Proton VPN Review Pros Cons And Alternatives In 2023

In 2017, Proton VPN was introduced by Proton AG, a Swiss internet privacy company that also produces Proton Calendar, Proton Drive, and Proton Mail. Proton VPN has quickly established a reputation as a VPN with a strong commitment to privacy, security, and transparency in just a few short years.

Anyone whose location or line of work requires an additional layer of security from their VPN, as well as tech-savvy VPN users who enjoy looking at the source code of the apps they use, should consider Proton VPN. It includes Secure Core servers, Tor over VPN, full-disk encryption, and open-source apps. However, Proton is also an excellent option for casual VPN users who only require basic privacy on public WiFi or who merely want to unblock streaming content online. Whether you're a VPN expert or a novice, the speeds are quick, and the apps for the VPN are user-friendly and straightforward to use across all platforms.

We are impressed by Proton VPN's straightforward, open strategy, especially in contrast to the industry's overall climate of secrecy and deceit. The largely unlimited free plan offered by Proton VPN is also incredibly impressive. Take a look at Proton VPN if you require a comprehensive VPN service that lives up to its promises.

Third-fastest VPN we've tested in terms of speed

  • 17% speed loss in tests in the fall of 2022
  • 1,891 servers are present.
  • There are 67 countries.

The overall speed of Proton VPN is still impressive, losing only 17% of speed in the most recent round of tests. Yes, that is a decrease from our tests conducted in the summer of 2020, when we only noticed a 9% speed loss. However, when using a VPN, you can typically expect to lose about 50% of your normal internet speed, so even though we only saw a 17% speed loss this time, we were still happy with the results.

Following NordVPN's 13% speed loss and just ahead of Surfshark's 19% speed loss, Proton VPN's speeds currently stand third among our choices for the best VPN.

Over the course of three days, we evaluated Proton VPN's connection speeds from Ohio to its VPN servers in New York, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and Singapore using the OpenVPN protocol. During the test, the average speed we measured through Proton VPN's servers was 303.71 Mbps, while the average speed we measured through our regular internet was 366.25 Mbps.

Given the physical distance between our location and the servers we tested, speeds were generally in line with what we anticipated. Even on servers with low loads, we did occasionally experience a few unexpected and significant drops in speed on some servers in Europe and Singapore. Otherwise, speeds were fairly uniform across the board.

We averaged 332.72Mbps to Proton VPN's servers in New York, which was as expected the location with the fastest speeds from the US. European servers recorded slightly slower speeds of 320.12Mbps, while average download speeds to the UK were 307.78Mbps. The slowest speeds were to Australia and Singapore, which, considering the distance our data had to travel, averaged an admirable 302.62Mbps and 255.25Mbps, respectively.

The astounding speed of Proton VPN's free servers was something we were not prepared for. The provider claims that its free servers offer "medium" VPN speeds, but when we tested Proton VPN's free servers, we only measured a 7.64% speed loss — nearly 10% faster than with the paid servers. Even though the sample size was smaller and there were only three countries' worth of servers to test speeds on, these results are exceptional for any VPN, let alone a free VPN service.

Using free servers with loads ranging from 55% to 96%, we recorded speeds of up to 360Mbps to the Netherlands, 349Mbps to Japan, and 345Mbps to New York. That's more than enough speed for almost anything you might want to do online, which is extremely difficult to find with free VPNs.

Cost: Although not the cheapest VPN, the pricing is clear and the free tier is legitimate.

  • $72 annually or $10 monthly
  • Options for payment include cash, bank transfer, PayPal, credit/debit cards, and bitcoin.
  • 30 day money-back guarantee

Free unlimited plan

At a time when it seems like you need to dust off your old TI-85 graphing calculator from high school just to make sense of most VPNs' complex pricing schemes, Proton VPN's pricing is simple and clear. Proton VPN stays away from tricky introductory pricing that later soars dramatically and from two-year plans that later change to annual plans while maintaining the same price.

Yes, the upfront cost of $72 for Proton VPN's annual plan is higher than the $48 you'll pay for IPVanish's first year of service. However, over time, you'll probably prefer to pay $72 a year for Proton VPN as opposed to $90 for every additional year you use IPVanish. Upon expiration of their respective introductory subscription periods, NordVPN and ExpressVPN cost $100 per year. Only Surfshark, at $60 annually, is more affordable per year than Proton VPN out of our top five VPN choices. However, at $10 per month, Proton VPN's monthly plan is the most affordable of the group. Given the constantly changing nature of the VPN industry, we don't advise signing a contract with a provider for more than a year at a time.

