Astrill VPN review
Astrill VPN is a versatile service that not only provides you with military-grade security and good speeds, but also offers a ton of useful features like split tunneling. In addition, this VPN works in China, has protection against DNS leaks, and unblocks the US Netflix. It’s even compatible with torrenting.
Interestingly enough, Astrill is one of the oldest VPN service providers. They have been around since 2009, yet you never seem to hear much about Astrill VPN.
As they claim on their webpage, that is because they’re not involved in extensive marketing schemes. Their solution is investing in hardware, software, and human resources. So, in this Astrill VPN review, I’m going to test their product thoroughly. Let’s see if Astrill can back up their words and perform!
|Support:||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat|
|Current deal:||Get 50% OFF with 1-year plan!|
Astrill pros & cons
- Works in China
- Great customer support
- Unblocks Netflix
- 5 simultaneous connections
- No DNS leaks
- P2P and torrenting-compatible
- Many customer support options
- Extensive customization options
- Functional kill switch
- Good VPN speeds
- Split tunneling
- Modest list of servers
- Very expensive
- Outdated UI
- No money-back guarantee
Speed performance: Is Astrill VPN fast?
VPN speeds are a hard nut to crack because they depend on a varied set of factors. To find out how fast Astrill VPN is, we found our baseline connection speed, then compared it to speed test results using various different tunneling protocols and VPN servers.
- Baseline: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
During the tests, OpenVPN frequently disconnected, sometimes to the point of preventing me from connecting to any other server for a few minutes. This happened even with TCP, which is unusual.
That said, when it comes to speeds, UDP delivers the download speeds that you can expect. The average download speeds dip by only 34% off the baseline (with servers in India and Argentina being the only low points). Meanwhile, the upload rates drop by quite a lot – 80% on average.
Meanwhile, Astrill VPN's TCP speed results are kind of a mess - depending on the server location, the VPN can be blazingly fast or completely snail-like. On average, the download and upload speeds drop by around 60% off the baseline, but that isn't saying much.
OpenWeb and StealthVPN
Although both OpenWeb and Stealth VPN are in the same table, they couldn't be more different. OpenWeb provides amazing speeds, and connection times are almost instant. On average, OpenWeb reduced my download speed by 3% and my upload by 46%.
Since Stealth VPN is really just modified OpenVPN (UDP), the speeds are on par with the previous section's results. The drop off for average download speeds is ~36%, while the uploads suffer a 75% dip.
WireGuard has a reputation for being one of the fastest tunneling protocols. Astrill VPN is no exception for downloads (average speed reduction of 30%), but uploads get slashed by 71%.
I have to give Astrill VPN credit for delivering a decent experience with all of their tunneling protocols. Every single one is usable and has real-world scenarios where it could be useful. Speed-wise, the most impressive is OpenWeb. However, you should use it with caution: this is a proprietary protocol and we know little about it, including the encryption level.
Streaming: Does Astrill VPN work with Netflix?
Astrill is a decent VPN for streaming. During our tests, we managed to unblock Netflix US without triggering any alarms.
|Netflix||✔️ with US Netflix|
The next on the list was BBC iPlayer. While this service is nowhere near as popular as Netflix, it has lots of awesome British TV content. Sadly, if you want to enjoy it, you'll have to turn to other VPN providers. Astrill VPN didn't manage to unblock BBC iPlayer.
The next unpleasant surprise came from YouTube. While you can access the site, geo-restricted videos remain unavailable. You may also be surprised to see everything written in Chinese - this is because Astrill is a popular VPN in China and Google (YouTube is owned by Google) is treating some Astrill IP addresses as if they were Chinese.
Finally, Astrill VPN managed to unblock DAZN, the trickiest service on this list. However, according to the website link, it did detect that I'm connecting from Lithuania. This is strange, as DAZN isn't even available in Lithuania. So, it's a bit hard to say how exactly I managed to unblock it.
Does Astrill VPN allow torrenting?
Astrill VPN is proud to announce that its servers are compatible with P2P traffic. I can confirm that torrenting not only works, but the download speeds were really good, too. They topped around 20MB/s (160mbps) - a very good result even without a VPN considering my baseline connection. With that said, torrent speeds depend on lots of different factors, so apply this result to your situation with caution.
Features of Astrill VPN
Usually, if you need a VPN on a device that doesn't support it, the answer is manual setup on the router. This isn't very simple or convenient.
Astrill notices this problem and offers a different solution – easy-to-use VPN sharing between devices. This is currently available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It lets you easily transfer the VPN connection to devices that generally couldn't use them. All you have to do is toggle the feature in the settings. The app will automatically reconfigure and give you gateway and DNS addresses to connect to.
