Proton VPN review
Proton VPN is a service from the makers of ProtonMail. If their former product is anything to go by, you should expect only the best security features, guaranteeing you safety and online anonymity.
Being based in a privacy-friendly country (Switzerland), having a strict no-logs policy, and offering hacker-proof encryption, Proton VPN ensures solid protection for its users. On top of that, it has a great free version that can unblock Netflix. The paid plans are a good choice not only for keeping you anonymous and secure, but for streaming and torrenting as well.
Caught your attention? Well then, keep reading this Proton VPN review to find out everything about the provider. You’ll learn about the privacy chops, what streaming services it can unblock, features, speeds, customer support options, and more! Hopefully, this review will be a helpful guide if you’re considering getting Proton VPN.
|🥇 Overall rank:||#7 out of #29|
|📖 No logs policy:||No logs|
|💵 Price:||From $4.99/month|
|🖥️ Servers:||1700+ servers in 63 countries|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube|
|🔥 Coupons:||ProtonVPN coupon 50% OFF|
Proton VPN pros & cons
- Great free version
- Unblocks streaming services, including Netflix
- Supports torrenting
- Offers open-source apps
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Premium pricing
- Mac version lacks most features
- Customer support response times can be slower
Is Proton VPN good for streaming?
|Platform||Does it work?|
|Amazon Prime Video||✅ Yes|
|HBO Max||✅ Yes|
|BBC iPlayer||✅ Yes|
If you're looking for a VPN to use for streaming, Proton VPN doesn't disappoint. They don't have dedicated servers for streaming or Smart DNS, but connecting to a regular server usually does the trick.
Speaking of which, Proton VPN offers plenty of servers, which are located in 54 countries. And, you know what that means – you’ll have the possibility to access all of the best content around the world. After all, you’ll be able to unblock libraries in countries like the USA and UK. On top of that, you can use Proton VPN with Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, Android TV, and Kodi.
In terms of streaming platforms, let’s see how Proton VPN can unblock the most popular ones.
Unblocking Netflix with Proton VPN
Proton VPN is a solid choice for unblocking the US Netflix library. While I couldn’t connect on the first try, the second attempt was successful. So, if Netflix returns the "You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy" message after connecting, just try to connect to a different server.
Once I connected to the United States server, I was quite surprised with the experience. There was no buffering at all. Sure, when connecting to libraries of other countries, I had different loading times, but overall it was a pleasant experience and Proton VPN can surely go in the list of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Unblocking HBO Max with Proton VPN
If you’re an HBO Max subscriber, you’ll be pleased to know that Proton VPN is more than capable of unblocking geo-restricted content on HBO. I managed to do it on the first try.
What’s even better is that the video quality did not suffer – Proton VPN managed to handle high-quality films, and without any buffering.
Unblocking other streaming services with Proton VPN
There are many popular streaming services available, and Proton VPN can unblock most of them. Of course, realistically speaking, we couldn’t test them all, however, we reviewed the most popular ones.
Starting from YouTube, all I can say is that it worked without a hitch. All you have to do is make sure to pick a server with a lesser load to avoid slow buffering. I was also able to access Hulu libraries. While, just like with Netflix, I had to switch between a few servers to find one that can unblock it, it worked like a charm when I accessed it.
Regarding BBC iPlayer, I did experience some slight buffering issues, but it didn’t turn into a persistent issue. The only service Proton VPN didn’t work with was DAZN. It’s no surprise as not many VPN providers are successful at unblocking it.
On their website, you can find hints and tips to use the service when unblocking services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, ESPN+, and more. While we couldn’t review all of the services, Proton VPN is a reliable option when it comes to streaming.
Is Proton VPN good for torrenting?
Yes, Proton VPN is a solid choice for torrenting because it supports P2P file sharing. While Proton VPN is sometimes inconsistent when it comes to speeds, the service has dedicated P2P-optimized servers for a better torrenting experience. However, you only get this luxury with the paid plans.
On top of that, the best VPNs for torrenting are usually based in a privacy-friendly country. And Proton VPN is no exception. It’s based in Switzerland, which is a country that doesn’t forbid torrenting. So, your file-sharing activities with this provider are going to be safe and anonymous. Especially because Proton VPN has a strict no-logs policy, leaving all of your browsing activities up to you.
Overall, torrenting with Proton VPN won’t disappoint you. While it isn’t the fastest for that purpose, it does the job well.
