Laptop Mag Verdict
For those who want more security from their VPN, ProtonVPN is your top choice. Just don’t count on stellar speeds or many servers to connect to.
Puts main focus on security
Simple to use on multiple devices
Free service option with unlimited bandwidth
Secure Core security
Few servers with slow speeds
Plans can get pricey
Some weird server quirks
No 24/7 support
Why you can trust Laptop Mag Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Compatibility: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebooks and Android TV
24/7 support: No
Trial period: 30 days
Number of servers: 1,238
Server locations: 50+
Maximum devices supported: 10
ProtonVPN is the VPN service that should come to mind when thinking about security, as it completely excels in this area.
Oh, and it can be completely free to use. While that alone is a major plus, this free option only gives you access to three countries on one device, with varying speeds. For simple browsing though, it’s a good service (especially seeing how not a dollar is being spent).
However, its lack of servers is where ProtonVPN falls behind. Even with its all-access “Plus” package, connection speeds can be slow, and sometimes connect to a different server altogether. And with what it offers, it's expensive compared to what the best VPN services have at cheaper prices. Still, ProtonVPN has its perks.
ProtonVPN pricing and availability
ProtonVPN has four subscription options, which vary from extremely affordable to a tad too pricey. Its “Basic” subscription plan costs $4 per month annually (or $60 a year) or $5 per month, offering two VPN connections, access to 54 countries, P2P/BitTorrent support and its own ad-blocker feature, NetShield. The “Plus” plan is priced at $8-per month annually or $10 per month, which comes with everything from the Basic subscription along with its Secure Core feature, Tor option, the highest internet speeds of up to 10Gbps, and access to otherwise blocked content. I used this option for the review.
There’s also the premium “Visionary” subscription priced at $24 per month annually or $30 per month, which offers everything stated before as well as 10 VPN connections and access to ProtonMail. This seems overpriced, especially considering VPNs such as Surfshark offer their full service and unlimited VPN connections for as little as £1.81/$2.49 per month. However, ProtonMail is regarded as one of the best email services around as it encrypts users’ emails and is based in Switzerland, meaning it’s protected by Swiss privacy law. While it’s still expensive, this option is great for businesses.
Finally, there’s the free option, which offers limited services such as one VPN connection, available servers in three countries and “medium” speeds. Still, these countries include Japan, the Netherlands and the United States, which are usually countries users want to connect to.
ProtonVPN is available on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebooks and Android TV. It also has a 30-day money-back guarantee just in case you’re opting for another service.
The higher the price, the more VPN connections ProtonVPN supports. The maximum of 10 devices it can support on the Visionary plan is just too pricey, while its Plus subscription’s 5 supported devices are fine. ProtonVPN can be set up on a router though, so unlimited connections are technically available. ProtonVPN does offer plenty of different ways to pay, which includes PayPal, credit/debit cards, Bitcoin and even cash if need be.
ProtonVPN streaming and unblocking
When testing multiple platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney+, ProtonVPN could unblock any region-locked content and let me browse through country-specific shows, like watching One Piece on a Japan server. This was tested on an iPad for the United States, Japan and the Netherlands.
However, connections were slow when trying to watch shows through the VPN servers, with Japan being the slowest. Although it took a few minutes of buffering, I could still watch different TV shows and movies in high definition. However, it did stop to buffer once while watching an episode of One Piece on a Japanese server.
As you’ll find during my connection tests, internet speeds were all over the place while using different servers. It’s important to note that ProtonVPN’s free service won’t unblock these streaming services. It’s unfortunate but fair.
ProtonVPN server locations
Currently, ProtonVPN has 1,238 servers in 54 countries around the globe. This doesn’t come close to the number of servers its main competition boasts, and some of these servers are hit or miss. However, it does have servers in hotspot countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan and India.
There are also VPN servers for the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, which can bypass region-locked content. I tried this in the UAE and it worked perfectly while having servers in Hong Kong means it should bypass censored or blocked content for those in China, without servers being too far away.
ProtonVPN prides itself on offering the most secure VPN service around, and it has good reason to. It uses its own Secure Core network, meaning your traffic first goes through privacy-friendly countries such as Switzerland, Sweden and Iceland to prevent compromised VPN servers (unfortunately, that happens) so your IP address is never revealed. This is only available through the Plus subscription plan.
