ProtonVPN Review: Quick Expert Summary
ProtonVPN has excellent security, top-notch privacy features, and a really simple interface, and it maintained fast speeds in all of my speed tests. ProtonVPN protects user data with 256-bit AES encryption, advanced server architecture, a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, and much more. ProtonVPN has apps for all major platforms, and it allows 1-10 simultaneous connections on a single account.
ProtonVPN also has:
- Dedicated servers for torrenting — Works with all major torrenting clients like uTorrent, BitTorrent, qBittorent, and Vuze.
- Dedicated streaming servers (called ‘Plus’ servers) — Unblocks geo-restricted content on popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer.
- Split tunneling — Allows you to route some of your internet traffic through the VPN and some through your local network.
- An ad blocker — Blocks ads, tracking sites, and malicious websites.
- And a lot more…
ProtonVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market, but there are a couple of things that need improvement. For starters, ProtonVPN isn’t able to bypass government firewalls — so if you live in or are traveling to a country that restricts the internet, ProtonVPN isn’t a good option (ExpressVPN is the best for that). I’d also like to see ProtonVPN provide 24/7 live chat and respond to customer support emails quicker. Finally, I don’t like ProtonVPN’s tier-based pricing model — most competitors provide the same features on all plans (which usually only differ in the subscription length), whereas ProtonVPN only provides access to all of its tools on its most expensive plans.
ProtonVPN has a free plan and 3 subscription plans that come with a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.
|Overall Rank||#2 out of 45 VPNs|
|Number of Servers||1,200+|
|Number of Devices||Up to 10|
|Starting Price||per month|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 days (prorated)|
ProtonVPN Full Review
I spent a few weeks testing, researching, and looking into all aspects of ProtonVPN. And I can safely say that it’s one of the top VPNs on the market.
ProtonVPN has a reputation as being a high-privacy VPN, coming from the same company that makes the ultra-secure, encrypted email service ProtonMail.
And this VPN really does have lots of high-privacy features, along with intuitive user apps, strong streaming and torrenting capabilities, and pretty fast connection speeds.
ProtonVPN includes all of the essential VPN privacy features, like:
- 256-bit AES encryption. This is one of the strongest encryption algorithms in the world (sometimes called “military-grade” encryption).
- No-logs policy. ProtonVPN doesn’t keep logs of personal information or online activity.
- Kill switch. This feature automatically disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection fails. Note that ProtonVPN’s in-app kill switch is only available on macOS and Windows. But there are similar features for Android and iOS.
ProtonVPN also has a few extra security features, like:
- Perfect forward secrecy. This changes your encryption key each time you connect to a ProtonVPN server, so if one encryption key is compromised, only the data on that one key is vulnerable (and not any past or future sessions).
- Full-disk encryption. If a ProtonVPN server is compromised, disk encryption keeps all of the data on that server secure and unreadable.
ProtonVPN offers only 2 protocols, including IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN. These protocols are available for Android, iOS, and Macs, whereas the Windows app only supports OpenVPN. I’d like to see ProtonVPN add WireGuard (a newer and faster protocol) to all platforms in the future, which competitors like CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access offer.
ProtonVPN also has built-in leak protection for DNS, WebRTC, and IPv4. Although it doesn’t support IPv6, ProtonVPN automatically disables all IPv6 traffic by default — so you don’t have to worry about doing this yourself. Other VPNs like Surfshark require you to manually disable IPv6 on your devices, so it’s good that ProtonVPN makes it easy to stay protected.
ProtonVPN’s Secure Core server architecture passes your data through 2 servers before it leaves the ProtonVPN network. This way, if a third party hacks the final destination server, it will only be able to trace your connection back to the Secure Core server (and not your device). ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers are based in underground data centers in Switzerland,Sweden, and also on a former military base in Iceland.
Secure Core is similar to a double VPN connection — but double VPN connections bounce your data through 2 normal servers in 2 random countries while Secure Core routes your traffic through 2 Secure Core servers, including 1 hyper-secure server that’s in an ultra-secure location, thereby providing even stronger protection. ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers are more like CyberGhost VPN’s NoSpy servers (that route your connection through servers that are housed at the company’s headquarters in Romania).
