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IPVanish VPN review

A powerful VPN with some surprising features

New Hero
(Image: © IPVanish)

Our Verdict

IPVanish is fast and configurable, with some interesting features. The apps have a few annoyances and they're not always comfortable to use, but if you're looking for both power and performance, we'd give it a try.

For

  • Decent performance with most locations
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Excellent Windows kill switch
  • Split-tunneling support

Against

  • Apps can be awkward to use
  • No Bitcoin support
  • Support website short on detail in some areas
  • Doesn't unblock iPlayer

US-based IPVanish is an appealing VPN provider with a long list of features, including several that you won't often see elsewhere.

The service has a decent sized-network with 40,000+ shared IPs, 1,300 P2-friendly servers in 75+ countries.

Some VPNs give you more, but, the website explains, IPVanish is 'the world’s only Top Tier VPN service provider'. The company owns and manages its own servers rather than renting other people's hardware, giving them far more control over how the network and servers are set up and run. It also demonstrates a level of resources and expertise which you won't see with some other VPNs.

The company doesn't shout about it, but all servers support P2P. (That's not an academic point-- it means you're more likely to be able to download from a nearby location, ensuring you'll get the best possible speeds.)

A wide range of clients covers Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, even Amazon Fire TV, as well as providing a host of setup guides for Linux, Chromebooks and other platforms.

IPVanish supports connecting up to ten devices simultaneously, and unlike most VPNs, these don't have to belong to the account owner-- they can be owned by anyone in your household. A single account can cover your partner, your kids, everyone, potentially a real money-saver.

24/7 live chat support is available if you need it, but even here, IPVanish delivers a little more than we expected. There's phone support, too, though with more limited hours (9am – 5pm CT, Monday - Friday.)

New features since our last review include a stack of additions to the apps. The Windows client now supports the SSTP protocol, and is available in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Russian, Hindi); Android gains an OS-level kill switch, and MTU control to avoid some website blocks; Android TV/ Fire TV is able to launch an app as soon as the VPN connects; and iOS gains a new way of bypassing firewall VPN blocks, an auto-connect option for untrusted networks, and support built directly into the app.

Pricing

IPVanish offers discounts on its regular price when you sign up for a longer plan

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Plans and pricing

IPVanish offers three basic plans. You can opt to pay $10 a month, billed monthly; $8.99 a month, if you pay for 3 months up-front; and only $6.49 if you pay annually.

This is decent value for the features you're getting, and very similar to other quality This at the high end of the market, and you can sign up with some quality VPNs for much less (Windscribe's annual plan is priced at $4.04, Private Internet Accessis just $3.33.) IPVanish is cheaper than some, though - VyprVPN is $6.67, HideMyAss is $6.69, ExpressVPN is $8.32 - and overall we think it's decent value for the features you're getting.

Testing isn't quite as easy or convenient as we'd like. There's no free trial, and you only get a relatively stingy 7-day money-back guarantee (CyberGhost and Hotspot Shield give you 45 days, most other VPNs offer 30 days.)

Payment methods are limited to card and PayPal only. The company used to offer Bitcoin and other options, but not any more.

Although we have some small issues here, IPVanish presents its plans clearly and honestly. It's easy to see exactly what you'll pay and the billing frequency, and the company doesn't try to catch you out with sneaky clauses in the small print. You don't lose the right to a refund if you've logged on more than x times, for instance, or used more than y GB of data. If you're unhappy, ask for a refund within the first seven days and you'll get your money back, no questions asked.

Privacy

IPVanish protects your privacy with encryption and secure protocols

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Privacy

IPVanish protects your privacy with its use of rock-solid, industry-standard AES-256 encryption, and its support for the highly secure protocols, OpenVPN and IKEv2.

The IPVanish apps go further by giving you an unusual level of control over their OpenVPN setup. The ability to choose your OpenVPN port (1194 or 443) may help you connect, while a 'Scramble OpenVPN Traffic' option reduces the chance of your VPN tunnel being detected or blocked in anti-VPN countries such as China and Iran.

DNS leak protection

All of the DNS leak tests we performed showed that IPVanish didn't leak any of our information

(Image credit: ProxyRack)

The Windows client offers a kill switch, DNS and even IPv6 leak protection to reduce the chance that your real identity will be exposed online, for example if the VPN connection drops.

Privacy pluses elsewhere include the iOS app's ability to create lists of wireless networks which IPVanish will always protect, and others which it can ignore, as you know they're safe. You can then mostly leave the VPN to turn itself on and off as required, preserving your privacy at all times.

To confirm the service really does preserve your identity, we checked for leaks at sites including IPleak, DNS leak test and Do I leak. None of the tests revealed any issues, with the apps shielding our real IP address at all times.

