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Review: Proton VPN with a Focus on Privacy and Freedom

Proton VPN has a beautiful origin story that began at Europe’s CERN. When a service is born in such an environment, it simply can’t be bad, pose security threats, or be slow. Although it can’t compete with major brands, it definitely has something to offer its users. Why should you consider choosing Proton VPN? That’s what I’ll focus on in this review.

As I wrote, the history of Proton VPN began at Europe’s CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), where the founding team of several scientists met. The goal of the project was to protect the privacy and freedom of Internet users through a VPN service.

Proton VPN does not aim to compete with large brands. This service will not dazzle customers with a huge number of servers, which for many competitors is more of a marketing attraction than a benefit for the users themselves. Compared to the best VPN networks I have tested, Proton VPN is among the more expensive services. As one of the few, it offers a limited VPN service for free, which makes it somewhat of a unicorn among trusted VPN services.

What should concern you the most with a VPN is the security of your privacy. Proton VPN is based in Geneva, Switzerland, a country with the strictest privacy regulations. Additionally, the company’s ownership and investment structure can be quite well mapped out. By this, I mean that from this point of view, Proton VPN is more credible and trustworthy compared to other services. It also has a series of independent audits.

1 Proton VPN Application Preview

Security is the most important thing Proton VPN can offer. If you are one of the users who might be somehow at risk while using the Internet, this VPN service is ideal for you. The main reason is that Switzerland is not one of the 14 Eyes countries and therefore is not subject to EU or US authorities.

In summary

Number of servers2733 (this often changes)
Number of locations (countries)67
Number of devices that can be connected simultaneously10
ApplicationsWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox
Kill SwitchYes
Split tunnelingYes
It can unlock streaming contentYes

How fast is Proton VPN

In my speed test, Proton VPN is one of the faster VPN services. I will show you this based on the average speeds measured in various speed tests.

The average speed is comparable to major brands. The measured data should not be treated as benchmarks, as it is possible to obtain different values with each measurement. The table only shows that the compared services are equal in terms of speed.

ExpressVPNNordVPNProton VPN
Download (Mbps)36,429,131,1
Upload (Mbps)28,815,016,5
Ping (ms)182177168

The connection speed indicator is important for you because it shows how quickly you can download files. Measured values may differ from other tests because I am in a different location than you.

I also need to mention the VPN accelerator, which is reportedly able to increase connection speed by over 400%. It’s interesting, so how does it work?

2 Proton VPN VPN Accelerator

The accelerator works on a modified OpenVPN. This modified version properly distributes CPU load across multiple processes, reducing the overload on a single unit. Additionally, with its accelerator, Proton VPN can split the path between the VPN and the target server into shorter paths. This results in combined and faster performance across the entire route. Of course, the whole process is more complicated, so as users, we just need to know that it will provide us with the highest possible connection speed.

ProtonVPN – Connection Speed Test

LocationDownload [Mbps] Upload [Mbps] Ping [ms]
United States (New York)3210,87104
EU (Frankfurt) 32,2435,6622
Australia (Sydney, Melbourne)28,589,91281
New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington)28,625,11285
Brazil (Sao Paulo)28,8716,33236
United Arab Emirates (Dubai)24,3911,95138
worldwide (average)29,115,0177,7

What important features does Proton VPN have?

Proton VPN has all the important features that a secure and good VPN application must have. However, when visiting the official service website, you might be a bit confused because the site is not clearly organized. In short, you won’t find all the features there, or finding them will be quite difficult. I mean that the features you find in the app are probably not described on the official website.

Proton VPN has important security features, such as the Kill switch function, which automatically disconnects you from the Internet if the VPN connection is broken. In practice, this is important to ensure that your privacy is not accidentally exposed or that transmitted data is not compromised. Here, the Kill switch is supported by the Always-On feature, which tries to reconnect to the VPN server.

3 Proton VPN Kill Switch
The Kill switch must be activated manually.

Personally, I use the Split tunneling feature, which allows me to set which applications will use the VPN connection and which will not. On my computer/phone, I can use the VPN connection, for example, in one web browser, while in another I will have an “unsecured” internet connection.

4 Proton VPN Split Tunneling
Split tunneling is set up in a very simple way.

Proton VPN has a unique Stealth protocol designed to avoid detection by firewalls and other VPN blocking methods. Here, we can talk about the protocol that helps to unblock censored or streaming content that is blocked for users from other countries due to copyright laws. The protocol itself was created to promote freedom and suppress global censorship. Stealth fights censorship by making VPN connections look like normal traffic, so the fact that you are using a VPN is almost undetectable.

