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CyberGhost VPN review

A powerful and full-featured VPN from a popular privacy provider

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(Image: © CyberGhost)

Our Verdict

CyberGhost is a capable VPN service with an exceptionally powerful Windows client, packed with features and yet still user-friendly. The mobile clients aren't quite on that level, but they are decent enough, and there's still plenty to like here, from Netflix and other unblocking success through to quality and speedy live chat support.

For

  • Decent speeds
  • Loads of features
  • Unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+
  • Speedy live chat support

Against

  • Only 24-hour trial for desktops
  • Didn't unblock BBC iPlayer
  • Basic iOS client
  • Windows kill switch issue

CyberGhost is a Romanian and German-based privacy giant which provides comprehensive VPN services for more than 10 million users.

CyberGhost VPN boasts 6,638 servers in 110 locations across 89 countries, a small drop from the 7,100 servers we saw in our last review, though still a huge number compared to most of the competition. Torrents are allowed on many, although not all servers, and the company offers custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more.

Apart from the regular VPN functionality, CyberGhost includes a host of bundled extras. It can block malicious websites, ads and trackers. Automated HTTPS redirection ensures that the most secure connection possible is made to every website, and optional data compression can reduce bandwidth, maybe saving money on mobiles.

CyberGhost VPN supports connecting up to seven devices simultaneously. That's a little better than most (even the premium ExpressVPN only supports five), but keep in mind that these must be specific devices. Connect from a phone, or a games console, or a smart TV, just once, and that's one of your slots used up. If you run out of slots later on, you can log out of individual devices, but this quickly becomes annoying. (Though not as annoying as KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, where you can only free up one device slot a week.)

Elsewhere, a web knowledgebase is available if needed, while chat and email support is on hand to help you through any particularly tricky bits.

CyberGhost has recently extended its service with the option for dedicated IPs. Sign up for this for an extra $5 a month and you'll get the same IP address, unique to you, every time you log on to the service. 

Dedicated IPs allow you to access IP-restricted networks, handy if you need to access a business system while connected to the VPN. They also reduce the chance that you'll be blocked by streaming and other platforms, as they've haven't had their reputation trashed by other people's bad behavior.

One issue with dedicated IPs is they allow other sites to recognize you, because you'll have the same IP address every time you visit. Fortunately, CyberGhost enables switching between dedicated and dynamic IPs as required, so you can easily use dedicated IPs where necessary and dynamic for everything else (more on that later.)

Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.

  • Linux app got an update, with the main feature being the WireGuard support. (April 2020)
  • The service now has over 6440 servers and 112 locations in 90 countries. (May 2020)
  • The server coverage decreased to 6200+ servers in 89 countries. (July 2020)
  • Due to a sale (probably), the 2-year and 3-year plan aren't available anymore, and the 1-year plan (with 6 extra months) is priced at $2.75. (August 2020).

PayPal

You can pay for your CyberGhost plan using PayPal, Bitcoin or credit card (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Plans and pricing

Signing up for CyberGhost VPN's monthly account costs $12.99 a month, at the high end of the industry-standard $10-$13.

As we write, a 'limited offer' means the only other deal is an annual plan with a 'get six months free' offer, which translates to $2.75 a month for the first 18 months, renewing at $4.13 a month on the annual plan.

That's excellent value, at least for the first term. Surfshark has one of the lowest introductory prices around, for instance, but even though it's fractionally cheaper at $2.49 a month, that requires you to sign up for two years, and it doubles after that.

Once this deal expires, we expect CyberGhost to restore its three-year plan, also available at an effective $2.75 a month (paid up-front.) We're not fans of long-term deals, but that's less of an issue when the price is this low. For example, ExpressVPN charges $99.95 for a one-year subscription; CyberGhost asks $99 for three years. Even if you abandon the service after 18 months, you've had fair value for money.

CyberGhost now also offers a 'VPN Bundle' deal which adds access to the PassCamp cloud-based password manager, and CyberGhost's ID Guard Protection service to alert you if your email address has been compromised in a data breach. This is priced at $3.25 for the first 18 months, rising to $4.88 afterwards, a minimal premium of $9 a year for the extra services.

Whatever deal you choose, you're able to pay by Bitcoin, as well as PayPal and credit card.

There are free trials available, although they're more complicated to understand than usual.

