As you'll probably guess from the name, Unblock VPN is all about enabling access to blocked websites and internet services. Netflix isn't on the list, but the company claims it can unlock, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Sky, ABC, Fox, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, VoIP and more.
The location list isn't as impressive, with IPs available from just eight countries. Most of this VPN's servers are in the US and UK, with others in Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Israel.
Unblock VPN doesn't use NAT (network address translation), and as a result you'll get a public IP address which isn't shared with anyone else. This has some plus points – you're able to use all ports, for instance – but as you only get one IP, it also means you can only have one connection at a time. The only way to use multiple devices simultaneously is to set up Unblock VPN on a router.
- Want to try Unblock VPN? Check out the website here
The service does have some apparent plus points, including wide protocol support (PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OVPN) along with native Windows and Mac clients. Pricing is cheaper than average, too, at $4.99 a month (£3.99, AU$6.50), $4.09 monthly (£3.25, AU$5.35) if you sign up for a full year.
Unblock VPN also offers a free 3-day trial. It's horribly restricted with a 5 minute connection time limit and a maximum of 20 connections a day, but it's also enough to test the connection, and more than you'll get with many providers.
Unblock VPN's terms of service page is truly amazing, in the way it does almost nothing right. It's absurdly long at almost 5,000 words. It uses obscure legalese rather than clear English. It's poorly organised, and leaves sections of up to 600 words in single blocks, without paragraph formatting, making it very difficult to read. And even if you fight through all that, it doesn't tell you everything you need to know.
The company does provide a simple no-logging statement, claiming it "does not track the user's activities". But just as you're feeling reassured, it hits you with this: "The Provider is allowed to save operational and localization data that are created or processed when ensuring the services provided by the Provider or when performing the Contract. Operational and localization data are not used for tracking or censoring the User’s Internet activities."
What does this mean? We would guess it's talking about server logs and maybe session information, but the clause is so vague it could include almost anything.
Other dubious policies state that the company reserves the right to verify your identity with an SMS message, and signing up gives consent to collect and store your ‘IP address or addresses’ along with whatever other data you provide.
The closest we could find to a highlight was an unusually specific ‘reasonable use’ policy, where the company explains that it may throttle speeds if you average more than 8GB of data transferred per day. Whatever you think of the figure, bear in mind that most providers have their own limit in this respect. It's just that most of them won't tell you what it is.
Getting started with Unblock VPN required handing over a little more information than we'd like –our name and country, as well as email address – but it was quick and easy, and our service password turned up moments later in an email.
Setting up the service on our PC was more of a challenge. We followed the first link for the client, installed, and found it only supported PPTP, L2TP, SSTP. We needed to use OpenVPN for testing, which required downloading a different client. This installed, but refused to launch – we've no idea why. So we removed it, installed regular OpenVPN instead, imported Unblock VPN's configuration files and finally got connected.
Was the effort worth it? No, not really. In our tests*, download speeds barely hit 10Mbps, even on local connections, which is pretty woeful. The Netherlands server refused to connect at all. The website was poorly organised, there wasn't much help available, and what you get isn't always useful. Let's put it this way: we've seen better.
*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.