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Ivacy VPN review

This VPN has some nifty advanced features – but it's not so good at the basics

Ivacy
(Image: © Ivacy)

Our Verdict

Ivacy is cheap and has an appealing feature list, but the poor speeds and buggy Windows client are major concerns. Try the service if you're interested, but test it carefully.

For

  • Lots of features
  • Responsive support
  • Low-cost 2-year plan
  • Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer

Against

  • Small network
  • Poor speeds in some locations
  • OpenVPN didn't work on our Windows client
  • Many Windows client problems

Ivacy is a Singapore-based VPN which – according to its website – offers just about every feature you need for almost no money at all.

There are 100+ servers spread across more than 100 locations, for instance. You get apps for Windows, Android, iOS, Mac and Kodi, as well as Chrome and Firefox extensions. It's torrent-friendly, there’s malware blocking, no logging, the service supports up to five simultaneous connections, plus it has a kill switch to protect your privacy if the connection drops.

Technical plus points include support for PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, split tunneling allows you to choose which traffic you route through the VPN tunnel, and the feature list goes on.

We noticed a few catches, though. Ivacy's servers don't all support every protocol, for instance. If you prefer to use OpenVPN, you have only 21 locations and 17 countries to choose from (check the full server list here).

Prices are low at $9.95 billed monthly, just $3.33 when you pay for a year upfront, falling to a spectacular $2.25 per month on the two-year plan. That beats most of even the budget competition, although some VPNs get close (CyberGhost's 3-year deal is $2.75, VPN Unlimited's lowest price is $2.78) and a few are even cheaper (ZenMate starts at $2.05, Surfshark a bargain $1.99).

Unusual optional extras include a dedicated IP (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore) for $1.99 a month, and port forwarding support for $1 a month.

There's support for multiple payment methods, include card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, and Bitcoin via BitPay.

Ivacy doesn't offer a free plan or trial, but you are protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee (or 7-days for monthly-billed accounts.) This used to include some sneaky catches – you weren't covered if you'd used more than 7GB of data, or connected more than 30 times – but these caveats have disappeared, and the process is now hassle-free.

Privacy

(Image credit: Ivacy)

Privacy and logging

Ivacy has an excellent privacy policy which spells out everything it records, and everything it doesn't, in refreshingly clear detail. Here's a key paragraph:

'We strictly do not log or monitor, online browsing activities, connection logs, VPN IPs assigned, original IP addresses, browsing history, outgoing traffic, connection times, data you have accessed and/or DNS queries generated by your end. We have no information that could associate specific activities to specific users.'

If you've ever spent an age scrutinizing a VPN's small print and support site looking for a sign of a hint of a clue about its privacy policy, you'll appreciate how rare it is to get that much information crammed into a couple of sentences.

The policy goes on to detail the personal data Ivacy does collect (name, email address, payment methods), and other collection methods (app crash reports and diagnostics, Google Analytics on the website). This isn't ideal, but it's better than many competitors, and it was good to see that Ivacy also allows you to request the deletion of your personal information via the Members Area of its website.

Apps

(Image credit: Ivacy)

Apps

Signing up with Ivacy worked much like any other VPN we've ever used. We chose a plan and payment method, handed over our cash, Ivacy sent us a Welcome email with a link to set up our password, and the website offered links to Ivacy's many clients.

We downloaded, installed and launched the Windows client without difficulty. The problems we had during our last review – being forced to log in every time – have fortunately disappeared, and the client worked just as we expected.

The client interface looks similar to many other VPN apps. The opening screen has a large Connect button which will automatically connect you to the nearest server, or you can choose your location from a list. This list can be displayed as countries or cities, but there are no ping times or server load figures, no search box, filters or sort options, and no Favorites system to save commonly-used servers.

General

(Image credit: Ivacy)

A left-hand toolbar helps you choose servers for particular tasks. Click Streaming, for instance, and you're able to choose streaming services you'd like to unblock and view (Amazon Prime, BBC, Hulu, Netflix and many more).

Other options include 'Unblocking' to help you access geoblocked sites, and 'Secure Download', where apparently the service 'scans for any viruses or malware in the data being downloaded and removes it at server level.' The website page on this feature says it 'scans and removes such viruses and malicious files before they even make their way to your devices.'

That makes it sound like it's checking the contents of the files you're downloading, but our tests suggest it's probably using a simple DNS blacklist to block dangerous URLs.

Settings enable choosing your preferred startup mode, for example opening with the Streaming page. There's an option to switch protocol (OpenVPN UDP or TCP, L2TP or IKEv2), a kill switch and split tunneling support.

Desktop clients normally contain the most features, but Ivacy's Android app was surprisingly capable, with the same connection modes (streaming, downloading, unblocking), a connection list displayed by country or city, a kill switch and split tunneling. It even had a bonus extra in a Multi-Port option to find the best port for your system.

