China, Iran, and Indonesia to test Stealth VPN, and they confirmed that this feature helped them bypass government firewalls and allowed them to browse the web without any restrictions. Stealth VPN is also great for unblocking geo-restricted websites like Netflix — because of PrivateVPN’s obfuscation tool, Netflix won’t know that you’re using a VPN to bypass its restrictions, which minimizes the risk of Netflix blacklisting PrivateVPN’s IP addresses or banning your Netflix account.
But keep in mind that using Stealth VPN will slow down your internet speed because it adds another layer of encryption to your traffic. Since StealthVPN slows down your internet, this may cause some lag on streaming sites or it may take longer for files to download. In my tests, Stealth VPN took an extra 4-5 seconds to load videos, but there was no buffering once the videos started.
ExpressVPN and TunnelBear also offer obfuscation tools similar to Stealth VPN — all of them are good at bypassing internet restrictions, but my favorite is ExpressVPN’s obfuscation feature because it provides the fastest speeds.
Overall, PrivateVPN’s Stealth VPN feature is a good obfuscation tool that is able to circumvent internet restrictions and censorship as well as VPN blocks. Whether you don’t want your ISP to know you’re using a VPN, are looking to bypass geo-blocks imposed by streaming services, or want to access censored sites from a heavily restricted country like China, PrivateVPN is definitely a good choice.
All PrivateVPN servers let you connect to The Onion Router (Tor) — a privacy network that hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic multiple times. While the Tor network is secure, I recommend using Tor over VPN because a VPN will prevent the Tor entry node from seeing your real IP address. Using Tor over VPN also allows users in countries that have banned the use of the Tor network to access .onion sites.
To use PrivateVPN’s Tor over VPN, all you have to do is connect to a PrivateVPN server, open the Tor browser, and start browsing the web. During my tests, I was able to access .onion sites without any issues — the speeds were slower, but that’s normal because of the double encryption.
While I think it’s great that PrivateVPN offers Tor support, there are some competitors that offer better Tor over VPN functionality. For example, ProtonVPN allows you to browse .onion sites inside normal browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera) instead of in the Tor browser.
But overall, if you use the Tor browser and don’t want anyone — not even Tor’s entry server — to know your real IP address, or if you live in a country where Tor is banned but you want to browse .onion sites, I recommend PrivateVPN.
PrivateVPN Privacy & Security
PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (an intelligence-sharing agreement between various countries). Sweden also has mandatory data retention laws, but those laws only apply to ISPs — PrivateVPN isn’t legally required to keep or share any user data with the authorities.
One drawback of PrivateVPN’s no-logs policy is that it hasn’t been audited. I’d really like to see PrivateVPN conduct an independent audit of its no-logs policy to prove that it doesn’t keep logs (especially since it’s in a country that is a member of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances).
Overall, PrivateVPN has a transparent and strict no-logs policy (that hasn’t been audited), but it’s headquartered in a country that’s part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances. However, PrivateVPN doesn’t store users’ personal information or internet traffic, so it wouldn’t have any data to hand over to the government.
PrivateVPN Speed & Performance
I ran speed tests in all 62 countries where PrivateVPN has a server to determine its average internet VPN speed. The average decrease in download speed from my baseline speed was about 40%, which is pretty good — I maintained good speeds for streaming, torrenting, and gaming on nearly every server.
PrivateVPN offered the fastest speeds when I used a local server (Romania), but the speeds were also good with a remote server (in the US). I only experienced some slowdown while using very distant servers (in Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.).
I started my tests by checking my original speeds (without using a PrivateVPN server). That let me establish a baseline for my speeds:
Next, I connected to a VPN server in my own country (Romania). My ping (how long it takes the internet signal to travel from my device to the PrivateVPN server) actually went down, which is great! Although there was a 42% slowdown with my download speed, it was barely noticeable when I browsed the internet and watched videos in 1080p on YouTube. Also, Netflix TV shows and movies in 4K instantly loaded on my PS4 and played without any buffering.
I then tested a US server. My download speed was reduced by 56%, but it hardly affected my internet speed — most websites only took 1-2 seconds to load and I was still able to watch streaming content in HD on Hulu and play online games without lag.
Finally, I tested a Japanese server. The slowdown was more noticeable as websites took an extra 5-6 seconds to load, and I experienced a little bit of buffering while watching Netflix content in HD.
Since my country (Romania) has very fast internet speeds, it’s hard for people in other countries to make a speed comparison. So, I asked my colleague from the US to run some speed tests.
Before he tested PrivateVPN speeds, my colleague first ran a speed test connected to his local network.
