New York-based KeepSolid's VPN Unlimited is a capable service with some unusual features that you won't always find elsewhere.
The VPN network looks a little small at only '400+ servers' (ExpressVPN claims over 3,000, NordVPN 5,000+), but they're widely spread across more than 80 locations, with the most recent additions including Libya, Serbia, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
P2P is supported, though only at five locations: Canada, France, Luxembourg, Romania and the US (California).
Protocol support is moving beyond the usual standards of OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and PPTP: VPN Unlimited has now added beta support for WireGuard to its mobile, macOS and Windows apps.
There's a further protocol bonus in the company's own KeepSolid Wise, which redirects traffic through the TCP 443 and UDP 33434 ports to theoretically make it more difficult to detect and block.
- Want to try KeepSolid VPN Unlimited? Check out the website here
KeepSolid suggests Wise is ideal for users in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and anywhere else which takes a dim view of VPNs and actively tries to block their use. It has to be worth a try, but if it doesn't work, there are other providers who offer detection blocking ideas of their own (VyprVPN's Chameleon, IPVanish's 'Scramble').
The service has an impressive list of apps, with downloads for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Windows Mobile and Apple TV, and a handy collection of browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Edge.
VPN Unlimited supports up to five devices on a standard account, but this is a little more complicated than usual. While other providers typically support five simultaneous connections from any combination of devices, VPN Unlimited has five 'slots' which are allocated to particular devices or browser extensions (a Windows client and Chrome extension on the same system will fill two slots) as you connect them.
Once those slots are filled, you won't be able to connect with any new devices until you log in to the website and delete one of the old devices. Oh, and if you run out of free devices, or you replace several, you can only delete one active device a week, potentially a major hassle.
Suppose you're using all your slots, for instance, but then upgrade three devices at the same time. You're only able to delete one of the old devices per week, which means it'll be two weeks before you can use all your new hardware with the VPN.
KeepSolid does have a solution – sort of – in that you're able to buy further slots at extra cost. How generous.
If you run into problems with this, or any other part of the service, KeepSolid has a web knowledgebase with troubleshooting advice, and a support team is on hand 24/7 to answer your questions via ticket and email.
Additions since our last review include a new 'DNS Firewall', a DNS-based filtering system which blocks access to malicious and phishing domains, and enables blocking websites by content type (adult, gambling, social networking and so on.)
It's great to see beta WireGuard support now extended to all KeepSolid's mobile and desktop apps, too, a move which puts VPN Unlimited way ahead of most of the competition. (Other VPNs have been talking about WireGuard for a long time, but most have taken no visible action to support it.)
Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.
- Server coverage increased to 500+ servers. (July 2020)
Plans and pricing
KeepSolid's range starts with three straightforward plans. You can cover up to five devices by opting to pay monthly for $9.99, dropping to $5 a month if you pay for a year upfront, and $2.78 with its three-year plan. There are a few cheaper providers - Private Internet Access is just $3.33 over a year, Surfshark a bargain $1.99 over two years - but VPN Unlimited is better than most, and looks like good value to us.
As we write, the company also offers a lifetime of VPN usage for a one-off $199.99. That's the equivalent of $16.67 a month if you only use it for a year, $5.56 if you keep it for three years, $3.33 over five years - you get the idea.
While lifetime plans sound good in theory, based on current pricing, you'll need to use VPN Unlimited for more than five years before it starts to become cheaper than the bargain competition. There's no way to be sure the company will be the best service for you, by then, or even whether it'll still exist, and on balance we wouldn't recommend committing to any more than the three-year plan.
Whatever your preferred plan, VPN Unlimited supports paying by card, PayPal and Bitcoin. Unusually, there's a 10% discount for using PayPal, for example cutting the cost of the three-year plan from $2.78 a month to $2.50.
VPN Unlimited protects your privacy by using only the strongest VPN protocols. By default, that means OpenVPN, which is the standard protocol on both mobile and desktop apps. This uses AES-256 encryption for industry-standard levels of security. And if it doesn't suit your needs for some reason, no problem: IKEv2 is available with most clients as a capable fall-back protocol.
The apps also offer KeepSolid's own Wise technology. This takes the core OpenVPN protocol, scrambles and obfuscates it a little, and maybe routes it a little differently to a regular connection. While this might cut speeds a little, it could help you bypass VPN detection and blocking systems used in countries like China, allowing you to connect from almost anywhere.
There's more good news in the app's ability to automatically connect to the VPN whenever you access an untrusted network, ensuring you're always protected.
The Windows and Mac apps also benefit from a kill switch to block your internet if the VPN drops. (The Windows kill switch doesn't work exactly as it should, but we'll talk more about that later.)
