PrivateVPN Review

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 #42 (at the time of the roll, PrivateVPN)

 

Written Mar 31, 2017

Signing up for the service: PrivateVPN’s website looked fairly clean and reminded me of most VPN services’ sites, however maybe not quite as bloated with a crazy amount of marketing buzzwords and endorsements from their own advertisers/affiliates – just a few…  Endorsements were listed along the bottom of the front page by the affiliates of the company.  This is indicative of the participation PrivateVPN engages in with regard to affiliate programs with little if any disclosure and few restrictions on ethical policies for their resellers.

There are 3 plans from which to choose when signing up for service.  1 month, 3 months, and 1 year.  I selected 1 month and paid for the service.  Right after submitting payment, the site read: “Processing your payment, Hold on!”.  It sat there for ages and never came back up.  Eventually I re-navigated back to the site and logged in manually.

 

Configuring the service: When going through to find config files, PrivateVPN’s website gave only a list of servers and a few different ways to manually set up a configuration with no ovpn files.  This is different than the way almost every other company does it – and worse.  After following their configuration exactly, I was not able to connect to any of the four servers tested.  After going back and forth with support a few times (see below for details), I was able to get connected, but with the addition of a step that was not listed in the instructions (which was setting virtual device – TUN if you’re curious).  A decent oversight, which cost me time a proper instruction set shouldn’t have.

Before support got back to me, I continued attempting a few other methods to fix the problem, I of course tried re-visiting their instructions page to verify that all steps were being followed properly, but instead received, a blank, white page with black text appears, saying, “Fatal error: No connections found in /core/pvpn/_includes/classes/class.db.php on line 261”.  While the Android config DID have ovpn files (thankfully), the instructions page felt sloppy with some way oversized screenshots.  The Hong Kong server was also missing from the Android config file bundle.  Between all these issues, I think it’s fair that the website get dinged.

 

Speed & Stability tests: Speeds were overall pretty good, with the US server tested retaining almost 90% of its original connection speeds.  International servers all provided between above average to quite good speeds.

 

Speed Tests – PrivateVPN – Desktop
    Latency Download Upload
No VPN Trial 1 17 ms 95.31 mbps 12.46 mbps
Trial 2 17 ms 94.96 mbps 12.48 mbps
Trial 3 13 ms 95.11 mbps 12.40 mbps
Average 16 ms 95.13 mbps 12.45 mbps
               
USA Trial 1 35 ms 85.50 mbps 11.87 mbps
Trial 2 40 ms 81.78 mbps 11.84 mbps
Trial 3 37 ms 87.80 mbps 11.66 mbps
Average 37 ms 85.03 mbps 11.79 mbps
Comp to Bench +22 ms 89.38% 94.72%
               
UK Trial 1 310 ms 9.39 mbps 5.36 mbps
Trial 2 345 ms 10.17 mbps 4.21 mbps
Trial 3 333 ms 7.84 mbps 4.46 mbps
Average 329 ms 9.13 mbps 4.68 mbps
Comp to Bench +314 ms 9.60% 37.57%
               
Hong Kong Trial 1 360 ms 4.52 mbps 4.29 mbps
Trial 2 368 ms 9.37 mbps 3.83 mbps
Trial 3 346 ms 10.15 mbps 4.45 mbps
Average 358 ms 8.01 mbps 4.19 mbps
Comp to Bench +342 ms 8.42% 33.66%
               
Australia Trial 1 439 ms 15.78 mbps 2.96 mbps
Trial 2 440 ms 22.72 mbps 2.58 mbps
Trial 3 441 ms 17.66 mbps 2.87 mbps
Average 440 ms 18.72 mbps 2.80 mbps
Comp to Bench +424 ms 19.68% 22.52%

 

Speed Tests – PrivateVPN – Mobile
    Latency Download Upload
No VPN Trial 1 33 ms 70.24 mbps 14.00 mbps
Trial 2 32 ms 71.37 mbps 14.14 mbps
Trial 3 32 ms 68.72 mbps 13.43 mbps
Average 32 ms 70.11 mbps 13.86 mbps
               
USA Trial 1 56 ms 18.30 mbps 10.15 mbps
Trial 2 52 ms 23.22 mbps 10.34 mbps
Trial 3 45 ms 21.74 mbps 9.63 mbps
Average 51 ms 21.09 mbps 10.04 mbps
Comp to Bench +19 ms 30.08% 72.46%
               
UK Trial 1 326 ms 13.70 mbps 9.80 mbps
Trial 2 326 ms 11.16 mbps 6.59 mbps
Trial 3 334 ms 9.99 mbps 9.78 mbps
Average 329 ms 11.62 mbps 8.72 mbps
Comp to Bench +296 ms 16.57% 62.95%
               