Routing your traffic through 2 servers will naturally slow down your speed more than when you’re connected to just one server — when I manually connected to a Secure Core server, websites took 5-6 seconds to load, which is pretty slow. But Secure Core servers are still faster than most competitor’s double VPN features (NordVPN’s double VPN connection took me an average of 10 seconds for websites to load).
I only recommended using this feature if you’re looking to take extra measures to keep your online identity anonymous or if you’re in a high-risk country that may monitor your internet traffic. Even still, ProtonVPN’s Secure Core is an excellent privacy feature that is not available with many other VPNs.
NetShield blocks ads, trackers, and malicious sites. I tested this feature by visiting websites that are usually littered with ads — NetShield blocked every single ad on those websites. These websites were much less cluttered, and the websites even loaded a little faster because there were no more ads.
I really like ProtonVPN’s NetShield tool. It works just as well as NordVPN’s CyberSec tool, and it is better at blocking ads than Surfshark’s CleanWeb and CyberGhost VPN’s ad blocker (ExpressVPN doesn’t even have an ad blocker).
NetShield is no doubt one of ProtonVPN’s best security extras — it doesn’t have the full-featured phishing protection that many antiviruses have, but it blocked all ads and pop-us and prevented me from visiting malicious and tracking websites.
ProtonVPN’s split-tunneling feature lets you include or exclude web browsers, apps, and even IP addresses from the VPN tunnel — this is better than most competitors’ split-tunneling features (ExpressVPN only lets you redirect apps).
However, like most other VPNs, ProtonVPN also supports split-tunneling on Windows and Android only — I’d love to see ProtonVPN add split-tunneling to the Mac or iOS app, but considering that very few competitors provide this feature for Apple users (ExpressVPN has split-tunneling for macOS 10.15 and below, and Private Internet Access supports split-tunneling on macOS 11), I can’t say this is a dealbreaker.
I tested ProtonVPN’s split-tunneling feature by connecting to a US dedicated P2P server and excluding my Chrome browser traffic from the VPN tunnel, and it worked well. It ended up increasing both my browsing and torrenting speeds.
ProtonVPN’s split-tunneling tool is a useful feature for redirecting some of your internet activity through your local network, but I prefer Surfshark’s split-tunneling feature, which lets you whitelist individual websites.
Still, ProtonVPN’s split-tunneling feature is really good — it does what it says it does, there are no glitches, and it’s easy to set up.
Tor over VPN
ProtonVPN supports The Onion Router (Tor) over VPN on designated servers located in France, Germany, and Hong Kong. I like how easy it is to use Tor over VPN with ProtonVPN. All that you need to do is connect to one of ProtonVPN’s Tor servers (identified by an onion icon next to the server), and then all of your traffic is automatically routed through the Tor network.
This lets you surf .onion sites on your own browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) instead of downloading the Tor browser. The one drawback is your internet speed slows down significantly (because it encrypts your traffic several times) while connected to the Tor network — it took me more than 15 seconds for websites to load.
Overall, ProtonVPN’s Tor over VPN is an easy and quick way to access the Tor network. Most users won’t need this tool (ProtonVPN’s regular servers are secure for normal browsing, streaming, and torrenting), but it’s an excellent (and very convenient) option for those who do need it.
ProtonVPN Privacy & Security
ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which has some of the toughest data privacy laws in the world. Switzerland also doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws, and it isn’t a part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (a group of nations that have agreed to share intelligence data).
ProtonVPN also has a strict no-logs policy — it only collects your email address (for communication purposes), payment details (like your name and partial info), and a timestamp of the last login attempt (but it doesn’t include any identifiable information). To remain more anonymous, you can pay with cash or Bitcoin. My only complaint with ProtonVPN’s no-logs policy is that it hasn’t been audited by an independent third-party — competitors like ExpressVPN have undergone third-party audits to confirm their privacy policies, and Private Internet Access has even had its no-logs policy tested and confirmed in court (multiple times).
