Proton VPN’s Free Tier Is Legit, But You’ll Need to Pay for Premium Features

Proton AG, the Swiss-based web privateness firm behind Proton Mail and different merchandise like Proton Calendar and Proton Drive launched Proton VPN in 2017. In a number of quick years, Proton VPN has rapidly developed a status for being a VPN with a robust dedication to privateness, safety and transparency.

Proton VPN is a superb selection for techie VPN customers who like to examine the supply code of the apps they use, in addition to for anybody whose location or occupation requires an additional layer of safety from their VPN. It options open-source apps, full-disk encryption, Secure Core servers and Tor over VPN. But Proton can also be a strong selection for informal VPN customers who solely want common privateness on public Wi-Fi or simply need to unblock streaming content material on-line. Speeds are quick, and the VPN’s apps are intuitive and straightforward to make use of throughout platforms no matter whether or not you are a VPN professional or newbie.

We’re impressed with Proton VPN’s simple, clear method, particularly in distinction to the overall ambiance of secrecy and shiftiness within the VPN {industry}. Proton VPN’s largely limitless free plan can also be remarkably spectacular. If you are in want of a well-rounded VPN service that places its cash the place its mouth is, check out Proton VPN.

Like

  • Highly clear
  • Open-source
  • Secure
  • Unlimited free plan

Don’t Like

  • No dwell chat assist
  • Split tunneling solely obtainable on Android and Windows
  • Occasional velocity dips

Read extra: How We Test VPNs

Speed: Third-fastest VPN we have examined

  • 17% velocity loss in autumn 2022 exams
  • Number of servers: 1,891
  • Number of nations: 67

Proton VPN’s total velocity stays spectacular, dropping solely 17% of its velocity in our newest spherical of exams. Granted, that represents a decline from our summer time 2020 exams, the place we registered a mere 9% velocity loss. But you possibly can usually count on to lose about 50% of your common web velocity while you hook up with a VPN, so once we measured a 17% velocity loss this time round, we had been nonetheless happy with the outcomes. 

Proton VPN’s speeds now rank third amongst our picks for greatest VPN, behind NordVPN’s 13% velocity loss and simply forward of Surfshark’s 19% velocity loss.

We examined Proton VPN’s speeds over the course of three days from Ohio to the supplier’s VPN servers in New York, the UK, Australia, France, Germany and Singapore whereas related by way of the OpenVPN protocol. Our common web speeds averaged 366.25 megabits per second through the check, whereas the common total speeds we measured by Proton VPN’s servers got here out to 303.71Mbps.

Speeds had been principally in keeping with what we anticipated primarily based on the bodily distance between our bodily location and people of the servers we examined. However, we did on uncommon events expertise a number of sudden and important dips in speeds on sure servers in Europe and Singapore — even on servers exhibiting a lightweight load. Speeds had been in any other case pretty constant throughout the board.

As anticipated, the quickest speeds from the US had been to Proton VPN’s servers in New York, the place we averaged 332.72Mbps. European servers registered only a bit slower at 320.12Mbps, whereas speeds to the UK averaged 307.78Mbps. Speeds midway around the globe to Australia and Singapore had been the slowest — however averaged an admirable 302.62Mbps and 255.25Mbps, respectively, regardless of the space our information needed to journey.

What we did not count on was the spectacular velocity from Proton VPN’s free servers. The supplier says that its free servers supply “medium” VPN speeds, however we calculated solely a 7.64% velocity loss once we examined Proton VPN’s free servers — near 10 share factors sooner than with the paid servers. These outcomes are distinctive for any VPN, not to mention a free VPN service, even when the pattern measurement was smaller with servers in solely three nations to check speeds on. 

We registered speeds of as much as 360Mbps to the Netherlands, 349Mbps to Japan and 345Mbps to New York utilizing free servers with masses starting from 55% to 96%. That’s loads of velocity for just about something you’d need to accomplish on-line, which is exceptionally onerous to seek out with free VPNs.

Read extra: How to Speed Up Your VPN Connection

Cost: Not the most cost effective VPN, however pricing is easy and free tier is legit

  • $72 per 12 months or $10 monthly
  • Payment choices: Credit/debit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, financial institution switch, money
  • Money-back assure: 30 days
  • Unlimited free plan

Proton VPN’s pricing is easy and unambiguous at a time when it looks like you want to mud off your outdated TI-85 graphing calculator from highschool simply to make sense of most VPNs’ complicated pricing schemes. Proton VPN avoids difficult introductory costs that later spike in dramatic style and two-year plans that later morph into annual plans whereas the worth stays the identical.

Sure, your $72 upfront value for Proton VPN’s yearly plan is dearer than the $48 you will pay on your first 12 months with IPVanish. But over time, you will most likely be happier paying $72 yearly for Proton VPN relatively than $90 for every extra 12 months you spend with IPVanish. NordVPN and ExpressVPN go for $100 a 12 months after their respective introductory subscription intervals. Out of our high 5 VPN picks, solely Surfshark is cheaper per 12 months than Proton VPN, at $60 yearly. However, Proton VPN’s month-to-month plan is the most cost effective of the bunch at $10 monthly. We do not advocate committing to a VPN supplier for longer than a 12 months at a time given the perpetually shifting nature of the VPN {industry}.