Free Trial

While CyberGhost's free trial is useful, waiting in a long queue to test out the service is less than ideal (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Download and create an account via Windows, for instance, and you'll get just 24 hours to try the service out. Not only is this very short, you're also not getting access to the full service. The client doesn't enable using some of the specialist streaming connections, for instance, and every time you connect at all you're warned that all the 'free slots' are used up, and you must wait a minute or two. It only supports a single device, too.

You can get more trial time by signing up with the iOS app, giving you seven days. But you have to sign up with the app first. If you create your account via Windows, then sign into your iOS app using the same account, its trial will also expire after 24 hours.

Install the Android app, though, and you don't have to create or log in to a CyberGhost account, which means you'll get your full 7-day trial, no matter what.

Confusing? Yep. The best approach is probably to start with the Android app, if you can, to get a feel for CyberGhost performance and see if you can access Netflix and other blocked sites. If you like what you see, pick a day when you've nothing else to do and spend it intensively testing the desktop client.

We would prefer a simpler scheme of things – would it really be so difficult to have seven days free, whatever your platform? – but at least CyberGhost gives you a chance to try before you buy. And if you do sign up and then find the service doesn't work for you, there is good news: the company has a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee, one of the most generous deals around.

Military Grade Encryption

CyberGhost protects your privacy with military-grade encryption (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Logging and privacy

Like many VPNs, CyberGhost's website proudly boasts of a 'strict no logs policy' on its front page.

Unlike some VPNs, the service's privacy policy does a good job of backing this up, with some very specific statements: "When using the CyberGhost VPN, we have no idea about your traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content, and search preferences. These are NOT monitored, recorded, logged or stored by us.

"More than this, when using the CyberGhost VPN, we are NOT storing connection logs, meaning that we DON'T have any logs tied to your IP address, connection timestamp or session duration."

For customers who aren't sure about the technical details, the policy goes on to spell out the implications.

"We do NOT know at any time which user ever accessed a particular website or service."

"We do NOT know which user was connected to our CyberGhost VPN service at any given time or which CyberGhost VPN server IP they used."

"We do NOT know the set of original IP addresses of a user’s computer."

If you need more, a 'Does CyberGhost log? No!' support document adds a little extra detail.

The company backs this up to a degree with a Transparency Report where it lists DMCA, police and other requests it receives, and how much data it hands over. (Hint: none.)

While this is welcome, the reality is these are just words on a website, and there's no way for an individual user to know how the service actually works. Some VPN providers (NordVPN, VyprVPN) are addressing this by having independent audits run on their systems, and we hope CyberGhost and the rest of the industry will soon do the same.

In the meantime, we can at least run some basic privacy checks of our own, using sites such as IPLeak.net and DNS Leak Test to look for DNS and other privacy leaks.

None of the tests revealed any problems, and an issue we spotted during a recent review – connecting from the UK to New York, and being allocated a US IP, but a UK DNS address – has been fixed. Wherever we connected, we now received a DNS IP address from that country, just as we'd expect.

Data Collection

CyberGhost's apps allow users to opt out of data collection (Image credit: CyberGhost)

CyberGhost deserves some privacy credit for its app design, too. Like many providers, its apps can capture anonymous data to help understand how they're being used. But unlike some competitors, CyberGhost doesn't just leave this turned on by default: the Windows app installer clearly explains what it's doing during setup, and you can opt out of the scheme with a click.

New Speedtest Image

We used Ookla's SpeedTest and TestMy.net to measure CyberGhost's performance (Image credit: Ookla)

Performance

Measuring VPN performance is difficult as there are so many factors involved, but we tried to get an idea of CyberGhost speeds by testing local UK and US performance with benchmarking websites including SpeedTest and TestMy.net.

Performance from a UK data center to our nearest servers delivered good results at a solid 160-180Mbps. That's competitive with big names including ExpressVPN (160-170Mbps in our latest UK tests) and IPVanish (150-220Mbps), although it's still trailing behind the speeds we saw from NordVPN's latest NordLynx protocol (330-350Mbps.)

Our US test results confirmed CyberGhost's performance abilities with a capable 180-240Mbps. Again, not quite leading edge, but unless you're planning to spend all day downloading torrents, we'd guess you're unlikely to notice.

It's sometimes interesting to look at worst case download speeds, too, so we also ran checks on our most distant server, and the one which CyberGhost identified as having the highest load.

CyberGhost's client identified New Zealand as the further location from the UK, with a distance to the server of around 11,400 miles. We connected and average speeds fell to 10Mbps, just about usable for browsing and streaming HD video, but well behind the 40-50Mbps we routinely see from Hotspot Shield.