When using this feature, your connection will go to your PC, become encapsulated, and sent through the VPN server, hiding your IP address. This is a great way to collect Microsoft Rewards points on Xbox if the app isn't available in your region or watch foreign Netflix libraries on Apple TV.
Astrill's Smart Mode excludes local websites from the VPN tunnel and includes foreign ones. Imagine that you're living in China, so when you enable Smart Mode, if you go to WeChat, it will display a local version of the website. However, if you decide to go to Wikipedia, it will use the VPN and access the site with a foreign IP address.
This not only keeps your Internet speed optimal, but it also lets you access local services that would be unavailable with a foreign address. For example, you may have issues accessing your bank using a foreign IP (which may even trigger security measures).
The feature is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iPhone, and Android devices. This should cover most devices that you own.
If Smart Mode isn't smart enough for you and you'd rather have full control over how websites and apps are routed, there is the Application filter. This is how Astrill VPN calls its split tunneling feature.
Using the Application filter, you can exclude certain domain names or IP addresses from the VPN connection (and connecting directly). The split tunneling feature is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. So, if you're an iOS user, you'll have to make do with Smart mode.
Astrill's App Guard functions as a soft kill switch for apps that you don't want to be active if the VPN isn't connected. To use it, you only need to head to the App guard setting and add the app that you wish to disable if you're disconnected from the VPN.
This eliminates the need to fiddle with firewall settings and design custom rules. You can add potentially problematic apps like uTorrent, as they usually tend to connect automatically and start on bootup. This could potentially be a lifesaver.
Although port forwarding is regarded as playing with fire, some users just can't resist the added benefits. With it, Astrill lets you redirect connections from your local LAN to external devices. This is an additional gap that could be exploited but can be a method to set up a game server, for example.
Astrill VPN forwards the traffic to a VPN's IP and directs it back to your connected device. So, the barrier between your device and the server is still present. This works best with a dedicated IP address, allowing you to forward all the ports. In contrast, on common servers, it's only possible to forward a single pre-selected port.
If this whole deal seems like too much risk with too little reward, you can disable the feature altogether.
Deep web support
If you ever wanted to browse deep web .onion pages without the Tor browser, Astrill has just the solution for you. They are one of a few VPN service providers that natively support deep web domains. So, you can type in an address that ends with .onion, and it will load.
It can potentially be a good alternative to various browser addons that have exposed Tor users to dangers in the past. This Astrill feature relies on domain detection, enabling the Tor network when a deep web domain is selected. So, it can be a pretty convenient way to access the dark web.
Is Astrill VPN secure?
Astrill VPN is a secure VPN service. Your connection is encrypted with a military-grade cipher and routed with cutting-edge tunneling protocols. Their kill switch proved to be dependable, and the business is registered far outside the Eyes Alliances. If you’re looking for anonymity, Astill VPN can deliver on its promises including DNS leak protection.
Astrill VPN uses AES-256-CBC with private encryption keys that are renegotiated every 24 hours. I'd like to see the refresh interval shorter, as it would reduce the window of opportunity for exploits. With that said, AES-256 is a high level of encryption and has proven impenetrable thus far.
Although this isn't directly related to the encryption, there are additional commands based on the OpenVPN configuration files. Some of them improve compatibility between the clients, which is an unconventional approach. The ports used are non-standard, which means that it's far less likely to follow typical VPN patterns - this makes Astrill VPN more difficult to block.
Your connection to the VPN can be made using various tunneling protocols. Due to differences in how the data is encapsulated, and the checks performed along the way, the speeds can differ (as can the level of security). Astrill VPN provides a good variety of tunneling protocols to cover most use cases.
WireGuard – the most recent addition to the open-source tunneling protocols family, WireGuard is faster and more efficient than its predecessors. This should be the default option for most users.
OpenVPN – one of the most widely used open-source tunneling protocols. It comes in two main variants: UDP (faster/less secure) and TCP (slower/safer). These days, more users are better off just switching to WireGuard instead of UDP.
StealthVPN – this tunneling protocol can be best described as OpenVPN, modified to scramble your traffic and hide the fact you're using a VPN. The performance is similar to OpenVPN UDP.
OpenWeb – a one-of-a-kind connectionless protocol based on TCP. This means that you can switch VPN servers in seconds without waiting for the software to reconnect. The speed drop-off is almost non-existent, and the traffic looks indistinguishable from regular HTTPS. All of this makes it very hard to block. With all that said, with OpenWeb you can choose to either encrypt only your browser traffic (default) or all traffic - keep this in mind!