Then, my colleague connected to a PrivateVPN server located in New York. He had the same internet experience as I did when I was connected to a local server — his browsing, streaming, and torrenting speeds were barely impacted at all.
Next, he connected to a server in Germany. His download speed dropped by 30%, which is really good. He confirmed that TV shows and movies played in HD and without any buffering (though content took about 10 seconds to load) and he played video games without any interruptions. Also, websites took about an extra 1-2 seconds to load.
When my colleague connected to a server in Japan, he experienced more slowdown (46% on download speed) than when he was connected to the German server — websites took 5-6 seconds to load and he had minor buffering while watching content on Disney+.
Overall, PrivateVPN is pretty fast — during my tests, connection speeds were excellent when I was connected to local servers, and my speed didn’t drop that much even on distant servers. I was always able to watch streaming content in HD quality and I always had good speeds to download P2P files.
PrivateVPN Servers & IP Addresses
PrivateVPN has over 150 servers in 62 countries. The server count is smaller than most top VPNs like ExpressVPN (3,200+ servers) and CyberGhost VPN (7,000+ servers). But I like how PrivateVPN has servers located in more countries than ProtonVPN (55 countries) and TunnelBear (34), allowing you to easily find a nearby server for fast speed.
One thing I really like is that PrivateVPN allows P2P traffic on all of its servers. Some VPNs limit you to torrenting on dedicated P2P servers, which sometimes makes it hard to find a nearby location (to get fast speeds). PrivateVPN also supports obfuscation on any server.
Almost all of PrivateVPN’s servers are physical (they’re physically located in the country that you connect to), but PrivateVPN has virtual servers (not physically located in the country that you connect to) in 10% of its server locations. While I like that PrivateVPN provides you with a list of countries that have virtual servers (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, India, Mexico, Panama, and Peru), I wish it also displayed where the actual virtual servers are located.
I would also like to see PrivateVPN display load percentages next to its list of servers (like ProtonVPN and CyberGhost VPN). This would make it easier to find servers that aren’t overcrowded. But PrivateVPN displays each server’s ping and rates the ping with a simple color code — green (good), yellow (average), and red (bad).
PrivateVPN uses shared public IP addresses on all servers. Shared IPs make your traffic more private because they’re mixed in with other users’ traffic, making it almost impossible for anyone to trace the IP back to you. PrivateVPN also offers free dynamic dedicated IPs (IP addresses that are only assigned to you). While many VPNs have dedicated IPs, no other VPN offers them for free — so this is a big plus for PrivateVPN.
Overall, PrivateVPN has a smaller server network than most top VPNs, but all servers support P2P traffic and obfuscation, most servers are physical, and you can even get a free dedicated IP address.
PrivateVPN Streaming & Torrenting
PrivateVPN unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer — as well as less-popular streaming sites like DAZN, Sling TV, and ABC.
PrivateVPN claims to unblock over 20 Netflix libraries. I tested more than 12 of them, and I only had a minor problem with the US Netflix library — it took two attempts to access Netflix US. But I was able to instantly unblock Netflix UK, Japan, Canada, France, Sweden, and many more.
In my tests, the streaming speeds were good and TV shows and movies played in HD — but Netflix sometimes took 5-10 seconds to load on long-distance servers (which is to be expected).
PrivateVPN offers great P2P support — you can download torrents using all servers, but PrivateVPN’s FAQ recommends using the Swedish servers (I have no idea why). However, PrivateVPN support reps confirmed to me that all servers are fine for torrenting.
I downloaded various files using PrivateVPN and was impressed at how fast I was able to download the files. For example, I downloaded an 18 GB movie in just 9 minutes with BitTorrent. When using VPNs like Private Internet Access (PIA) and CyberGhost VPN, I had to wait around 30-35 minutes to download the same file.
PrivateVPN also has port forwarding, which lets you connect to more peers when downloading torrents (to get faster speeds).
Overall, PrivateVPN unblocks most streaming sites and allows P2P traffic on all of its servers. I was able to watch content on streaming apps like Netflix (I accessed 12+ international content libraries), Amazon Prime, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer. And PrivateVPN works with all major torrent clients for downloading files.
PrivateVPN Government Bypassing
PrivateVPN uses Stealth VPN to overcome government censorship on the internet. Stealth VPN works a lot like Surfshark’s NoBorders feature, but I like PrivateVPN’s obfuscation tool better because it provides faster speed than Surfshark.
I asked my colleagues in China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia to test PrivateVPN in those countries. They all reported that they were able to bypass their governments’ internet firewalls.
