Updated on January 12, 2019.
PrivateVPN is a small newcomer company on the VPN market, but it goes a long way to ticking most of the boxes. With a total of 77 servers spread in 56 countries and decent speed results PrivateVPN tries hard to quickly reach other established VPN providers like VPNArea but is not yet there.
We liked that they match VPNArea's generous allowance of 6 devices to be used at the same time and their equally reassuring no logs policy.
It is also good impression that apart from OpenVPN they also offer IKEv2 VPN protocol, which can be useful in China and if users are looking to enhance their VPN speed.
What we didn't like is the lack of Killswitch for Mac, the fact the default encryption method is a bit weak and that the Privacy laws record in Sweden where they're based is dreadful at the moment. Unfortunately Netflix also didn't work in our tests.
However if you don't care about Netflix or you're not a Mac user and a zealous privacy enthusiast, PrivateVPN still remains a decent VPN provider which will surely improve where it lacks with time. After all they offer the second best pricing in our list and third best speed test results which is commendable.
We have chosen to pay via Bitcoin. They use a different process than how normally bitcoin payments are processed by web sites. We paid and we waited like always for the transaction to confirm, which is how it's normally done.
However unless you've read the last sentence on the Bitcoin payment window you won't know that you have to enter your "transaction id" in order for them to process the payment. Normally that is not required in Bitcoin payments.
Not everybody knows what "transaction ID" is in Bitcoin, so for those unaware that is the ID which you can find on Blockchain.info status of your sent payment, at least in our Blockchain wallet it's that way.
Once we've done that we've got a notification: "You have successfully entered the transaction ID, now just wait until we can proceed your payment!"
However it doesn't say how long that will process will take or how to check if the process has been completed, or if we can leave that page or we must keep it open.
After waiting 30 minutes we decided to go to "Control Panel". There it said there are no payments done by us.
LiveChat was offline during the 2 hours we were waiting for our Bitcoin payment to confirm.
Finally our doubts are laid to rest and the payment is reflect in our billing history. However it is worth noting that the delay in bitcoin payment confirmations is not due to PrivateVPN, but it's due to Bitcoin system itself.
Something else very annoying was that even though we have 30 days active credit in our account, we're still pushed a sticky advertisement for 1 year and that it's covered by money back guarantee and there is no option to remove it even though we're now a paying customer. There is also a sticky BUY NOW button on the upper right corner, despite that we've already bought the product.
Unfortunately the default encryption cipher of PrivateVPN's app for Mac and Windows is:
The standard of most VPN companies is AES256 bits. While they do support AES256 their default setting is AES 128 bits. To change to 256 you would have to go to Advanced settings and you would also have to know that it's wise to change to 256.
The RSA keys are 2048bits, while most VPN providers use 4096bits.
While it does say in the OpenVPN logs that the remote server uses 256 in differ to the app, it also says their client uses 128bits and that the cipher setting is used inconsistently.
Default encryption algorithm is also 128bits AES on Windows. However PrivateVPN says they use AES 256 bits encryption cipher, a RSA 2048 bits key for handshake and HMAC SHA256 data auth used. They use Perfect Forward secrecy which further enforces the security of the connection.
We tested PrivateVPN against DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 leaks and the service tested with excellence.
Installing the app on Mac is easy enough and once started it will be hidden in the status bar. A right click shows a rather simple "Show/Quit" option. We clicked Show and then the app's window appeared. We tried copy pasting our username and password but that is not allowed so be sure to type in your username/password manually.
The application offers straight forward VPN function, not much extra features have been created for Mac, but we're happy to say that it does work well and there were no leaks during our tests.
However the lack of Killswitch leaves much to be desired from the privacy conscious users.
The time came to test their Windows app as well. Upon completion of the installation we were annoyed that the installation wizard asked use to restart Windows due to a framework it installed to make the app work. This hasn't been necessary until now with other software.
PrivateVPN does have "Killswitch" for Windows, but they say Killswitch prevents "reconnection". So if you think that Killswitch will logically stop your Internet once you're disconnected from the VPN server to prevent IP exposure, you're wrong. So be careful and instead use the "Application guard".
The "Application guard", also known as "Per App Killswitch". Will stop the Internet access of a particular executable file. However we can argue that this is not very efficient, since some programs use "Services" and you may need to know the exact path and names of all executable files you want blocked. Many people are not that advanced in their knowledge of the programs they run, they just know that those programs shouldn't have Internet once the VPN is disconnected.
We also didn't like that the status icon did not change colour upon our connection, therefor the only way to know if you're connected or no is to go back to the App to see, considering there is no Killswitch this is rather troublesome.
Other than that the Windows app works fine and does the job.
We counted 77 servers in total in PrivateVPN's server list. On their web site it says they have 44k satisfied customers. It does sound like awful small amount of servers for so many customers. Hopefully only a fraction of those 44k customers are still active and therefor 77 servers are enough.
PrivateVPN scored 3rd best after VPNArea and IPVanish on our speed results, although their results were almost a tie with IPVanish, which makes them fast enough for most internet tasks out there.
We perform our speed testing based on direct download test from 4 worldwide locations, 2 in Europe, 2 in USA, then we also perform a secondary testing via the most popular Ookla test (speedtest.net).
Please note that the results from the download tests are in Megabytes, not Megabits like Ookla's so they should be multiplied by 8 for reference. More details of our speed tests below:
Sweden server 18.80 download 6.42 mbps upload
2019-01-07 17:11:22 (10.4 MB/s) - ‘100MB.test.1’ saved [100000000/100000000]
Netherlands server 55.12 10.89
2019-01-07 17:10:03 (5.96 MB/s) - ‘100MB.test’ saved [100000000/100000000]
Romania 7.92 2.95
Romania 37.22 7.14
Los Angeles - Could not establish connection.
2019-01-07 17:30:54 (4.47 MB/s) - ‘100MB-atlanta.bin.1’ saved [104857600/104857600]
2019-01-07 17:32:21 (3.46 MB/s) - ‘100MB-dallas.bin.1’ saved [104857600/104857600]
31.77mbps 4.98 mbps
2019-01-07 17:25:05 (3.34 MB/s) - ‘100MB-dallas.bin’ saved [104857600/104857600]
2019-01-07 17:26:12 (6.01 MB/s) - ‘100MB-atlanta.bin’ saved [104857600/104857600]
PrivateVPN operates out of Sweden. Unfortunately after a ludicrous law was passed in 2008 by Swedish parliament, the government is now allowed to monitor all Internet traffic in the country without a warrant. In 2009 the law was revised so that political oversight can be applied, which is slightly better. However due to a copyright-infringement law, all Swedish ISPs (internet providers) are now required to reveal details of their users if present with a warrant by copyright holders who claim infringement. Things got worse in 2012 when a MDR law (mandatory data retention) law was passed forcing ISPs to keep data of all customers for 6 months. Such laws already exist in quite a few european countries anyway. Not all of this is relevant to PrivateVPN, but it is worth noting that Sweden is one of the worse countries for privacy legislature-wise.
PrivateVPN offers support via LiveChat (although we never saw it online uring the couple of hours we were on their web site). The service is otherwise automated and unless you run into issues you shouldn't need a human help in general.