Plans & pricing
Proton VPN comes in four editions – Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary. While I’d appreciate a free version any time of the week, it’s very limited. And, considering that there is a night and day difference between the Free and Basic edition, it makes it harder to get an informed decision if you want to actually buy the service.
The only solution is a 30-day money-back guarantee, which you can only request if you switch back to the free version from the account dashboard.
Considering that depending on the plan you purchase, you get more VPN connections, Proton VPN offers some great VPN deals. Here’s how the plans differ from each other:
|Proton VPN Free||1 VPN connection, servers in 3 countries, medium speed||$0.00|
|Proton VPN Basic||2 VPN connections, servers in 40+ countries, high speed, P2P support||$5/month|
|Proton VPN Plus||5 VPN connections, servers in 63 countries, fastest speeds (up to 10Gbps), P2P support, Secure Core VPN, TOR over VPN, better media streaming websites support||$10/month|
|Proton VPN Visionary||10 VPN connections, and all the features from Plus package with ProtonMail Visionary account||$30/month|
Can you get Proton VPN for free?
If you don’t feel like spending money on a VPN, you’re in luck because you can get Proton VPN for free. Of course, the downside is that the free version restricts you to 1 connection with the same account. This is easily bypassable by using a separate account on each device, which you could also do.
You can choose from servers in 3 countries only, and your speeds will be pretty bad. Yet, as a free service, that's quite a generous package that will protect your privacy. Sure, if you won't be able to unblock Netflix, customer support agent's won't help you out. Regardless, we've managed to unblock it even on the free package.
As of writing this article, Proton VPN has 1500+ servers in 61 countries. What's noteworthy is that the number of servers you have a possibility to connect to depends on which plan you have.
The locations with the best server coverage are Europe, Asia, and Americas.
|Regions||Number of countries||Number of servers|
|Europe||31 countries||400+ servers|
|Asia||14 countries||250+ servers|
|Americas||10 countries||700+ servers|
|Rest of world||4 countries||100+ servers|
Free users can only connect to servers in Japan, The Netherlands, and the United States. So, you get some coverage, although all options are equally bad for users in South Africa. It's also the only plan that doesn't have P2P servers.
The Proton VPN Plus and Visionary plans both offer all servers in 63 countries, while the Basic subscription gives you access to 400+ only. Servers with unique features like Secure Core VPN and TOR over VPN will only be available to Plus and Visionary subscribers.
How to connect to Proton VPN?
Connecting to a server with Proton VPN is as easy as with most VPN services. All you need to do is:
1. Log in to your account in the Proton VPN app.
2. On the left side of the window, you can press the “Quick connect” button which will connect you to the “Fastest” profile. However, if you want to connect to a random server in a chosen country, find it in the list and click “Connect”.
3. If you want to choose a specific server, click on the arrow by the country of your choice to find all the servers it has.
4. By each of the servers you’ll see a green, yellow, or red circle, which you can click to find out the server load and features.
5. After you choose a server, click the “Connect” button.
That’s all it takes to connect to Proton VPN. If you feel like the server is very slow, try connecting to another one as it may be overloaded.
Speed and performance: How fast is Proton VPN?
|390 Mbit/s||353 Mbit/s|
|256 Mbit/s||233 Mbit/s|
|223 Mbit/s||353 Mbit/s|
Since WireGuard is the tunneling protocol that typically offers the best speeds, it’s not surprising that Proton VPN came out to be pretty fast.
However, while the provider can sometimes show outstanding speed results, in other cases, it can be a bit inconsistent and slow down your connection quite significantly. But as long as you connect to servers that are closest to your location, you shouldn’t experience major issues.
Naturally, the speeds will tank using Tor over VPN option, so you'll have to balance the safety measures and speed if you want to have an enjoyable online experience.
Overall, while there are faster VPN providers on the market, your experience will depend on the connection protocol, the distance to the server, and additional features.
While Proton VPN isn’t the best of the best service, it sure is a speedy one.
Proton VPN performance with other protocols
Although WireGuard is considered one of the fastest protocols on the market, it’s not the only option that Proton VPN offers. The provider also includes OpenVPN (TCP or UDP variant) and IKEv2/IPsec protocols.