Logging

IPVanish keeps zero logs on its users

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Logging

Point your browser at IPVanish's website and you'll read what seems to be a clear no-logging policy.

"Our strict zero-logs policy keeps your identity under wraps. We do not record any of your activity while connected to our apps in order to preserve your civil right to privacy."

We like to check the big claims on the front of a website with the small print at the back, but in this case, the IPVanish Privacy Policy says much the same thing.

"IPVanish is a zero-logs VPN service provider, which means that we do not keep a record of any connection, traffic, or activity data in regard to our Services"

There were some concerns raised in June 2018, when a document emerged showing that the zero-logging IPVanish had in 2016 responded to a summons from the US Department of Homeland Security by handing over information on a user's activities, including connection and disconnection times and possibly the use of specific protocols.

IPVanish had been sold since this happened, and Lance Crosby, CEO of new owner StackPath, stated that he had no knowledge of the background to this case, and independent audits and current practice ensured there were no logs of any kind.

Whatever the story here, it's more confirmation that VPN logging claims can't always be trusted. The headline "zero logging" boasts on the website won't necessarily be reflected in company practice.

Does that necessarily mean you should avoid IPVanish, though? We would say not. The logs were handed over under the previous management. The current owner, StackPath, is a major cloud services provider who has now tied itself, very publicly, to the statement that "With no exception IPVanish does not, has not, and will not log or store logs of our users as a StackPath company." To be involved in any future logging controversy would be hugely damaging, and we suspect StackPath will be going to considerable lengths to make that happen. This doesn't in any way guarantee your safety, but we still think StackPath's public promises have more weight than the website marketing efforts of most other VPNs, where in some cases you can't even tell who owns the company.

Customers shouldn't have to rely on anyone's zero-logging promises, of course. VPN providers such as NordVPN and VyprVPN have tried to reassure their customers by allowing external companies to audit their systems and find out what's really going on. Hopefully IPVanish - and the rest of the industry - will do the same.

SpeedTest.net

SpeedTest by Ookla is one of the services we used to test IPVanish's performance

(Image credit: Ookla)

Performance

Assessing the performance of a VPN takes time and work, so we used multiple tests and techniques to see what IPVanish could do.

This started with a custom benchmarking program which automatically connected from the UK to a sample of IPVanish servers, logged the connection time, ran a ping test to look for latency issues, and used a geolocation service to confirm our new IP was where IPVanish had promised.

We were able to access all servers, and our connection times were a capable 6-8 seconds. (Some VPNs may be a little faster, but other take up to twice as long.)

Ping times were within the expected range, and our geolocation checks suggested that all our test servers were in the expected locations.

Next up, we used Speedtest.net, TestMy.net and other benchmarking websites to find the best download speeds of our local UK servers. These reached an excellent 64-65Mbps on our 75Mbps test line, only around 5% down on our typical non-VPN connection speeds.

Switching to US and European speeds saw little change, with most locations delivering a very acceptable 50-65Mbps.

Unsurprisingly, the long-distance servers showed the greatest variation, from Australia's perfectly adequate 30Mbps, down to one or two locations which are almost useless (India struggled to reach 5Mbps.) Still, even here, most servers performed very well, and overall IPVanish is faster than the bulk of the competition.

Netflix error

In our tests IPVanish was able to unblock Netflix in the US 

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix

Unlike some of the competition, IPVanish doesn't boast about its website unblocking abilities. Browse the website and you'll eventually find its Services page, but that's limited to relatively unprotected sites such as Sling TV, Spotify and YouTube.

Does this mean IPVanish doesn't have much to boast about? Our iPlayer tests seemed to confirm that, as none of the UK servers got us access, a repeat of what we found during our last review.

All US VPN servers allowed us to watch geoblocked YouTube clips. That's not such a big deal - everyone else does, too - but we like to check, anyway, just to confirm there are no problems.

The surprise was that despite the lack of advertising, all IPVanish test servers gave us access to US Netflix, a far better performance than you'll see with many competitors.

Client setup

IPVanish offers clients for a wide variety of platforms

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Client setup

IPVanish directly supports a wide range of platforms, with clients available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Fire TV. There are no browser extensions, but the support pages have setup guides for Chrome and Firefox, as well as tutorials covering routers, Chromebooks, Linux and more.

The app download links are easy to find on the website, and, conveniently, you don't have to log in to your IPVanish account to access them. 

There are no big surprises during the client setup process (or small surprises, really.) The Windows and Mac clients install like any other, iOS and Android apps may be installed from their app stores, and there's a bonus direct download of the Android APK file for experts who need more control of the setup process.

