Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.
- The price of the 3-year plan is now $2.75 per month. (June 2019)
- The number of servers increased to over 4700 and the number of countries is now 61. (June 2019)
CyberGhost VPN boasts more than 3,700 servers across 55+ countries. Torrents are allowed on many, though not all servers, and the company offers custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more.
Apart from the regular VPN functionality, CyberGhost VPN includes a host of bundled extras. It can block malicious websites, ads and trackers. Automated HTTPS redirection ensures you make the most secure connection possible to every website, and optional data compression can reduce bandwidth, maybe saving money on mobiles.
- Want to try CyberGhost? Check out the website here
This kind of functionality can cause browsing problems in some situations, but fortunately you're able to choose which, if any of these features you'd like to use, while disabling everything else.
CyberGhost supports connecting up to seven devices simultaneously. That's better than most (ExpressVPN gives you three, the standard is 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, you can log out of individual devices, but that can still be a hassle.
Elsewhere, a web knowledgebase is available if you need it, while chat and email support is on hand to help you through any particularly tricky bits.
Plans and pricing
Signing up for CyberGhost VPN's monthly account costs a chunky $12.99 a month, very much at the high end of the premium VPN spectrum (ExpressVPN asks $12.95, NordVPN is $11.95, Private Internet Access is $9.99.)
The price falls steeply as you extend your subscription, though, with an annual plan costing an equivalent $5.99 a month, dropping to $3.69 over two years, and a bargain $2.50 over three. That tramples all over most of the top competition, with even Private Internet Access now costing $3.49 over two years.
Some plans may include unexpected extras. During our review, for instance, the one year and longer plans came with a 'One-time PC clean-up Reimage license.' This wasn't visible until we chose a one-year plan and selected a payment method, so be sure to try that before you buy.
Whatever 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.
Download and create an account via Windows, for instance, and you'll get just 24 hours to try the service out.
Start with the iOS app and you'll get 7 days. But 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 into 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 something simpler - 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, good news - the company now has a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee, one of the most generous deals around.
Logging and privacy
Like many VPNs, CyberGhost's website proudly boasts of a 'strict no logs policy' on its front page.
"...when using the CyberGhost VPN, the user's traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content and search preferences are not monitored, recorded, logged or stored by the Company. 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."
Brief descriptions like this aren't always precise, so 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 support document adds a little extra detail.
While we applaud CyberGhost's clarity, 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.
Measuring VPN performance is difficult as there are so many factors involved, but we tried to get an idea of CyberGhost speeds by testing multiple servers with benchmarking websites including Netflix' Fast, SpeedTest and OpenSpeedTest.
Our nearest UK servers delivered solid and reliable speeds, averaging 65-70Mbps on our 75Mbps fiber broadband line.
It was a similar story across much of Europe, where the nearest countries also reached a creditable 55-60Mbps. Performance tailed off over distance, though, with speeds barely reaching 20Mbps in Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.
UK to US connections managed 55-60Mbps when connected to New Jersey, and a very acceptable 40-45Mbps from California. We've seen higher top speeds, but unless you're planning to download terabytes of data, you're unlikely to care very much.
Problems began to materialize as we tried connecting to more long-distance or less common locations. Australia was disappointing, though still usable, at 15-20Mbps, but much of Asia managed only 10-15Mbps, and a few locations were much worse (Chile averaged 2.5Mbps, Indonesia hovered around 1Mbps.)
To check CyberGhost's performance in the US, we ran some tests from a dedicated server loaned to us by HostGator. Apart from the change of location, this also allowed us to benefit from excellent connectivity and 1Gbps of bandwidth, giving us the capacity to measure even the fastest of VPNs. (While this is useful, keep in mind that unless you live somewhere with the same level of connectivity, it's likely to overestimate the performance you'll see in real life.)
Our results didn't reveal any great surprises. CyberGhost's top speeds were raised for our nearest US servers to 80-85Mbps, capable enough, though fractionally behind the top competition (ExpressVPN and NordVPN managed 90-100Mbps, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited reached 110Mbps.) Overseas connections showed broadly similar results to our UK test base, adequate when checking the best-connected locations, relatively poor in several, and a little below average overall.
While testing, we also noticed a further problem in that connection times could sometimes be very lengthy, anything up to 30 seconds. This didn't happen every time and with every server, but if you're affected, it can become annoying.
Our tests could only give a snapshot of performance at a point in time, and perhaps you'll have more luck. If you are planning to make heavy use of servers outside of the most common European and North American locations, though, we'd recommend you test them carefully before you buy.
Unblocking Netflix and similar sites can be a challenge, even with the best of VPNs. That's because most providers won't tell you which servers work, and which don't, forcing you to work down every server in the target country until you finally get lucky.
CyberGhost's apps seem to make life much easier by highlighting locations which support the services you need. When we chose the Streaming filter in our Windows client, for instance, we saw recommended locations for US Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red and more, as well as UK locations covering BBC iPlayer, and other specialist servers for Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Poland, Brazil and more.
The client's recommendations didn't always make a lot of sense. We were offered separate locations for the UK channels BBC 1 and BBC 2, for instance, as well as BBC iPlayer. But BBC iPlayer already gives you access to BBC 1 and 2, and you don't need separate locations to view them. It feels like CyberGhost is trying to add as many virtual locations as possible, to try and impress you with the depth of its service, rather than just giving you what's necessary.
Whatever you think of its location lists, the UK servers were effective enough, bypassing the BBC's VPN detection and allowing us to stream iPlayer content without difficulty.