However, we still remain unsure about some elements of the Android app. For instance, its protocol choice seems to imply that it's using OpenVPN, but looking at our test connection, we're not sure that's true. But there's no doubt Ivacy apps have more features than most, and if you're looking for power above all else, that will be interesting.

Windows error

(Image credit: Ivacy)

Windows testing

When we first tried to connect, the client displayed an error message stating: 'There's a problem with the connection, please try again later.'

Manually digging into the logs revealed that the real issue was authentication, as our chosen password wasn't being accepted. The client really should have been smart enough to tell us that, rather than recommending we try again, which would never have worked.

After solving that problem, we found that the 'Automatic' server selection didn't work as we expected. Most VPN apps will choose the nearest server by default, but although we were testing from the UK, the client only ever connected us to the US. We could still connect to the UK manually, but that shouldn't be necessary.

Even when you choose your preferred location, it won't necessarily stay that way. We found that if we ever clicked the Secure Download icon on the sidebar, the location on that separate list would replace our main choice.

While other VPN apps display your new IP address when you're connected, the Ivacy interface just displays a 'Show My IP' link. Clicking that opens the default browser at a special page on the Ivacy site, where you'll finally find your IP. This works, but it's hardly convenient or professional.

The clunky and underpowered approach continued with the DNS and IP leak protection, which could only be enabled if you run the client as an administrator. It's not difficult to set this up (just modify the shortcut), but again, it's hardly convenient and shouldn't be necessary.

The Settings page gives the option to choose UDP and TCP protocols, which we assumed were variants of OpenVPN. But on checking, they both got us L2TP connections, and we couldn't find any way to use OpenVPN.

The kill switch appeared to be a rare highlight, displaying alerts if the connection dropped and correctly blocking our internet connection. But when we looked closer, there was a problem. Most VPNs implement their own kill switch, but Ivacy appears to rely on the Windows firewall, a technically simpler solution but one which can leave it prone to conflicts and problems. There was a sign of this almost immediately, when Windows warned us that the firewall was blocking one of our applications and asked us to approve the block being removed.

Put this all together and although the client has some interesting features, we've a lot of concerns about how they're implemented. There are some very basic issues here, and we'll bet there are plenty more that we didn't have time to uncover.

Performance

(Image credit: Ivacy)

Performance

Our performance tests began by looking at connection times. These were very poor during our last review, and we were glad to see they had improved significantly this time round. The comparison may not be entirely fair, though, because the problems last time occurred when using OpenVPN, and we were only able to connect via IKEv2 during this review.

Speeds to our nearest UK servers improved significantly, too. The inconsistencies we saw during the last review seem to have disappeared, and instead Ivacy managed a stable and very capable 63-64Mbps on our test 75Mbs connection.

There were disappointments as we tried more distant locations, though. European connections ranged from an excellent 55-60Mbps (Sweden) to a very poor 14-18Mbps (Netherlands), the US peaked at around 40Mbps, and the most long-distance locations were somewhere between horribly slow and almost unusable.

We crossed-checked our results by running some tests from a US location using an ultra-fast 475Mbps connection, but the best results we saw were around 30Mbps, another below-average result.

Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix

The Ivacy website boasts that it allows you to 'stream anything, anywhere', which sounds good to us. And this isn't just vague marketing waffle – the apps include streaming functions which are specifically designed to unblock Netflix and many other streaming platforms.

To try this, we launched the Windows client, clicked Streaming > Select Channel > Netflix, and watched as the client told us we were connecting to 'Netflix US'. Once we were online, the client asked if we wanted to watch US Netflix. We clicked Yes, our default browser opened at the Netflix site, and it worked – we were able to stream Netflix content as usual.

We couldn't get into BBC iPlayer during the last review, but there was no problem this time: we chose the iPlayer tile, the client opened our browser and we streamed content as usual.

That worked for us, and even if you're not interested in iPlayer or Netflix, there are plenty of other services available: ABC, Amazon Prime, Fox Sports Now, HBO Now, Hulu, NBC and many others.

Support

(Image credit: Ivacy)

Support

The Ivacy support site is always available if you run into problems, with an assortment of installation, troubleshooting and other guides. There's some useful content, but not as much detail as we would like, a few of the articles are outdated (for example using screenshots from old versions of the client), and it can't begin to match the professional articles from major VPN providers such as ExpressVPN.

Fortunately, the website also offers 24/7 live chat support. We had a useful response in around a minute when we posed a test question, much better than we've seen with most of the competition.

Ivacy's email support is a little slower, unsurprisingly, but still acceptable. We typically received helpful replies within around three hours, with the fastest being around 30 minutes, also better than you'll see with many more expensive competitors.

Final verdict

Ivacy offers a pile of advanced features for a seriously low price, but we also noticed significant issues with speed and the Windows client. Demanding users might want to check it out anyway (there's a minimum 7-day money-back guarantee), but do some intensive testing before you buy.