With Proton VPN’s paid service, you will have entry to greater than 1,800 servers in 66 nations and as much as 10 simultaneous connections. We had been in a position to entry content material on Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video by the paid servers.

Proton VPN apps can be found on MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Chromebook and Android TV gadgets. Settings are properly laid out and simply accessible within the app, however in the event you’re searching for break up tunneling, notice that the function is simply obtainable on the Windows and Android apps. Proton says it is engaged on implementing break up tunneling for different platforms, however didn’t specify a timeframe for that implementation. Though many VPNs as of late supply browser extensions along with their devoted VPN apps, Proton VPN doesn’t but supply any presently. The firm instructed us that browser extensions have been considered and can hopefully be obtainable sooner or later sooner or later.

And whereas many of the high VPNs within the {industry} supply dwell chat buyer assist, Proton VPN doesn’t. To get in contact with Proton VPN assist, you will must submit a assist ticket by way of electronic mail or tweet it at @ProtonVPN. We submitted a assist ticket and acquired a response in lower than 24 hours. The web site features a fairly complete assist middle with troubleshooting ideas, setup tutorials and documentation associated to common VPN points. Proton VPN’s weblog additionally contains a variety of useful details about the corporate and the {industry} usually.

You pays on your Proton VPN subscription utilizing a credit score or debit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, financial institution switch or money (US {dollars}, euros or Swiss francs). And if for any cause you are not happy along with your buy, Proton VPN does supply a 30-day money-back assure. 

Can you get Proton VPN free of charge?

If you do not need to pay to make use of Proton VPN, you do not have to. That’s as a result of Proton VPN provides a free plan that is truly good. Most free VPNs are virtually ineffective as a result of they usually put heavy restrictions on issues like velocity, server availability, information allowance and options. They additionally usually present weak encryption, promote your information, serve adverts and might even include malware. Proton VPN’s free plan is safe and it does not throttle speeds or put limits on utilization, which is an enormous cause why it is maybe the one really viable free VPN obtainable.

While Proton VPN’s free plan is not set as much as unblock streaming providers and does not embrace premium options like its malware and advert blocker, Tor over VPN performance, Secure Core servers or P2P assist, it does provide you with what you want to defend your privateness on-line. The free plan provides a single connection at a time to over 100 quick servers in three nations (US, Japan and the Netherlands) and the power to attach by its stealth VPN protocol. 

Yes, there are a number of limitations with Proton VPN’s free plan, however we discovered that it carried out exceptionally nicely total in our exams — we had been even in a position to entry US Netflix whereas related to the free servers. So in the event you’re an informal VPN person who’s not into torrenting, solely wants one connection at a time and does not want the superior options or entry to greater than three nations or streaming providers apart from Netflix, you will most likely be simply effective with Proton VPN’s free plan. 

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Security and privateness: Excellent options for VPN customers in want of heightened privateness

  • Jurisdiction: Switzerland
  • Encryption: AES 256-bit with OpenVPN and IKEv2, ChaCha20 with WireGuard
  • Secure Core servers
  • Open-source and clear

With many gamers within the VPN {industry} working in obscurity, ruled by byzantine company constructions, it is good to see Proton VPN placing such a heavy emphasis on transparency. For one, its VPN software program is absolutely open-source, that means its supply code is publicly obtainable on-line for anybody to scrutinize. If analyzing code is not your factor, Proton VPN routinely publicizes unbiased exterior safety and no-logs audits as nicely, so you possibly can see what skilled cybersecurity researchers should say in regards to the software program. 

Proton VPN’s most up-to-date safety audit was accomplished in September 2021 by Securitum, a safety consulting agency primarily based in Krakow, Poland, which recognized “no important security issues.” The most up-to-date no-logs audit was accomplished by Securitum in March. 

“As a result of the audit, it was confirmed that Proton VPN offers high privacy with its No-Logs approach, and the audit did not detect any issues that could make a negative effect on the user’s privacy,” Securitum mentioned in its no-logs audit report. 

However, Securitum famous in its report that Proton VPN inspects community site visitors on its free VPN servers as a way to block BitTorhire site visitors, as it might hinder efficiency free of charge customers. If BitTorhire site visitors is detected, the connection is mechanically dropped. But Securitum mentioned that this does not have an effect on person privateness as a result of the method is completed blindly, with out logging any data associated to the dropped connection or which person the BitTorhire site visitors was originating from.

“The whole mechanism is working fully locally on the specific Proton VPN server serving the connection, without notifying any central database,” Securitum mentioned. “There is no deep traffic inspection of such connections, just the type of traffic is detected.”

No-logs audits are vital for VPN firms to endure as a technique to stay clear with the general public, however a VPN firm’s no-logs claims are just about unattainable to confirm with 100% certainty. Regular no-logs audits and precise court docket instances — just like the 2019 court docket case Proton VPN mentions in its Transparency Report — the place no-logs claims are challenged in a authorized setting can supply efficient testimony in favor of a VPN firm’s declare that it does not gather logs of customers’ exercise.