This is similar to what a few other VPNs have only named differently. For example, NordVPN has a DoubleVPN feature, so users can connect by going through two VPN servers. However, ProtonVPN’s Secure Core feature goes through its very best and secure servers in the aforementioned countries, giving it a slight edge.
When using ProtonVPN, network traffic is encrypted with AES-256, which is the best you can get when it comes to data protection. It also comes with a Kill Switch feature — which is not available on iOS for some reason — along with a DNS leak prevention. Security protocols include OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec connections. Not as many as other VPN services, but you can’t go wrong with them.
ProtonVPN has also introduced its NetShield adblocker feature, which can actively block malware, along with ads and trackers. It allowed me to breeze past any annoying pop-up ads.
Even better, it uses Perfect Forward Secrecy so your encrypted data won’t be captured and deciphered later. Along with its no-log policy, Tor connections, and being based in Switzerland (a country known for its privacy laws), you can rest assured your data is safe with ProtonVPN.
ProtonVPN user accessibility and support
ProtonVPN has one of the best user interfaces around, whether it be on Windows 10, iOS or Android. It has a sleek, dark interface that runs smoothly with a simple “Quick Connect” button to immediately connect to the fastest country and server. On iOS, it even offers a widget so there’s no need to open the app to quickly connect to a VPN.
While it doesn’t offer a huge amount of features, ProtonVPN does serve up the essentials by letting users choose which specific servers they want to connect to in each country. It also features on/off switches for its Secure Core feature and Always-on VPN feature. It’s disappointing the Kill Switch feature isn’t available on iOS, leaving the Always-on option turned on by default. This re-establishes a connection automatically if a VPN cuts off, but users won’t know if the VPN connection is off when browsing the web if it does dip out.
ProtonVPN’s main site offers plenty of support and guides to setting up a VPN, but it doesn't have 24/7 chat support like other VPN services. Users can contact ProtonVPN via email for help.
ProtonVPN connection speed
Using fast.com, I tested the connection using the automatic protocol suggested in the U.S., U.K., Germany, South Africa, and India. This was done using an iPad, with an average internet speed of 72Mbps.
In London, the fastest server to connect to in terms of distance to my own location, I got speeds of...0Mbps. For some reason, the UK server connected me to a Benelux Union server on multiple occasions, and wouldn’t register fast.com. After going through more servers, some worked, others didn’t, but I did get an average internet speed of 52Mbps.
I tried Frankfurt, Germany (which took around 2 minutes to connect) and got 32Mbps. Next, I tried a connection in Johannesburg, South Africa and got 57Mbps. In Mumbai, India, I got speeds of 9Mbps. Yikes. Finally, I tried connecting to New York and got 11Mbps. More yikes.
I then tried using ProtonVPN’s Secure Core feature, which connected me from Iceland to Belgium. I got speeds of 61Mbps, which is solid considering it's essentially going through two servers. Even better, when connecting via Switzerland to the U.K. (now not giving me Benelux Union sites), I got speeds of 64Mbps.
I then tested the free version of the VPN service to see if the speeds were much different. I trial the three available countries, which include the United States, Japan and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, which ProtonVPN automatically connected to when I used the one-click “Quick Connect” feature, I got an average speed of 55Mbps. That’s amazing for a free VPN. In the U.S., I got speeds of 2.2Mbps, which is more of the drop in speed I expected considering the distance from me and the free version offering “medium” speeds. When connecting to a server in Japan, I got an average internet speed of 25Mbps.
ProtonVPN is all about security, which can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, VPN users can go worry-free knowing they are surfing anonymously, and its strong encryption means it can bypass region-locked content for streaming.
On the other hand, the lack of plentiful servers and some bizarre connection speeds mean it isn’t the most reliable VPN if users are after something that works flawlessly in every country. For those looking for a quick VPN to use while browsing the web, ProtonVPN’s free service is the best option out there, and it can even provide some great internet speeds.
That said, ProtonVPN could work on its paid Plus subscription to deliver an even better, more stable experience. Once it offers more servers and gets rid of those weird connection quirks, the (internet) sky’s the limit for ProtonVPN.
|Trial period||30 days|
|Maximum devices supported||5|
|Works on||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Number of servers||1,000+|
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.