UsenetServer is a popular Usenet provider with a premium service. It provides fast, unlimited access plans with multiple server locations in the US and Europe. It also has some of the longest retention anywhere, currently 4,106 days and growing daily, on all 100,000+ binary and text newsgroups.
UsenetServer has some other appealing features, including priority network routing, 99% article completion and a Usenet search feature called UNS Global Search. This is a feature included free that you can use to run searches on Usenet and create your own NZBs to send to your newsreader for processing.
Although you only get up to 20 connections with your account, this should be plenty for most users to utilize their full ISP bandwidth. There is also free SSL to keep your connection private, a Zero-log VPN if you need it, and no transfer limits, speed caps or other irritating restrictions.
All server connections are secured with free 256-bit SSL encryption. A VPN, included free with the yearly account and available as a $4.99 service add-on with the monthly plan, can further secure your online activity by assigning you a separate, anonymous IP address through which all of your web traffic will route through. You can connect to servers in over 50 countries using the included desktop and mobile apps.
We headed off to UsenetServer's signup page to try out the service and worked through the usual process of picking a plan, choosing a payment method (card or PayPal only) and entering our details. We should note there are 2 lifetime discounts available exclusively through TechRadar. You can get 60% off the yearly unlimited plan option, which brings your per month price down to $7.95 and includes the VPN for free, or if you prefer the monthly option, you can get 33% off, bringing your monthly price down to $10 (VPN available as a $4.99 monthly service add-on). Both discounts apply for the lifetime of your account.
After confirming the order at PayPal, UsenetServer redirected us to a simple web page with the core details we needed to get started: username, password, the server name and port numbers (119 and 563, as usual).
The website has a Global Search page which allows you to search for Usenet posts from your browser. This can be accessed by logging into your account at UsenetServer.com. From there, you’ll find a Usenet search interface where you enter your search term, hit the search button, then view all posts found on Usenet related to your keyword. Results can be filtered by date, for example to show matches in the last month all the way back to UsenetServer’s full retention timeframe, newsgroup, and even poster.
You can create an NZB in only a few seconds by selecting the search results you want, adding them to your cart, then generating the NZB file from your cart. The NZB can then be sent to any Usenet client, Usenet Wire for example, to retrieve articles from Usenet.
While this search feature is helpful for finding articles on Usenet, the interface is basic in that there are no file previews or advanced search filters like file size or file type. That said, it does work well as far as speed and accuracy and there is no cost to access it.
If you don't have a Usenet client then you'll need to find one. UsenetServer has a short Newsreader list with overviews of some popular software like Newsbin Pro and Unison along with step by step setup guides on how to configure your UsenetServer account with each of the newsreaders.
We did get a link to download and install the Windows VPN client, and that was entirely straightforward: download, install, then an icon popped up in our system tray a few seconds later.
The software was simple to use, but limited. You start by selecting a server from a list of cities and countries, with ping time stats to help you choose. There is also a search bar at the top that you can use to find a particular location. The Connect/Disconnect button turns the service on and off.
UsenetServer does have a few useful advanced VPN features. There’s a Kill Switch, for example, which will terminate your internet connection in the event your VPN connection drops. This ensures that your real IP address will never be exposed. There is also a VPN auto-reconnect option and a quick dropdown menu that lets you to choose from multiple cipher levels options.
Even at this basic level, the Windows client raises a user account authentication prompt every time it launches. It uses its own desktop notifications which hang around for too long, and closing the client window disconnects you without any alert, rather than minimize to the system tray. It feels more like a small app you've found on SourceForge, as opposed to a professional product.
To be fair, this may not matter very much as the underlying security functionality is there. And if you do need more power, you could simply ignore UsenetServer's own client and set up OpenVPN instead. For us, the main issue here is that the app design isn’t showing the level of professionalism or expertise that we would expect.
Whatever the situation with the VPN software, we've no complaints about the underlying network. We had 51 countries to choose from, which is up from 21 countries since our last review. There are many popular locations including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada as well as the usual cities across Europe and North America. Our nearest UK server got close to 40Mbps download speeds, nearby European locations typically managed over 30Mbps, and even US servers got close to 30Mbps. In our experience, that's much better than what you'll see with most specialist VPN services.
With the Usenet service, we managed to download at more than 40Mbps with just four connections, and there are 20 available if you need them. If you have a faster ISP bandwidth package, you should be able to connect to UsenetServer’s servers at the top end of your bandwidth allotment.
We completed our tests with a few simple retention checks, and again UsenetServer delivered, quickly finding and downloading binary and text files from the beginning of 2009. The depth of their file retention is impressive, especially considering that some providers running their own servers provide as low as 12 or even just 1 month of retention. In cases like these, UsenetServer will have over a decade more retention -- a difference of billions of posts, if not more.
UsenetServer is one of the best for unlimited Usenet, fast speeds, and access to multiple servers worldwide. It also offers some of the best retention rates anywhere, plus you also get access to a Usenet search engine called UNS Global Search. The VPN client is basic, although it is included free with the yearly plan. Overall, this is one of your best options if you have your own newsreader and just need good, reliable, well priced unlimited access.
UsenetServer is offering an exclusive 65% discount on annual plans for TechRadar readers. Get it here for $7.95 per month.