Avira Phantom VPN review
Avira Phantom VPN comes from one of the biggest antivirus companies. It offers good speeds, a functional kill switch, military-grade encryption, and even a free version. However, the downsides of Avira VPN include a small server fleet, the inability to unblock Netflix, and the lack of WireGuard on the Windows app.
You see, creating a competitive VPN service is a different beast to tame. No VPN made by an antivirus provider has ever climbed to our best-of lists. This is saying something.
So, is this service an exception to the rule? In this Avira Phantom VPN review, I’ll put it through our regular testing routine. This will answer how the service performs and how it stacks up against other tools on the market.
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Phantom VPN pros & cons
- Good VPN speeds
- Working kill switch
- Military-grade encryption
- Free version
- WireGuard tunnelling protocol
- Doesn’t unblock many streaming services
- Small server fleet
- Based in Fourteen Eyes country
- Few features compared to the competition
Speed and performance: Is Avira VPN fast?
One of the hardest things to review is VPN speeds – they are highly subjective and can vary. To work around this, we pick the same locations as with other VPN services and connect to them using all available tunneling protocols. Then we compare them to our baseline speeds, which give us a rough idea of how a VPN performs on average.
In this case, Avira Phantom VPN is relying on OpenVPN TCP and IPsec tunneling protocols. There's also WireGuard, but it's only available on Android. To test its speeds, we would need a different device from our test unit, distorting findings. The speed changes could be the result of a different network card, so we're omitting it from our speed test scores.
- Baseline: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
|Location||Download Speed (Mbps)||Upload Speed (Mbps)|
TCP is the only available OpenVPN option, which usually is considerably slower than UDP mode. As an upside, it does provide better connection reliability. Still, Avira's Phantom VPN does flip the script to some degree here. On average, the impact on download speeds is a 60% drop-off. This isn't bad when some dedicated VPNs have dropped as high as 84%.
Though the upload speed is much more reflective of the slow nature of TCP, and on average, reduces the speed by 86%. TCP should be sufficient for most online activities and is much safer than UDP, so there's some value.
|Location||Download Speed (Mbps)||Upload Speed (Mbps)|
IPsec is another tunneling protocol option that you can find on their apps. Usually, IPSec speeds are better than OpenVPN (TCP). In our test results, the average download speed drop was as low as 25%. These are awe-inspiring results, even factoring in the nature of IPSec. Still, it does fall short with upload speeds as their average dip is 96%. Such numbers are pretty severe.
Overall, much slower upload speeds are a staple of most VPN services. This is often okay, considering more users use VPN to download things rather than upload. In this sense, Avira Phantom compromises uploads, yet their download rates are high across the board.
Streaming: Does Avira Phantom VPN work with Netflix?
Major VPN providers tend to make a fuss about their streaming service unblocking capabilities. Avira Phantom isn't that flashy about it, and pretty soon, I found out why.
I didn't manage to unblock US-exclusive Netflix content. I was still able to watch videos, but it had the same content that I have available in my home country. It's a bit strange that it didn't trigger a proxy error.
Unfortunately, Avira Phantom VPN stumbled with other services, as well. Neither BBC iPlayer nor DAZN worked. In both cases, the VPN was detected and access to the content was blocked.
The only case when it did manage to unblock restricted content was with YouTube. It did unblock sports highlights unavailable with European IP, so there are some glimmers of hope. Still, don't expect this service to be that worthwhile if unblocking geo-restricted content is something you're planning to do.
Is Phantom VPN good and safe for torrenting?
Aside from the one line in the pricing section of their product, Avira Phantom VPN doesn't share too much about its torrenting capabilities. Their website doesn't specify whether it's fully compatible with peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers, which are necessary for uTorrent, or BitTorrent apps to function properly.
Yet, during my test, Avira Phantom VPN worked with torrent clients. The download speed peaked at 17MB/s (136mbps), which is a pretty great result. This means that you can download 1 GB Linux ISO in about 3 minutes. Not too shabby.
The experience was smooth, and I didn't encounter any issues. While I prefer it when the provider clearly explains their torrenting policy, it's understandable why they don't.
Avira Phantom VPN features
Malicious site blocking
Although there aren't many settings to tinker with, Avira Phantom VPN has a toggle for malicious site blocks. Once you turn it on, all web content flagged to be dangerous will be filtered out. You'll be able to browse safely as the notorious websites won't even load on your browser.
This also includes spam, phishing, and other fraudulent URLs. Sadly, it won't exclude intrusive ads and trackers. Using an adblocker with this VPN is a good idea, and it would expand the scope of filtered links even further.
Not all users want to manually switch the VPN on and off. There are some cases when you want it to connect automatically. Thankfully, Avira Phantom VPN allows to pre-configure automatic VPN connection for specified networks. For example, whenever you connect to your favourite coffee shop's public Wi-Fi, Avira will connect automatically.