PrivateVPN Plans & Pricing
PrivateVPN is cheaper than most top VPNs. It offers 3 payment plans, including a 1-month, 3-month, and 24-month plan (this plan offers the best savings).
You get access to the same features with all PrivateVPN plans. And all plans are backed by a 30-day money back guarantee, but PrivateVPN states on its website that you need to provide a reason why you’re no longer interested in using it.
While a customer support rep reassured me that PrivateVPN will refund all requests (and I did get a refund without any problems), I don’t like how PrivateVPN is not 100% clear about its money-back guarantee. Competitors like ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, and CyberGhost VPN all offer risk-free money-back guarantees without any questions asked.
It’s also important to keep in mind that PrivateVPN doesn’t issue refunds for cryptocurrency payments and for auto-renewals.
PrivateVPN accepts payments via 6 different credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, and Diners Club International), PayPal, and Bitcoin.
Overall, PrivateVPN is reasonably priced and its 2-year plan is cheaper than most top VPNs. PrivateVPN accepts multiple payment methods, including Bitcoin, and each plan includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps
PrivateVPN works on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS, Linux, Kodi, and routers.
Installing PrivateVPN’s apps is simple. It only took me 1-2 minutes to do it on my Android and iOS smartphones, and 2-3 minutes on my Windows 10 PC and MacBook.
PrivateVPN’s Android app is pretty good — it’s both feature-rich and user-friendly. I installed the app on my Samsung Galaxy and I was impressed by how intuitive the interface is. Even people who have never used a VPN should have an easy time learning how to navigate the app.
I love how the home screen is easy to understand. It tells you if the VPN is on or off and lets you instantly connect to a server with one tap.
PrivateVPN’s Settings tab lets you easily decide which OpenVPN protocol to use (I recommend UDP over TCP because it has faster speeds). You’ll also find the kill switch and Stealth VPN features under the Setting tab.
One thing I like is that PrivateVPN is one of the rare VPNs that offers 128-bit AES encryption and 256-bit AES encryption. I recommend sticking with 256-bit AES for most of your online activity, but you can switch to 128-bit AES to get slightly faster speeds (for streaming).
It’s also cool that you can configure the app to automatically connect to a VPN server when you turn on or restart your smartphone (this way you won’t accidentally expose your data).
Overall, I really like PrivateVPN’s Android app. Although I wish the app included L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2/IPSec protocols, the Android app is easy to use, feature-rich, and you can connect to a server with one tap.
PrivateVPN’s iOS app is easy to use and has a similar design as the Android app. But it’s missing a kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, and the connect on startup feature. That said, unlike the Android app, the iOS app also has IKEv2/IPSec (which is faster than OpenVPN).
Despite lacking a couple of features, I found the iOS app to be very intuitive and reliable. I had no problems connecting to a server, switching servers, or browsing and streaming content.
Overall, PrivateVPN has a good iOS app that is really easy to navigate, but I would feel more secure if it had a kill switch. On the other hand, PrivateVPN’s iOS app is faster than the Android version because it has IKEv2/IPSec.
I used PrivateVPN’s desktop app on my Windows 10 PC and MacBook. I really like the app’s user-friendly interface and how simple it is to navigate (like the mobile apps).
I appreciate that the Windows app has 2 view modes, including Simple View and Advanced View. You can easily switch between the modes with just one click.
The Simple View is great for beginners. You can connect to a server by using the power button or manually choose a server, access live support from the main screen, and review your account.
The Advanced View is ideal for experienced users who want more control over the default settings. In addition to similar connection options offered on mobile devices, PrivateVPN allows you to pick the VPN protocol (OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec) and your VPN encryption (256-bit AES encryption or 128-bit AES encryption), see which port to use for port forwarding, and track how much data you consume.
Under the Settings tab, you can enable PrivateVPN to automatically launch and connect to a server when you turn on your device — this way you know you’re always protected.
PrivateVPN nicely organizes leak protection and the kill switch (it’s not included on Macs) under the Connection Guard tab. The Windows app also has Application Guard, which allows you to terminate specific programs if you’re disconnected from the VPN.
Overall, PrivateVPN has really good desktop apps. Its macOS and Windows apps are feature-rich and easy to use.
PrivateVPN’s Apps: Is PrivateVPN Easy to Use?
PrivateVPN has easy-to-use apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS. They’re mostly the same, but the iOS and Mac apps are missing a kill switch, and the iOS app also lacks IPv6 leak protection. Otherwise, the apps have a similar design, and they’re all very intuitive and well-designed.
PrivateVPN Customer Support
PrivateVPN’s support section is pretty good. There are step-by-step installation guides (including some video tutorials), a handful of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), 24/7 live chat, and email support. PrivateVPN doesn’t offer phone support.