The most overloaded server at review time was the Isle of Man at 95%. That's close to our UK location so should normally approach our regular 160-180Mbps, but in reality averaged 35Mbps. Still, if that's the worst-case result from even the most chronically overloaded local server, it still looks pretty good to us.

Unblocking

CyberGhost was able to unblock US Netflix in our tests (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Netflix

Unblocking Netflix with a VPN and similar sites can be a challenge, even with the best services. So, it's good to see CyberGhost try to address this by providing specialist locations which support particular streaming platforms. 

When we chose the Streaming filter in our Windows client, for instance, we saw recommended locations for US Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube TV and more, along with other specialist servers for streaming services in Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Poland, Brazil and more.

This got off to a great start with Netflix, where both the US Netflix and UK Netflix locations allowed us to access and stream content.

Problems began to appear with the BBC iPlayer location, which worked perfectly in our last review, but didn't even allow us to connect this time around. We tried repeatedly before eventually asking support, who told is this was a known issue with no timeframe for a fix.

We successfully connected to the Amazon Prime location, but the website still detected the VPN and locked us out. But then we tried the Netflix location, and that turned out to work for Amazon Prime, too. That makes the idea of specialist servers look a little pointless, but, still, at least CyberGhost unlocked the service. Eventually.

Switching to the Disney+ location introduced a different problem, as the website repeatedly took an age to load (more than a minute), using multiple browsers and across several sessions. We can't say how common a problem that might be, though, and once the site did load, we were able to browse and play anything from the Disney+ library.

Torrents

CyberGhost hides your IP to protect you while torrenting (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Torrents

CyberGhost doesn't support P2P on all locations, as a page on the website explains:

"We have to block P2P protocols on certain servers, either due to strategic (this is traffic that unnecessary slows down other user's traffic) or due to legal reasons in countries where we are forced by providers to block torrent traffic, among them USA, Russia, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong."

Fortunately, you don't have to try to remember which locations supports P2P. CyberGhost's apps include a 'For Torrenting' list with your options. And it looks like there are plenty; our Windows app listed 67 P2P-friendly countries; many more than most VPN providers support in total.

Handy features in the Windows Settings box include the ability to automatically connect your preferred CyberGhost connection whenever you launch your torrent client (more on that later).

Downloading torrents from more dubious sites can sometimes leave you exposed to attack, but CyberGhost's malicious URL filter, another welcome addition, could help you avoid a lot of trouble.

Clients

CyberGhost offers desktop and mobile clients (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Client setup

CyberGhost does its best to make sure the setup process is as easy as possible, and for the most part it's very successful.

Clicking the Trial link on the website quickly downloaded the tiny Windows installer. We accepted the terms and conditions, entered our email address and password, and after clicking the usual 'please confirm your address' link in a follow-up email, that was it. We were ready to go, with no payment or other details required.

It's much the same story with the mobile apps. The CyberGhost site links you to each app store, and you download and install the apps in the usual way.

If you need the OpenVPN configuration files to set up a router or other device, though, your life becomes considerably more complicated. While other VPN providers typically give you a bunch of standard .OVPN files to download, CyberGhost asks you to go through the following lengthy process: Log in to your account; add a device profile; choose the features you need (ad blocking, data compression, malware protection, more); choose OpenVPN TCP or UDP; choose your target country; note down a server name, custom username and password; and download the .OVPN file, certificates and key files in a ZIP file.

If you're looking to set up multiple locations, you must also rename each .OVPN file to something appropriate.

This approach has some advantages – it's secure and gives you a high level of control over how each connection works – but if you're just hoping to download 89 standard OpenVPN configuration files, get ready for disappointment. There's a lot of setup work to do.

Windows Client

The Windows client is clean and lightweight, but powerful (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Windows client

CyberGhost's Windows client opens with a clean, lightweight interface: a simple console with connection status, a list of locations and a Connect button.

Don't be fooled, though – there's a lot of functionality tucked into a right-hand panel which you can open whenever you need it. A location picker lists all servers, along with their distance and current load. You can filter this to display servers optimized for streaming or torrents, and a Favorites system makes it easy to build your own custom list.

Locations

CyberGhost has servers in more than 89 countries (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Right-clicking CyberGhost's system tray icon also displays all the available servers, with submenus for torrenting, streaming and your favorites. You can opt to choose, switch and close connections without ever bothering with the main client interface.

