MacSentry VPN review

An Apple-oriented VPN you can use on any device

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

MacSentry offers few features and no Windows or Android clients, but speeds are good and the price is right.

For

  • Above average performance
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Mac and iOS clients
  • Good value

Against

  • Poor website tutorials
  • No Windows or Android clients
  • No trial

As you'll probably guess from the name, MacSentry is a VPN targeted very much at Mac, iPhone and iPad users. But that's not as restrictive as it seems, because the service can also be manually set up on Windows, Linux, Android and other devices.

MacSentry offers only 18 locations, less than many competitors. They're well chosen, though, with servers spread across North America and Europe, as well as Costa Rica, Korea, Singapore and South Africa.

The website provides some welcome detail on the network. A server list gives the server names and any supported protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2 and/or L2TP/IPsec), while a status page has an uptime report covering each server for the last seven days.

The core MacSentry service includes everything you'd expect. There's support for up to five simultaneous connections, P2P is permitted on all servers, there are no bandwidth limits and the company offers 24/7 email support if you have problems.

Mac users also get a small bonus in the shape of three free system tools: a network connection monitor, drive clean-up tool and battery status app.

Prices are a little below average. A one-year subscription costs $3.58 (£2.85) a month, billed annually. Six months are reasonably priced at $5 (£4) a month, and monthly billing can be yours for $10 (£8). PayPal, credit cards and Bitcoin are supported for payment.

There's no free product or trial, unfortunately, but MacSentry does state that "if you are not 100% satisfied with our service within 7 days we will give you a full refund." There's no sign of sneaky clauses like ‘as long as you've not transferred more than 100MB data’, so you should have plenty of opportunity to test the service.

Privacy

MacSentry's website has a clear "no logging" statement on its front page, but experience has taught us that you can’t always take this at face value. We decided to dig deeper.

The single-page FAQ is emphatic, but just as lacking in detail: "we do not store any logs whatsoever".

We headed off to the brief privacy policy, which explained that some data is recorded when you connect – "username, internal IP, length of the session, and the amount of data transferred" – but adds that "this data is not retained and purged after the user disconnects as it is no longer relevant."

This is still distinctly short on information, and other providers go much further. MacSentry does at least rule out both activity and session logging, though, and that works for us.

The terms and conditions page had much more information, but there was a catch: most of it seems to have been cut and pasted from a general contract template, complete with irrelevant references to details like an apparently non-existent ‘returns policy’. Professional? No. But at least it means the company hasn't been hand-crafting sneaky legal clauses to try and catch you out, and that works for us, too.

Performance

The MacSentry signup process is much like many other – choose a plan, select your payment method (card, PayPal or Bitcoin), and fill in your details as usual.

One click later, we arrived at MacSentry's client area. It's a simple and straightforward home page which lists key account details, has links to software downloads and setup guides, and points you to a support knowledgebase if you need help.

Unsurprisingly, MacSentry is easiest to set up on Macs and iOS devices. There are simple clients available that handle all the basics for you.

The website has setup guides for other devices, too, but these aren't nearly as straightforward to follow. The Window instructions asked us to manually download a separate OVPN configuration file for every MacSentry location we wanted to use, for instance, then import them, one by one, into OpenVPN. Life would be much easier if we could download everything in a ZIP and drag and drop the files we needed into OpenVPN's Config folder, but that's not an option here.

There's also very little background information. MacSentry tries to help you block IPv6 leaks, for instance, but the site has no explanation of the consequences, of how you can check for them, of what IPv6 is, or of when and if you might need it. All you get is a single sentence pointing you to a Microsoft tool for disabling IPv6 permanently. That could be interesting if you're an expert who didn't know Microsoft had a ‘disable IPv6’ tool, but beginners will be left baffled.

It's not all bad news. MacSentry has been making efforts to improve the situation, adding many articles in recent months. There's email support if you need it, and even beginners will get the service set up eventually.

Once we were up and running, we benchmarked MacSentry's servers using various tests*, and found performance was very acceptable. Speeds could vary, but European and US servers were never lower than 20Mbps, and occasionally topped 35Mbps, competitive with many of the best VPNs. The distant locations were more of a problem – Korea's server barely gave us 1Mbps – but if you can live with that, MacSentry should deliver the speed you need.

We completed our review with some privacy checks, and there was more good news. Checking our server IPs showed they were all in the promised locations, and the service fully protected our identity without any DNS or other leaks.

Final verdict

MacSentry's speedy European and US servers are appealing, and the service represents good value overall. There are no advanced features or configuration options, though, and Windows and Android users will have to set up MacSentry manually.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds. 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.