I like PrivateVPN’s set-up guides, which are detailed and include videos, but the FAQs don’t have a lot of questions — I needed to use live chat or email to get most of my answers.
But I really love PrivateVPN’s remote help option! It allows you to give a support rep remote access to your device to help you install PrivateVPN or to help with troubleshooting issues. PrivateVPN is the only VPN that offers this unique and convenient feature.
I tested PrivateVPN’s live chat support multiple times, and each time I was connected to a support rep in under a minute. And the rep answered all of my questions quickly, accurately, and in a friendly and professional manner. PrivateVPN offers support in English, but I really like that live chat reps are able to answer your questions in almost any language with an automated translation tool.
I also sent PrivateVPN an email. I got a response in under 10 minutes with detailed information. It usually takes VPNs at least a few hours (or even a full day) to respond to an email.
PrivateVPN’s customer support also efficiently handled my refund request. A support rep replied to my email in 30 minutes, was friendly, and didn’t pressure me to change my mind. I received my refund in just 9 hours (many VPNs refund your money in 2-5 days).
Overall, PrivateVPN has good customer support. The setup guides are detailed and the remote support is an excellent tool, but I’d like to see PrivateVPN add more FAQs and troubleshooting guides. PrivateVPN’s email support and live chat are very responsive and provide great assistance.
Is PrivateVPN One of the Best VPNs in 2021?
PrivateVPN has really good security, pretty fast speeds, unblocks popular streaming sites, and has user-friendly apps. PrivateVPN has 150+ servers in 62 countries, supports P2P traffic on all servers, and works in China and other restrictive countries.
PrivateVPN isn’t the fastest VPN, but during my speed tests I had an average drop in download speed of only 40% — this is better than most other VPNs. While connected to PrivateVPN servers, I was able to browse the internet, stream content in HD, torrent with all major torrent clients, and play games with no lag or only minor lag.
PrivateVPN includes good security features. It has 256-bit AES encryption (and an option to select 128-bit AES encryption), a kill switch, a no-logs policy, DNS protection, and Tor support. As for customer support, PrivateVPN has responsive 24/7 live chat as well as a really convenient remote help option where a PrivateVPN rep can gain access to your device to help you install apps and solve any other issues.
But PrivateVPN has some flaws. It’s missing features like an ad blocker and split-tunneling, the iOS and Mac apps don’t have a kill switch, and there are no troubleshooting guides.
PrivateVPN offers 3 reasonably-priced payment plans and each plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN Frequently Asked Questions
Is PrivateVPN free?
PrivateVPN doesn’t have a free plan. But PrivateVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test the VPN risk-free. However, keep in mind that ProtonVPN may require you to provide a valid reason to receive a refund. Also, the refund doesn’t cover cryptocurrency payments and auto-renewals.
There are free VPNs out there, but I don’t recommend using one. They usually lack essential security features, have slow speeds, and set a limit on your bandwidth. Instead, I recommend purchasing an inexpensive VPN like PrivateVPN that includes high-security features, unblocks geo-restricted content, and maintains fast speed.
Does PrivateVPN work with Netflix?
Yes, PrivateVPN is able to unblock most Netflix libraries. It’s also a good choice for unblocking other streaming services, like Hulu, Disney+, etc.
During my tests, PrivateVPN unblocked Netflix US, UK, Canada, Japan, and more. Because of PrivateVPN’s good speeds, I was able to watch Netflix in HD and 4K — and I only experienced minor buffering on distant servers.
Is PrivateVPN safe?
Yes, PrivateVPN offers a lot of great security features. It protects your data with 256-bit AES encryption — the same cipher used by banks and militaries — and it has a transparent no-logs policy. PrivateVPN has a kill switch (only on Android and Windows) and good leak protection (I ran over 10 leak tests, and I never had any leaks).
PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, which has mandatory data retention laws (but for ISPs only) and is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances. But this is no reason to avoid PrivateVPN. If the Swedish government ordered PrivateVPN to share user data, PrivateVPN wouldn’t have any information to turn over since it doesn’t store any user data.
Does PrivateVPN work in China?
Yes, PrivateVPN is a good choice for bypassing government restrictions in China and other restrictive countries. My colleagues in China confirmed PrivateVPN is able to unblock censored sites.
PrivateVPN offers obfuscation through its Stealth VPN feature, which hides your VPN traffic and bypasses geo-blocks. When using this tool, the government won’t know you’re using PrivateVPN — it will just think you’re surfing the internet as usual. PrivateVPN supports obfuscation on all of its servers.