Ivacy is a Singapore-based VPN which – according to its website – is an 'award-winning best VPN' which offers just about every feature you could possibly need for almost no money at all. True, or just marketing spin? As usual, there's a little of both.
The Servers page on the website claims to offer more than 2,000 servers in over 100 locations across 50+ countries, for instance. The table underneath this headline only lists 766 servers as we write, so we're not entirely confident in the figures, but there's certainly a lot of choice.
A wide range of apps includes downloads for Windows, Android, iOS and Mac, as well as Chrome and Firefox extensions, and there are instructions for manually setting up the service on routers, Kodi, Linux, consoles and more.
Ivacy is 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.
Protocol support covers 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.
Prices have changed a little since our last review. Monthly billing is still reasonable at $9.95, but this falls to $5 a month on the new 6-month plan. The annual cost is an effective $3.50 a month, up from $3.33 - so in the same kind of region as popular provider NordVPN. The two-year plan has been replaced by a five-year scheme, and although that's way longer that we would normally recommend, it's seriously cheap at $1.16 a month.
To put that into perspective, it's an up-front payment of $69.99. A one-year HideMyAss! plan is significantly more expensive at $83.88. Even if you only use the Ivacy plan for a couple of years, it still looks like great value.
Unusual optional extras include a dedicated IP (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore) for a very reasonable $1.99 a month, and port forwarding support for $1 a month.
There's support for multiple payment methods, including card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, and Bitcoin via BitPay.
Ivacy has introduced a free trial, but only if you first install one of the mobile apps (1 day on Android, apparently 3 days on iOS.) That's not long, but it's enough to confirm some basic features, such as whether it can unblock US Netflix or whatever other streaming services you need.
Sign up and you're further 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 disappeared long ago, and the process is now hassle-free.
Privacy and logging
'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.'
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.
There's no way to verify any of this information, unfortunately. Other VPNs are increasingly putting themselves through public security and privacy audits - TunnelBear has had three annual audits of its apps, infrastructure, website and more - but Ivacy hasn't done that yet. Hopefully that will change soon.
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 and installed the Windows client. There were some small hassles - the installer gave us a 'file not found' error for a Visual C++ redistributable, the Windows firewall asked (just once) for permission to allow an Ivacy action - but we accepted the default option in each case, and the client was ready to go within a few seconds.
The client interface looks similar to many other VPN apps. The opening screen has a large Connect button which 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.
A left-hand toolbar helps you choose servers for particular tasks. Click Streaming, for instance, and you're able to choose platforms you'd like to unblock and view (Amazon Prime Video, 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), split tunneling, a kill switch and (a new addition since our last review) a Multiport setting which enables scanning for multiple ports to help you bypass port blocking (a simple technique aimed at blocking VPNs.)
Desktop clients normally contain the most features, but Ivacy's Android app is surprisingly capable, with the same connection modes (streaming, downloading, unblocking), a connection list displayed by country or city, a kill switch, split tunneling and multiport mode.
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. We could have retried an hour, a day, a week later and received exactly the same error.
This made little sense, because the client requires that you log in before you can use it. Our password had been accepted and the client displayed details relating to our account, so why would there be an authentication error with the server?
We changed our password anyway, but it made no difference.
This kind of issue may be annoying, but it's also a good opportunity to test support. We raised a ticket, and three hours later a reply arrived asking if Ivacy could reset our password. We said yes, an email arrived with the new credentials, and - still the same error.
We worked more with Ivacy support, eventually the error was apparently pinned down to a server problem, and we were finally able to connect.
And then yet another problem appeared. Most VPN apps automatically choose your nearest server, but despite testing from the UK, Ivacy's client mostly connected to the US (sometimes we got Panama, for a little variety.)
We asked Ivacy Support about this, and a reply said: 'Our team is already in co-ordination with the relevant authorities, and rest assured the IP Location DB will be updated at earliest possibility and your patience in this regard will be highly appreciated.'
Sounds good, although as we first saw the issue in September 2019, we're not going to expect changes any time soon.
Ivacy's client looks good, but we quickly realized that it has several usability issues.
The client opens at its Smart Connect page, with a regular list of locations. The default location is set to Automatic, but this can be changed by simply choosing another option on the sidebar. When we chose Automatic, click Secure Download on the sidebar, then back on Smart Connect, the default location changed to Australia.
The connection status display is poor. If you connect using Automatic mode, for instance, the client tells you you're connected to 'Automatic', rather than the country (important, if it might be choosing a server on another continent.) And while other VPN apps display your new IP address, this client only has 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 client doesn't minimize to the system tray by default, remaining as a button on your taskbar. Change this in Settings and it'll minimize to the system tray, but Ivacy makes no real use of this option. Some VPN clients have complex right-click menus for their system tray icons, allowing you to choose locations, favorites, connect, disconnect, open Settings and more, but Ivacy's menu has only the two most basic items: Open and Quit.
The Windows kill switch didn't work for us. When we forcibly closed our VPN connection (OpenVPN, IKEv2 or L2TP), the client noticed and reconnected, but our internet connection remained active, our data wasn't protected by the tunnel, and our real IP was exposed until the new connection was made.
While this was a poor performance, Ivacy has at least fixed two issues we noticed last time. Choosing the UDP or TCP protocol correctly got us an OpenVPN connection, instead of L2TP, as happened during the last review. And you no longer have to run the client as an administrator before you can change system-level settings, including DNS and IP leak protection.
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.
Our performance tests began by looking at connection times. We've seen issues with this in some Ivacy reviews, but this time they were very acceptable, for example connecting via OpenVPN in as little as 6-8 seconds (some VPNs take twice as long, or more)
Speeds to our nearest UK servers were a capable 66-68Mbps on our test 75Mbps connection, only around 7% down on speeds with the VPN turned off. Some services manage maybe 1-2Mbps more, but we're not about to complain.
We crossed-checked our results by running some tests from a US location using an ultra-fast 600Mbps connection.
Performance wasn't bad at all at a surprisingly consistent 100-110Mbps, a major improvement on the 20-30Mbps we saw last time.
Again, some VPNs are much, much faster - Speedify managed 275-400Mbps - but Ivacy has enough power for most purposes.
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.
BBC iPlayer can be a challenge to some VPNs, but not Ivacy: we chose the iPlayer tile, the client opened our browser and we streamed content as usual.
Amazon Prime Video didn't work for us. The website loaded, but displayed its annoying 'Your device is connected to the Internet using a VPN or proxy service. Please disable it and try again' warning.
The Streaming page doesn't include a tile for Disney+, maybe not a surprise - it's relatively new as an international service. We tried connecting using Ivacy's US and UK servers, without success - the Disney+ site refused to load while we were connected to the VPN.
This isn't the best of unblocking performances, but it outperforms some, and it's not the end of Ivacy's abilities. The Streaming panel includes support for ABC, BT Sport, CBS, Fox Sports Now, HBO Now, Hulu, NBC and many others.
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.
Ivacy offers a pile of advanced features for a seriously low price, but unblocking performance and speeds aren't great, and we noticed significant issues with the Windows client. Bargain hunters may want to check it out, but do some intensive testing before you buy.
- Also check out the best VPN services