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Betternet VPN review


Betternet VPN is a US based VPN service, which offers a free version, good speeds, the Catapult Hydra encryption protocol, split tunneling, user friendly and easy to navigate interface, and a streaming mode to unblock Netflix and Youtube.

As the name suggests, Betternet is keen to offer you a safer, more secure and overall better internet experience. The user interface even has some cute animations.

But let’s not jump head first and instead look at Betternet VPN from a bit closer.

If you look up other Betternet VPN reviews on the web, most of them will warn you against using it, and reasonably so.

For one, Betternet’s speeds are very inconsistent. The free version limits bandwidth consumption per day, so is only good for very casual and infrequent browsing. Some premium features are available only on Windows, and the customer support is only via email, which is not extremely efficient.

If you’re still curious and want more details, read our Betternet VPN review to know more about what we found in our tests.

Rating:
3.5
Country:US
Logs:Extensive logging
Price:Premium from $7.99
Support:Email
Locations:80 countries
Torreting:Yes
Netflix:US and UK libraries

Betternet VPN pros & cons

Speed performance: is Betternet fast?

The impression that we got about Betternet’s speed is that it’s incredibly inconsistent and the protocols are poorly implemented.

However, VPN speed is a difficult feature to review and any measurement results are very dependent on the location, user’s internet connection and a number of other factors. To get around this issue, we measured speeds in various different locations and compared them to the baseline speed, thus determining the overall rough speed of a VPN provider.

One other thing we measured was ping. Ping is important for internet calls, live streaming, gaming and anything that requires the smallest amount of delay. 50ms to 100ms is average ping, and anything below 20 is exceptionally low ping. Anything higher than 100ms, the delay gets bad. And the worse the delay, the worse the communication with your colleagues and friends over calls, the worse the online gaming experience, etc. You get the idea - a low ping is the best ping.

Baseline: 1ms ping, 300mbps download/300mbps upload

Hydra protocol

LocationPing (ms)Download speedUpload speed
US (NY)110144.6832.63
UK52141.7959.14
Germany41293.8183.48
Japan23717.4917.25
Singapore187132.4219.96

IKEv2 protocol

LocationPing (ms)Download speedUpload speed
US (NY)10832.22102.81
UK53162.24156.77
Germany41238.36156.47
Japan2646.7636.54
Singapore2219.4733.82

Free version

Ping (ms)Download speedUpload speed
211180.334.93

At one moment of speed testing, there was some confusion if Betternet got their protocols mislabeled. Hydra, which should’ve had better speed, was, in fact, performing worse than expected.

However, after a quick confirmation, we concluded that this is simply the result of previously mentioned poor implementation and inconsistencies.

Overall, it can’t really be said that Betternet VPN offers the best, or even better speeds than any of it’s rivals on the market. Considering the fact that Betternet is often labeled as the ripoff of Hotspot Shield and uses the same technologies, protocols and servers, the inconsistencies in speed are a bit unexpected and disappointing.

Streaming: does Betternet VPN work with Netflix?

Betternet works with Netflix in the US and the UK. It unblocks libraries and lets you watch content exclusive to these countries.

However, it is really not the best VPN for accessing most of geo-restricted content on other platforms, according to our tests.

PlatformStatus
NetflixUS and UK libraries
Huluno
BBC iPlayerno
DAZNno

Not only doesn’t Betternet VPN help with unlocking other streaming services, such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer or DAZN, loading times are phenomenally long. That probably comes down to the previously mentioned inconsistent speeds, though.

However, there is a silver lining under this dark streaming cloud. When your content does eventually load, the quality is generally good and the streams don’t buffer. But it can’t be guaranteed to work all the time. This is again because of the speed inconsistencies, as very fast connections suddenly slowing down really don’t help with streaming.

All in all, as far as streaming goes, I wouldn’t recommend Betternet VPN for this particular purpose.

Is Betternet VPN good for torrenting?

According to our tests, torrenting is okay with Betternet VPN. The speeds are fair, hovering at around 3Mb/s. Though it is important to note that such torrenting speed is significantly lower than that of other VPN providers.