The Windows client doesn't have any specific 'DNS leak protection' settings, either, but these didn't seem to be necessary anyway. We ran checks at IPLeak, DNS Leak Test, DoILeak and others, and found no sign of DNS, WebRTC or other data leaks.
VPN providers understand that potential customers are curious about their logging policies, and most try to make this immediately clear on the website, leaving phrases like 'Zero Logging!' prominently displayed in reassuringly large fonts.
The VPN Unlimited website doesn't make such an effort to highlight its logging procedures, and its front page doesn't mention the issue at all.
A quick check of our VPN Unlimited web console revealed a little more identifying information. A Devices console didn't just record that we had connected from a Windows 10 system, for instance. It also stored both the computer name and even the name of our Windows user account. If there's no logging of activity, that can't help anyone connect an internet action to your account, but we're still a little uncomfortable about a third-party holding that level of information about our devices.
These smaller concerns aside, there's no sign of VPN Unlimited taking any logging liberties with your personal data. We'd like more reassurance than words on a website, though. Other providers are increasingly going through third-party audits to verify their no-logging claims – TunnelBear has annual independent audits of its apps, infrastructure, website and more – and we hope VPN Unlimited will do the same, very soon.
KeepSolid performed well during our speed testing. Our closest UK servers managed 60-70Mbps on a 75Mbps fiber broadband line, around 5% to 6% down on our regular non-VPN speeds.
Repeating our speed tests from a US location gave us excellent results at 200-300Mbs on a 600Mbps line. That's significantly up on the 130-150Mbps we saw during our last review, a real achievement, especially with internet and VPN traffic significantly higher due to the coronavirus lockdowns.
Connecting to distant servers from the UK delivered reasonable results. Most European servers reached 60-65Mbps, US servers managed 55Mbps and more, and most of the less common locations also performed well (Libya consistently hit 40-60Mbps).
The only exception we noticed was Malaysia, which for us was almost unusably slow at around 1-2Mbps. Most VPNs have one or two poor performers, though, and slow speeds for us won't necessarily apply to everyone. If you're nearer to the server, your experience could be very different.
We tried switching from OpenVPN (our preferred protocol for testing) to WireGuard, but the results were mixed: sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower. WireGuard is currently in beta, though, so we're not going to draw any conclusions just yet.
While checking these servers, we also used geolocation libraries and ping checks to confirm their real locations. That's important, as some providers use virtual servers which aren't in the countries they claim, but we found no location-related trickery here. Every VPN Unlimited server appears to be in or close to its advertised location.
A good VPN doesn't just give you a new virtual location, it ensures that your identity is sufficiently undetectable that it gets you access to all kinds of geoblocked content.
To get a feel for a VPN's unblocking abilities, we connect to its UK and US servers, then check to see whether BBC iPlayer, US YouTube, US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ will allow us access to their content.
The VPN Unlimited apps simplify the process of server selection by highlighting recommended iPlayer, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and other locations on their regular server lists. That's far more convenient than the average VPN, where you might have 10 or more US servers to choose from, but be left to try them, one after the other, until you find which (if any) works with your preferred content provider.
We chose the UK server recommended for accessing iPlayer, and it worked just fine. Out of curiosity, we tried the other UK server, and that let us in, too.
Most VPNs allow access to US YouTube, and that was also the case here, with VPN Unlimited bypassing YouTube's geoblocking with all its servers.
US Netflix is the gold standard for content unblocking, but again, VPN Unlimited passed the test without difficulty. Its recommended US server got us access to the service right away, and when we tried a handful of other US servers, they worked, too.
Amazon Prime Video didn't work for us, with the site detecting the VPN and demanding we close it. But VPN Unlimited ended on a high note, getting us in to Disney+ on our first attempt.
This situation can change weekly, or even day-to-day, and there are no guarantees you'll see exactly the same results. But right now, KeepSolid does better at unblocking than many competitors, and even if problems do crop up in future, the ability of the client to highlight recommended servers will make it easier to find a location which works for you.
VPN Unlimited supports torrents, at least in theory, but the company isn't exactly enthusiastic about it. A support site FAQ asking 'is BitTorrent allowed on all servers?' is answered with a distinctly grumpy: 'The primary use of KeepSolid VPN Unlimited is not to download torrents, but to offer online security.'
That's not all, with the answer going on to warn that: 'There are limited cases when our technical team has to subside connection speeds due to torrenting.' Presumably this means cut, or throttle, one or more user's speed.
That compares poorly with VPNs who promise they'll never throttle connections. It also leaves us wondering how VPN Unlimited would know they have 'subsided' connection speeds 'due to torrenting.' Is VPN Unlimited monitoring user connections to identify the protocols they're using? If so, that's another black mark when compared to the top competition.