There are other options like launching a system on start up. Whenever you reboot your device, Avira will also launch in the background. Which also can be very useful and save you clicking time. Though, most VPN services do include similar functionalities. This isn't their unique feature.
Is Avira Phantom VPN safe?
As they claim on their web page, Avira Phantom VPN uses 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. The same is used by most VPN service providers, password managers, and even banking institutions. It's common knowledge that this standard is uncrackable, as the bits string to guess is just too long to be brute-forced. Even the most powerful computers couldn't do it. That is why your data remains safe.
Sadly, they don't specify how your credentials are hashed and how authentication is processed. This could be interesting information for tech-minded people who want to know exactly what happens under the hood.
Avira Phantom VPN only has a few tunneling protocol options. With that said, these are good choices, for the most part:
OpenVPN TCP – the mode that has error correction functionality built-in. It only exchanges data packets when the VPN server acknowledges the device. This makes the communication slower but more reliable and safer than UDP mode.
IPsec – it's a group of several other protocols used to exchange and encrypt data. Still, it's widely believed to be one of the best tunneling protocols.
WireGuard – the most recent open-source tunneling protocol that is exceptional in its security and speed. The only downside is that it's still in development as a protocol and isn't as widespread as other options. WireGuard is currently only available on the Android version of Avira Phantom.
Despite not having the widest tunneling protocol selection, Avira Phantom does take care of the essentials. You have a protocol for safety (OpenVPN TCP) and an option for speed (IPsec). WireGuard is also there, but it's only available for Android, making it more of a test feature. Still, this alone shows that they're set to improve their service, which is good news for its users.
This time around, the kill switch tests were a bit unusual. The service has different versions of the app available in app stores and on their website. We ran tests with both of them. The first test involves adding custom rules to the router to block the connection. During the second, some app processes are shut down to check how the kill switch responds. All of this gives us pretty good data on what you could expect if the service suddenly disconnects.
Whether you're using the Windows Store app or the one available via the Avira Phantom website, the kill switch does work. It engaged in both tests but gave no notification that it was activated. I was able to regain Internet access again by clicking on the disconnect button. Effectively, this also turns off the kill switch if you want to connect without it.
The second test didn't throw either version of the app off balance either. I managed to kill the OpenVPN process on the website-downloaded app, which instantly triggered the kill switch and disabled the connection. Only after manually disconnecting, I regained access to the Internet. Meanwhile, I didn't manage to disrupt any processes of the Windows Store version of the app. They would instantly be recreated.
Overall, Avira's kill switch is looking good. It's one of the few rare examples when it triggers even when meddling with the app processes. Not to mention that it works flawlessly when blocking connections to their servers, as well.
They promise not to log the websites that you visit, your real IP address, or the virtual IP addresses that you were assigned. This gives confidence that your privacy will indeed be respected.
Still, whether you're a free or paid user, it does log some minor information like how much data you've used (and your account type). It can also include some diagnostic data, but this can be disabled via a toggle in their settings.
The problem arises from their location. Avira Operations GmbH & Co is based in Germany, which is a Fourteen Eyes country. As disclosed by the Snowden leaks, member countries are capable of obtaining data directly from Internet Service Providers and sharing it among themselves. What makes it even worse is that Germany is subject to some local data retention laws, which Avira has to comply with.
Due to such an unfavorable location, Avira Phantom could benefit from a much higher level of transparency. This could work in their favor by convincing users that they're capable of protecting their anonymity even under such circumstances.
Servers and locations
This service doesn't have the biggest server fleet. They only have 150 servers across 34 countries, which is a bit underwhelming. It's not clear whether the servers are hardware-only or virtual. So, it's hard to how much value you're getting.
|Regions||Number of countries|
Europe has the most options while other continents are severely behind. There are no servers in Africa or the Middle East, and there are only a few options in Asian countries. If you were expecting global coverage, this certainly doesn't apply to Avira Phantom VPN.
Plans & pricing
There are several routes to obtain Avira Phantom VPN. You can buy the mobile version separately, which will be cheaper. Then, there are regular subscriptions that cover all device types, and you can get it with your Avira Prime package. It includes the VPN along with their other products. Depending on which route you decide to take, the price will adjust accordingly.
|Phantom VPN Pro (mobile only)||$5.99/month|
|Phantom VPN Pro||$10/month, or $78.00/year|
If you need a VPN only on your phone, you can opt for Phantom VPN Pro for mobile. It's a mobile-only option that will work with only the devices running Android or iOS, costing you $5.99/month. Since Android is the only version that has WireGuard, this may not be such a bad deal.
