FinchVPN is a Malaysian-based privacy service which offers some capable features for a very low price.
The company ‘only’ has 17 locations, but covers everywhere you'd expect (USA, Europe, Canada), and a few countries you might not: Brazil, Hong Kong, Latvia, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore and South Africa.
A website status page displays the current load for each server, including the number of connected users, a handy way to see how overloaded (or not) the network might be.
- Want to try FinchVPN? Check out the website here
FinchVPN supports P2P on a few of its servers. Official Windows and Android clients get you online quickly, and as the service supports OpenVPN and PPTP it's easy enough to connect almost anything else.
The real appeal of this VPN is the price. This starts at nothing at all, with a 3GB/month free plan. A Pro plan gets you 25GB per month from $0.50 for 7 days, $1.61 a month (around £1.30, AU$2.10), based on a one-year plan. The Premier plan gives you unlimited bandwidth, port forwarding and full PPTP support for $1 for 7 days, the equivalent of $3.21 a month (around £2.60, AU$4.25) when paying for a year. Some of these payments include a processing fee – our $1 PayPal payment became $1.35 – but this was still cheap overall.
So all that sounds good, but can the service deliver? FinchVPN's website has some positive indicators – a Facebook page that's updated occasionally, a user forum – but it was too early to be sure. Let’s dig deeper…
VPNs often bury key service details in the small-print, but FinchVPN provides many of them up-front in a well-presented FAQ page. This displays brief, clear questions only, keeping the page short, and if you click on something to expand it, you get a helpful, straight-to-the-point message.
As a result, we quickly discovered that the service doesn't monitor traffic, or "store any user identifiable data in relation to a customer's usage of the VPN". Your payment details aren’t stored, either (they're handled by the payment processor), so all FinchVPN can ever know about you is your incoming IP address and your email.
If you need a service to use on business trips, there’s some good news: unlike some of the competition, FinchVPN specifically allows personal AND commercial use, a surprise at this price.
What isn't such a surprise for a budget service is that there are no refunds. At all. Ever. If you have problems, the firm will try its best to fix them, but that's it.
Elsewhere, FinchVPN's contracts have none of the usual warnings about using the service ‘too much’. There are no clauses trying to limit your bandwidth usage, no ‘don't use web crawlers’ kind of nonsense, and no talk of throttling or rate-limiting the service, even as a temporary measure.
This doesn't mean you can entirely do what you like. FinchVPN does warn that an account is for an individual only, and there must be no sharing. The company is unlikely to complain if a couple of people are browsing simultaneously, at home, via the same router, but push it much further and you could get into trouble.
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018
Signing up for FinchVPN was reasonably straightforward, at least until we realised there were small processing fees added to the cost, depending on the payment method you make. As mentioned, our PayPal $1 fee had a $0.35 surcharge, plus credit cards would get the same treatment, although Bitcoin payments are surcharge-free.
FinchVPN's Windows client isn't as polished and novice-friendly as most of the competition. Out go the maps and flags, in comes text-heavy logs and technical options like protocols and ports.
The app still works in much the same way as any other – choose a server and click connect – but it isn't nearly as well organised or presented. Other clients help you choose a server by displaying a performance indicator in the list, for instance, but FinchVPN hides away those details in a Tools > Server Status box. And you can't even leave that open while you select a target server.
Once we were connected, our local UK to UK server tests* showed some very impressive speeds: 20ms latency, 35Mbps downloads – in other words, very little changed from our regular speeds.
Our UK to California connection showed a dramatic change, with latency up to 300ms (twice non-VPN rates) and downloads falling to 15Mbps. But even that was still very usable, and trying out a New Jersey server halved our latency and raised download speeds by 50%, very acceptable performance from any VPN.
FinchVPN isn't perfect – we'd like extra locations and more clients, for instance – but there's more than enough here for most people, along with very impressive performance from some servers. And it's seriously cheap to boot.
- Check out the best VPN services of 2017
*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.