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RapidVPN review

A small VPN with some unusual features - but big problems, too

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(Image: © RapidVPN)

Our Verdict

Good at unblocking Netflix and iPlayer, average to absolutely useless at just about everything else. Don't risk your cash, there are far better VPNs around.

For

  • Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer
  • Reasonable prices
  • Dedicated IP plans

Against

  • No iOS, Mac apps
  • Major connection problems
  • Extra fee for paying via card, PayPal
  • Very limited support

RapidVPN is a small VPN with a basic feature set, but a wide range of plans and pricing options.

The website claims it offers 20 locations, but from what we can see, there are 18: 12 in the US, one in Canada and five in Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK.)

P2P is supported, but on the Switzerland and Netherlands locations only.

Protocol support covers OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, SSTP and SoftEther (no IKEv2, unfortunately.)

RapidVPN only has apps for Windows and Android (the iOS RapidVPN app is a different provider), although the setup page also has configuration instructions for iOS, Mac, Linux, routers, Chromebook and more.

The service supports up to 4 simultaneous connections as standard. You can add more, up to a maximum of 99, but it's expensive at an extra 40% of your base subscription cost per connection. Especially as companies like GooseVPN, Surfshark and Windscribe allow unlimited connections at no extra cost.

Support looks limited, at least compared to the best of the rest. There's no web knowledgebase or live chat, and although the site points you to a few contact email addresses, there's no information on whether RapidVPN offers 24/7 support, or how long you might have to wait to get a response.

Plans and pricing

(Image credit: RapidVPN)

Plans and pricing

RapidVPN may not beat the competition on features, but it tramples all over them for pricing options, with more plans and choices than just about anyone else.

The Dynamic VPN plan is the one you'll probably want, giving you full access to all 20 (-ish) RapidVPN locations. It's priced from $7.50 a month, but you can also subscribe for two months (and it falls to $6.90), three ($6.17), six months ($6.65, an increase? yep) or a year ($4.88.) 

That monthly price looks like a highlight - most providers charge around $10-$12 - and the longer subscriptions aren't bad, either. But beware, there's an additional fee of 5-25% if you pay via anything other than WebMoney (more on that below.)

A Torrent VPN only supports one of the Swiss or Netherlands locations, but significantly lower prices - from $5.90 billed monthly to $3.58 billed annually - could make it interesting, even if you've not the tiniest interest in P2P.

The company offers dedicated IP plans with addresses in Canada, 5 European countries (Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK) and 12 US locations (Philadelphia, Boston, Ashburn, Bend, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Garden City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix.)

Dedicated IPs are far more likely to get you access to US Netflix or whatever other service you need in your target country, and far less likely to be blocked in future.

Prices vary depending on location, but they're never expensive. US dedicated IPs are priced from $7.8 to $9.8 billed monthly, for instance, while European locations range from a monthly $5.9 to $7.5, and they all have similar subscription options to the other plans (1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 month options, with discounts for longer deals, so a $9.80 a month dedicated US IP costs $6.66 over a year.)

A bonus Trust scheme adds extra days if you don't break RapidVPN's rules (send spam from your account, use torrents on any servers but Switzerland or Netherlands.) For example, if you have no violations at the end of a 6-month subscription, RapidVPN gives you 20 free days.

You can get a dedicated IP for life, nothing more to pay, from $350 (Chicago) to $396 (Philadelphia) in the US and $215 (Germany) to $346 (UK) in Europe. Lifetime plans may look appealing, but you have to trust that you'll want to use them for a long, long time. A New York dedicated IP costs $69.90 for a single year, and $356 on the lifetime plan, so you'd have to use it for more than five years before you'd get close to seeing any benefit.

Still, we're happy to see RapidVPN provide the option, and overall the company offers reasonable prices and a lot of billing flexibility.

Payment options look great, at least initially, with support for card, PayPal, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Perfect Money, Web Money and more.

But, beware. Use anything other than WebMoney and you'll pay an additional fee: 5% for cards, 10% for PayPal or Perfect Money, 25% for Bitcoin, 20% for other cryptocurrrencies.

There's another disappointment in the '30-day money-back guarantee', which looks generous, but doesn't apply if you've transferred more than 400MB data. That'll protect you if you find you can't connect at all, but the tiny data allowance isn't enough to properly check all locations or assess speeds.

Logging

RapidVPN's explanation of its logging policy is basic and short on detail. This is as much as we could find: 'We do not keep any logs of your activity. RapidVPN don't collect or share your personal information or track your online activities.'

That's no more than a statement of what you would expect from any VPN: 'we don't save your internet history.' It says nothing about any possible session logging, including recording connection times, your incoming IP address, and the IP you're allocated (perhaps enough of an audit trail to link an internet action back to your account.)

Sometimes a provider's Privacy Policy has more information, but not here. (The above quote was taken from RapidVPN's privacy policy, so this is as detailed as the company is going to get.)

Whatever it says in the small print, we know from RapidVPN's description of its service that there must be some logging going on. Restricting the number of simultaneous connections means the company must track incoming connects, for instance. And to enforce the '400MB' refund limit, it has to be tracking bandwidth used per session.

This type of logging isn't particularly unusual, or harmful, but the real problem here is it's not being disclosed. VPNs need to work to establish their user's trust, and that requires spelling out everything they're doing, in detail, not just using vague promises which don't tell the whole truth.

Signing up

Buying a RapidVPN subscription began just as we expected. We chose a plan, a subscription length, opted to pay via PayPal and handed over our email address.

