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|
|No VPN||Trial 1||17||ms||95.31||mbps||12.46||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+22||ms||89.38%||94.72%|
|Comp to Bench||+314||ms||9.60%||37.57%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||360||ms||4.52||mbps||4.29||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+342||ms||8.42%||33.66%|
|Comp to Bench||+424||ms||19.68%||22.52%|
|Speed Tests – PrivateVPN – Mobile|
|No VPN||Trial 1||33||ms||70.24||mbps||14.00||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+19||ms||30.08%||72.46%|
|Comp to Bench||+296||ms||16.57%||62.95%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||0||ms||0.00||mbps||0.00||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||-32||ms||0.00%||0.00%|
|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.
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|
|JURISDICTION||Based In (Country)||Sweden|
|Enemy of the Internet||No|
|Logs DNS Requests|
|Logs IP Address|
|ACTIVISM||Anonymous Payment Method|
|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|
|Supports TCP Port 443||Yes|
|Supports SSL Tunnel|
|Supports SSH Tunnel|
|Other Proprietary Protocols|
|PORT BLOCKING||Auth SMTP|
|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|
|Refund Period (Days)||0|
|ETHICS||Contradictory Logging Policies|
|Falsely Claims 100% Effective|
|Incentivizes Social Media Spam|
|Requires Ethical Copy||No|
|Requires Full Disclosure||No|
|AFFILIATES||Practice Ethical Copy|
|Give Full Disclosure||No|
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