Visit the website of Hungarian-based Buffered VPN and you're immediately presented with a host of bold claims: it’s the "fastest and most secure VPN", plus you get "world class support", "total security", and it’s possible to "access the content you want from any country on earth".
Drill down to the details and the service still seems impressive. Not only does Buffered VPN have servers in 37 countries, for instance, but the company also asks you to contact them if you need one somewhere else, saying "chances are we'll get it for you".
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One issue is that Buffered VPN only has clients for desktops (Windows, Linux, Mac). The website has instructions to set it up on Android, iOS and anywhere else, and experienced users will find this easy enough, but it does take a little more work.
The other complication is the price, a high-end $12.99 (around £10.50, AU$17.70) paid monthly, $8.25 (around £6.70, AU$11.25) per month if you pay annually. Still, if you value quality over price that shouldn't be too much of a problem, and it's certainly worth investigating further.
Reading VPN-related small-print is usually tedious in the extreme, but Buffered VPN's contract pages are refreshingly different, and a good example of how to present these details properly.
For example, the terms of service page is a little long, but has clear and simple section titles: Your Basic Responsibilities, Data Privacy, Our Subscription Plan, Payment & Refunds and so forth make it easy to find what you need.
The language used is straightforward, aimed at ordinary people rather than lawyers. And it clearly discusses details you actually want to know, instead of droning on about the finer points of the Hungarian legal code.
The core message is a qualified ‘no logging’ statement: "We do not as a matter of ordinary practice store private information about individual user activities on our network". That's a mild concern, as it's saying the firm can and maybe does log activities on occasion, but it also says no information will be disclosed "unless required by Hungarian law", which means your data is relatively safe.
Buffered VPN's refund policy is another highlight. You're able to use the service for up to 10 hours, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth and still get your money back, which is way more generous than some other providers.
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Buffered VPN's client opens much like any other. There's a list of flags and locations, a settings icon and a connect/disconnect button – it's all very familiar and you'll have no problem finding your way around.
However, the service did have some issues. At one point it launched cmd.exe (the command prompt), forcing us to accept a Windows UAC prompt. Why? A dubious programming shortcut, we suspect, and not the most professional of touches.
More worrying, we found that Speedtest.net refused to work when connected to Buffered VPN's UK server, complaining about our ad-blocker. We disconnected and it ran immediately, showing the service was to blame. Maybe this was a one-off – we had no problems on any other sites – but it does show the VPN could cause browsing problems.
When we did manage to run our performance tests*, they were worth the wait. Download speeds over short distances were relatively low at around 55% of what we’d normally get, but impressive latencies (which were actually better than our regular connection) and fast upload speeds made for very responsive browsing.
Our UK-US tests were even better, with download speeds around 95% of normal and upload speeds unchanged. Our test figures were very consistent, too, suggesting this wasn't some fluke; it's the kind of service we'd hope to get long-term.
Our browsing issue was a little worrying, and we'd like to see Buffered VPN provide some native mobile clients. But there's no doubt the service offers excellent performance, and the generous refund terms give you plenty of time to try it out for yourself.
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*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.