If you're not interested in the official clients, IPVanish has manual setup tutorials for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and others. These aren't as numerous or detailed as we've seen at ExpressVPN, but there's still plenty of information here. The website has twelve tutorials just covering Windows, for example, with separate guides covering OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IKeV2 setup on Windows 7, 8 and 10.

If you're using OpenVPN or anything else OpenVPN-based, you'll also appreciate IPVanish' sensible naming of its .OVPN configuration files. While NordVPN starts file names with a country code, like 'us2356.nordvpn.com.udp.ovpn' (poor practice if you're mixing files from different providers) and doesn't mention the region, IPVanish leads with its own name and includes the city, too ('ipvanish-US-New-York-nyc-a01.ovpn'), making it far easier to read and use.

Windows Client

If you've used a VPN before, IPVanish's Windows client will look quite familiar

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Windows client

If you've used several VPN clients, you'll know they're mostly very similar. There's a list of locations, a Connect/ Disconnect button, a page of settings, and generally nothing else at all.

Once again, IPVanish does things differently. Its clients can look more complex than the competition, but that's mostly because they have more features and functionality than just about anyone else.

The opening Quick Connect panel is cluttered, for instance, but there are welcome touches, too. Tap Connect and a status panel displays the protocol, time connected, server name, and data uploaded and downloaded, a level of detail you'll rarely see elsewhere. The client even displays a good-looking real-time graph of your upload and download speeds. (Essential? Probably not, but you have to applaud the developer's efforts.)

Country list

In addition to the map view, you can also view IPVanish's locations as a country list

(Image credit: IPVanish)

If you don't like this interface, one click and you've viewing a more conventional country list. This looks more like other clients, but again, IPVanish has added extra features. A search box enables filtering the list by keyword. You can sort the list by country, load or response time. You're able to add servers to a Favorites list with a click, and these can be sensibly displayed at the top of the country list, rather than hiding them away on a separate tab.

IPVanish also allows selecting locations from a map, and it makes a better job of implementing this than most. Pan the map over to the US, for instance, and instead of being confronted with a mass of overlapping location markers, the map displays only four. If you know you're after an east coast location, zoom in there and more locations appear, with numbers representing how many servers they offer, so for instance we could see there were 55 servers in New York, 67 in Washington and 57 in Los Angeles. Click any location and the client automatically connects to the best available server.

You can easily change VPN protocols from within the settings of IPVanish's Windows client

You can easily change VPN protocols from within the settings of IPVanish's Windows client

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Even the Settings dialog delivers more functionality than we expected. You can switch protocols between IKEv2, SSTP, PPTP and L2TP, as well as OpenVPN TCP and UDP. You're able to choose an OpenVPN port (1194 or 443). There's both DNS and IPv6 leak protection. You can define which server IPVanish uses when the client starts, repair the IPVanish OpenVPN driver if it's affected by another VPN, and view the OpenVPN logs within the interface to troubleshoot problems.

The client's kill switch isn't enabled by default, so we turned it on and ran a few tests. The results were excellent in every area: whatever we did, whatever protocol we used, the client warned us immediately with a desktop notification and reconnected if we'd enabled that option in Settings, without ever revealing our real IP.

The Windows client has a few small usability issues, then, but overall it performs very well, and old VPN hands in particular will appreciate its lengthy feature list.

Android client main

IPVanish's Android app closely resembles its desktop counterparts

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Android app

The IPVanish Android app opens with a simple Quick Connect screen which displays your current IP and location, lists a target country, city and server, and provides a Connect button to speedily get you online. 

The app selects your closest server by default, but you're also able to set your destination country, the city within that country, or choose a specific server with a couple of taps.

Just like the desktop client, once you're online the app displays a real-time scrolling graph showing your upload and download data rates. We're unsure whether there's anyone who actually needs this, and presumably it will reduce your battery life if you leave it open for a long period of time, but there's no doubt it looks better than the usual dull country list.

The app presents some genuinely useful status information along with the fancy visuals: your new IP address, server name, location, time connected, and so on. It's welcome reassurance that the system is working as you would expect.

The location picker is relatively basic. You're able to select servers by country or city, but there are no ping times or server load figures to help you choose, and there's no Favorites system or Recent Servers list to speed up reconnections. Instead, you're forced to manually scroll to specific servers when you need them, a potential hassle on mobile devices with small screens.

Android client store

You can download IPVanish's Android app right from the Google Play Store

(Image credit: Google)

The app has more settings and options than most of the competition. You can choose to make OpenVPN UDP or TCP connections, optimizing for speed or reliability. There's a wider choice of ports than you'll see with the Windows client (443, 1194 and 8443.) A Scramble feature makes it more difficult for networks to detect and block VPN connections. A kill switch blocks internet access if the connection drops.  Most interesting of all, a Split Tunneling feature allows you to select apps you don't want to use IPVanish, great news if some of your apps don't work with VPNs. ExpressVPN has something similar, but otherwise that's an option you'll rarely find elsewhere.

