We like VPN companies to offer a free account of some kind, and ZPN's is better than most with a generous 10GB monthly allowance. Sure, there are only five locations and just a single connection allowed, along with limited bandwidth and absolutely no P2P at all, but if you're looking for basic anonymous browsing this might easily be enough.
The Mobile plan improves this with unlimited bandwidth, 30+ locations, a 50GB monthly quota and P2P allowed in "premium locations" (fortunately that was 28 out of 33 in our tests). It's still only covering one device and one connection, but at $2.99 (£2.30, AU$4) for a single month (or $23.88 if you fork out for a full year – that's £18, AU$32) it makes cheap cover for a trip.
- Want to try ZPN? Check out the website here
The top-of-the-range Premium plan removes all the limits, giving you unlimited data and support for five simultaneous connections. It's also a relatively high price, though, at $9.99 (£7.70, AU$13.50) for a single month, or $71.88 (£55, AU$95) for a full year.
You're able to pay with credit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin, and the company offers a 7-day refund.
ZPN's Terms of Service is unusually short and clearly written. Lengthy paragraphs are mostly replaced by one or two sentences, and even those have the most important words highlighted in bold for faster reading. For example, the usual service level agreement-type detail is replaced by 29 words beginning with "actual network speed will vary..." and adding some possible causes (network congestion etc).
The only catch we could find was with ZPN's account billing, where unusually there's no automated way to cancel a service. You must contact support.
ZPN got off to a terrible start in our real-world tests when we couldn't download the Windows client.
It got worse when we realised why – the server certificate had been revoked. Not the way to impress customers with your security skills.
Everyone can have a bad day, so we posted a message on ZPN's website reporting the issue, but didn't receive a reply and nothing had changed days later.
ZPN has presumably got away with this because its page has links to download the client from other download sites. We used one of these, and it worked correctly allowing us to install the program without issue.
The client is simple but well presented. A single panel displays your connection status, location, connection time, IP address and account details (data and days left), and you're able to connect, disconnect or change location in a click or two.
You also get quite a few configuration options, including various low-level controls (VPN protocol, IP protocol, ports, and more), with extra tools available on the website.
One problem with these settings is that you can update them immediately, but there's no warning that the changes won't be applied until you reboot. You might think you've fixed any IPv6 leak, but that's not necessarily true.
The other issue is that the 'DNS Leak Fix' didn't work, at least not for us. We applied it, rebooted and tried it again, but our ISP's DNS was still visible online.
In our performance tests*, ZPN was reasonable in most cases – latency was up 88% compared to our normal connection, download speeds dropped to 75% of the standard rate, and uploads were reduced to 43% – although we found significant variations amongst servers. Some were effectively unusable, at least some of the time – fancy an upload speed of 0.08Mbps, anyone?
ZPN's broken site certificate and the lack of any support doesn't inspire confidence (the firm's last Facebook page update was four months ago, and has several unanswered complaints and questions attached). If the company takes an age to respond to something so major and fundamental, how much attention do you think they'll pay to any questions of yours?
Still, ZPN is rated highly by some people, the free account has a good data allowance, and the mobile clients score well on app stores. If you just need a free app for basic browsing, by all means try this, but think very carefully before you give the company any money.
- Here are the best free VPN services and links to download them
*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.