You can access more than 1,800 servers in 66 countries and up to 10 simultaneous connections with Proton VPN's paid service. Through the paid servers, we had access to Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video content.

On MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Chromebooks, and Android TV devices, Proton VPN apps are accessible. The app's settings are well organized and simple to access, but if split tunneling is something you're interested in, you should know that only the Windows and Android apps support it. Split tunneling for other platforms is being implemented, according to Proton, though no timetable for that implementation was provided. Proton VPN does not currently offer any browser extensions, despite the fact that many VPNs today offer them in addition to their dedicated VPN apps. The business assured us that browser extensions have been thought about and, hopefully, will be offered at some point in the future.

Additionally, Proton VPN does not offer live chat customer support, unlike the majority of the top VPNs in the sector. You can email a support ticket to Proton VPN support or tweet it to @ProtonVPN to contact them. Our support ticket was answered in less than 24 hours after we submitted it. A sizable amount of documentation, setup guides, and troubleshooting advice are available in the website's help center for general VPN problems. The blog for Proton VPN also offers a wealth of knowledge about the business and the sector as a whole.

Your Proton VPN subscription can be paid for with a credit card, debit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, bank transfer, or cash (US dollars, euros or Swiss francs). Additionally, Proton VPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not happy with your purchase for any reason.

Proton VPN is available for free?

You are not required to pay to use Proton VPN if you choose not to. This is because Proton VPN provides a good free plan. Because they typically impose strict limitations on things like speed, server availability, data allowance, and features, the majority of free VPNs are essentially useless. Additionally, they frequently offer shoddy encryption, sell your data, serve ads, and even contain malware. It's possible that Proton VPN is the only free VPN that offers a secure free plan that doesn't throttle speeds or place usage restrictions.

Proton VPN's free plan does not offer premium features like its malware and ad blocker, Tor over VPN functionality, Secure Core servers, or P2P support, but it does provide you with the tools you need to safeguard your online privacy. The free plan allows for one connection at a time to more than 100 quick servers spread across the US, Japan, and the Netherlands, as well as the use of its stealth VPN protocol.

Proton VPN's free plan does have some restrictions, but overall, we found that it performed remarkably well in our tests. We were even able to access US Netflix while connected to the free servers. Therefore, Proton VPN's free plan should be adequate for casual VPN users who don't torrent, only require a single connection at a time, and don't require access to more than three countries or streaming services other than Netflix or advanced features.

  • Excellent security and privacy features for VPN users who require greater privacy
  • Governing Country: Switzerland
  • AES 256-bit encryption using OpenVPN and IKEv2, ChaCha20 encryption using WireGuard Secure Core servers
  • transparent and open-source

It's encouraging to see Proton VPN placing such a strong emphasis on transparency given the prevalence of players in the VPN industry who operate in secrecy and under the control of complex corporate structures. For starters, its VPN software is entirely open-source, meaning anyone can examine its source code online. If reading code isn't your thing, Proton VPN regularly makes external security and no-logs audits available for public viewing so you can see what experts in cybersecurity have to say about the program.

Securitum, a security consulting company based in Krakow, Poland, completed Proton VPN's most recent security audit in September 2021, and found "no important security issues." Securitum finished the most recent no-logs audit in March.

According to Securitum's no-logs audit report, "as a result of the audit, it was confirmed that Proton VPN offers high privacy with its No-Logs approach, and the audit did not detect any issues that could make a negative impact on the user's privacy."

However, Proton VPN inspects network traffic on its free VPN servers in order to block BitTorrent traffic because it might impair performance for free users, according to Securitum's report. Any BitTorrent traffic is immediately detected and the connection is broken. However, according to Securitum, this has no impact on user privacy because the process is carried out in the dark, without recording any details about the dropped connection or the user from whom the BitTorrent traffic originated.

Without informing any central database, the entire mechanism is "working fully locally on the specific Proton VPN server serving the connection," according to Securitum. "Such connections do not undergo a thorough traffic inspection; only the type of traffic is identified."

No-logs audits are crucial for VPN providers to carry out in order to maintain public transparency, but it is practically impossible to verify a VPN provider's no-logs claims with absolute certainty. Regular no-logs audits and actual court cases where no-logs claims are contested in a legal setting, like the 2019 court case Proton VPN mentions in its Transparency Report, can provide persuasive evidence in support of a VPN provider's claim that it doesn't collect user activity logs.