Options start with a Connection Features panel, where you can enable privacy features including blocking for ads, trackers and malicious websites. CyberGhost can automatically redirect HTTP connections to HTTPS for extra security, and a bonus Data Compression feature compresses images and 'other elements' to reduce traffic and improve performance.

While that sounds impressive, these extras aren't always worth very much.

When we turned on the ad blocker and accessed an ad-packed UK newspaper site, for instance, our browser made 671 requests, downloaded 5MB of content and took 43 seconds to fully load.

When we disabled CyberGhost's ad blocker and switched to uBlock Origin, the same page made 156 requests, transferred 469KB of data and loaded in 3 seconds.

Smart Rules

CyberGhost's Smart Rules panel gives you a great deal of control over how its Windows client functions (Image credit: CyberGhost)

A Smart Rules panel is far more useful, and gives you an unusual level of control over how the client works. Most VPNs have an option to launch when Windows starts, for instance, but CyberGhost also allows you to connect to your preferred server, and automatically launch a particular app, such as your default browser in incognito mode.

There's even more flexibility in the Wi-Fi Protection panel, where CyberGhost allows you to decide exactly what happens when you connect to new networks. You can have the client automatically connect to the VPN if the network is insecure, for instance; never connect if it's encrypted; perform custom actions for specific networks (always protect at home, never protect at work), or simply ask you what to do.

The surprises continue everywhere you look. App Protection can automatically connect you to a specific VPN location when you open an app, for instance. No need to remember to enable the VPN before you use your torrent client – just leave CyberGhost to do it for you.

There's another handy touch in the Exceptions feature, where you can build a list of websites which won't be passed through the tunnel. If a streaming site is only accessible to users in your country, add it to CyberGhost's Exceptions and it'll never be blocked, no matter which VPN location you're using.

If this sounds too complex, and maybe you're only after the VPN basics, no problem; it can all be safely ignored. You'll never even see it unless you go looking. But if you'd like to fine-tune the service, optimize it to suit your needs, CyberGhost gives you a mix of options and opportunities you'll rarely see elsewhere.

Kill Switch

The kill switch activates automatically when the app detects connection issues (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Elsewhere, the Settings box enables choosing your preferred protocol (just OpenVPN or IKEv2, L2TP support has been dropped), using random ports to connect (which might bypass some VPN blocking), and enabling or disabling a kill switch, IPV6 connections and DNS leak protection.

Our tests showed the kill switch worked very well. Whether we forcibly closed an OpenVPN or IKEv2 connection, or even killed the openvpn.exe process entirely, the client spotted this, raised the alarm (sometimes a little slowly, but eventually), and automatically reconnected, without ever exposing our real IP. That's a tough test, but CyberGhost passed it without difficulty.

We did spot a single issue: if the client failed to connect to our VPN server at all, it told us it had enabled the kill switch, but this hadn't worked. We were still able to access the web as usual. That's misleading, and might leave you thinking you're protected when your system is still leaking data.

iOS App

TheiOS app allows you to choose what to do when you connect to individual networks (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Mobile apps

CyberGhost's iOS app is far simpler than its desktop cousins, with much less functionality and a relatively basic interface.

The iOS app opens with little more than a Connect/ Disconnect button, for instance. By default, it connects to your nearest server, but you can also browse a list of locations. Tapping a location displays server load information, including the number of connected users, and you can save specific locations to a Favorites list.

WireGuard

The mobile apps now have beta WireGuard support (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Settings are minimal, but there is a significant plus in beta support for WireGuard, as well as OpenVPN.

We also like the control it gives you over what to do when you access particular networks. Launch the app, for instance, and it displays the nearest wifi network name. Tap this and you can specify whether you want CyberGhost to automatically protect it in future, or prompt you to decide each time. And the app can save the appropriate actions for all the networks you use regularly, so it knows exactly what to do at home, work, the coffee shop or the library.

Android App

CyberGhost's Android app offers some features its iOS counterpart does not (Image credit: CyberGhost)

The Android app also has beta WireGuard support and automatic protection for specific networks, but that's just the start - it has almost as many features as the desktop build.

There's a Favorites list for storing your most commonly accessed locations, for instance, which is especially handy on a mobile device where it's less convenient to find items on a lengthy list.

The app includes desktop client's ability to use a random port when connecting to the VPN, a simple trick which might help bypass VPN blocking.