It was the same story in the US, where choosing the highlighted servers got us into US YouTube and US Netflix right away. If you're looking for an easy way to unblock Netflix, CyberGhost could be a smart choice.
While some VPNs hide their torrent-friendly status, CyberGhost is rather more up-front. Just launch the Windows client, for instance, and you'll find one of its server lists is titled 'for Torrenting'.
There are some helpful tweaks buried in the Settings, too, including the ability to automatically connect your preferred CyberGhost connection whenever you launch your torrent client (more on that later.)
Bonus features include a malicious URL filter, enabled by default, which could help you avoid a lot of trouble.
If you ignore the 'for Torrenting' list and connect to a VPN location manually, there is some scope for problems. CyberGhost explains that "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."
If you stick to the recommended list, though, CyberGhost works well, and overall, it's a simple and straightforward way to anonymize your torrenting activities.
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 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 user name 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 50 standard OpenVPN configuration files, get ready for disappointment. There's a lot of setup work to do.
CyberGhost's Windows client has seen a major interface revamp since our last review, with the previous bulky Windows 10-like tiles replaced by a far more standard look and feel: a simple console with connection status, a list of locations and a Connect button.
The old functionality hasn't gone away, though - it's just 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.
Right-clicking CyberGhost's system tray icon also displays all the available servers, with submenus for torrenting, streaming and your favorites. You could opt to choose, switch and close connections without ever bothering with the main client interface.
Useful 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.
A Smart Rules panel gives you a vast amount 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 connect you to a specific location when you open an app, for instance. No need to remember to enable the VPN before you use your torrent client-- CyberGhost can automatically 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 you'll never be blocked, no matter which VPN location you're using.
Elsewhere, the Settings box enables choosing your preferred protocol (OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP), using random ports to connect (may bypass some VPN blocking), and enabling or disabling a kill switch, IPV6 connections and DNS leak protection.
A few features have disappeared since our last full CyberGhost review. The old 'Unblock Basic Websites' and 'Unblock Streaming' panels displayed tiles for popular websites, for instance (Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, more), and clicking any of these would connect to the best server and open a browser at the target site. It was an interesting task-based approach to using a VPN, but it's no longer available.
The Settings dialog used to include support for Socks5 and HTTP proxies, for instance, but these also appear to have been dropped. That might be an issue for experts, though most users are unlikely to notice.
Overall, although the new client doesn't look or feel quite as distinctive as previous builds, its more stripped-back and familiar interface means it's probably easier to use. And while it's a pity to lose any functionality, the CyberGhost Windows client still delivers far more than just about anybody else.
CyberGhost's mobile apps are far simpler than their 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 load information, including the number of connected users, and you can save specific locations to a Favorites list.
Settings are minimal - you can't even choose your protocol - but the app does a good job of helping you define how it should be used with particular networks.
When we first launched the app, for instance, it displayed our nearest wifi network name on the opening screen. That's unusual, but a very good idea, as it helps you see what you're using to connect. If you tap the name, 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.
The Android app doesn't display your current wireless network, unfortunately. It does have some web filtering options not offered by the iOS version, though, including the ability to compress data, and block trackers and malicious websites. You also get the desktop client's ability to use a random port when connecting to the VPN, a simple trick which might help bypass simple VPN blocking.
Perhaps the best Android news is that it now, finally, has a Favorites list for storing your most commonly-accessed locations. That should have happened long ago, but at least CyberGhost got there eventually.
Overall, CyberGhost's mobile apps aren't bad, but they're still short of some key functions you'll often see elsewhere (kill switch, a choice of protocol and protocol settings), and there's plenty of room for improvement.
Point your browser at the CyberGhost support site and it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer weight of articles. There are guides for Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, Linux, Kodi, consoles and routers, along with troubleshooting articles and assorted other FAQs.
When we looked more closely, though, we began to spot plenty of issues. These started with how the articles were organized. We would expect installation issues to have a section all on their own, for instance, but instead they're spread around and mixed with other articles. You can search the articles for keywords, but this doesn't help very much, as the results don't seem to be sorted by usefulness.
Article content is often poor, too. We headed off to the Troubleshooter's 'Connection and speed problems' section and noticed that there wasn't a single guide offering generic speedup advice (connect from a different network, connect to a different location, try a different protocol, reboot your hardware - you know the drill.) Instead, we found pointless content like this:
"If you use UMTS boards to connect to the Internet, you normally install that board's software as well. These programs may cause problems, when using CyberGhost VPN, surprisingly even after stopping using the UMTS board."
That's not a snippet, we've not edited it or left anything out. It's the entire article.
Out-of-date guides were a problem. A Windows tutorial talked about how CyberGhost gives you a 7-day trial, for instance (it's now just 24 hours.)
There was questionable advice. The very first article in the Troubleshooter section, for example, suggested that a clean install of CyberGhost's client will 'solve most of the issues.' If you're an experienced VPN user, ask yourself - how many of your worst problems have ever been due to a problem with the client installation?
It gets worse. The very first practical suggestion for "What to do, if CyberGhost seem to slow down your Internet connection" was to change your MTU from 1500 to 1300, way too drastic as a first step.
Some of these articles appear to have been poorly translated from the original, too ("in daily life quite a few adversenesses influence the real possible speed".) Although they're still understandable, this means the content isn't always as precise and clear as it needs to be.
You can also talk to a real, live, human being, fortunately, via email and live chat support. CyberGhost does its best to hide the chat support - 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.
CyberGhost VPN is a capable service with an exceptionally powerful 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 unblocking to low three-year prices and helpful live chat support.
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