There are minor weaknesses in some areas. While many apps can automatically protect you whenever you connect to an insecure network, for instance, IPVanish displays an optional warning and leaves you to decide what to do. That's enough to help you stay safe, though, and overall the app works very well.

iOS client main

IPVanish's iOS client is quite similar to its Android app

(Image credit: IPVanish)

iOS app

The IPVanish iOS app launches with much the same Quick Connect screen as the Windows and Android clients. There's a clear display of your IP address, location and VPN status, and you can choose your target country, city and server before connecting to the VPN with a tap. (As with the Android app, the default country is always the US, wherever you might be in the world.)

Once you are online, there's similar eye-candy in the shape of a scrolling real-time internet traffic graph. This isn't exactly necessary, but it's good (and very unusual) to see a VPN app with some visual style.

If you prefer, you can also select locations from a simpler text list. As with the Android app, this can be sorted by country or city, but these fields are displayed in separate columns which makes the list much easier to browse. Server load and ping times are displayed, too, helping you to figure out which is the best location for you.

iOS client iPad and iPhone

IPVanish not only works on iPhones but also on Apple's iPad 

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Even better, and unlike the Android client, the iOS app supports a simple and straightforward favorites system. Tap the star to the right of one or more servers and it'll appear whenever you choose the Favorites tab, allowing you to avoid all the other filtering and sorting hassles entirely.

The Settings pane looks sparse, at least initially. There's no integrated kill switch to protect your identity, and you only get two significant VPN tweaks: an auto-connect option, and the ability to switch protocol between the default IKEv2 and IPSEC.

Check out that auto-connect feature, though, and you'll find a stack of options and controls (essentially, all the goodies we'd like to have seen in the Android app.) As well as a basic "connect automatically" setting, you can have IPVanish automatically turn itself off when you're connected to trusted cellular networks. You're able to build whitelists and blacklists of wireless networks, so IPVanish knows which connections to protect, and which are safe. You can even build a list of domains which you'd like IPVanish to automatically protect, so for example you could have the VPN kick in whenever you visited Netflix's website. 

The IPVanish iOS app isn't perfect, then, but unlike many competitors, it's not just a basic port of the desktop or Android apps, either. There's real power here, and we'll be interested to see how it develops in future.

Support

IPVanish's support site provides you with a great deal of information about your connection

(Image credit: IPVanish)

Support

If the VPN isn't working as it should, the IPVanish Help Center aims to point you in the right direction. A System Status link warns you of any big company-wide problems, support articles are intelligently organized into key categories (Setup, Troubleshooting, Billing, more) and you can search the web knowledgebase for specific keywords.

The articles aren't quite as polished as you'll see with ExpressVPN and other top competitors, but they're not bad, and there's plenty of information to explore. You don't just get one or two generic setup guides, for instance-- there are multiple tutorials for Windows, Android, iOS, MacOS and Linux, as well as guidance on using the system with ChromeOS and various routers, and related advice for using it with Roku, Chromecast and Kodi.

There are more issues with some of the troubleshooting guides. The 'Slow Speed Troubleshooting' article, for instance, spends way too much time on lengthy and often pointless analogies between VPN usage and driving a car, and way too little on practical advice. 

For example, the article discusses the likelihood that your VPN speed might not reach its regular performance level when using the VPN, rather than your ISP network, like this: 

"Your Internet Service Provider promises “up to” a specific speed limit or bandwidth on their network. The speed tests that they provide will typically be done within their network, meaning that they likely represent the best and the absolute maximum speed of what you can send/receive at your home… but it does not mean that you are guaranteed that maximum upload and download rate outside of your ISP’s network. Consider it to be like owning and test driving a race car. You can take it to the track and put the pedal to the metal, but you can’t exactly do that in the middle of town… either because there’s not enough room or there is too much traffic in front of you to reach full speed. The same can be said for the majority of the Internet."

If you can't find an answer in the knowledgebase, live chat is available on the website. We posed a test question, the chat window told us we were first in the queue, an agent responded and began giving us accurate and genuinely helpful replies within three minutes. That's a great performance, and a major improvement on the "send an email and wait" approach of some other services. 

If you need to send an email, perhaps to send screenshots, log files or other evidence, you can do that too. In our experience, response times can be up to 12 hours, but that's no great surprise for more complex issues. What really matters is the quality of the answers you get, and ours have always been great.

Final verdict

IPVanish has lots of features, highly configurable apps and excellent live chat support to help keep everything running smoothly. But there are some problems, too, and issues with usability and a scattering of smaller problems are just enough to keep it off the top spot.

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