Even if you're unconcerned about that, there's more bad news in torrent support across the network. VPN Unlimited supports P2P on just a small fraction of its locations; five in total. They're well positioned for North American and European customers (Canada, USA, France, Luxembourg, Romania), but users elsewhere in the world may see disappointing download speeds, and it's another torrenting hassle you don't see with the best of the competition.
VPN Unlimited tries to sound a little more encouraging in other areas of the site, but with mixed results. The main torrent page begins with a faintly disbelieving 'even though downloading torrents is illegal in some countries, in a present-day reality it still remains popular', for instance, but goes on to claim: 'KeepSolid VPN Unlimited is your perfect tool for hiding your IP address while torrenting.'
If torrents aren't your top priority, or maybe you never use them at all, this might not matter much. VPN Unlimited supports them, and you can protect torrent downloading whenever you need to do so. But if torrenting is a priority on your VPN shopping list, VPN Unlimited may not be the best choice.
VPN Unlimited was easy to set up, and followed much the same rules as you'll see with any other service you buy online. Choose a plan, hand over your email address to create an account, download and install the client. Simple.
Manually setting up OpenVPN GUI or other OpenVPN-compatible apps is more of a challenge. Unlike most VPNs, KeepSolid doesn't have a single archive with all the OVPN configuration files you need. Instead you must generate them, one by one, from the website.
The company also requires that you generate different OVPN files for each device, as they have separate logins. Oh, and if you're using them with OpenVPN GUI, or anything else which displays the file name, you'll want to rename every one, as KeepSolid uses a naming convention which is, well, inconvenient (try 3237FF6D3B9A7C7A7015B20312CEEB45_bg_openvpn.ovpn, for instance, rather than Belgium.ovpn for VyprVPN).
This isn't quite as dumb as it sounds. The standard OVPN files used by other providers leave you needing to manually enter your username and password to connect, or store them within your app. KeepSolid's more customized files automatically include your credentials, ensuring you'll never have to enter a login on any device. Still, manually generating files one-by-one is a tedious task, and life would be much easier if KeepSolid updated the system to allow multiple server files to be set up in a single operation.
The VPN Unlimited Windows client opens with a world map indicating its various locations, and an arrow indicating the location of your current IP.
Although this looks good, you can't zoom in, pan around, click a location to log in, or perform any other useful actions. It's just a simple static image.
The real action takes place in a more conventional server list. Locations are organized alphabetically, each one with a Workload icon to help you make the best choice. There are separate lists for specialist servers (streaming, torrents), and a Favorites list for your most commonly used locations.
If you need more performance information, an optional Ping Test took only a few seconds to run on our test system, and added a ping time for each location.
Scroll down, find a server which appeals, and you can connect and disconnect with a click.
A Settings box includes several useful options. You can manually switch protocols between OpenVPN, IKEv2 and KeepSolid's own Wise UDP and Wise TCP. There's also a WireGuard option. It's marked as a beta version at the moment, but didn't cause any problems for us.
A DNS leak feature reduces the chance of your DNS requests being sent outside the tunnel.
A Trusted Networks option enables building a whitelist of networks where the VPN will be deactivated. If you only use a VPN to protect your activities on public wireless hotspots, for instance, you could automatically turn the VPN off at home, or anywhere else you're sure that you are safe.
Elsewhere, there's a basic Run on Startup option to run the client when Windows starts (but you can't define a startup connection), and a Password Protection feature which asks for your account password when it starts, preventing others using the service.
The major feature here is the kill switch. This should block internet access if the VPN connection drops, reducing the chance of any data leakage. At least, that's the theory.
To test the feature, we connected to a VPN Unlimited server, and tried terminating the processes managing our OpenVPN and WireGuard connections, and manually closing various TCP connections used by the client.
The client managed the basics well. Whether we killed OpenVPN.exe or shut down an IKEv2 connection, a notification warned us of the problem, the client automatically reconnected, and all systems were go in a few seconds. Our real IP wasn't visible at any point.
When we tried closing TCP connections belonging to VPN Unlimited's client and service, though, it was a different story. An alert warned us that the connection was lost, but the client seemed to 'forget' that the kill switch was supposed to be active, and our real IP was then available to anyone interested.
This isn't quite as bad as it seems. The client handled the most likely cause of dropped connections with ease. Although it failed our tougher tests, these don't represent situations you'll encounter often in real-world use. There's clearly still work to be done before the kill switch is truly bulletproof, though, and hopefully VPN Unlimited will sort this out soon.
Much like the Windows client, KeepSolid's Android app opens with a world map showing its various locations. But unlike the Windows map, the Android version is dynamic – genuinely useful, rather than just basic eye candy.
You can zoom in and out with this map, for instance. Drag to pan around. Tapping one of the location markers displays its name, tapping again gets you connected, with a line flying from your current location to the new one to show the route. Maps still aren't our preferred way to navigate any VPN client, especially on a mobile screen – there's too much zooming in and out to access some servers – but this app has at least tried to make it work.
