The company says this is all about the anonymity of its users, stating that 'with 90 million visitors a day, the vast majority of whom are using devices on the go, it’s especially important that we continue to ensure the privacy of our users and maintain their confidentiality.'
You don't have to watch Pornhub – or even porn – to use the service, though, and the VPNhub website is as family-friendly as any VPN provider.
VPNhub's free plan sounds like it should appeal to just about anyone, with the website claiming it offers 'unlimited bandwidth on your device of choice.' What it doesn't highlight is that this gets you access to a single US server only, and the free plan is only available on iOS and Android. Still, a free VPN with unlimited bandwidth is always going to be useful.
- Want to try VPNhub? Download it here
Signing up for the Premium plan gives you access to 13 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), as well as faster speeds, and allows you to use the service on Windows and Mac.
We're normally cautious of new VPNs offering lots of locations, as it's not always clear who is behind their network. VPNhub uses servers owned by StackPath, though, the cloud giant behind IPVanish, which gives some reassurance about likely service reliability.
Pricing looks high, at £10.49 ($14.69) for a one-off month dropping to £5.33 ($7.46) if you pay for a year upfront. If you like the IPVanish network, you could sign up with them directly for a little less, at $6.49 (£4.90) per month on the annual plan.
Still, if you'd like to try the service, sign up at your app store of choice and you'll get a week of testing time before you're charged.
Understanding who owns a VPN and where they're based can be important, especially when you're trying to judge transparency and any implications for your privacy. Unfortunately, VPNhub makes this more difficult than most.
'We do not ... track the browsing activities of users who are logged into our VPN service.'
'Appatomic does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Applications or Services.'
This is a reasonable start, but it's too vague to give us any real confidence about what the service might be doing. What does VPNhub mean by saying it won't log the 'use' of its service, for instance? Presumably that means it won't record traffic or your browsing history, but what about DNS requests? Session connect and disconnect times, incoming and outgoing IP addresses? We don't know, and as VPNhub is using other people's servers, it's entirely possible that they're not sure, either.
Looking at the permissions required by an Android app can often give us clues about its intentions, and in this case, they don't look good.
A privacy-conscious VPN app asks only for the bare essential network-related permissions required for it to work. For example, ExpressVPN requires 'View network connections', 'Full network access', 'Receive data from internet' ,'Run at startup', and so on.
VPNhub's app has these, but tap the Permission link on its Google Play page and you'll find it also references far more sensitive permissions, including 'Identity', 'Contacts', 'Phone' (device status and identity), 'Photos/Media/Files', 'Storage', 'Device ID & call information.'
These permissions aren't enabled by default, and they're not proof that the app is doing anything to compromise your privacy, but the fact that they're listed at all makes us wonder about the developer's intentions.
Combine this with the ads in the free plan, which could also give some scope for tracking what you're doing, and VPNhub clearly has a few privacy issues. That may not matter if you just want a simple VPN to encrypt regular internet traffic on public Wi-Fi, but we would think carefully before you use the service for anything important.
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018
VPNhub must be set up first on a mobile device, so we grabbed a copy of the Android version. Installation was hassle-free, and we were launching the app within a few seconds.
After some initial upselling where the app prompted us to try the Premium version, it bizarrely asked us to set up our VPN by entering our 'device passcode or touch ID'. Uh, what? We had no idea why this would be required – maybe it’s a leftover from the iOS version? – and it seems the app didn't, either, because even if we accepted this step, we weren't asked for any more information.
Once it was set up, using the app was more straightforward. Tap an unlocked padlock icon to connect, the icon changes to a locked padlock, tap it again to disconnect.
There's a separate list of servers, but as the free version only allows access to the US, that doesn't matter very much.
Heading off to the Settings dialog also left us underwhelmed, as it contained a single setting to toggle push notifications on or off. If you're looking for low-level VPN tweakery, you won't find it here.
Performance was reasonable for a free service. Our test Android device averaged download speeds of around 70-75Mbps on Speedtest.net, and this fell to around 18-25Mbps after connecting to VPNhub. That's a significant drop, but it still outperforms some of the commercial services we've seen, and is fast enough for most purposes.
Site unblocking results were also as expected, with VPNhub giving us access to some sites (YouTube, Comedy Central) but failing with the trickier Netflix.
Tapping the 'Start Your Free Week' gives you speedy access to VPNhub's Premium service. Be sure to read the screen carefully, though – by default you're signing up for a monthly subscription which automatically renews at a very expensive £10.49 ($14.69).
Hand over your email address, choose a password, and you're able to use the full set of VPNhub locations, as well as being able to install and use the service on Windows and Mac.
We installed and launched the Windows app and were prompted for the email address and password we had just created. While that's straightforward, there's no option to save the login, which means you'll be prompted for it every time the app launches. Perhaps worse still, even if you set up the service to launch when Windows starts, it won't be able to protect the activities of your other internet-facing startup apps until you've manually logged in.
Enter your credentials and you're prompted to choose an encryption level (AES-256 or 128) and your preferred location.
The server list displays both ping time and load figures to give an indication of which server might be best, but as up to a third of the ping times were typically missing during our tests, this didn't help a great deal.
VPNhub's Windows client doesn't automatically detect the nearest server to your location, and there's no favorites system to easily save a group of commonly-used servers. You can save a single location to become the default server, but this only applies for as long as the client is running. Close and restart it and you'll have to manually choose your favorite location again.
We spotted one possible workaround in the Settings dialog, where there was an option to automatically connect to the fastest server when the app launched. This would speed up the connection process, right? Well, no: it simply didn't work. Whatever automatic option we chose, the app ignored it, and continued to ask us to manually select a server.
The client had a decent selection of connection-related settings, include a choice of protocol (OpenVPN UDP or TCP), an Auto Reconnect option, a Kill Switch, and, unusually, IPv6 as well as DNS leak protection.
We tested the client by forcibly killing the OpenVPN.exe process, effectively dropping the VPN connection. Most clients reconnect after a few seconds, but VPNhub didn't even notice there was a problem. Meanwhile our system acted as though it didn't have an internet connection, and to get it back we had to click Disconnect, clear an error message and reconnect.
Site unblocking performance for US sites proved much the same as the free service: VPNhub got us access to YouTube, Comedy Central and the relatively easy sites, but Netflix detected we were using a VPN and refused to stream any content.
We checked the Premium UK server to see if it unblocked BBC iPlayer, but no luck. The website gave us its standard 'not available in your location' error message.
VPNhub did much, much better in our performance tests. Our test system managed around 75Mbps download speeds without a VPN, and this was barely changed at around 70Mbps when connecting to a UK server. Speeds dropped as we moved further away, but they were almost always very acceptable: near European connections were 50-60Mbps, UK to US connections reached 20 to 30Mbps, even Australia managed 10Mbps, good enough for HD video streaming.
There was more good news in our final privacy checks, where sites including ipleak.net and dnsleaktest.com revealed that VPNhub's servers really were in the promised locations, and there were no DNS or WebRTC leaks to give away any details about us or our web activities.
VPNhub's free unlimited bandwidth plan has some appeal for basic browsing tasks, but potential privacy issues and buggy clients make it hard to recommend.