Phantom VPN Pro includes desktop devices and doesn't constrain you with any OS limits. It has two options: an annual plan for $78 a year and a $10 monthly plan. Considering that the monthly distributed cost is $6.50, this is only $0.51 more expensive than the mobile version.
Finally, you can get Avira Prime. The options include $9.99 for 1 month, $99.99 for 1 year, $189 for two years, and $279.99 for three years. It could be argued that it would make buck more sense to buy Avira Prime and get their VPN as a bonus.
The only payment options are PayPal, credit cards, and SEPA direct debit cards. You won't find cryptocurrency alternatives, which is a shame. They still include a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you don't like something, you'll be able to get a refund easily.
Avira Phantom has a free version that you can use without spending a dollar. It doesn't even require providing payment details or an email address to install or use.
However, there are some downsides. You aren't allowed to choose the server to connect to. The app does it for you based on your location. It always connects to the nearest one, so cross-continent surfing is off the menu. By default, there is also a 500MB/month data cap, which can pretty much render the service unusable after an hour of browsing.
You can increase the cap if you provide your email address. Still, it increases only to 1GB/month, so it doesn't really solve the problem. The app cuts features as well, for example, the kill switch isn't available on it. Overall, there is little reason to consider Avira's Phantom free version, it's too handicapped to be of any real use.
Interface and ease of use
As I've mentioned previously, Avira Phantom has two app versions: one from the Windows Store and a client from their website. Interestingly enough, they perform a bit differently.
The Windows Store version of the app caused DNS leaks consistently. This wasn't a one-off thing, and it occurred with all the servers that I tested. Yet, this wasn't present on their website client. This is important because DNS leaks can compromise your identity by revealing your real IP address and location.
As for the app itself, it looks identical on either variant. It's convenient, but pretty basic and only allows choosing the country, but not the servers. You can switch the theme between light and dark mode, make it launch on start up, and block malicious websites.
Just like Windows, macOS has two versions of the app. One is available via the App Store, and the other is on the Avira Phantom VPN website. They also have different setups: the App Store version uses IPsec, while the other uses OpenVPN TCP. Both tunneling protocols provide very different advantages. It's a shame that you're not getting both.
Protocols aside, both apps are identical. They also allow setting up automatic launch on startup, disable diagnostic info sharing, and blocking malicious websites. The light/dark mode switch is also there.
Avira Phantom VPN app design looks very similar to the desktop versions. It's minimal but informative enough for a novice user to easily find what they're looking for.
The app itself is missing some features compared to the desktop version but does have unique features. For example, it lacks a kill switch but includes WireGuard. When I connected with it, the speeds were better than with OpenVPN. However, the difference was pretty small - only a 3% improvement for download and upload speeds.
The iOS app is virtually identical to the Android app. The differences are that it doesn't have WireGuard or OpenVPN. It primarily relies on IPsec as their only option.
There is no way to enable the kill switch. It simply isn't included in the app. You can still set it up for auto-connect on untrusted Wi-Fi networks, and there's a toggle for disabling diagnostic data sending. There are no other options or settings to tweak.
Avira is a bit economic when it comes to product presentation. They have a knowledge section online, but it doesn't cover most topics. For example, they don't adequately explain how the authentication mechanisms are implemented and whether they're using virtual servers - the list goes on.
The guides that they have are overly simplified. They explain the most basic things, but if you're looking for more in-depth setups, you will be disappointed.
If you need help, you can post your question on Avira's message board, where it will be visible to everyone. You can also contact them via email or phone. There is no live chat.
Is Avira Phantom VPN any good?
Avira Phantom VPN is a very lightweight service that occasionally manages to get pretty good speeds. However, an occasional speed drop can taint your VPN experience while watching Youtube (as the VPN doesn’t unblock any other streaming service).
While not necessarily the most feature-rich tool out there, Avira VPN is secure and delivers good torrenting performance. It uses military-grade encryption and has a functional kill switch.
It also offers a free version, which requires no payment details (or an email address, for that matter). However, the 500MB data cap can get pretty annoying.
Also, the selection of tunneling protocols is rather odd, as OpenVPN UDP isn’t available at all.
In short, unless you need a VPN for unblocking various streaming platforms or hardcore anonymity in countries like China, Avira Phantom is a decent choice if you’re buying the Avira Prime antivirus package.
Does Avira Phantom VPN have an Adblocker?
No, Avira Phantom VPN doesn't include an adblocker. It filters out malicious sites, but this won't disable annoying ads. You'll need a separate tool if you want to get rid of those.
Does Avira Phantom VPN work in China?
The numbers of VPNs that work in China change constantly. Your best bet would be to contact their customer support agents and check what's the current situation.
Does Avira Phantom VPN have a free version?
Yes, Avira Phantom VPN has a free version. You can use it without signing up, and you don't even need to provide your email address.
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