Proton VPN uses industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections, just like CNET's other top VPN picks. The ChaCha20 encryption cipher, which is typically faster while providing comparable security, is used to protect WireGuard connections. The Secure Core servers of the VPN provide additional security by first routing your traffic through hardened Proton VPN servers before continuing to route it through exit servers at the location of your choice. The Secure Core servers for Proton VPN are situated in Switzerland, Iceland (on a former military base), and Sweden and are physically secured with biometric security (in an underground data center).

Along with Tor over VPN, an ad/malware blocker, and standard VPN security features like a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscation, Proton VPN also provides these. During our tests of the free and paid tiers, the kill switch performed as expected and no leaks were found. According to Proton VPN, all security measures, such as encryption, leak protection, and obfuscation, are the same for both the free plan and paid subscriptions. Free users, however, are unable to use the Secure Core servers, Tor over VPN, or the ad-blocking function. The free tier is excellent for getting started, but if you plan to engage in any online activity that is crucial to your privacy, you'll need to upgrade to Proton's paid tier.

In 2020, Proton VPN revealed a flaw in Apple's iOS, claiming that even when a VPN connection is active on the device, iOS devices fail to encrypt all traffic and leak data outside the VPN tunnel. Researchers found that the problem is still present in later iOS versions years later. It is a flaw that affects iOS VPN apps generally and is not specific to Proton VPN. Proton VPN advises turning airplane mode on and off again after connecting to a VPN server to effectively kill existing connections and reopen them inside the VPN tunnel until Apple releases an official fix for the vulnerability.

The Swiss jurisdiction of Proton VPN is widely regarded as a secure location for a VPN. Despite having mandatory data retention laws, Switzerland is not a member of the 14-eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, and those laws only apply to major telecommunications and internet service providers. Proton VPN is not required to keep user activity logs or be bound by Swiss data retention laws.

Proton Mail, an encrypted email service created by the same people who created Proton VPN, came under fire in 2021 after TechCrunch revealed that the company had given Swiss authorities access to a user's IP address and device ID number. The information was made public as part of an investigation involving a French climate activist who was a member of a Parisian anti-gentrification group that disseminated details about police investigations and legal actions against group members. A Proton Mail address was being used by the protesters for communication.

Despite claims to the contrary, Proton said it was compelled to comply with the legally binding order issued by Swiss authorities and that there was no way for the company to challenge the request. However, because emails sent using Proton Mail are encrypted, the provider was unable to divulge information about the precise content of the emails sent by those utilizing the account to communicate. Proton Mail took down a statement from its website that read, "by default, we do not keep any IP logs which can be linked to your anonymous email account," after the news broke.

Following the incident, Proton Mail also updated its privacy statement.

Proton Mail's Privacy Policy now states that it "will only disclose the limited user data we possess if we are legally required to do so by a binding request coming from the competent Swiss authorities." Only when notices are delivered electronically in accordance with all applicable Swiss legal requirements may we comply with them.

A Proton representative informed CNET via email that Proton Mail and Proton VPN are handled differently under Swiss law. Proton VPN is not subject to the same obligations as Proton Mail with regard to valid court orders from Swiss authorities.

The spokesperson said, "Swiss law does not provide the legal basis to order Proton VPN to retain user data or activity data. "We are therefore not required to keep IP addresses associated with VPN accounts,"

According to Proton VPN's privacy statement, the company would still be required to give Swiss authorities access to the scant user data it may have if required to do so by law "for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offenses or the execution of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and prevention of threats to public security."

According to the Privacy Policy, user information that Proton VPN gathers includes a user's username, email address, billing information, and information users share with the business via support requests or bug reports. There wouldn't be much to reveal to law enforcement about what a specific user was doing while connected to Proton VPN's servers if the company doesn't record user activity, traffic, IP addresses, locations, or session length.

We recommend Proton VPN as a top VPN for users with crucial privacy needs like journalists, dissidents, lawyers, doctors, and activists due to its dedication to transparency and its breadth of excellent privacy and security features. It's a respectable choice for people living in places where VPNs are prohibited because of its stealth protocol and Secure Core servers. Proton VPN has experienced problems serving users in China, but the company is working on fixes.

A Proton representative told CNET, "Mainland China has very advanced and effective censorship systems, and we can't guarantee Proton VPN works there." However, we are making significant investments in the creation of anti-censorship tools that will enable us to get around attempts to block VPNs.

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