I really like that all of ProtonVPN’s apps are open-source. This means anyone can investigate ProtonVPN’s security. Plus, all of ProtonVPN’s apps have been independently audited and verified for vulnerable security risks — the audits found only “medium” and “low” risks that ProtonVPN quickly resolved.
Like CyberGhost VPN, ProtonVPN issues transparency reports that detail all of the requests it receives for user data (from law enforcement and government agencies). When you look at these reports, you may notice large gaps in between the dates each report is published, but this is because ProtonVPN rarely receives user data requests.
Overall, ProtonVPN has a transparent no-logs policy, is headquartered in a country with strict data privacy protection laws, and has open-source apps that have been audited and confirmed to be safe.
ProtonVPN Speed & Performance
I conducted speed tests for a server in each of the 55 countries where ProtonVPN has a server to get an average internet speed — and my average decrease in speed was 35%, which is above average.
Overall, ProtonVPN had very good speed on local servers (I’m located in the US). While my speed test results weren’t great when I connected to servers in Europe, South America, and Africa, I actually maintained pretty good speeds for browsing, streaming, gaming, and torrenting. I had a similar experience even when I connected to a distant server in Australia (where videos and websites took extra time to load, but the delays were minimal).
I first ran a speed test connected to my local internet service provider (ISP) to get a baseline of my internet speed.
Then, I clicked on ProtonVPN’s Quick Connect tool (that finds the fastest server) and was connected to a nearby server. I had a 19% drop in download speed, but I was able to surf the web, watch videos on YouTube, and share files with no delay. In fact, it felt as if I wasn’t even connected to a VPN.
Next, I connected to a ProtonVPN server in Italy. My ping (the time it takes for the internet signal to travel from the device to the VPN server) significantly increased and my download speed decreased by a whopping 87%! But my actual internet speed was hardly affected. Websites loaded almost instantly, content on Netflix and Disney+ streamed in HD quality and without any lag (although it took 5-10 seconds for TV shows and movies to begin), and I still downloaded large files at fast speed.
Finally, I connected to a ProtonVPN server in Australia, which is one of the farthest servers from my location, and I experienced my slowest browsing speeds (although my download speed actually increased a little bit from what it was in Italy). Websites averaged about 4-6 seconds to load, and it took anywhere from 15-30 seconds for content to start to play on streaming apps, but TV shows and movies remained in HD the entire time and there was no buffering.
Overall, ProtonVPN’s speed test numbers may not look great, but ProtonVPN has some pretty fast speed to support almost any online activity. I maintained great speeds when I connected to servers in the US (my home country), and even though my download speeds decreased a lot when I was connected to distant servers, ProtonVPN still provided me with sufficient speeds to stream content with only minor delays (just for the content to load) and share P2P files.
ProtonVPN Servers & IP Addresses
ProtonVPN has 1,200+ servers located in 55 countries. Some top VPNs have more servers (CyberGhost VPN has 6,800+ servers), and other VPNs have servers in more countries (ExpressVPN is in 94 countries), but I think ProtonVPN’s server network is good enough for most users. While most of ProtonVPN’s servers are located in the US and Europe, it has servers in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia — so you’ll be able to connect to a nearby server no matter where you live.
I like that ProtonVPN only uses physical servers — these provide better security than virtual servers (which aren’t located in the same country whose IP address you get). ProtonVPN also uses shared IP addresses. This is good because you share the same IP address with many other users, which helps provide extra anonymity. If you’re looking for a dedicated IP address, you need to look elsewhere (like CyberGhost VPN or Private Internet Access) as ProtonVPN doesn’t have them.
I really like ProtonVPN’s “Plus” servers that are designed for unblocking geo-restrictions on streaming sites. I rarely had a problem streaming content on my favorite sites while I was connected to a Plus server in different countries. If you want to torrent, ProtonVPN has dedicated P2P servers located in 10+ countries. Finally, ProtonVPN will connect you to the Tor network with one click on its Tor Over VPN servers in France, Germany, and Hong Kong.
Overall, ProtonVPN has a good network of physical servers, and it has dedicated servers for streaming, torrenting, and connecting to the Tor network.