Let’s see the average download and upload speeds across 10 different locations of each protocol:
- Baseline: 300 Mbps download, 300 Mbps upload
- WireGuard: 253.04/251.81
- IKEv2/IPsec: 114/172
- OpenVPN (TCP): 70.29/91.41
- OpenVPN (UDP): 226.02/228.44
As expected, since WireGuard is known to be one of the fastest tunneling protocols on the market, it’s no surprise that it came in first place. The highest possible reduction was in Japan at 90.89%, which is understandable considering that the server is one of the furthest from Europe. The lowest reduction with WireGuard was at only 6.5%, which is a remarkable result compared to competitors.
Next up was the UDP variant of OpenVPN, which kept quite similar results to WireGuard. The TCP variant, however, is a different case. The speeds were worse than any protocol offered by Proton VPN, with the biggest speed reductions getting as high as 95.3%.
It’s important to note that the IKEv2/IPsec protocol is not supported on Windows but considering that its speeds aren’t all that impressive, it’s not such a loss. While results were better than OpenVPN (TCP), it still can’t compete with WireGuard or OpenVPN (UDP).
When it comes to stacking Proton VPN up against other widely-used VPN providers, the results are very good too. Here’s how Proton VPN performs compared to some other VPNs:
|Provider||Average download speed|
|Proton VPN||69% 🏆|
At the end of the day, Proton VPN is a pretty fast service. While the results show that speeds can sometimes be inconsistent, it depends on the tunneling protocol and the server location.
Proton VPN video review
If you’re the type of person who takes in visual information better, then you’ll be pleased to know that we have a video review of Proton VPN. Check it out to find all of the information about this provider!
Interface and ease of use
|Windows||Best Proton VPN experience|
|macOS||Lacks crucial security features|
|Linux||Can be switched between a BIOS-like version or a terminal|
|Mobile||Excellent apps on iOS and Android|
Proton VPN offers a range of apps for both desktop and mobile. Whether you’re a Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android user, you can get an app for any of them. However, they’re very much different from each other in terms of features and UI (user interface).
The desktop versions are quite similar to each other and offer an intuitive and not over-cluttered design. It’s worth noting that Windows users get the best Proton VPN experience because it has all the necessary security features.
In terms of mobile apps, they have a similar UI as well. They’re very user friendly but it’s important to know that some of their functionalities differ.
So, let’s take a look at what each option offers:
The Windows app has WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP versions). When you install Proton VPN, it will additionally add a TAP-Proton VPN Windows Adapter to your Programs and Features. This is completely normal, and it includes the OpenVPN package to make your connection possible.
Out of all the available clients, the Windows app has the most settings. It includes Alternate routing, Split tunneling, and Custom DNS servers. So, if you're a Windows user, you're getting the best possible version for your money.
Sadly, the Proton VPN Mac client looks like a stripped-down beta of the Windows version. All the essential design elements are there, but you could sense that a lot is missing in terms of features. Thankfully, you can still use the WireGuard protocol.
However, IPv6 Leak Protection, Alternate Routing, Split tunneling, and Custom DNS Servers are Windows-only. The only thing that the Mac client has which seems to be missing from Windows is Notify unprotected networks. This feature will give you a notification whenever you connect to an unprotected network. Although, it hardly passes as adequate compensation for missing important security features. So, there are certainly better VPN options for Mac.
If you're a Linux user, at this point, you should be familiar with tinkering when you want to perform simple tasks. However, Proton VPN might prove to be a hard nut to crack even for you because they have three different guides with similar names on how to install it.
It isn't that easy to sort out which one is the real one because the most recent ones provide outdated steps. Legacy commands used in current guides shouldn't be encouraged.
Their previous app version supports all major distributions (Debian-based, Red-hat-based, and Arch-based), while the new version is only supported on Debian-based distributions. It may be that support for other major distributions will be implemented, but since the last update was half a year ago, don't expect this to be sudden.
The app itself runs as root, which can be switched between a BIOS-like version with some UI elements, and a terminal. So, whichever option you prefer, you will be able to use it just the way you like.
Proton VPN mobile apps
Proton VPN has mobile apps for both iOS and Android – there’s little variety, and that's good news. More often than not, the iOS version is an Android app with half of the features missing. Not the case here.
Apple users even have the option to add the Proton VPN Widget to your screen. Its previous implementation allowed it to connect to VPN with one click. It was then changed, so now the Widget opens the app, connects, and then closes it. Their customer support agent informed us that this requirement was added due to Apple's system design.
