VPN Shield review

Why is this VPN so cheap? It didn't take long to find out

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Our Verdict

VPN Shield was utterly useless on our test PC. It may work better on other systems, but apart from price there's no reason to take the risk.

For

  • Cheap
  • Lots of native clients

Against

  • Some session (not traffic) related logging
  • Not OpenVPN-compatible
  • Windows 10 app advertised but not available
  • Windows 7/8 client was unable to connect

This a Polish VPN service which offers what looks like a strong list of features for a surprisingly low price. The company has its own clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, even Amazon Kindle, which is usually good news for beginners who value an easy setup process.

You can connect up to five devices simultaneously, too, a real improvement on much of the competition.

VPN Shield's servers are in relatively few countries, but they're reasonably well spread throughout the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Japan.

There are no bandwidth limits or other apparent catches, and you get a few bonus extras thrown in as well. VPN Shield can automatically connect when it detects you're joining an insecure network, for instance, something sold as a premium feature by other companies.

All this can be yours from $1.99 (£1.60, AU$2.60) for a week, or a very tempting $2.50 monthly (£2, AU$3.30) when you pay for a year up-front. There's even a 1-day free trial for everything but the regular Windows application, extending to 3-days if you ‘like’ VPN Shield's page on Facebook.

Privacy

VPN Shield's small-print is some of the most concise work we've ever seen, with both the terms of service and privacy policy squeezed into a lightweight 1,000-word page. That's great. The contents? Not so much.

The company collects a considerable amount of data when you connect to a server: the time, "device identified" (could be a type, could be a unique identifier), the choice of server location, "technical details of the connection (connection result, protocol, ports, etc)" which we suspect will include IP addresses, the total amount of data transferred per day, and the purchase history.

This is all session connection data and nothing to do with your activities when you're online, but it's still considerably more information than many other services collect, and there's also no information on how long it's kept.

We also noticed this: "Our software may send diagnostic data to a third party analytics provider for the purpose of identifying connection errors and possible bugs in our application. The information collected is generic in nature and does not contain personally identifying information."

So the client has some kind of telemetry feature which sends reports to an unknown third-party. If there's a connection failure, or the reports are otherwise sent before you connect, these communications will include your real IP. It's not clear whether this is kept or thrown away, and the third-party won't be able to do anything with this data anyway, but it's still a potential digital footprint that we haven't seen elsewhere.

Performance

The VPN Shield site claims to offer a Windows 8/10 app, and we were keen to try it out – but then we clicked the link and got a ‘page not found’ error. The company previously reported connection problems with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, so presumably pulled it, but to continue advertising the app regardless makes a poor impression.

We installed the regular Windows 7 version, but quickly ran into a (probably) related problem. The client has a ‘Buy subscription from the Store’ button, but clicking this displays a Windows Store error, presumably because the Windows 10 app no longer exists.

We headed back to the website, where the news was mixed. The good: we were able to sign up with a username and password, no email address required. The bad: the trial would have applied to the Windows 10 app, but not the desktop version, so we had to buy a $1.99 subscription instead. That was hassle-free, maybe because PayPal handled the tricky bits.

VPN Shield's client is basic. It doesn't use OpenVPN and it's not OpenVPN-compatible, and instead just acts as a shell for PPTP, L2TP and IKeV2 connections. And it couldn't even do this on our test system, displaying ‘can't connect’ errors, or worse, appearing to work (no errors, plus displaying a ‘you are using a secure Wi-Fi connection’ tooltip) but not in actual fact connecting to the VPN.

The problem appeared to be that VPN Shield wasn't creating the necessary Windows VPN profiles. We emailed support to find out more, but although they replied within 10 minutes, the advice simply repeated what we said we'd tried anyway. We sent a second query, and many hours later received advice on setting up a manual connection – and that didn't work, either.

We made one final attempt, trying to connect with the Android app. This worked, too, suggesting the problem was related to our Windows client, not the general network. But as speeds proved disappointing, we wouldn't choose to connect via our mobile, either.

Final verdict

VPN Shield delivered the worst Windows VPN experience we've had to date. To be fair, we might have been unlucky, and if the service works for you, it'll be cheap. But missteps like advertising a non-existent Windows 10 app seem like warning signs to us, and overall it's impossible to recommend.