Is PrivateVPN really a private VPN?
Having chosen a name that is close to the hearts of most people who want a VPN in the first place.
It’s based in Sweden… isn’t that country part of the 14 eyes countries that would happily collect and expose your sensitive personal information?
The government could walk in anytime and say… hey yo, hand over the logs!
Well, I was worried about this too.
So apart from signing up for a free trial, I also went ahead and did some research to find out what PrivateVPN is really up to.
In this PrivateVPN review, we are going to look at the pros and cons of PrivateVPN so that you can decide whether it’s the vpn service you really want to buy.
First let me give you a quick summary of what I found out before we then dive into the details of how each of these play out.
I’ll also finish this review of PrivateVPN in 2020 by suggesting some PrivateVPN alternatives… just in case you are not sold on it yet.
PrivateVPN is a vpn service provider based in Sweden, that enables you to unblock streaming services like Netflix, Hulu as well as P2P file sharing through torrents across the globe.
They have a collection of 150 vpn servers based in 60 different countries with a strict no logs policy.
While they don’t keep information about your internet usage, there are other information they keep about you that may or may not bother you… read along to find out which they are.
Let’s now take a bird’s eye look in this PrivateVPN review.
|Streaming||Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iPlayer|
|Free trial||7 days trial|
Let’s begin by counting the number of servers PrivateVPN has.
Usually the more vpn servers a provider has, the more powerful their service is… or is it?
As of the time of writing this PrivateVPN review in 2020, PrivateVPN has a total of 150 vpn servers spread across 60 different countries…
While this is a minute number compared to the thousands of vpn servers that vpn services like NordVPN and CyberGhost have… it speaks to the size of this company.
PrivateVPN is a pretty small company that focuses on just being good at a few things instead of being everything for everyone.
Also, as we’ll discover later, PrivateVPN is able to deliver great speeds that match those of established vpns with thousands of servers… so don’t let the small server count trick you.
Will you be able to stream Netflix using PrivateVPN?
A good number of people sign up for VPN services in order to be able to access geo restricted content.
More often than not, vpn users want to be able to access popular streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, iPlayer etc.
While most VPNs will struggle to unblock all of these services at once, most even struggle to unblock them in the different countries.
After trying PrivateVPN, I was able to unblock Netflix for the US, UK and Germany.
I also found something very interesting…
Most vpns promise to unblock streaming services but don’t specify which servers exactly are great for which streaming platforms.
While the servers that unblock Netflix for PrivateVPN are limited, they are clearly labelled and easy to find… and in all cases they worked fine.
In the app interface, you’ll find a list of servers with their physical locations and labels on the particular services they unblock.
I found servers for unblocking, not only Netflix, but also Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ABC and Amazon Video.
So clearly, PrivateVPN is a great vpn for you if you want to be able to access geo restricted content through these streaming platforms.
Even though I don’t obsess over it…
The question of vpn connection speeds is a topic I’m very excited about.
It even bothers me that most vpns, PrivateVPN included, claim on their websites that they are the fastest vpn providers… when this is clearly not true.
Anyway, I put PrivateVPN to test to find out what it has to offer in terms of speed.
In order to test PrivateVPN speeds I connected to three of its servers based in three different locations and tested the download and upload speeds using speedtest.net and here is what I found out.
Before I connected to the vpn servers I tested my speeds and I had a download speed of 3.70Mbps and an upload of 0.25Mbps.
After connecting to the USA based server my download speed dropped to 2.75Mbps while my upload speed increased to 0.49Mbps.
The UK based server performed the best.
While connected to the UK based server I was able to keep 100% of my original download speeds and my upload speeds also increased to 0.52Mbps.
However, on the Hong Kong based server I experienced further drops in speeds.
My download speed dropped to 2.43Mbps while my upload speeds increased to 1.37Mbps.
Even though the connections speeds dropped to a great extent I was still able to maintain an average of 86% of my original connection speeds.
I consider any vpn that can keep at least 80% of my original connection speeds to be fast enough.
You see…? A smaller server count doesn’t equal a weaker service.
However, finding the fastest server on PrivateVPN can be pretty hard as it has to be done manually.
Contrary to other vpns that will label its fastest servers, PrivateVPN does not label their fastest servers… you kind just have to test each one out one by one.
Additionally, while some vpn providers are able to keep stable speeds even for distant servers…
This is not the case for PrivateVPN because when I tested streaming speeds with servers that were far from me, like in a separate continent, my connection speeds suffered a big hit.
However, overall compared to other vpns I have used, PrivateVPN offers excellent connections speeds.
If you are looking for a vpn that delivers on its connection speed promises…
PrivateVPN does it.