Overall, I'm happy with what Astrill VPN brings to the table. Their tunneling protocol section ditches IKEv2, which is still included in most VPN provider setups. However, with Wireguard, OpenWeb, and Stealth VPN, they cover all the necessary bases.
Astrill VPN has a kill switch - a failsafe mechanism for when the connection between the VPN server and your device becomes disrupted. Unplanned server downtimes are unavoidable, so this protects your anonymity even under such circumstances.
[cn-cta-badge header="Testing the kill switch" content="We check how a kill switch is implemented using 2 tests. In the first, we block the connection to the server via the router, causing a client-side kill switch trigger. In the second, we disable OpenVPN processes, causing a software conflict to check how the app resolves it." no_cta='true']
During the firewall test, the app did not leak my IP at any point. However, it took ~5 minutes to figure out that something was wrong. When Astrill finally detected that there is no connection, it displayed a "waiting for server reply" message. So, this should be the key sign that the kill switch has triggered. In the end, the app didn't reconnect or warn that the connection isn't available. If their server ever goes down while you're connected to it, you'll have to reconnect manually.
After I disabled some OpenVPN processes, the app immediately found the issue and reconnected within seconds without exposing my IP. However, when killing both Astrill VPN's daemon and OpenVPN, my IP started leaking. The app detected the issues only after a couple of minutes. This time, it was unable to fix itself and reconnect.
To summarize, while Astrill's kill switch may falter in some cases, this is quite unlikely in real-world scenarios.
Astrill VPN is registered in the Seychelles, which is a privacy-friendly country. It's out of reach for the Five, Nine, and Fourteen eyes surveillance alliances, and the country has no data retention laws. It's an ideal location choice for a privacy-focused business like Astrill.
When it comes to their policies, Astrill claims to keep no logs of its users' activities. They do keep some session information in the form of anonymized data, but that's something that most services are doing. That's useful for them later on when they're optimizing the servers to be more efficient.
As of writing this article, they appeared in no privacy scandals, but there are no published third-party audit reports, either. It would help their cause if they manage to be a more transparent company, and audits could be the way to do it.
Servers and locations
Surprisingly, Astrill VPN has a really modest server list. They run only ~300 servers across 57 countries. So, with other competitors are counting servers in thousands, this seems like a pretty significant drawback.
|Regions||Number of countries|
|The Asia Pacific||11 countries|
|The Middle East and Africa||5 countries|
In reality, Astrill VPN is not a very popular service. And as you can see from the speed test results, their performance doesn't suffer much due to the small network.
There are some other potential issues, however. For example, Google will almost always assume you're Chinese because this service is widely used in China (and based on user activity, Google flags the server IP as Chinese). A small server base can aggravate an issue like this.
Does Astrill VPN work in China?
Astrill not only works in China, but it's also unofficially one of the most popular VPNs for bypassing the Great Firewall. It helps that Astrill runs a .onion version of their website, which is still accessible in China.
The service offers the StealthVPN tunneling protocol, which is designed to pierce through the Great Firewall. It does this by simulating HTTPS traffic and having no indications that a VPN is in use. OpenWeb also seems like a protocol that may be able to beat the Great Firewall.
Finally, a large proportion of Astrill's server pool is based in Asia, which is ideal for users in China.
Plans & pricing
Although I would like to say that Astrill VPN's pricing is unremarkable, that wouldn't be true. Some features are only available to VIP users, for example.
More importantly, however, it's simply quite expensive! Astrill VPN's prices are as follows:
|6 months||$90 ($15/month)|
|1 year||$120 ($10/month)|
Even without the addition of Private IPs for specific servers (an additional $5/month), Astrill VPN is one of the most expensive VPN services on the market.
You do get 5 simultaneous connections, but there is no free trial. There's also no surefire refund policy (money-back guarantee) either. Yet, there is a very basic Android version available for free in the Google Play store, though it likely won't be enough to get the complete picture.
Some payment options like credit cards or PayPal also require phone confirmation, which isn't common for cybersecurity tools. It also supports AliPay, Union Pay, WebMoney, Perfect Money, and cryptocurrencies. So, there are methods to pay anonymously, but telephone verification is something that should be scrapped.
If you're feeling like treating yourself, you can opt for the special VIP data package. It allows connecting to special VIP servers in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and the USA. As I've managed to find out, the most extraordinary thing about them is that they are connected to premium networks with direct routes to Asia.