In my opinion, the safety of using VPN services also includes data encryption. Network traffic is encrypted using AES-256, key exchange is done using 4096-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA384 is used for message authentication. Every time I connect to a VPN, I generate a unique set of encryption keys. In reality, this means that if a future session were compromised, previous sessions would remain secure. Everything operates on strong protocols – OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. Some may be disappointed that Proton VPN does not support PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.

Price

As I mentioned in the review, Proton VPN has its own free version. You can use it safely and for free. However, you must be prepared for limitations. The free VPN network allows connection to over 100 servers in just 3 countries. If that’s sufficient for you, there’s no reason to hesitate. It’s better than an app from the market, about which you know nothing and can’t be sure how it will handle your data.

5 Proton VPN Price

The paid version is of course much more interesting and allows access to all servers in all available countries. Moreover, the paid plan additionally offers some security features, ad and malware blocking, support for fast streaming or downloading via P2P/torrents. These are things the free version simply does not have.

If you choose the paid version, you can use Proton VPN on 10 devices simultaneously.

The picture shows 2 pricing plans. The most expensive one includes additional services – Proton Mail, Proton Calendar, Proton Drive, and of course VPN. All this for a price slightly higher than just the VPN itself. With Proton Mail, Proton Calendar, and Proton Drive, you get 500 GB of shared data space.

Unlocking Streaming Services

I also couldn’t resist checking whether Proton VPN can unblock streaming content. I typically test this on the BBC website and their iPlayer, which ensures that the content is blocked for foreign users.

To illustrate this, I’ll show you what it looks like when I try to run a BBC series from my internet connection. The program is blocked for me.

6 Proton VPN Blocked BBC iPlayer

Through Proton VPN, you simply connect to one of the servers in the UK, refresh your browser window, and watch your favorite program. The site thinks you are a user from the UK.

7 Proton VPN Unblocked BBC iPlayer
Unblocked BBC iPlayer.

Apps for Windows and Android

Proton VPN has apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, as well as extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers or Chromebook and Android TV. I test the apps on Windows and Android.

Android App

I start with Proton VPN for Android because I was intrigued by its high rating. Given that it is a less known service, a 4.5-star rating is great. If there is any bad rating in the reviews, it is only because the user complains that the content streaming unblock does not work. Users complain about this only in the case of the free version of the VPN. Paid version can unlock streaming services.

8 Proton VPN Android App
This is what the app looks like on Android.

The app is easy to use. I was a bit surprised by the speed of the VPN connection. I click the connection button and I am immediately connected. Almost every VPN application I have tested so far takes a second or more to connect. Not that it’s a big deal, but an instant connection is better than waiting a second. Probably only Proton VPN can be this fast.

Important features can be found within 1-2 clicks. Of course, more advanced settings need to be searched for deeper in the app and its settings, but this is not different from other mobile apps.

Windows Application

Recently, Ivacy VPN annoyed me when, during the download of their application, I had to contact technical support to send me a link to the application that does not report a virus on Windows. Proton VPN does not report any viruses to me. I can only complain about the dark theme of the application. Personally, I don’t like it, but that’s my subjective feeling. I haven’t checked if the dark theme can be changed to a light one.

9 Proton VPN Windows Application
The dark theme doesn’t suit me, but that’s my subjective opinion.

In the Windows application, I like that the most important security features can be enabled on the main screen. You don’t have to look for them in the settings, where you will find more advanced options. I think no one will miss anything there.

10 Proton VPN Windows Application
The most important security features can be enabled on the main screen.

Pros and Cons

Pros (+)Cons (-)
+ Use on 10 devices simultaneously- Fewer servers compared to competitors
+ Apps for various OS
+ Protocol preventing VPN detection

Conclusions

Proton VPN is another standard VPN service in the good sense of the word. Proton VPN strives to improve and take VPN features to the next level. Here, for example, it mentions the Stealth protocol, which tries to fool firewalls and other VPN detectors. The website or service you are visiting simply does not recognize that you are using a VPN. This is good not only for unblocking streaming services. I also really like the VPN Accelerator, which speeds up the VPN connection. At least in the Android app, this stands out, as I am not able to assess whether the accelerator provides any benefit on Windows.

If you’re wondering whether to buy Proton VPN, I think there’s no need to hesitate. I personally tested this VPN for several months and during that time I had no problems at all. Using the app is very pleasant and I must praise the connection speed on Android. It’s truly amazing.

Also, read our regularly updated comparison of the best VPN networks.

5/5 - (1 vote)

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