ProtonVPN Streaming & Torrenting
ProtonVPN claims to unblock 25+ different streaming apps. And it includes an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to unblock each streaming service. ProtonVPN provides access to streaming content only on its Plus servers, which are only available to ProtonVPN’s Plus and Visionary subscribers. ProtonVPN bypasses geo-restrictions on sites like Netflix (in 10+ countries), BBC iPlayer, Disney+, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and ABC.
ProtonVPN allows torrenting on its dedicated P2P servers (and supports torrenting on all 3 of its paid plans). These P2P servers are located in 10+ different countries, including Iceland, Singapore, Switzerland, and the US. I downloaded files using BitTorrent and uTorrent, and ProtonVPN worked seamlessly with each torrent client. Before I began to download any files, I first ran a handful of DNS leak tests on 10 different servers. I wanted to make sure ProtonVPN wasn’t going to leak my IP address or any other personal information while I was torrenting. Fortunately, none of my tests revealed any leaks.
Overall, ProtonVPN is good for accessing geo-restricted content, and it also supports P2P traffic. I was able to access popular streaming sites like Netflix, HBO, and BBC iPlayer, as well as download content on all major torrenting clients.
ProtonVPN Government Bypassing
ProtonVPN is not the best option for overcoming internet censorship in countries that restrict online access. It doesn’t have certain obfuscation tools that help bypass internet blocks in countries like China. But there have been limited reports of ProtonVPN overcoming restrictions in countries that are less able to detect VPN traffic.
That said, if you live in a restrictive country, I recommend ExpressVPN, which provides obfuscation on all of its 3,000+ servers.
ProtonVPN Plans & Pricing
ProtonVPN is one of the rare VPNs to offer tier-based subscription plans — it has a free plan as well as a few paid plans that differ in the number of features available.
ProtonVPN Free allows for 1 device, has “medium” speeds, and provides access to just 3 servers (in the US, Japan, and the Netherlands). I really like how the free plan gives you unlimited data (unlike other free plans that place a limit on data), but you don’t have access to Plus servers for streaming, dedicated torrenting servers, or the NetShield. That said, ProtonVPN’s free plan is still the best free VPN on the market.
ProtonVPN’s Basic plan includes 2 connections, access to servers in all 55 countries, “high” speeds, P2P support, and NetShield. The ProtonVPN Plus plan allows 5simultaneous connections, includes the “highest” speeds, and also adds access to the Plus servers for streaming, Secure Core servers, and Tor servers. The Plus plan is the best-value plan, but it is still double the price (or more) than other top VPNs that offer many of the same features.
The ProtonVPN Visionary plan adds 10 connections and a ProtonMail account, but this plan costs 3 times more than the Plus plan, and I’d only recommend it if you need to use a premium version of ProtonMail. If you’re looking for a VPN that allows more than 5 connections, I recommend IPVanish because it gives you unlimited device connections on the same account.
All ProtonVPN premium plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, but I don’t like that ProtonVPN’s money-back guarantee is prorated. This means that you are charged for each day that you use ProtonVPN up until the 30-day deadline. So, if you cancel ProtonVPN after using it for 15 days, you will only receive a 50% refund — not a 100% refund like most every other competitor offers (like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access).
ProtonVPN accepts credit cards, Paypal, Bitcoin, and cash.
Overall, there are much cheaper VPN options than ProtonVPN on the market — for exampleCyberGhost VPN includes similar features, faster speeds, a 45-day 100% money-back guarantee, and is much cheaper. But if you’re looking for a VPN that places a heavy emphasis on security and privacy, ProtonVPN is a very good value.
ProtonVPN Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps
ProtonVPN offers apps for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, and Android TVs. It also works on some routers. Downloading and installing ProtonVPN is very easy — I added ProtonVPN onto my Android and iOS smartphones in about 1 minute, and it took less than 5 minutes to install the app on my Windows and Mac computers.
ProtonVPN’s Android app is really good — it’s feature-rich, provides fast speeds, and is very easy to navigate.