Besides, the Multi-hop (chaining VPN servers) feature is available for VIP users only. However, since this option costs extra, the multi-hop you get is supercharged. You can configure up to 3 multi-hop server combinations picking the needed countries yourself. It will bury your real IP deep.
Sadly, this option is measured in data packages, so if you need an additional 100 GB of VIP server traffic on top of your regular subscription, you'll have to pay an additional $10 per month. Each upgrade step increases the total amount, so it's possible to get 1,000 GB of VIP server traffic, which would cost you an additional $100 per month on top of your regular subscription.
Interface and ease of use
Let's get one thing out of the way: the UI doesn't make Astrill look like a $10/month VPN service. As a matter of fact, the app looks sorely outdated.
The upside is that it gets quite technical, with many settings, menus, and things you can tweak. Whether it frightens you or is something that you're looking for in a VPN is up to you to decide.
Functionality-wise, there are many low-level features, which aren't available on most consumer VPNs. In other words, if you have the desire to disable DHCP and change DNS settings to make VPN connection sharing possible - this may be the VPN for you.
On the flip side, if you're a noob looking for something intuitive, Astrill's apps can ruin your experience.
I was surprised to see that you can set up the VPN on your router directly from the app. The support is somewhat limited, and it does get quite technical, but this is certainly a welcome feature.
Still, with so many settings, it becomes quite easy to overlook some things, even for pros. For example, at first, the network path trace when using OpenWeb did not indicate that I was connecting through a VPN server. Yet my browser could not detect my actual location. I only later found out that there was the option to choose whether the protocol should only apply to browser traffic or all traffic.
The Windows and macOS version shares the same look. Although you would expect the macOS app to be more user-friendly, this is just not the case.
There are some cuts in functionality, too. For example, split tunneling is limited only to web browsers. Which is a strange limitation to have considering they support Smart mode just fine.
Otherwise, OpenVPN connections seemed to be working a little better on macOS than on Windows. There were no frequent disconnects, and the overall connection experience was smoother.
The app is available in three forms: DEB packages, RPM packages, and a bash script. I find this to be an excellent selection, as it covers the most popular distributions and provides an alternative if your distribution is not supported with these packages.
I managed to set up the app quite easily. It also had the same UI and available settings as the Windows app. I did not find any issues with the OpenVPN connections with this version of the app.
Astrill VPN mobile apps
With Android, it seems that Astrill finally got the UI right. The color palette and elements look more similar to their website than the desktop app.
On the downside, there are some feature cuts. There is no OpenVPN tunneling protocol and no kill switch. This on its own reduces the app's usability quite a lot. Other additions like VPN sharing and DNS and WebRTC leak prevention systems aren't included either.
If you looked at the Android app and were disappointed by the feature cuts, the iOS app will ruin your mood. It doesn't offer much of anything in terms of settings and only supports OpenVPN. This is a problem since the protocol seldom works in China.
The app itself lacks even the polish that was present on the Android app. The color scheme reminds a port from the Windows version, which isn't a good thing. I hope that they update the user interface as soon as possible.
In terms of customer support, Astrill doesn't cut any corners. They have their Wiki with many guides and tutorials on how to set everything up. There's also a pretty extensive customer support portal that includes FAQs as well as video tutorials.
For direct contact with customer support agents, there's a contact form and 24/7 live chat. I contacted customer support via live chat about my issue with OpenVPN on Windows. The representative connected to my chat in around one minute.
Overall, the customer support experience was good. The agent went through the main troubleshooting steps and answered all of my questions but ultimately could not resolve the issue.
Is Astrill VPN any good and worth getting?
Astrill VPN is a good-enough VPN service: it works for some streaming platforms, torrenting is allowed, the service is based in a privacy-friendly location, and it has excellent customer support, to name a few.
However, its main appeal is probably for users in restrictive countries like China, Russia, Iran, and others. Astrill is one of the best at bypassing tough firewalls and has lots of servers in Asia.
Yet it's also very hard to recommend this VPN to an average user - a smooth, intuitive experience is simply not the strength of this advanced VPN software.
Finally, Astrill is very expensive and some features are locked away behind a VIP paywall that adds $10 to the (already steep) price. The market is now saturated with great VPNs. The most expensive option isn't always the best.
Is Astrill VPN free?
No, but Astrill VPN does have a free limited Android version. You can download it from the Google Play store in approved regions.
Does Astrill VPN work with Netflix?
Yes, AstrillVPN does work with Netflix. With it, you can unblock the service in the US and elsewhere.
How much does Astrill VPN cost?
Astrill VPN is pretty expensive, the shortest monthly option costs $20. Even with the longest plan, that price drops down to $10 per month.
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