While writing this review of PrivateVPN in 2020, I had to try it with one of my favorite activities online…
After copyright agencies went hard on vpn providers, most of them abandoned support for P2P file sharing.
For example, CyberGhost blocks all torrenting attempts for its servers based in Australia.
PrivateVPN being based in one of the anti-piracy countries followed suit… but not entirely.
Luckily, PrivateVPN supports torrenting on some of its selected servers… the torrenting enabled servers are enable so you just click the list of the torrenting servers available and choose one to connect to.
Just like you can see in the screenshot above, the P2P optimized servers and dedicated IPs are grouped together.
In fact, because they don’t keep your logs, you’ll be able to torrent safely and privately without a problem.
My torrenting speeds we also great, so you won’t suffer any serious hits when torrenting as long as you are on the right server.
If your decision to purchase PrivateVPN is based on whether or not it can torrent, then there you have it… PrivateVPN supports torrenting.
Even though I have been mentioning that PrivateVPN offers you privacy here and there…
This topic deserves a more indepth look.
So it doesn’t collect any information about your browsing history that could be used to identify you like your IP adddress, connection timestamps or bandwidth usage.
To ensure that you give less information about you as possible, create an account with a disposable email address and pay with some bitcoins.
Since they support cryptocurrencies, it will ensure you leave no identifying information on their servers.
Encryption & Data Protection
Apart from not keeping you usage logs, is the data safe once it leaves the server?
In this day and age, there are always malicious hackers wanting a piece of the show by hijacking internet traffic and decrypting the content.
Once with this information, they can use it to blackmail you or expose you.
Well, I’ll confirm in this PrivateVPN review that this vpn service delivers top notch data encryption.
Even if a hacker hijacked the packets, they won’t be able to decipher the actual data.
PrivateVPN uses NSA recommended AES 256-bit military grade encryption.
It is the type of data encryption that governments and militaries use to encrypt very classified sensitive information and it has never been hacked… or should I say it’s impossible to hack?
PrivateVPN also provides various vpn connection protocols for even safer and faster data transmission.
With this vpn, you’ll get access to 5 protocols including OpenVPN, L2TP, IPsec, PPTP, and IKEv2.
While this might sound interesting to some… I think it’s a headache especially as a beginner for 2 reasons.
First, while most vpns have moved away from dated and unsafe protocols like PPTP, PrivateVPN still supports it… why don’t they just strike it off the list?
OpenVPN for Android, Windows and Linux while IKEv2/IPsec is for iOS and macOS period. No choosing. Good for me.
However, if you are savvy enough, these vpn connection options that PrivateVPN offers in 2020 are really interesting… if you know what you are doing.
For example if you want more security and safety, choose OpenVPN whereas if you want faster connection speeds on a mobile device select IKEv2.
Again, when it comes to OpenVPN, there are two connection options UDP and TCP.
Choose OpenVPN with UDP if you want faster speeds, like when streaming Netflix and choose TCP for data consistency when downloading or torrenting stuff.
So if you want a vpn that provides you with a variety of connection protocols to choose from then PrivateVPN is the best vpn for you.
Besides data encryption and no logs policy, what other security features does PrivateVPN provide you that guarantee safer internet usage?
Well, let’s find out.
Ad & Malware Blocker
Let’s start with the bad news.
While most vpns in 2020 implement advertisement and malware blocking functionalities, PrivateVPN is left out of the party when it comes to this.
Ads and malware blockers are conspicuously missing in all the PrivateVPN apps.
Remember those video ads that randomly start playing somewhere on your screen, often without audio?
They’ll still be there too. CyberGhost has a great feature for really blocking them.
How about specialized servers for particular activities?
Well, I’d say in this PrivateVPN review that they are not too late to the party.
First, PrivateVPN provides great specialized servers especially for streaming and a few for torrenting.
Even though these servers are great at what they do, notwithstanding their small number, I believe PrivateVPN could do better in other areas.
For example, I look forward to them implementing dedicated IPs where I could select an IP for a single person use, like when accessing banking services.
Other vpns like NordVPN already have this.
There is also a functionality that’s akin to double encryption that I see with CyberGhost servers that provides additional security.
Overall though, I am impressed with the performance of the dedicated streaming and torrenting servers PrivateVPN currently provides for a company of this size.
Another amazing feature that other vpns are crazy about in 2020 is obfuscated servers.
Or as PrivateVPN calls it, stealth servers.
In some countries internet and vpn usage is really controlled.
For example in Qatar, UAE or even China, you not only cannot access certain websites like Facebook, but you are also not allowed to use vpns.
So if you go to these countries, you not only need to bypass the firewall and access these restricted sites, but you also need to do it without being detected that you are using a vpn.