Hong Kong Trial 1 0 ms 0.00 mbps 0.00 mbps
Trial 2 0 ms 0.00 mbps 0.00 mbps
Trial 3 0 ms 0.00 mbps 0.00 mbps
Average 0 ms 0.00 mbps 0.00 mbps
Comp to Bench -32 ms 0.00% 0.00%
               
Australia Trial 1 450 ms 9.54 mbps 4.32 mbps
Trial 2 462 ms 11.22 mbps 5.28 mbps
Trial 3 450 ms 13.19 mbps 4.85 mbps
Average 454 ms 11.32 mbps 4.82 mbps
Comp to Bench +422 ms 16.14% 34.76%

 

All tests were performed using AES-256 over UDP – which accounts for the slower speeds on mobile where the bottleneck is really the limited hardware compared to desktop.  As mentioned, a Hong Kong ovpn file was nowhere to be found in Android config file bundle (which is why there are no results to show above).

 

Getting support: On the side of the main page is a button that reads: “Live Support” with a green circle – indicating that supposedly support agents are standing by.  When clicked, this button had me enter my name, email address, and message to support.  But at the bottom of that window was a button that read: “Send email”.  This is misleading (the user is meant to think there is an agent waiting to assist them).  After I logged in – the circle immediately changed to red, making it seem like the status is intentionally shown incorrectly in an effort to trick potential customers.  Note that I wasn’t able to reproduce this later, so it could have been coincidence.

I sent an email (using the “live chat” tool from above).  I followed up about my connection issue covered above.  I received a reply within 24 hours and after 2 or so responses I had a workable solution.  This is not ideal speed-wise, but they were professional and useful enough.

 

Getting a refund: After my support session, I asked for a refund of the service. and after going back and forth a couple of times, it felt begrudgingly granted.

 

Concerns in Terms & Conditions / Privacy Policy: PrivateVPN’s terms and policies were pretty standard – that is, not too blatant or unfriendly, but maybe just a little longer than I’d consider “elegant”.

 

Final thoughts: Overall, I had somewhat mixed feelings with PrivateVPN.  I would consider them “just about average”, but with a few blind spots and definite room for improvement.  Purchasing service was easy enough, but configuration took a little extra time, both because the config instructions weren’t suitable for establishing the initial connection and because they require you to set them up entirely manually with no ovpn files to do the work for you – this felt like a big oversight to me.  Service was slower than I’d have liked, but within the bare minimum “24-hour” window and still helpful when they did reply.  Their terms were fine, albeit just a little long.  PrivateVPN was not a disaster – which in this industry means, about average.

 

FROM THE VPN COMPARISON CHART
CATEGORY VPN SERVICE PrivateVPN
JURISDICTION Based In (Country) Sweden
Fourteen Eyes? Fourteen
Enemy of the Internet No
LOGGING Logs Traffic
Logs DNS Requests
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
ACTIVISM Anonymous Payment Method Email
Accepts Bitcoin Yes
PGP Key Available No
Gives back to Privacy Causes No
Meets PrivacyTools IO Criteria No
LEAK PROTECTION 1st Party DNS Servers No
IPv6 Supported / Blocked No
  Offers OpenVPN Yes
OBFUSCATION Supports Multihop
Supports TCP Port 443 Yes
Supports Obfsproxy
Supports SOCKS
Supports SSL Tunnel
Supports SSH Tunnel
Other Proprietary Protocols
PORT BLOCKING Auth SMTP
P2P No
SPEEDS US Server Average % 89.38
Int’l Server Average % 12.57
SERVERS Dedicated or Virtual
SECURITY Default Data Encryption
Strongest Data Encryption AES-256
Weakest Handshake Encryption DH-2048
Strongest Handshake Encryption DH-2048
AVAILABILITY # of Connections 4
# of Countries 20
# of Servers 34
Linux Support (Manual) Yes
WEBSITE # of Persistent Cookies 8
# of External Trackers 4
# of Proprietary APIs 21
Server SSL Rating A
SSL Cert issued to CloudFlare
PRICING $ / Month (Annual Pricing) $7.02
$ / Connection / Month $1.76
Free Trial Yes
Refund Period (Days) 0
ETHICS Contradictory Logging Policies
Falsely Claims 100% Effective
Incentivizes Social Media Spam
POLICIES Forbids Spam No
Requires Ethical Copy No
Requires Full Disclosure No
AFFILIATES Practice Ethical Copy
Give Full Disclosure No

 

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