As CNET’s different high VPN picks do, Proton VPN employs industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections. WireGuard connections are secured utilizing the ChaCha20 encryption cipher, which is usually sooner whereas providing comparable safety. The VPN’s Secure Core servers supply extra safety as they route your site visitors by hardened servers owned by Proton VPN previous to routing it additional by exit servers at your chosen location. Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers are bodily protected with biometric safety and situated in Switzerland, Iceland (on a former navy base) and Sweden (in an underground information middle). 

Proton VPN additionally provides commonplace VPN safety features like a kill swap, DNS leak safety and obfuscation, together with Tor over VPN and an advert/malware blocker. The kill swap labored as anticipated and we detected no leaks throughout our exams of each the free and paid tiers. Proton VPN tells CNET that each one safety requirements like encryption, leak safety and obfuscation are the identical with the free plan as they’re with paid subscriptions. However, free customers do not have entry to the Secure Core servers, Tor over VPN or the ad-blocker function. The free tier is a good way to dip your toes in, however you will must improve to Proton’s paid tier if you are going to have interaction in any on-line exercise that is privacy-critical

In 2020, Proton VPN disclosed a vulnerability in Apple’s iOS, which claims that iOS gadgets fail to encrypt all site visitors and leak information exterior the VPN tunnel even when a VPN connection is engaged on the machine. Years later, researchers reported that the problem nonetheless persists in later variations of iOS. It is a vulnerability that impacts VPN apps on iOS gadgets usually and isn’t restricted to Proton VPN. Until Apple points an official repair for the vulnerability, Proton VPN recommends turning airplane mode on after which off once more after connecting to a VPN server to successfully kill current connections and reopen them throughout the VPN tunnel. 

Proton VPN’s Swiss jurisdiction is usually considered a secure jurisdiction for a VPN to reside in. Switzerland is just not a part of the 14-eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, and although the nation does have obligatory information retention legal guidelines, these legal guidelines apply to massive web service suppliers and telecommunications firms. Proton VPN is not certain by Swiss information retention legal guidelines and is in any other case not obligated to retailer logs of person exercise.

In 2021, Proton Mail — an encrypted electronic mail service developed by the oldsters behind Proton VPN — discovered itself the topic of criticism after TechCrunch reported that the corporate disclosed a person’s IP handle and machine ID quantity to Swiss authorities. The disclosure was a part of an investigation involving a French local weather activist who was a part of a bunch protesting in opposition to gentrification in Paris that printed data on police investigations and authorized instances in opposition to people within the group. The protesters had been utilizing a Proton Mail handle to speak.

While Proton says it fights authorized requests at any time when potential, the corporate mentioned it was obligated to cooperate with the legally binding order from Swiss authorities and that it wasn’t potential for the corporate to attraction the request. But since Proton Mail emails are encrypted, the corporate was unable to supply data on the precise contents of the emails despatched by these utilizing the account to speak. After the information broke, Proton Mail eliminated wording on its web site that acknowledged “by default, we do not keep any IP logs which can be linked to your anonymous email account.” 

Proton Mail additionally up to date its privateness coverage after the incident.

“We will only disclose the limited user data we possess if we are legally obligated to do so by a binding request coming from the competent Swiss authorities,” Proton Mail’s Privacy Policy now reads. “We may comply with electronically delivered notices only when they are delivered in full compliance with the requirements of Swiss law.” 

However, below Swiss legislation, Proton Mail and Proton VPN are handled in another way, a Proton spokesperson instructed CNET by way of electronic mail. While Proton Mail should adjust to legitimate court docket orders from Swiss authorities, Proton VPN is not certain by the identical obligations.

“Swiss law does not provide the legal basis to order Proton VPN to retain user data or activity data,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We thus cannot be compelled to retain IP addresses of a VPN account.”

Proton VPN’s privateness coverage states that the corporate would nonetheless be obligated to reveal the restricted person information it might possess to Swiss authorities if compelled by legislation “for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offenses or the execution of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public security.” 

User information Proton VPN collects features a person’s username, electronic mail handle, billing data and information customers share with the corporate by way of assist requests or bug reviews, in keeping with the Privacy Policy. If Proton VPN does not log person exercise, site visitors, IP handle, location or session size, there would not be a lot handy over to authorities regarding what any explicit person was doing whereas related to Proton VPN’s servers.

Because of its dedication to transparency and its breadth of fantastic privateness and safety features, we advocate Proton VPN as a first-rate VPN for customers with essential privateness wants like journalists, dissidents, attorneys, medical doctors and activists. Thanks to its stealth protocol and Secure Core servers, it is also a worthy choice for individuals in areas the place VPNs are restricted. One caveat right here is that Proton VPN has had points working for customers in China, however the firm is engaged on options.

“Mainland China has very sophisticated and effective censorship systems, and we can’t guarantee Proton VPN works there,” a Proton spokesperson instructed CNET. “But we are investing heavily in developing anti-censorship capabilities that will allow us to bypass attempts to block VPNs.”



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