Disclaimer: The below review is my opinion, which I will try to provide as many examples for and as much evidence as possible to support. Readers can learn more about how I conduct my reviews, my methodology, etc – here. More information on review badges here.
This review’s roll was #4 (at the time of the roll, AirVPN)
Written Sep 5, 2016
Like a handful of other services I’ve tried and reviewed in the past, AirVPN is one service I see cropping up over and over again on affiliate “review” sites. Many VPN companies unfortunately rely on the native advertising (paid reviewer) model to generate referrals for their business, but it may be worth noting that AirVPN has some of the most out of control partners in the industry. Do a search for “AirVPN review” and you will struggle to find many that are written by someone without a financial stake (re: conflict of interest) in readers purchasing service using the links in such reviews. One such affiliate of AirVPN, has in the past, stolen my work and put it up on their own website (and yes, I had reached out to them at the time of the incident in question, and no action was ever taken by them against the offending party). I believe this says something about a service when they’re content to let their resellers run amok. It’s incredibly irresponsible when those they partner with are given free reign to steal copyrighted and trademarked work of others. I like to make a point of illustrating this when it applies to a service I’m reviewing, as it sets the stage given my past experiences of them proving themselves:
Signing up for the service: The first thing that struck me about AirVPN is how elegant the menu of their front page is. Each main section has it’s subsections succinctly located underneath them – in a sort of two tiered bar fashion. This makes finding anything you need very quick and handy as it only requires a click or two to get to almost any part of the site. Because they don’t rely heavily on trackers, issue SSL Certs to themselves (without using CloudFlare, etc), and have a well secured site, they earn the first “Website” badge I’ve ever given out.
The site made it very easy to sign up and also provided the option to NOT create a subscription, but only a one time payment, which is always welcome and conscientious of the service. They also provided a 3 day use pass, which is nice for people who are just looking to try it out.
Configuring the service: I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s one feature in particular that I go crazy for – Config File Generators. AirVPN has possibly the best one I’ve seen to date (using something like 30-40 different services as a baseline between reviews and personal research). It’s fantastic. The process is easy to follow as you scroll down the page. You select your platform, then select the specific server you want a config file for. You can also choose to select entire file packages by country, continent (or planet if you want every server config available). While selecting the servers, you are shown current capacity, city, AND bandwidth – so if you’re looking specifically for a gigabit server, you can see which ones are set up for that and make your choice accordingly. Next you select “connection mode”, from which you can choose from a series of checkboxes, your protocol, port, if you want your certs inline (for Android for example) – or even advanced features like SSH and SSL tunnels, SOCKS, etc. This may sound confusing, but things continue to get better because as these options are sectioned off, they also have instances these options may come in handy (for example your ISP blocks certain things) and guides to help you use them properly.
Once you generate the files, a list appears showing the ones that were generated and letting you download them either one at a time, or in a zipped file in the format of your choice (zip, 7z, tar). If something doesn’t look the way you expected, your configuration is saved below the download links and you can change it to the way you intended without wasting any more time.
Those of you who have read a lot of my reviews, know that I rarely gush about a VPN’s website or additional features, because they’re usually awful and gimmicky, but AirVPN’s Config File Generator is maybe the best and most genuinely useful one I’ve seen yet. Because of this, the fact that they offer many connection methods, and because they offer a PGP key, they are receiving the first ever “Features” badge I’ve given out.
Speed & Stability tests: US speeds on AirVPN were among the fastest I’d seen, however, the international speeds ranged from “pretty good” to “meh”.
|Speed Tests – AirVPN – Desktop|
|No VPN||Trial 1||9||ms||96.48||mbps||11.92||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+23||ms||90.56%||93.84%|
|Comp to Bench||+266||ms||4.70%||27.68%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||336||ms||11.62||mbps||1.65||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+328||ms||10.43%||8.15%|
|Comp to Bench||+349||ms||2.85%||23.28%|
|Speed Tests – AirVPN – Mobile|
|No VPN||Trial 1||11||ms||73.36||mbps||14.52||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+24||ms||46.33%||90.79%|
|Comp to Bench||+309||ms||4.07%||45.82%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||338||ms||3.21||mbps||2.58||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+358||ms||3.66%||13.44%|
|Comp to Bench||+364||ms||3.07%||23.53%|
All tests performed at UDP – AES-256.