I really like how easy and quick it is to find a fast ProtonVPN server. You can use the Quick Connect option (which automatically connects you to the fastest server) or manually choose a server — ProtonVPN indicates each server load percentage with either a green dot (low percentage), yellow dot (medium), or red dot (high). It’s easy to find P2P, Plus, and Tor servers by tapping on the drop-down button that lists all of the servers for each country.
You can also connect to a server using a map, but I don’t recommend this option for Android or iOS — it will take you extra time to find your desired connection point because you will need to zoom in on popular server locations (like Europe).
I really like the app’s “Profiles” option on the main screen. This is where you can create your own connection preferences — you can choose the country you want to connect to, automatically pick the “fastest” server or manually select a specific server, and enable Secure Core and Smart Protocol (which automatically switches you to a different protocol if the default protocol is blocked by a network such as an employer or university).
The kill switch isn’t supported within the ProtonVPN app for Android. Instead, you can enable the kill switch by tapping on the “Block connections without a VPN” option on your Android device (ProtonVPN gives you step-by-step instructions on how to do it in the Settings tab). Android also has an “Always-on” feature, which automatically reconnects you to the VPN if you get disconnected (this option is permanently enabled on iOS, but Android users need to manually turn it on).
Overall, I really like ProtonVPN’s Android app — it’s very easy to use, has excellent security features, and is easy to customize.
The ProtonVPN iOS app is nearly identical to the Android app. The biggest difference is the iOS app doesn’t have split-tunneling. However, most VPNs that have split-tunneling don’t support it on iOS and macOS (except ExpressVPN has split-tunneling for macOS versions 10.15 or under and Private Internet Access has split tunneling for all macOS versions). As I noted above, the iOS app doesn’t have a kill switch, but the Always-on tool is permanently turned on with iOS devices.
ProtonVPN’s iOS app is as good as the Android app — it’s well-designed, user-friendly, and includes great security features.
Like the Android and iOS apps, the Windows/Mac apps are very similar to one another. You can connect to a ProtonVPN server with just one click by using the Quick Connect tool. When you connect to a server, it’s neat how ProtonVPN displays the steps your connection is taking as it’s happening — initializing a connection, authenticating the user, establishing VPN tunnel, and assigning you an IP. At the top of the window, ProtonVPN displays the name of your server (for example, United States > US-NJ#11), your IP address, the load percentage, and your protocol. At the bottom of the screen, ProtonVPN displays “Session Traffic” metrics to highlight your network usage and time.
To manually connect to a server, scroll down the list of countries under the Countries tab (or you can select a country on the map). Like with the mobile apps, ProtonVPN lists the cities where each server is located and the load percentage is indicated by a green, yellow, or red circle. I appreciate how ProtonVPN keeps it simple to find special servers — the Plus servers have a “P” inside a square next to the server, P2P servers are identified by arrows on top of one another pointed in opposite directions, and Tor servers have an onion icon next to them.
While the Windows and Mac apps include most of the same features, there are a couple of small differences. The Windows app only comes with OpenVPN, and the Mac app doesn’t have split-tunneling.
Overall, the Windows and Mac apps are full-featured, come with a lot of great customization tools, and are very user-friendly.
ProtonVPN Apps: Is ProtonVPN Easy to Use?
Yes, ProtonVPN’s apps are really easy to use. The Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac apps are built with similar interfaces and include most of the same features. The kill switch isn’t available with the Android or iOS apps. Instead, you must manually activate the kill switch on your Android device, but ProtonVPN provides simple instructions in the Settings tab on how to do this. The iOS app has the Always-on feature that automatically reconnects you to a ProtonVPN server if you get disconnected. Also, the iOS and macOS apps don’t come with split-tunneling, and the Windows app only has the OpenVPN protocol — the other operating systems also support IKEv2.
ProtonVPN Customer Support
ProtonVPN provides a thorough library of support guides and a support form, but there is no 24/7 live chat or a telephone contact number. The support guides offer a good source of helpful information. They are separated into 6 different categories — Account, Download and setup, General Information, Access Content, Troubleshooting, and Speed and bandwidth. The guides are very thorough and answered most of my questions, and when I couldn’t find an answer under one of the categories, the search option provided me with a quick way to find a solution.
