If cost is your top priority when VPN shopping, IVPN could be a shock: at $15 (£12, AU$20) for a single month, $8.33 equivalent over a full year (£6.60, AU$11), it's way more expensive than some quality competition. Can the price really be justified?
The company’s background is better than most. IVPN has been around since 2009, so there's real experience of the industry. And it's an organisational member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), showing real commitment to safety online.
- Want to try IVPN? Check out the website here
The server list isn't as impressive, with 28 locations in only 12 countries (USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Europe). But the company does at least show transparency with a web page indicating the live status of every server.
IVPN's platform coverage is reasonable. The company offers its own OpenVPN-compatible clients for Windows and Mac, and has detailed setup guides for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Linux, DD-WRT, Tomato and more. There's support for connecting with up to three of these simultaneously, as long as they're not being used by different people.
Overall, these look like decent specs, but we're still not seeing enough to justify the price. It's time to dig deeper.
The no-logging policy is summed up here, for instance: "We do not store any connection logs whatsoever. In addition we do not log bandwidth usage, session data or requests to our DNS servers." There's more reassuring detail in those two sentences than other companies manage in 1,000 words or more.
IVPN explains that it holds your email address only, and optionally some form of payment ID, such as a PayPal account name. But you can avoid this by paying via Bitcoin, or even cash, and you can ask the company to delete your data if you close your account.
IVPN protects its website visitors by using self-hosted analytics, rather than using Google or other platforms, and it even explains how this anonymises individual visitors ("IVPN discard the last two octets of the IP address".) Very few companies provide this degree of clarity, and overall IVPN appears to be a firm you can trust.
We scanned the small-print for other issues, but couldn't find anything significant. The closest is a clause saying: "You will not run resource intensive programs that will interfere with the usage of our services by our users" – which could presumably disallow a lot of bandwidth-heavy applications. Many other VPNs have similar ‘fair usage’ policies, though, and they're not necessarily bad. In fact, keeping the major bandwidth hogs away will free up more bandwidth for everyone else.
IVPN's signup process is simple, with some welcome plusses. You're only asked for your email address, not your name, physical address or phone number. You're also able to pay by Bitcoin, as well as PayPal and credit card, and there's a ‘don't automatically renew’ option if you only need the VPN for a fixed period (and no money is taken at all until the end of a 3-day trial period).
The well-designed website gave us plenty of options on what to do next, with links to download the Windows client, configure OpenVPN, set up Windows L2TP/IPSec manually, and view setup guides for all the other main platforms.
We installed IVPN's compact Windows client without difficulty. Using it was much like other VPNs, or at least those that keep matters straightforward – select a server, enter a username and password, click Connect – and we were online within seconds.
The applet also had an interesting set of more advanced features. A Multi Hop tab gives you more anonymity options (enter in the Hong Kong server, say, exit in Amsterdam). There's a firewall to block non-VPN traffic which might compromise your privacy. You can also choose alternative ports and protocols (UDP, TCP), use Tor's obfsproxy to get around blocks, and more.
Our speed tests* delivered excellent results everywhere. UK and close European servers gave us 35Mbps plus download speeds (as good as we get normally, without a VPN), UK-California connections achieved a creditable 25Mbps, rising to 30Mbps if we hopped across the country to New Jersey. We went long-distance by switching to Hong Kong, and still achieved 15-20Mbps – very creditable.
The good news carried on right to the end, as IVPN passed all our privacy tests without issue: new location as advertised, and no WebRTC or DNS leaks to give away our real identity.
IVPN isn't cheap, and doesn't have many locations, but the servers you get are super-fast, protected with a clear no-logging policy, and accessible from just about any desktop or mobile device. It's a very likeable alternative to VPNs which make big promises they can't deliver – and the service boasts a 3-day trial to check it out for yourself.
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.