TLDR: ProtonVPN fully delivers with its Free and Visionary plans, even if it’s missing extra features like live chat or additional servers.

ProtonVPN Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

✅  Based in Switzerland

❌  Rivals offer more servers, supported countries

✅  No logging

❌  No WireGuard protocol

✅  Ad blocking (for paid users)

❌  No live chat

In This Review:

    In today’s online world, your browsing history can be tracked and sold by almost anyone. ProtonVPN, a virtual private network (VPN), protects you online so you don’t have to worry about being tracked. It’s not the largest or most well-known VPN software provider, but it offers a lot under one roof: a free plan with no logging or data caps and top download speeds, up to 10 connections and additional features with its paid plans.

    Our ProtonVPN review will help you decide if the VPN’s features and pricing are right for you. You can also see where ProtonVPN ranked in our 2021 best free VPN review roundup.

    Who is ProtonVPN Best For?

    ProtonVPN is best for users on opposite ends of the spectrum — those looking for a no-frills free VPN or those willing to pay for all the bells and whistles including encrypted email. Free users benefit from the company’s no-logs policy along with unlimited data. Users in between the Free plan and Visionary plan might experience some frustration navigating what is and isn’t available. If you also value instant customer service above everything else, ProtonVPN might not be the best option for your needs.

    ProtonVPN Pricing

    You can choose between a free plan or one of three paid plans. All paid plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee. No matter if you choose a free or paid plan, you’ll sign up for an account and download the appropriate ProtonVPN app or browser extension for your computer, phone or tablet. ProtonVPN is available for download on:

    • Android apps
    • Chromebook
    • iOS apps
    • Linux
    • macOS
    • Windows

    ProtonVPN offers app support for just one smart TV system (Android TV), though it’s possible to connect the service to a compatible router, protecting all of your devices at once (up to 10 total). Here’s a closer look at the free version and paid plans:

    Monthly Cost

    Annual Cost*

    Biennial Cost*

    Free

    $0

    N/A

    N/A

    Basic

    $5

    $48

    $79

    Plus

    $10

    $96

    $159

    Visionary

    $30

    $288

    $479

    Pricing is accurate as of Sept. 7, 2021.
    *Must pay upfront

    ProtonVPN Free

    As the name suggests, the Free plan is a zero-cost option and is bare bones: You’ll have one VPN connection with the option of 17 different servers in three countries (Japan, Netherlands and U.S.). Speeds will be significantly slower than paid plans.

    ProtonVPN Basic

    The Basic plan provides two VPN connections with the option of 350+ servers in 40+ countries, high connection speeds, an ad blocker and torrenting capability. For $5, it’s the cheapest VPN we’ve seen on a month-to-month basis. What you won’t get with the Basic plan is streaming capability. For that, you’ll need to upgrade to the Plus or higher plan.

    The next-cheapest VPN service, IVPN, offers comparable features: two connections and ad blocking for $6 a month.

    ProtonVPN Plus

    The Plus plan provides support for 10 VPN connections to 1,200+ servers in 55 countries. It also includes the highest speed — 10 gigabytes per second (Gbps) — multihop capability which ProtonVPN calls Secure Core, and VPN access to the Onion router (Tor). Tor is a browser that sends your data through a chain of servers to obscure your identity.

    ProtonVPN Visionary

    The Visionary plan is the most expensive option, but it includes the same features as the Plus plan. You’ll also get a ProtonMail Visionary account, which is the highest tier ProtonMail offers. It comes with 20 gigabytes (GB) of storage, 50 email addresses and 10 custom domains.

    ProtonMail

    Get encrypted email

    Payment Methods

    ProtonVPN allows you to pay by credit or debit card, PayPal and Bitcoin. The company also accepts cash, which you can mail to its headquarters in Switzerland. If you’re aiming for total anonymity, however, know that you’ll still need to sign up for an account with an email address for verification and account recovery. To keep all your information safe, you could create a free, anonymous ProtonMail email address for your VPN sign-up.