Tapping the location name at the bottom of the screen displays the more standard country list. This works much like the Windows client: a workload figure highlights the least and most-used servers, ping times are available if you need them, and there's a Favorites list to store your most commonly used locations. Torrent-friendly and recommended streaming servers are highlighted, or you can view all the best streaming servers on a separate tab.
A relatively sparse Settings dialog starts with an option to change protocols. There's more choice than you'll usually see in a mobile app, though, with OpenVPN or KeepSolid's Wise option (in either TCP or UDP forms), IKEv2 and WireGuard.
The app doesn't have a built-in kill switch, unfortunately. You can set up one manually via Android's system settings, but that's not as convenient as being able to manage the setting locally.
Welcome bonus options include the ability to automatically connect for insecure networks or disconnect for trusted networks, along with an App Exceptions feature which enables defining apps which won't use the VPN (that's similar to the split tunneling feature you'll see elsewhere).
Put it all together and KeepSolid's Android app is a likeable tool, and better designed in some ways than its Windows offering. It's still mostly about the basics, though, and we've seen more powerful Android apps available elsewhere.
KeepSolid's iOS app follows the same basic interface and operating rules as its Android cousin.
A world map allows you to zoom in, pan around and select individual locations. It works, and it looks good, but as ever with map interfaces, it's a cumbersome way to operate a VPN.
A conventional list is more straightforward to use. You're able to scroll directly to the options you need, view server loads and ping times to identify the best choices, or save locations as Favorites for speedy recall later.
A Settings pane enables switching protocols as required. You can choose between OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and KeepSolid's own Wise TCP and Wise UDP. That kind of choice is unusual for an iOS VPN app.
Auto-connection options allow users to have the app connect to the VPN when you access all, or just untrusted, wireless networks.
As with the Android app, there's no built-in kill switch.
Overall, KeepSolid's iOS app left us feeling much the same as the others in the range. It's capable, it does the job, and the WireGuard support is welcome, but it's a little short on low-level tweaks and functionality, and there are better VPN apps around.
Connecting to a VPN through an app will usually direct all your system traffic through the tunnel. That's great for protection, but it could also cause trouble, for example if some of your applications don't work with the VPN, or there's a noticeable drop in performance.
KeepSolid's Chrome, Opera and Edge extensions work as proxies, only protecting your browser traffic. That's not great for privacy, but it could be all you need for website unblocking, and a browser-based interface makes it very convenient to use.
The Chrome extension looks good and is easy to operate. It opens by displaying your current location and IP address; you can connect to the fastest server with a click, or choose another as required.
The extension only has the most basic of location pickers. There's no server workload data, no ping times, no Favorites system, just an alphabetical list of country names and a Search box. Still, there's no doubt that keeps it easy to use.
There's a similar stripped-back look to the Settings box, where you'll find only two significant options: WebRTC leak protection, the ability to use KeepSolid's stealthy Wise protocol, and a setting to automatically connect when your browser launches.
These are useful features, but some rivals give you much more. Hotspot Shield's Chrome extension allows you to choose which server to connect to when your browser starts, and the ability to define whether individual websites are accessed through the VPN, or not. It also throws in basic ad, cookie, tracker and malware blocking, for free.
Would the Firefox extension give us any extra functionality? We installed it to check, and found that the answer was no. In fact, it is identical to its Chrome cousin in every detail. (Full marks for consistency, even if we would have liked more power.)
KeepSolid's add-ons aren't bad, then, but they have no significant feature surprises which might win you over, either. They offer a basic way to access the service from within your browser, and that's it.
VPN Unlimited's first line of support is its web knowledgebase, where you'll find various installation guides and a scattering of FAQ pages.
These articles are often short on detail and poorly structured. For example, the guide on how to use the Windows client wastes space explaining what menu items like 'Leave feedback', 'Check for update' and 'Support' mean, and pointing you to website links so you're able to buy more stuff. But it can't find the time to properly cover the available protocols or suggest when and why you might want to change them.
The support site claims to offer live chat support, and pointed us to a couple of links. But one just opened the New Message window of our email client, while the other opened a contact form, prompted us to enter our details and question, and explained that the support team would get back to us via email.
Although email support will never be as convenient as the live chat available with providers like ExpressVPN, KeepSolid gets as close as we've ever seen, with a helpful and accurate response arriving just five minutes after we posted our question. A fluke? Nope. It was the same story for our last review. We would still like to have live chat as an option, but if email responses can be this speedy, it's not a significant issue.
KeepSolid offers excellent performance for a fair price, and apps that run on almost everything. It's short on servers, the device management is annoying, and the Windows kill switch needs work, but if you can live with those hassles, it's well worth a look.
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