ProtonVPN’s support form (which doubles as an email) is so-so. It took me over a day to receive a reply (most VPNs will respond in less than a day), but at least ProtonVPN made a genuine effort to answer all of my questions with detailed information.
However, I really want a live chat option. I like being able to contact an agent and work with them in real time to resolve my problem (competitors like ExpressVPN offer a live chat).
I contacted ProtonVPN via email to request my refund. It was hassle-free, and the money was added back onto my credit card in 5 days.
ProtonVPN’s customer support is not the best, but it’s decent. Not having 24/7 live chat is a big drawback, and I don’t like having to wait to get a response via email. That said, the email response I received was very helpful, and I think the support guides do a good job of answering the most important questions.
Is ProtonVPN the Best VPN for Security and Privacy?
ProtonVPN provides great security features, is very easy to use, has really good speeds, bypasses geo-restricted streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu, supports P2P file sharing on dedicated servers, and allows up to 10 connections.
In my speed tests, ProtonVPN wasn’t as fast as some other VPNs, but it still provided really good connection speeds for browsing, streaming, torrenting, and gaming. Even though my download speed dropped by more than 75% in some distant locations, I was able to watch content in HD and without any interruptions — and websites took only 1-2 extra seconds to load.
When it comes to security and privacy, it’s difficult to top ProtonVPN. It has standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and fast and secure protocols, but ProtonVPN also includes extras like Secure Core (double VPN routing), NetShield (ad/tracking blocker), Tor over VPN, perfect forward secrecy, full-disk encryption, and open-source apps that have been independently audited. And ProtonVPN has a strict no-logs policy and is based in privacy-friendly Switzerland, which doesn’t have mandatory data-retention laws and is located outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances.
But ProtonVPN isn’t perfect. I’m disappointed that ProtonVPN can’t bypass government restrictions in countries like China, and I’d also like to see 24/7 live chat added to its customer support and a quicker response time with emails (ExpressVPN can be used in China and has 24/7 live chat). Plus, I’m not a big fan of ProtonVPN’s tier-based subscription plans — it’s too expensive to get all the top features, and most competitors don’t limit users in this way.
All that said, ProtonVPN has the best free VPN plan out there, and all of its paid plans are backed by a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.
ProtonVPN — Frequently Asked Questions
Is ProtonVPN safe?
Yes, ProtonVPN is very safe. In fact, it’s one of the most secure VPNs on the market. In addition to industry-standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy, ProtonVPN includes extra features like Secure Core servers (double VPN routing), NetShield (an ad/tracking blocker), perfect forward secrecy (changes your encryption key after each session), and much more.
Is ProtonVPN free?
Yes, ProtonVPN has a free plan. The free plan allows you to connect 1 device, offers “medium” speeds, and gives you access to 3 servers (located in the Netherlands, Japan, and the US). The best part about ProtonVPN’s free plan is that it doesn’t set a limit on your data. However, if you want access to streaming servers, torrenting servers, Tor over VPN, faster speed, and more connection locations, you’ll need to upgrade to one of ProtonVPN’s paid plans (which are all backed by a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee).
Does ProtonVPN work with Netflix?
Yes, ProtonVPN works with Netflix. In my tests, it unblocked the popular streaming service in 10+ countries (including the US, UK, Italy, and Australia). ProtonVPN is pretty fast, so I was able to watch Netflix content in HD quality and without interruptions. But it’s important to note that ProtonVPN only supports streaming on its Plus servers, so only users who are on the Plus and Visionary plans have access to these streaming servers.
Does ProtonVPN work on Android + iOS?
Yes, in fact, ProtonVPN has some of the best mobile VPN apps. They both have an intuitive interface, 1-2 tap connections, fast speeds, and include OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
The only drawback with the iOS app is it doesn’t have split-tunneling (most iOS VPNs don’t). Also, the iOS app doesn’t have a kill switch. Instead, ProtonVPN’s iOS app has a setting that automatically reestablishes your connection if you’re disconnected from VPN.