That’s where PrivateVPN’s stealth servers come in.
In fact, this stealth technology means the ability of PrivateVPN stealth servers to successful bypass China’s firewall.
If you want a vpn that you could carry with you to China someday, go for PrivateVPN.
I’m currently putting together a list of the other vpns that have proved to be able to bypass the Chinese great firewall.
Once it’s complete I’ll come back here and update the link.
Before sitting down to write this review of PrivateVPN, I wanted to make sure I don’t forget to talk about its kill switch.
Does PrivateVPN have a kill switch?
Wait… what’s a kill switch in the first place and why should you care?
Let me explain.
We both agree that a vpn connection ensures you can access the internet privately and securely. yes.
But did you know that your internet access is only safe and secure as long as you remain connected to the vpn servers?
That once your connection drops and your vpn disconnects from the vpn server your real IP address is revealed and your ISP logs your every move after that.
Unfortunately, a connection drop over wifi is very common and occurs several times a day without you even noticing.
So, a kill switch ensures that your internet access is blocked for your entire device whenever there is a connection drop until the vpn server reconnects.
Therefore your IP is not exposed.
PrivateVPN, just like other high end vpns has a powerful kill switch just for this. It even lets you select particular applications whose connection you want blocked.
The only problem is that the kill switch is only available for the Windows desktop app… all other apps don’t have it.
IPv6, DNS and WebRTC leaks
A good vpn should be able to prevent your IPv6 address from being revealed whenever you are connected to their servers.
Sometimes a technology like WebRTC that powers real time video calls can also leak your IP address.
In addition to that you should also be able to have all your DNS queries run through your vpn’s DNS servers and not through your ISP DNS servers to ensure that your ISP cannot see the websites that you visit.
I used ipleak.net to test if there were any leaks while connected to the PrivateVPN servers and here is what I found out.
From the screenshot above it is clear that there were not IPv6, DNS or WebRTC leaks when connected to PrivateVPN.
The Onion Router (TOR) is a very popular popular browser among people who want to browse the internet anonymously.
It is the first thing I tried when I started being curious about online safety, before finally purchasing a vpn plan.
Tor is one of the closest things to complete anonymity online.
However, while Tor cleans your tracks online by bouncing your requests through different servers, the entry node to the network still gets to see your real IP.
So combining a vpn with Tor takes your anonymity online from somewhere to 100%.
This guide on the PrivateVPN support website takes you through how to connect PrivateVPN with Tor.
If you are a Tor user then be merry because PrivateVPN seamlessly works with Tor.
If you are looking for a VPN that works with Tor, then get a plan with PrivateVPN today and get started.
I know you are like…
All that sounds really good. This is the vpn I want to buy but what is all these really going to cost me?
I’m glad you asked.
Let’s now review the various PrivateVPN pricing plans in 2020 and see which one really works for you.
First let me underscore that while PrivateVPN delivers some very high end, premium functionalities… it doesn’t carry the same attitude into its pricing.
Compared to other premium vpn services that I review on this blog, PrivateVPN is pretty much cheaper for a budget buyer.
You’ll pay $10.95/month for a 1-month plan.
That’s completely okay since most, if not all, vpns make you sweat it for a month by month plan – just to entice you into a longer subscription plan.
For a 3-month plan you’ll pay $7.50/month which totals to $22.50 billable.
A 24-month (2-year) plan sets you back $2.55/month, billable as $61.20.
In my opinion this is very cheap pricing for a vpn of the class of PrivateVPN that does not try to be everything for everyone.
It’s evident that the longer the plan, the cheaper it is overall.
What if you purchase PrivateVPN plan but then realize that you don’t like what you get… or for whatever reason you are not satisfied with your purchase?
Can you get your money back or you should simply count your losses and move on?
For every PrivateVPN plan that you buy, you get a 30-day money back guarantee.
Well, you get to try the vpn services for 30 days… all the premium features I mentioned here and if you are not satisfied, just email support and you get a refund.
But PrivateVPN refund is not a no questions asked kind of refund.
First of all you have to provide them with a convicing reason why you want to cancel your vpn plan.
After that is done, for you to be able to get a refund you must not have used more than 100GB of data bandwidth during these 30 days.
While this means that you wont get a refund that easy with PrivateVPN… it also brings up another interesting question.
What payment options are available to you when buying a PrivateVPN plan.
I’ll review the various payment options available to you so that you can choose which one works best for you.
First of all, PrivateVPN accepts all the major payment methods like credit cards and PayPal.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want a vpn service knowing my real name and credit card details.
So if a vpn accepts some bitcoins, I’ll go straight for that.
