Most VPNs have no clients of their own, and some manage one or two, but PrivateVPN stands out from the crowd with four: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. This isn't always a good thing – some third-party clients are garbage – but they tend to simplify the setup process, and also show that a company has some substance and depth.
The core service looks capable, too. There are 40 locations in 21 countries, including Russia, Australia and Singapore. You get OpenVPN, L2TP, L2TP/IPsec, IPsec, PPTP, IVEv2 support, and this is a torrent-friendly service which allows for six simultaneous connections, port forwarding, and there are no sneaky limits on bandwidth or anything else.
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Even better, if you can't get the system working on Windows, Linux or Mac, PrivateVPN offers a free TeamViewer-based remote setup service to get you started.
Despite all this functionality, pricing is a typical $8.95 (£7.10, AU$11.85) for a single month, $5.95 equivalent (£4.70, AU$7.85) if you opt for a full year. Although the firm doesn’t really advertise it, you can get a free 24-hour trial if you email and ask (see the FAQ on the website), and there's a ‘risk-free 7-day guarantee’ for extra protection.
Does PrivateVPN keep any logs? The FAQ is emphatic: "No, we NEVER produce logs of any data traffic. The only things we store are your email address."
That doesn't rule out logging session traffic, of course: connection times, bandwidth, maybe IPs. As PrivateVPN imposes a six-device limit it presumably maintains a list of user sessions, but we could find nothing about that on the site. That's a pity, but it's not unusual, and as PrivateVPN is based in privacy-conscious Sweden we suspect any details will be relatively safe.
PrivateVPN's terms of service is a plus, being clearly written and far more readable than efforts we've seen elsewhere. There's no lengthy list of things you can't do, for instance – just the requirement not to cause harm to others or break the law. Works for us.
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We emailed PrivateVPN, asked for a trial code and had a reply in under 10 minutes. You may not see that kind of speed if you ask a tricky technical question, but it's good to know someone is listening.
This made for a very straightforward signup as there was no need to enter payment details. We just handed over our email address, entered the trial code we'd just been given, and were directed to the support website. By default this displayed setup details related to us (Windows client download, manual setup guides), but there were also sections for macOS, iOS, Android, routers and Linux.
We took a look at the Windows client. This opened simply, with the usual ‘choose a server and click Connect’ setup. There's also an Advanced mode which allows selecting a protocol (we previously mentioned the options, which are various), and defining any apps you'd like to be forcibly closed if the VPN drops. We'd like more configuration options, and ping times to be included in the server list, but otherwise the package is marginally above average. (And if you need more power, there's always the regular OpenVPN software.)
In our tests*, real-life performance was a little above average overall. Short-hop UK-UK download speeds peaked at 30Mbps, and the closest European servers – France, Netherlands, Spain – managed similar rates. UK-US downloads were an acceptable 20-25Mbps in New York, and maybe averaging 20Mbps in Los Angeles, though with a lot of variation.
Our testing ended on a positive note as we ran the usual privacy checks, and found our PrivateVPN connection passed them all: no DNS leaks, no WebRTC issues, every visible IP always correctly tied to our chosen location.
PrivateVPN doesn't make any major mistakes, but it doesn't excel in any of the core areas, either – it's not quite fast enough, or powerful enough, or cheap enough to win us over. If you must have a service with native clients and six connection support, it might be interesting; otherwise, look elsewhere.
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*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.