On the other hand, it looks like Betternet VPN allows torrenting on all of its servers. This is a pretty good thing to have as a VPN provider, so kudos to Betternet for that.

However, for a fair speed comparison, we did a speed test without P2P traffic. Here, we noticed a change. The download speed, previously 3Mb/s, was now at 11Mb/s. This difference between download speeds with and without P2P traffic is big enough to allow us to reasonably assume that Betternet VPN may throttle torrenting traffic.

Overall, while torrenting is possible with Betternet VPN, it is certainly not the best VPN for P2P traffic.

Betternet VPN features

Betternet VPN has the standard features of every VPN ever. However, some of the more advanced ones are only on the Windows app, premium version. Android, iOS and MacOS are very basic and don’t include any of the following:

Protocol selection

The premium version of Betternet VPN on Windows lets you select through which encryption protocol you want your traffic to travel. The selection of protocols, however fancy that sounds, is not of extreme variety. There is the industry standard IKEv2 encryption protocol and the Hotspot Shield signature Catapult Hydra.

IKEv2 let’s you reconnect without resetting if your connection gets interrupted (when switching between mobile data and wifi, for example). It is fast, suitable for streaming and great for mobile devices due to extensive support.

Catapult Hydra, a protocol used by Hotspot Shield, is somewhat of a mystery, and a very secure one at that. Not much is known about it, except for that it appears in lists among the fastest protocols on the market.

Betternet VPN protocol selection

IP leak prevention

Anonymous and secure browsing with a VPN is achieved through hiding the original IP address. If there’s an IP leak, all of that rerouting and connecting to other servers goes to waste. IP leak prevention ensures that your original IP address stays hidden at every moment of using a VPN.

IP leak prevention is a standard feature of all VPN services, and it’s good to know that Betternet is not an exception. It’s also working perfectly, which is a plus.

Autoconnect

Autoconnect is the feature that allows for automatic connection to VPN when encountering unsafe or public networks. Public networks don’t usually have a high level of security and are easily hackable. Autoconnect feature is particularly useful when travelling, when connecting to public wifi in cafes, hotels and airports is unavoidable. If the feature is turned on, you won’t need to worry about safety, as the VPN will connect by default.

Betternet VPN autoconnect

Split tunneling

Betternet calls split tunneling domain exclusion. Split tunneling is useful if you want to stay anonymous online and, say, stream a game or a show at the same time without interruptions. Using a VPN slows down your internet speed and can cause streams to buffer. However, with split tunneling you can exclude certain domains from the VPN traffic. Your stream then will be routed outside the VPN tunnel, thus allowing for regular internet speed.

Betternet VPN split tunneling

Is Betternet VPN safe?

Betternet VPN is not safe, because it employs extensive logging policies. On top of that, it doesn't have a kill switch (except on Windows), which is a truly crucial feature for any respectable VPN to have. On the other hand, it uses the same encryption protocols as Hotspot Shield, which are deemed safe and trustworthy.

Encryption

As for the encryption of your traffic, in addition to the Catapult Hydra protocol, Betternet VPN also employs the industry standard AES-256bit encryption. That is to say, these protocols are recognised and acknowledged in the industry as perfectly sufficient and capable of top tier encryption. Nothing to be worried about on this side of Betternet’s security.

Logging

This is a feature of Betternet VPN that raises some concerns for users’ privacy. Aura’s, and in turn Betternet’s privacy policy claims that they do not “record your VPN browsing activities in any way that can be associated back to you”. Betternet makes it pretty clear that it cannot share any identifying information with ad networks or government agencies because it doesn't have it. Sounds good enough, right?

However, there are some other things that Betternet does track. For example, it derives such information as the user's approximate geographic location, as well as info about your ISP. Additionally, they also log the duration of sessions and bandwidth consumed, domains visited (on an anonymised basis) and device hashes — all for monitoring, support, optimization of the service and marketing purposes.