Luckily, PrivateVPN payment options include cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
So if you want complete anonymity, sign up with a fake name, disposable email address and then pay with some bitcoins.
Nobody will ever know who you really are.
But I guess most people wouldn’t do that… they’ll just pay with their credit card and use their actual name and real email address.
That’s totally fine… just like we already saw, you are completely safe and private online while using PrivateVPN.
So if you want a vpn service provider that offers you a ton of payment options, including bitcoin, then I recommend PrivateVPN.
Hmm, what if I don’t wanna pay anything to try this service?
Well, first let me tell you that this is a business and they’ve got to make money somehow in order to stay in business.
Beware of free vpn services because you end up paying for it in someway… a way you might not necessarily like.
Away from that.
PrivateVPN provides a free 7 day trial for you to test their services and you don’t need to provide any credit card details in order to activate your trial.
However, the trial is limited to the desktop versions and you can only connect one device at a time.
As we near the end of this PrivateVPN review in 2020, let’s take a moment and look at the devices that PrivateVPN supports.
More often than not, you are buying a vpn to be able to use it on all your devices or maybe with your family too.
In 2020, a great vpn service should not only be able to support various devices but also multiple simultaneous connections.
PrivateVPN comes with apps for Android, Windows, mac OS, iOS and Linux.
Remember the kill switch is only available in the Windows app, while all other apps lack it at the moment.
As of the time of writing this review, PrivateVPN does not support any browser extensions, unfortunately.
If all you want is a vpn that you can install in your Chrome or Mozilla browser kindly look elsewhere.
I’m currently in the process to putting together the best vpns for Chrome and the best vpns for Mozilla Firefox… I’ll come back and update these links once the articles are ready.
On the flip side though, you can connect up to 6 devices at the same time which is great if you have multiple devices or want to share your plan with family.
Important to note is that PrivateVPN also supports specific routers so you can install it in your router and use it for you entire network.
If you install it in a router, it counts as just one connection.
Many people can then access the router, as many as the router supports and all will be protected.
Here is a list of the router models that it currently supports as of writing this review: ASUS RT models, DD-WRT, Synology, Linksys, Tomato, pfSense and QNAP.
So if you want a vpn for your router, PrivateVPN will work fine.
Lastly, let’s finish this PrivateVPN review by looking at the quality of customer support you’ll get before or after you become a customer.
While some experienced users might not care, as a beginner it is very important to be able to access fast customer support.
The PrivateVPN support website has a lot of detailed guides for everything from installing the apps to troubleshooting your routers.
While this might be enough in most cases, there are times when you need to talk to a real human being.
And this is where PrivateVPN amazes me.
First they offer live chat support, where I was able to get my questions answered pretty fast.
But the live chat is not available 24/7 as there as times when I went to the support page and it was offline.
I think it’s only online during working hours in Sweden or something like that, though you can still reach them via email or the contact form when live chat is offline.
And now to the most amazing part of PrivateVPN’s customer support…
They offer a unique remote help service where one of their agents can access your machine through TeamViewer (if you permit it of course) and install and troubleshoot the vpn app in your machine while you sit and watch.
How cool is that… ? 🙂
Throw this additional support option into the mix and I am really impressed with PrivateVPN customer support.
If you are looking for a vpn that offers great customer support, I’d definitely recommend PrivateVPN over a vpn like CyberGhost.
First, even though I was worried that being a vpn service located in a 14 eyes country they’d log my internet usage… that was not the case.
- Netfilx, Hulu, Amazon
- Fast speeds
- Torrenting allowed
- Zero logs
- Static IPs
- Kill Switch
- Works in China
- Accepts Bitcoins
- Free 7 day trial
- Only 150 servers
- No ad blocker
- Only 6 devices
With a zero user logs policy, I think my internet usage is safe.
Besides, PrivateVPN is still able to deliver great speeds for torrenting and streaming at a very budget friendly price.
While the total server collection is still quite low, the available ones do a great job, probably better than most other popular vpn services providers out there.
So, would I recommend PrivateVPN?
With a strict no logs policy and military grade encryption, you are pretty much safe. Even if the government wanted logs, there’ll be nothing to hand over.
Plus, you can bypass the great firewall in China and access censored content, thanks to PrivateVPN’s stealth servers.
That’s something I was not able to achieve even with CyberGhost VPN, so if you want a vpn you can carry with you to China, PrivateVPN it is.
I will also compile a special list of the best vpns for China after a few tests.
|NordVPN||Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer||P2P servers||6||$ 3.49/m|
|Surfshark||Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer||P2P servers||Unlimited||$ 1.99/m|
|ExpressVPN||Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer||All servers||5||$ 8.32/m|
Have you used PrivateVPN before?
Please share your experience in the comments below.