Otherwise, the iOS app is almost identical to Android (minus the split tunneling and alternate routing). On both apps, you can use the OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard protocols. If anything, this makes it even stranger that the macOS app doesn't have OpenVPN, while the mobile version does.
What's also surprising is that there are quite a few UI improvements. For example, go into the country list, and click on a particular country. You can see the server load directly from the list. There's no need to connect to check it.
In terms of features, on both apps, you'll find Secure Core servers and Profiles. So, you get about as much usability as you get on a desktop, too. Overall, Proton VPN mobile apps can even rival their desktop clients, which is unusual.
Proton VPN features – what changed over the years
The initial release of Proton VPN was back in 2017 – not that long ago compared to other best VPN services. However, that doesn’t make it any less good. While the provider has focused on improving its apps, it also released an ad blocker (NetShield) in 2021 and implemented the WireGuard tunneling protocol as well as a VPN Accelerator.
You can check out all of the Proton VPN features below.
Although you would never guess that from the name, Secure core servers have nothing to do with being more advanced than the rest of their fleet. In reality, it's a double VPN feature that lets you connect through 2 VPN servers. The connection goes from your device to a VPN server. It then connects to another VPN server and finally reaches its destination.
However, what is new is that the first VPN server in the chain is always located in a privacy-friendly location. Naturally, the speeds are going to be very slow because you're using two VPNs. Secondly, it raises the question of whether you should even bother with it anyway if all the servers are no-logs. Still, the additional security is welcome.
Proton VPN's kill switch reliably cuts off your internet connection if your link to the VPN server is disrupted. However, it may also be the culprit in some other issues.
During tests, I had trouble enabling my internet connection after disconnecting from a VPN server. The problem was present on Windows only, so that could be an isolated issue. Still, the only thing that fixed it was uninstalling the TAP drivers.
When you install the Proton VPN app, you'll immediately notice that there is a Quick Connect icon. By default, it's set to connect to the fastest server automatically. However, you can tweak it to your liking.
You can specify the countries or server types that you want to connect to when you press the Quick Connect button. It saves time and is shared between the apps, provided that the chosen tunneling protocol is supported on the device. Keep this in mind because if you configure the client on Windows to use OpenVPN, it won't work on Mac, which only supports IKEv2.
Similar to the Quick Connect customization, it's also possible to use custom connection profiles. You can specify the color, the protocol, country, and server type. This way, you can avoid the hassle of manually selecting multiple settings each time you want to use torrents or watch a Netflix show.
Proton VPN includes split tunneling, and it's one of the most advanced implementations of the feature I've ever seen. You can choose to encrypt the whole connection, exclude certain apps, or select only particular apps to use the encrypted tunnel. The choice is yours.
However, what is even more impressive is that split tunneling works not only on the app level but also at the IP level.
And that's not all: suppose you want to apply this to particular websites. In that case, you might run into some trouble because a website may use several IPs. However, ultimately you can disable the VPN for specific websites as well. That level of precision is hard to find.
Tor over VPN
If you're looking for a combination of the Tor network and VPN, Proton VPN has a particular server type just for you. Under the current implementation, your connection first runs through the Tor network and then reaches their VPN server. It also means that you can access the dark web without going through the trouble of using the Tor browser. Just don't expect the speeds to be high.
This feature is what all Proton services use to combat anti-censorship. Alternative routing is built into all their clients. It automatically kicks in when the apps detect that your connection is subject to censorship. Then, the app will try alternative connections to reach Proton servers.
This feature is turned on by default. To disable it, you will have to go to Advanced settings and turn it off. However, under normal circumstances, the Alternate routing method isn't triggered, so there's little harm in leaving it on.
A quite recently implemented feature is the VPN Accelerator. Its purpose is to make VPN speeds significantly faster and improve overall performance. The feature is enabled at all times and is a great way to have a faster VPN experience.
The speed improvements are done by solving some limitations of VPN protocols such as OpenVPN. Instead of using CPU power of a single core on the server processor, multiple processes are used. That helps make full use of the multi-core processors. The VPN Accelerator also improves speeds by changing how network routes are calculated and used, and increasing the efficiency of their infrastructure.
Is Proton VPN safe?
Like many popular VPN service providers, Proton VPN uses AES-256-CBC encryption for its connections to the server fleet. So, it's using a key length of 256 bits, which is unbreakable by brute force even with the most powerful current hardware. For you as a VPN user, this means that no one will be intercepting to see what you're doing online.