Getting support: I sent support an email through the support section of the website, asking some general questions about logging (they only specify that traffic is not logged, but are not clear one way or the other about DNS Requests, Timestamps, Bandwidth, or IP Addresses. I also asked about whether they support IPv6 (which I can’t find anywhere on the site). They responded within 24 hours with a basic (paraphrasing) “no, we don’t log those things” and “we don’t currently support IPv6, but plan to next year”. When a company claims they don’t log, but don’t have the information cited anywhere, it’s hard to take a support rep’s word for something serious like that. It was a relatively fast response, albeit a little simplistic.
Getting a refund: I replied to the support ticket above simply stating that I was unsatisfied and asked for a refund – within a couple of hours, and without any hassle or questioning whatsoever, it was delivered. Excellent service.
AirVPN secures your connections, not your computer.
It’s interesting that they should make a point of saying this. A lot of services are hyperbolic about how bulletproof their service makes you from a privacy and security standpoint, but its good that they appear to be fairly grounded in reality.
Final thoughts: AirVPN is certainly an above average service with lots to like. However, they aren’t perfect and there is a lot that is questionable to me as well. I know you’re probably sick of it by now, but – FILE GENERATOR (VPN Companies, DO THIS MORE). US speeds were amazing, but international speeds were only so-so. I have to ding them for their choice of marketing tactics – especially because I think they would be in a good position to abandon such a shady strategy and survive on their own merits with some adjustments. It’s really hard for me to take a privacy centric service seriously when they engage in tactics that abuse the trust of their potential customers – as I’ve mentioned in my “guide to choosing a VPN“. They could also be better from a privacy standpoint, as they are based in a fourteen eyes country and don’t have the most clear logging policy when it comes to the finer details. Support was fairly quick (less than 24 hours to respond), but pretty basic in their response, but they granted my refund request super fast, within a couple of hours with no questions asked.
In the end, AirVPN is an above average service for a reasonable price – I just wish they would show they were more serious about trust and transparency in this industry. They are in a position to stand on their own two feet with a couple of adjustments and shouldn’t need to rely on bottom feeders to promote them.
|FROM THE VPN COMPARISON CHART|
|JURISDICTION||Based In (Country)||Italy|
|Enemy of the Internet||No|
|Logs DNS Requests|
|Logs IP Address|
|ACTIVISM||Anonymous Payment Method|
|PGP Key Available||Yes|
|Meets PrivacyTools IO Criteria||Yes|
|LEAK PROTECTION||1st Party DNS Servers||Yes|
|IPv6 Supported / Blocked||No|
|Supports TCP Port 443||Yes|
|Supports SSL Tunnel||Yes|
|Supports SSH Tunnel||Yes|
|Other Proprietary Protocols|
|PORT BLOCKING||Auth SMTP||No|
|SPEEDS||US Server Average %||90.56|
|Int’l Server Average %||5.99|
|SERVERS||Dedicated or Virtual|
|SECURITY||Default Data Encryption||AES-256|
|Strongest Data Encryption||AES-256|
|Weakest Handshake Encryption||RSA-4096|
|Strongest Handshake Encryption||RSA-4096|
|AVAILABILITY||# of Connections||3|
|# of Countries||16|
|# of Servers||138|
|Linux Support (Manual)||Yes|
|WEBSITE||# of Persistent Cookies||3|
|# of External Trackers||0|
|# of Proprietary APIs||0|
|Server SSL Rating||A+|
|SSL Cert issued to||Self|
|PRICING||$ / Month (Annual Pricing)||4.93|
|$ / Connection / Month||1.64|
|Refund Period (Days)||3|
|ETHICS||Contradictory Logging Policies|
|Falsely Claims 100% Effective|
|Incentivizes Social Media Spam|
|Requires Ethical Copy||No|
|Requires Full Disclosure||No|
|AFFILIATES||Practice Ethical Copy||No|
|Give Full Disclosure||No|
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