But then: a surprise. A 'PayPal Order Account Verification' page asked for the email address associated with our PayPal account, then told us 'Please check your PayPal email address. We just sent you an email with our PayPal address.'

The company can't take payment directly via PayPal? Customers must wait for an invoice, instead? That might be acceptable if you're buying online from a tiny home business run from someone's kitchen, but it doesn't create a very professional impression for anyone else.

It makes the signup process more complicated, too. We quickly realized this as minutes went by with no email from RapidVPN. Even if something had turned up and we'd been able to pay, presumably the company would have to recognize that payment, then manually create our account.

Eventually, we gave up on the PayPal option and tried paying by card. This time we were able to pay directly on the RapidVPN site, and a couple of minutes later an email arrived with our account details. We were ready to go.

Windows app

(Image credit: RapidVPN)

Windows app

RapidVPN's Windows app looks a little clunky, with a text-heavy interface and a not-quite-finished feel.

One small example: when you hit the tab key, an app should move the focus naturally through any controls, for example going from the top to the bottom. Here, the app has a mixed tab order, so the focus seems to move randomly. 

Another example: tiny 'information' icons suggest they'll offer help if you hover your mouse over them, or maybe click them, but they do nothing.

These aren't big deals in themselves, but they suggest to us that the app hasn't been fully tested and maintained, which could mean there are more serious problems elsewhere.

There's nothing wrong with its functionality, though, at least in theory. Locations can be chosen manually or automatically; you're able to select your preferred protocol (PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN) from a list; notifications tell you when you connect or disconnect; DNS and IPv6 leak protection is built in, and a kill switch blocks all internet access if the VPN drops.

(Okay, there's one odd issue: RapidVPN claims its Dynamic VPN plan supports 20 locations including Canada; our location list had only 17 locations, and Canada wasn't on the list.)

App problems

(Image credit: RapidVPN)

A major issue appeared when we tapped 'Connect Now', and immediately saw an error message about the TAP driver (the virtual network driver used by OpenVPN.) That's not good, but it got worse; the client didn't recognize the error, but instead hung on a 'Connecting to OpenVPN Server' dialog. This didn't time out, and we had to hit Cancel, eventually, to close it down.

Switching to L2TP got us connected, but our browser wasn't able to access any websites, and only a few seconds later the VPN dropped. A connection log panel reported 'Network packet loss over limit' so presumably that was the reason. 

We tried again, with the same result. Switched to SSTP; same result. Tried again; same result.

The app finally connected when we switched to PPTP, but as that's such an insecure protocol, many VPNs have now dropped it entirely, it's not much consolation.

Was this a server issue? RapidVPN was automatically selecting the Netherlands server for us, so we manually switched to the UK. This time, we were able to successfully connect using L2TP.

That's better news, although it quickly led to another irritation. Once the app connects, it automatically reduces to a tiny panel displaying connection status only, and minimizes to the system tray. That's annoying if you're trying to monitor exactly what's going on, as there's no setting to prevent it happening. Every time we connected, we had to double-click the system tray icon and select 'Open App' to restore the full app screen.

Privacy

(Image credit: RapidVPN)

Privacy features

RapidVPN's Windows app claims to have a kill switch, and that's true, but it's not a firewall-type, system-wide feature. It's an application kill switch only, which means you must tell the app which processes you'd like it to close if the VPN drops (your browser, your torrent client, whatever it might be.)

While this can be useful, it's a hassle to set up and maintain. It leaves you to figure out which processes you must close, for instance (and there's no guarantee you'll be able to shut down all of them.) You must add them all to RapidVPN's list, and it's up to you to add new processes in future.

An application kill switch is still better than none at all. RapidVPN's offering worked for us, too, successfully closing Chrome when we forcibly dropped our connection. But it's not the easiest or most reliable way to keep you safe.

There was better news with RapidVPN's DNS leak protection. This is sensibly turned on by default, and we found the service replaced our regular DNS servers whenever we connected.

The app ended on a privacy fail, when we noticed that it not only saved our username and password to the Registry, in plain text, but it also left them there when we uninstalled, fully exposed to snoopers or for harvesting by malware.

TestMy.net

(Image credit: TestMy.net)

Performance

RapidVPN doesn't make any big claims about its website unblocking abilities, but the company got off to a good start, with its UK server instantly allowing us into BBC iPlayer.

Getting into US Netflix was just as easy on our Dynamic IP review plan. (RapidVPN's dedicated IP plans should unblock even more websites, and have less chance of being blocked themselves later.)

To measure performance, we used the benchmarking sites SpeedTest and TestMy to assess download speeds from UK and US locations.

UK results ranged from 63-66Mbps on our 75Mbps test line. The top VPNs can achieve 3-4Mbs more, but you're unlikely to notice any difference, and in general RapidVPN's UK server performed very well.

Our US connection managed up to 600Mbps with the VPN turned off, enough to give RapidVPN a chance to show off how 'rapid' it really was. 

Test results are a little disappointing, with median speeds ranging from 74-128Mbps over four test sessions. (For comparison, Private Internet Access managed 314-453Mbps.)

Still, that's not slow, either, and in both locations RapidVPN managed enough speed to handle most tasks.

Final verdict

RapidVPN is a small VPN with some serious tech issues and no real sign of any significant technical expertise. We wouldn't trust the service with anything privacy-critical, and although it could just about work as a cheap Netflix unblocker for a month or two, even that feels like an unnecessary gamble.

  • Also check out our full list of the best VPN services