This sounds pretty reasonable. However, it has long been established in the VPN world that the best logging policy to use if you want to earn your client’s trust is the ultimate no-logs policy. There are other VPNs on the market that don’t log user’s location, bandwidth consumption and any other information mentioned above.

And while the data that Betternet VPN does log doesn’t look incriminating, I’ll leave you to decide for yourself if this level of tracking is acceptable to you.

Jurisdiction

Betternet is based in the US which means that according to the US law, the VPN provider is legally obliged to provide information about their users to government agencies. There is really nothing one can do about that, law is law and people must abide by it. But if you really want to be sure that your online activities go unnoticed, choosing a VPN that is based in the US is maybe not your best move.

Servers and locations

Betternet offers servers in 80 countries in the whole wide world, but that’s for premium version users. If you’re using the free version, the number of locations is limited to just 10 or so, without the option to choose specific sites.

The regions with the most countries are Europe and Asia with the Pacific region:

Regions:Number of countries:
Europe48
Asia Pacific28
The Americas16
Africa and Middle East7

Betternet also keeps the number of servers secret, but it’s safe to assume that it’s around 1,800, just like with Hotspot Shield, which is a fairly good number. Still, other VPN providers are prone to offering much wider networks of servers, spanning to over 3,000 servers worldwide.

Plans and pricing

Betternet VPN has a free and a premium version. The latter comes with additional features, such as a wider selection of possible locations, better speeds and 5 simultaneous connection options. However, it comes out on the pricier side when compared to its rivaling VPNs on the market.

The good news is that you can try out the premium version for free for a week, so there is no need to commit from the get-go.

Premium subscriptionPrice
1 weekFree trial
1 month$12.99
1 year$7.99/month

Free version

As the saying goes, if it’s free, the user is the product. Previously, Betternet VPN paid for their free users by making them watch ads. While that is no longer the case (I didn’t encounter any ads apart from the expected premium version ones), today free users are limited to only 500MB per day.

The free version of Betternet VPN is good for infrequent and minimal browsing that doesn’t require great speed, though not much more. The only nice thing about the free version is that there is no need to create an account to use it, but this is true for most free VPNs.

Overall, the free version is not that great and I wouldn’t recommend using it.

User interface and ease of use

The user interface design is very simple, clean and easy to navigate. Connecting to a server is one click away, and you’ll find other features, such as customer support, settings and streaming mode through the menu in the left upper corner of your screen.

Betternet VPN uses virtually the same interface for all of its operating systems, including iOS, Android, macOS and Windows. Such a choice is attractive in that it doesn’t require the user to familiarise themselves with navigation over and over again when switching between different devices.

Another cool feature are the cute animations and drawings, which make the user experience that much more pleasurable.

Betternet VPN app interface

However, there is a difference concerning the features. The Windows premium app has more features than apps for the other operating systems. These include a kill switch, protocol selection and others. These additional features are reviewed in more detail in the Betternet VPN features section.

Customer support

24/7 customer support that is either available by live chat or phone calls is generally considered an essential feature of any VPN provider that wants to make it on the market.

Betternet VPN does not, in fact, have neither 24/7 customer support nor live chat nor the possibility of contacting customer support agents by phone. It seems instead that free users are limited to the FAQ section on Betternet VPN’s official website.

Paid users have the option of contacting support by email. However, this option on mobile apps is morbidly designed.

Betternet VPN customer support window

For the high quality support that Betternet VPN boasts about on their page for premium subscription, it is certainly not the best and not the most efficient.

Is Betternet VPN any good?

To be fair, there definitely are better options than Betternet VPN. The cute user interface doesn’t make up for what the service actually lacks.

For all the claims about high speeds and unblocking streaming content, Betternet VPN clearly under-delivers. The speeds are not that fast and very inconsistent, and it unblocks only some of the Netflix libraries, nevermind the other streaming platforms.

Talking about additional features like split tunneling and kill switch, only the Windows version has them, so if you’re using any other OS, you’re out of luck.

In short, Betternet VPN has nothing that the other VPN providers don’t have, with both the free and the premium version taken into account. It is acceptable for encrypting your data when you’re just casually browsing, but not for much else.

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