    ProtonVPN Privacy and Security

    No matter which ProtonVPN plan you select, the same privacy and security features exist:

    • Encryption: ProtonVPN uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 to protect your internet connection.
    • Kill switch: If you unexpectedly lose connection to a ProtonVPN server, a kill switch kicks in and blocks all external network traffic to and from your IP address until your VPN connection is re-established. This prevents your IP address from accidental exposure. ProtonVPN’s kill switch is available for macOS users and Windows users, as well as a workaround for Android users. It is not available for iOS, a downside for iPhone users looking for a VPN.
    • Strong protocols: ProtonVPN offers two VPN protocols:
      • IKEvs/IPSec: Internet Key Exchange version 2 is part of the Internet Protocol Secure (IPsec) suite that, together, form a single VPN protocol.
      • OpenVPN: As the name implies, this is an open-source protocol that can be used in either User Datagram Protocol (UDP) mode or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

      More security features are available if you’re willing to pay for ProtonVPN. These include:

      • NetShield: This feature blocks malware and ads and is available for the Basic, Plus and Visionary plans.
      • Multihop: This feature adds an extra layer of security by routing traffic through two or more VPN servers. ProtonVPN calls its technology Secure Core. It’s only available through the Plus and Visionary plans.
      • Tor over VPN: Plus and Visionary subscribers can also reach the Tor browser by connecting to one of ProtonVPN’s Tor servers.

    ProtonVPN Features and Functionality

    Like its security and privacy functions, more ProtonVPN capability comes with paid plans, including:

    • Torrenting: Available for Basic, Plus and Visionary subscribers, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is available when you select an optimized ProtonVPN server. You can then safely start using a P2P client such as BitTorrent.
    • Streaming: Plus and Visionary subscribers can stream videos and movies through ProtonVPN. (Other VPN providers like ExpressVPN may have apps for more devices.
    • Split tunneling: This feature allows you to manually select which websites and apps you want to automatically bypass the VPN. ProtonVPN supports easy split tunneling for Windows and Android.

    ProtonVPN Reputation and Credibility

    With less than 100 ProtonVPN reviews on Trustpilot, the company has been awarded an average score of 3.4 out of 5 stars by users. (Some of the other VPNs we reviewed have higher ratings with more reviews.)

    We like how the Switzerland-based company commissions professional audits. They are published online in their entirety. We hope this is a practice the company will continue.

    The company does not provide customer service by phone or on-site chat, but the ProtonVPN team does have a support page that includes user guides, as well as information about troubleshooting, account accessibility, content access, and speed and bandwidth support.

    ProtonVPN: Is It Worth It?

    TLDR: ProtonVPN fully delivers with its Free and Visionary plans, even if it’s missing extra features like live chat or additional servers.

    ProtonVPN may not have all the bells and whistles you’re looking for, but what you will find is a top-notch VPN with no-logging policies, ad blocking and as solid reputation.

    We especially recommend ProtonVPN for its Free plan, which won Best Overall in our 2021 ranking of free VPNs. For most users looking for an excellent VPN to start using for free, ProtonVPN will deliver.

    When it comes to paid plans, however, there are a few other VPN companies that provide more features at better prices. You can check out which paid VPNs made the grade in our 2021 ranking of paid VPNs.

    Our Methodology for Testing VPNs

    The Gizmodo Advisor editorial team researches and tests virtual private networks personally so we can make the best recommendations for our readers. Our reviews are unbiased and aren’t related to any commission Gizmodo Advisor may receive from purchasing any VPN. We’ve included our breakdown of scoring factors for VPNs below.

    Factor

    Score

    Description

    Privacy & Stability

    30%

    Nothing is more important in a virtual private network than your privacy and security. What encryption does the VPN use? How many servers does it provide? How does it perform in data leak tests?

    Features & Functionality

    30%

    The best VPNs offer top-tier features while keeping their products simple and easy to use. Can you access servers in a wide variety of locations? Are streaming, torrenting and split tunneling available? We score based on the number of features, speed, as well as app and browser experience.

    Reputation & Credibility

    20%

    We evaluate factors like time in business and changes in service (good and bad). We read community forums and reviews to look for patterns of where a company stands out or is lacking.

    Customer Experience

    10%

    VPN services should answer customer questions quickly. Is there a 24/7 customer support team? How easy (or difficult) is it to contact them? Are their websites helpful and easy to navigate?

    Plans & Pricing/Value

    10%

    There’s a VPN for every budget, so we look at the number of pricing options and whether the cost is proportional to the value customers receive in features, privacy, customer experience and trust.

    ProtonVPN Frequently Asked Questions

    • Why do I need a VPN?

      A virtual private network (VPN) protects your online data by creating a safe and encrypted “tunnel” to pass data through on any network. A VPN obscures your IP address so your location can’t be tracked by hackers on public Wi-Fi or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) on private Wi-Fi.

    • Is ProtonVPN safe to use?

      ProtonVPN is a safe and reputable company based out of Switzerland. The company doesn’t log your data, meaning they never store your online information and your data couldn’t be hacked or stolen.

    • Does ProtonVPN work with streaming?

      ProtonVPN allows streaming on its higher-tier plans: Plus and Visionary. If you’re on a Free or Basic plan, you’ll need to upgrade before you can use Netflix, Hulu or Disney+.