VPNCity review

Take this promising new VPN for a spin with a free one-month trial

TODO alt text
Image Credit: VPNCity

Our Verdict

It's only in beta, but VPNCity's clients and speeds already outperform some commercial services. Check out the free month's trial.

For

  • One free month during beta
  • Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer
  • Easy to use
  • Decent speeds

Against

  • Only nine locations
  • Windows client uses SoftEther protocol only
  • Very few configuration options
  • No pricing information yet

VPNCity is a brand-new Hong Kong-based VPN, and although currently in beta, it still has some interesting and unusual features. 

The service already has extensions for Chrome and Firefox, for instance, as well as apps for Windows, Android and iOS.

Support for up to 8 simultaneous connections means you can set up the service on more devices, without running into annoying usage limits.

The website lists multiple protocols including SoftEther, as well as OpenVPN, IVEv2 and L2TP-IPSEC.

Details are unclear, but VPNCity's website appears to suggest the service gives you both IPv6 and IPv4 addresses.

There appears to be good news on website unblocking. VPNCity doesn't just give you some vague, generic statement about how it allows you to bypass geoblocking, and instead states specifically that it gets you 'access to all content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Firestick and much more.'

The VPNCity website doesn't have any clear information on pricing yet. But as you can get a free month of unrestricted service, just for signing up to the beta with your email address, we can live with that, for now.

There are some issues, too. The service is starting with only nine locations, for instance: UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, and two in the US: Los Angeles and New York. That's not a lot of choice, although presumably more will be added over time.

We're also concerned that VPNCity doesn't appear to deliver on all of its website claims. The Windows client, for instance, only seems to support SoftEther, with no option to use OpenVPN or anything else. What else might be missing? We don't know.

Right now, we would treat VPNCity much like any beta. There's no way to be sure what's working and what isn't, so it's probably unwise to use the service for anything mission-critical, at least until it's more 'finished'. But if you're curious about VPNs, or only need the service for basic tasks, like unblocking a streaming platform, it could be worth a try.

Privacy and logging

Most VPNs make big up-front claims about how much they protect your privacy, and VPNCity is no different. Sign up and there will be 'Zero Online Trace', the company says, proudly, stating that 'Unlike other VPN providers, we do not log any of your activity.'

Experience has taught us that many of these claims are garbage, often contradicted by the VPN's own Privacy Policy, but VPNCity is different. Its small print is actually worth reading, and includes some very specific details about the service and how it handles logging:

"your activities...are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data... Further... VPNCity is based in Hong Kong, which does not require data storage."

The company goes on to spell out the data it does collect to carry out particular tasks, and explain how this is handled. If a VPN limits the number of connections a user can make, for instance, we know it must use some method of tracking this. Rather than leave you guessing how this works, VPNCity says that 'an algorithm keeps their username and the timestamp of the last session status while the session is active.' Good news: it's logging minimal information, and appears to ditch that once the session is closed.

A VPN can write whatever it likes in its privacy policy, of course. As a brand-new service, VPNCity has no track record at all, and there's no special reason why you should trust the company. Even if the policy accurately describes everything VPNCity is trying to do, it's in beta, it's conceivable that not every part of the service is working as it should.

Despite all that, we have to applaud VPNCity for getting off to a decent Privacy Policy start, and we'll be interested to see how it develops in future.

Apps

VPNCity offers apps for Windows, Android and iOS (Image Credit: VPNCity)

Apps

VPNCity's Windows, Android and iOS apps are simple and straightforward, with near identical interfaces which follow much the same approach as many other VPNs.

Once you've handed over your email address to create a free account, the app logs you in to the service and selects your nearest VPN location as a default. Tapping a Connect button will get you connected to your preferred server, a desktop notification tells you when you're protected, and the interface updates to display your new IP address. 

You're able to choose another location from a simple list. This doesn't include any server load figures or ping times, but you can mark specific locations as Favorites, which conveniently moves them to the top of the list for easier access.

The Windows client has only three settings. You're able to launch it when Windows starts, enable or disable a kill switch to protect you if the connection drops, and - apparently - use an Easy Firewall Traversal option to find your way through more restrictive firewalls.

What you don't get is any control over protocol. Despite the website implying support for OpenVPN, IVEv2 and L2TP-IPSEC, the Windows client appears to be SoftEther-only. There's no way to configure or tweak the protocol, or try anything else.

Our checks of the Easy Firewall Traversal feature didn't show that it was doing any useful. We're not too concerned by that - maybe we were mistaken (this was a product review, not a full code audit), maybe the real functionality will be added when VPNCity is out of beta - but it's a useful reminder that, right now, you shouldn't take any VPNCity feature for granted.

Overall, VPNCity's apps are off to a good start, with their simple interface and clear attention paid to usability. But there is a lot of work to do before they can live up to the website's promises.

If you're unsure whether you want to try a full app, you could opt for VPNCity's Chrome extension, instead. You'll still need to create a free account, and there are absolutely no settings, but the extension delivers on the proxy basics: choose a location and it'll get you connected almost instantly.

Netflix on a MacBook

VPN City allowed us to watch US Netflix (Image Credit: Apple)

Netflix

VPNCity seems very confident about its website-unblocking abilities, with the company specifically stating it can get you in to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and more.

This isn't just marketing spin. Whether we connected to VPNCity via the desktop client, for instance, or the browser extension, we were able to browse and stream BBC iPlayer content without difficulty.

It was the same story with Netflix. Whether we chose the New York or Los Angeles location, and used the client or the browser extension, we could immediately view US-only Netflix content.

VPNCity trampled over the restrictions imposed by the simpler platforms we tried, too, for instance giving us instant access to US YouTube clips.

VPNCity only has a few locations, and that could mean it'll be easier to Netflix and other platforms to block the service, in future. But right now, the company is performing well, and website commitments to unblock Netflix and others suggests VPNCity will fight to keep the service working.

Performance testing with OpenSpeedTest (Image Credit: OpenSpeedTest)

Performance testing with OpenSpeedTest (Image Credit: OpenSpeedTest)

Performance

Our speed tests got off to a reasonable start, with VPNCity's nearest London server giving us an average 50-55Mbps on our 75Mbps test line. The best of the competition might be 5-10Mbps faster, but unless you're downloading gigabytes of torrents, you're unlikely to notice the difference.

European speeds were similar, at a very stable and consistent 45-55Mbps.

Switching to New York made barely any difference, with downloads averaging 40-50Mbps. It wasn't until we tested UK to Los Angeles connections that speeds dropped, though to a still-acceptable 25-30Mbps.

Even connecting to Japan (the only available location outside of Europe and North America) didn't spoil the picture, with speeds ranging from 15-25Mbps, perfectly adequate for most tasks and situations.

These figures need to be treated with extreme care, as there are several unusual factors here. The service is in beta, for instance, so perhaps isn't yet tuned to reach its maximum performance. But as it's so new, there are currently very few users; when demand increases, speeds will presumably fall, but there's no way to tell how big a drop there might be.

What we can say, right now, is that speeds are a little higher and more consistent than average, and it's well worth grabbing one of VPNCity's apps and trying the service for yourself.

Final verdict

VPNCity is short on features and we don't have prices yet, but well-designed clients and decent speeds have got the service off to a good start. Take the free month's trial for a spin, but be careful-- VPNCity is in beta, and it may not always work as you expect.