To establish a connection between your device and the VPN servers, the service uses several tunneling protocol options: WireGuard, OpenVPN (TCP or UDP variant), and IKEv2/IPsec.
In the past, Proton VPN used to be a closed source provider, like many other VPN providers on the market. Not that long ago, they did a complete 180 turn and went open-source with all of their apps. You can go to their GitHub and read through all their documentation yourself.
They also publicly declared they would invest in third-party security audits. So, not only was it a smart PR move, but it also creates additional reassurance. There are no results yet, but we'll keep you in the loop when that changes.
Their clients recently had an update called NetShield that not that long ago could only be found in the beta versions. It's already available on Windows, macOS, Android, Linux, and iOS.
Once toggled on, NetShield blocks all blacklisted domains of phishing and malware websites. Besides, it also blocks trackers used by intrusive tech companies that spy on your movements across the web.
This is done by using stronger checks in your domain name system (DNS) requests. So, instead of a DNS database supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or Google, you're using a DNS resolver managed by Proton VPN. So, while you're using a VPN, your online travels will stay private.
Having that said, there are some exceptions to the rule. They do log timestamps of your connection that get overwritten on each session. They claim this is to maintain account security from brute force attacks.
When creating an account, you still have to provide confirmation that you are human. Among the possible options for confirmation are another email, SMS, or a small donation. That's a very odd authentication method, and I'd like to see how many donations they get to keep this button active.
Having said all that, Proton VPN is certainly a privacy-friendly VPN service.
|24/7 live chat||❌|
|Guides or articles||✅|
If you run into any issues, the first line of help will be the Proton VPN knowledge center. There, you'll find several categories, like Speed and bandwidth, or Download and setup. Each category will address a particular kind of issues that you might have.
If you still can't find your answer, you can create a support ticket. It will be sent through email, so you'll get a reply directly to your mailbox. If you're a paid user, expect to hear a response in a couple of hours, free users will usually have to wait a little longer.
European users will have the best experience because it seems that their customer support agents are located there. If you're from other continents, your customer support waiting times will most likely be higher, so keep this in mind.
The service maintains its subreddit at r/ProtonVPN, so if you don't mind sharing your issue with other users, you can find a solution there too.
Proton VPN review summary: Is Proton VPN good?
Proton VPN is a good VPN service, in fact, one of the top ones. It’s a great choice for streaming as even the free version can unblock Netflix. The paid plans also managed to unblock HBO Max and other popular streaming services. However, the servers can sometimes be overloaded, so make sure you connect to one that isn’t.
Proton VPN is also a good option for torrenting. Every paid plan offers P2P file sharing and the provider is a no-logs and open-source service. Although that implies that your online activities are completely anonymous, Proton VPN still reserves the right to change their terms and conditions at any time.
Having that said, the service itself is very uneven: in some regards, offering much more than the competition, and in others – shooting themselves in the foot. For example, Proton VPN for macOS doesn't have OpenVPN while the iOS app does.
Overall, Proton VPN is a quality VPN service – and a trustworthy companion in your pursuit of privacy. Especially if you're looking for a free VPN.
If you have any questions concerning Proton VPN, drop a comment down below and I’ll be sure to answer it as soon as possible!
More on VPN providers from Cybernews:
NordVPN vs Proton VPN: which VPN is better?
PIA VPN review: how safe is this provider?
Hide.me VPN review: overall good VPN service
Is Proton VPN trustworthy?
Yes, as another child of the same developer who made ProtonMail, Proton VPN should be considered trustworthy. They are a no-logs service, so your privacy is in good hands. The business itself operates out of privacy-friendly Switzerland.
Is Proton VPN really free?
Yes, just like their mail service, Proton VPN is entirely free to use as long as you like. It means that you get a bit more restricted version than you'd get if you were paying for your subscription. However, even the app looks the same.
Is Proton VPN better than NordVPN?
Proton VPN might be a better option if you're looking for a free version. NordVPN is a paid-only provider, so the only way to use them is to pay for a monthly subscription. That said, as a paid service, they offer fewer features than NordVPN.
Does Proton VPN work in China?
No, Proton VPN is not likely to work in China. That’s because it doesn’t have what VPNs that work in China have, which is either stealth protocol, stealth mode, or obfuscated servers, which hide the fact that you’re even using a VPN service.