Namecheap VPN review

A cheap and speedy VPN from the popular domain registrar

Main
Image Credit: Namecheap

Our Verdict

Ultra-cheap three-year plan, and the speeds are great, but you get almost no features. For unblocking Netflix and very basic tasks only.

For

  • Fast
  • Can be very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix

Against

  • No kill switch
  • Underpowered apps
  • Barely any configuration options
  • Only works with the official software

Namecheap is best known as a domain registrar and web host, but in late 2018 the company expanded its range to include a VPN.

The Namecheap VPN website claims the company owns and manages its own servers and network, but we're not sure that's entirely true. For instance, during our review, we found that Namecheap's Amsterdam server was provided by WLVPN, StackPath's white label VPN company.

Whoever owns the network, it's a decent size, with 1000+ servers spread across 40+ locations worldwide. That can't match big names like NordVPN (5000+ servers and 60+ countries) but it's better than many, and perfectly adequate for most people.

The service has barely any features. There's Mac, iOS and Android clients, and a feeble Windows beta which doesn't even support OpenVPN (and forget about options like a kill switch). Configuration options are minimal, if you get any at all. But if something goes wrong, Namecheap does at least have 24/7 support via live chat and ticket. 

Prices look good, too, at least on the website. Plans start at just $5.88 billed monthly, dropping to $4.88 if you pay a year up-front, and falling to just $1.88 a month on the three-year plan, a real bargain. There's no mention of a trial.

We then tried signing up from Namecheap's Android app, though, and were offered very different deals. The monthly plan was priced at $9.74 (£7.49), significantly more expensive. This fell to $7.58 (£5.83) on the annual plan, also much more expensive, although it did include a 14-day free trial (you're not billed until 14 days after you've signed up). We weren't offered a three-year plan.

This is a little confusing, but it looks like it's a good idea to check prices on the website, and via a mobile app. In our case, the best strategy would be to sign up with the app, then choose the one-year plan to get the trial. As long as we cancelled before our 14 days were up, we could then sign up and pay via the website to get its lower prices.

Privacy and logging

The Namecheap VPN website seems to be very clear about its logging policy, stating emphatically that there are 'No logs. Ever.' Great! 

Except the very same paragraph goes on to say 'to help us ensure the network is fast, we do keep track of the quantity of data used, and the number of times you connect. But never the specifics of your activity.' So, no record of your activity, but there's some level of session logging, although the page doesn't have enough detail to make this clear.

Namecheap VPN has a separate Terms of Service page which also has a couple of lines on privacy, but they're equally vague: 'We do not log any user activity (i.e. sites visited, DNS lookups, emails, etc.) For security and troubleshooting purposes, we do log access attempts to Our servers.'

Which checking Namecheap's Windows client, we noticed it had support for logging program issues (errors, crashes) via a service called Bugsnag. Other VPNs do something similar, and we have no reason to believe it's doing anything that will affect your privacy, but it's something else which we'd like to see documented by Namecheap.

VPN privacy is also all about the technologies used by the service, but Namecheap is vague about these, too. Instead of telling us that it uses AES-256 encryption, for instance, the website uses meaningless marketing-speak ("best-in-class", "military-grade".) And there's nothing about the protocols used by the service, at all. Namecheap is marketing the service more at the VPN beginner than experienced users, but we'd still like to see some low-level technical details on exactly what you're getting, and what's under the hood.

Windows client

Namecheap's Windows app with all of our connection details clearly visible (Image Credit: Namecheap)

Apps

We began our testing by checking out Namecheap's Windows app. It's currently tagged as a beta, but it didn't take long to realize even that was optimistic; it's one of the most basic VPN apps we've ever seen.

The interface is a single window, with a plain text list of locations, a Connect/ Disconnect button, and some status information (protocol, new IP address and the time connected in this session.)

There are no other features of any kind. No ping times or load figures on the server list, no favorites system, auto-connection options and no settings, at all. 

There's no kill switch to block your web traffic if the connection drops. When we forcibly closed the connection, though, the app noticed immediately, updated its interface to indicate the problem, and tried to reconnect. That still left our traffic exposed for at least a few seconds, but it's better than nothing.

The app currently only supports a single protocol, Windows' native IKEv2. There's no OpenVPN support just yet (although the app code includes OpenVPN references, so it might be added soon), but IKEv2 is both fast and secure enough for most people and purposes.

Apps

This is Namecheap VPN's Android app (Image Credit: Namecheap)

Namecheap's Android app is far more polished, opening with a good-looking and zoomable world map with each location highlighted.

Zoom in far enough, and you'll see the ping times displayed for each location. Tapping on the NYC marker, for instance, selects it as your default location, and tapping Connect initiates a connection.

You can also choose locations from a standard scrolling list. This sorts locations by country, and provides both ping time figures and a measure of server capacity. A search box enables filtering location by text (typing LON is enough to get you to the London server), but there's no Favorites system to group commonly-used locations together.

A Settings panel gives you three options. You can enable or disable an auto-reconnect option, choose to connect using OpenVPN TCP or UDP, and use port 443 or 1194. These are welcome, and may improve your ability to get connected, but they can't begin to match the features available from the top VPNs.

Netflix

Namecheap VPN was able to give us access to US Netflix (Image Credit: Netflix)

Netflix

Namecheap doesn't make any big claims about its website-unblocking abilities, but the website does suggest that it can help you avoid many regional restrictions.

This didn't work with BBC iPlayer, unfortunately. Namecheap offers four UK servers, but whichever one we used, the iPlayer site complained that its content was 'not available in your location.'

We made life a little easier by trying to access US-only YouTube content. That has very little protection against VPNs, so we weren't surprised when Namecheap got us in with each of its US locations.

Netflix is the most difficult platform for any VPN to unblock, though, so we were happy to see that Namecheap gave us access to US content via its New York, Dallas and Los Angeles servers. Netflix is forever cracking down on VPNs and there's no way to tell how long this situation will last, right now, but right now at least, the company is an effective Netflix choice.

Performance

Performance testing with OpenSpeedTest (Image Credit: OpenSpeedTest)

Performance

Our performance tests got off to a speedy start, with local UK connections achieving an excellent 55-60Mbps on our 75Mbps test line.

Switching to European servers made surprisingly little difference to the results, with download speeds still managing an excellent 50-60Mbps.

UK to US connections weren't quite as consistent, but speeds were still above average at 40-55Mbps.

Even the most distant locations couldn't entirely spoil the mood. Speeds dropped, unsurprisingly, and our results were even less consistent, but we still found Singapore achieving a capable 15-25Mbps, Hong Kong hitting 12-20Mbps, and even Australia giving us 8-15Mbps. That's not bad at all for a relatively young VPN, especially at the low prices you can be paying, here.

Final verdict

Namecheap's high speeds and low prices are impressive, and the service could work as a simple VPN for unblocking Netflix and other simple tasks. But with no kill switch, no choice of protocol and a horribly short feature list, this isn't the service for experienced or demanding users.

  • Also check out our roundup of the best VPNs