Split tunneling is probably the highlight, allowing you to decide which apps use the VPN and which don't, in just a few clicks.

The app includes many of the connection extras you'll see with the desktop build, too: ad and tracker blocking, data compression, and URL filtering to keep you away from malicious websites.

There's also support for domain fronting, a clever technique which bypasses some VPN blocking by directing key CyberGhost traffic through a content delivery network (CDN.) We didn't test this but we're happy to know it's available (and curious why it's not included in the Windows client.)

The iOS app may be a little underpowered, then, but the Android edition has more features than most, and we're happy to see beta WireGuard support. There's still room for improvement, but the apps are definitely heading in the right direction.

Dedicated IP

Choose the location of your dedicated IP from CyberGhost's web dashboard (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Dedicated IP System

CyberGhost now offers dedicated IPs for an extra $5 a month. Hand over the cash and you'll get a unique IP address for your use only, reducing the chance that you'll be blocked by sites for other people's bad behavior, and allowing you to access IP-restricted business networks while using the VPN.

Sign up for the scheme and you're able to choose your preferred location from a small list: Montreal, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Manchester, Chicago and New York.

We chose New York and the website presented us with a token, a lengthy text string ('DIP26mZCWKAQP3oKceFu8YLRaqlW6LrR') which represented our IP. We pasted this into the Windows app, and our dedicated IP became available from the location picker. 

Although this may sound like a hassle, there's a good reason for the scheme. CyberGhost doesn't associate the IP with our account, which ensures it remains as anonymous as a regular VPN IP address; the company has no way to connect any web action to a particular account.

This does leave some scope for problems. In particular, if you lose your IP token, there's no way to get it back because CyberGhost doesn't know what it was. But that's no surprise, and the company does its best to help, for example automatically generating and downloading a plain text file containing your token as soon as it's allocated.

Once your new address is activated, it immediately appears in the Dedicated IP section of CyberGhost's location picker. You can select it whenever necessary, or browse the usual location lists when you need a dynamic IP.

This all worked smoothly and as advertised for us. Our shiny new IP was allocated quickly; appeared to be in New York, as we requested, and Cyren, BrightCloud, Talos and other IP reputation checkers all found it was clean and blacklist-free.

CyberGhost's dedicated IP system is a welcome addition to the range, then, and it's also competitively priced. PureVPN's dedicated plan may look a little cheaper at $3.99 a month, for instance, but its overall prices are a relatively costly $8.33 a month on the annual plan; CyberGhost still looks a much better deal overall.

Support

CyberGhost's knowledgebase has improved a great deal over the past year (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Support

These are reasonably well organized, too. Choose the Guides section, for instance, browse to your preferred platform, and you'll find advice on installing the app, using it and exploring all the main features.

The quality of the content has improved over the past year, but it still can't match the likes of ExpressVPN, and some pages didn't quite deliver the details we expected. For example, one article explained WireGuard is better than other protocols in part because an OpenVPN server 'works at the user level using TLS', while 'WireGuard-based VPN servers under Linux run inside the kernel networking stack', which isn't going to be useful to most readers. And then it goes on to say that WireGuard is available on Windows, which isn't true (not on the standard client, anyway.)

The knowledgebase search engine is basic, too. It relies on your carefully choosing the best possible keyword (you'll get very different results for searching on 'speed' and 'performance', for instance), and even if you get that right, the results don't appear to be sorted by usefulness.

Still, there is enough useful content here to help you with the basics. And if that fails, you can also talk to a real, live, human being, fortunately, via email and live chat support. CyberGhost does its best to hide its chat feature – you must click a Help button bottom-right, then enter a keyword to search the knowledgebase, before the Chat button appears – but we found it eventually.

One click and a couple of minutes later, a support agent was responding to our question. Despite us choosing a slightly technical topic on the generation of OpenVPN configuration files, he immediately understood what we needed, and clearly explained everything we needed to know.

CyberGhost's support site may be dubious, then, but that's not the end of the story. If you're running into problems, there's a good chance that the live chat support will quickly point you in the right direction.

Smart TVs

CyberGhost runs on desktops, mobiles, smart TVs and more (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Final verdict

CyberGhost is a capable VPN service with a highly configurable Windows client, packed with features yet still easy to use. The mobile clients are much more ordinary, but there's still plenty to like here, from Netflix and iPlayer unblocking to low three-year prices and helpful live chat support.

  • Also check out the best VPN services of 2020