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Ivacy VPN review

A quality VPN at a seriously affordable price – but there are catches

Ivacy
(Image: © Ivacy)

Our Verdict

Ivacy is cheap and has an appealing feature list, but the below average speeds, assorted Windows client issues and recent lack of significant service updates (when are we getting WireGuard – and where's the security audit?) have to be a concern. Try the service if you're looking for a bargain, but test it carefully.

For

  • Lots of features
  • Responsive support
  • Cheap long-term plans
  • Great at unblocking Netflix and more

Against

  • Various Windows client problems
  • Best value plan is for a lengthy 5 years
  • No security/privacy audit
  • No WireGuard

Ivacy is a Singapore-based VPN which – according to its website – is an 'award-winning best VPN' which offers just about every feature you could possibly need for almost no money at all. True, or just marketing spin? As usual, there's a little of both.

The Servers page on the website claims to offer more than 1,000 servers in over 100 locations across 50+ countries, for instance. The table underneath this headline only lists 766 servers at the time of writing, so we're not entirely confident in the figures, but there's certainly a lot of choice regardless.

A wide range of apps includes downloads for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, as well as Chrome, Edge and Firefox extensions, and there are instructions for manually setting up the service on routers, Kodi, Linux, consoles and more.

Ivacy is torrent-friendly, there’s malware blocking, no logging, the service supports up to five simultaneous connections, plus it has a kill switch to protect your privacy if the connection drops.

Protocol support covers L2TP, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, split tunneling allows you to choose which traffic you route through the VPN tunnel, and the feature list goes on.

If the service isn't working as it should, 24/7 support via email, ticket and live chat is on hand to point you in the right direction.

Prices are generally low. Monthly billing is reasonable at $9.95, but this falls to $3.50 on the annual plan, and the five-year subscription is a ridiculously cheap $1.16 a month.

To put that in perspective, you're getting five years coverage for an upfront payment of $69.99. Even a one-year HideMyAss! plan is only marginally cheaper at $59.88. If you only use Ivacy for a couple of years, it still looks like great value.

Optional extras include dedicated IPs (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore) for a very reasonable $1.99 a month (NordVPN asks $70 a year), and port forwarding support for $1 a month.

Ivacy

Ivacy supports a number of different payment methods (Image credit: Ivacy)

There's support for multiple payment methods, including card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, and Bitcoin via BitPay.

If you're tempted, there is further good news – a trial option gives you seven days to check out the service for just $0.99, enough time to get a good feel for Ivacy's abilities.

Beware, though: the 7-day trial automatically renews as the annual plan, unless you cancel. Fortunately, even if you sign up and regret it, you're further protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee (or 7-days for monthly-billed accounts).

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Ivacy clearly lays out all of the data it collects in its privacy policy (Image credit: Ivacy)

Privacy and logging

Ivacy has an excellent privacy policy which spells out everything it records, and everything it doesn't, in refreshingly clear detail. Here's a key paragraph:

'We strictly do not log or monitor, online browsing activities, connection logs, VPN IPs assigned, original IP addresses, browsing history, outgoing traffic, connection times, data you have accessed and/or DNS queries generated by your end. We have no information that could associate specific activities to specific users.'

If you've ever spent an age scrutinizing a VPN's small print and support site looking for a sign of a hint of a clue about its privacy policy, you'll appreciate how rare it is to get that much information crammed into a couple of sentences.

The policy goes on to detail the personal data Ivacy does collect (name, email address, payment methods), and other collection methods (app crash reports and diagnostics, Google Analytics on the website). This isn't ideal, but it's better than many competitors, and it was good to see that Ivacy also allows you to request the deletion of your personal information via the Members Area of its website.

There's no way to verify any of this information, unfortunately. Other VPNs are increasingly putting themselves through public security and privacy audits – TunnelBear has had three annual audits of its apps, infrastructure, website and more – but Ivacy hasn't done this yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

Ivacy

Ivacy offers not just a Windows app, but also clients for Mac, Android and iOS, plus browser extensions (Image credit: Ivacy)

Apps

Signing up with Ivacy worked much like any other VPN we've ever used. We chose a plan and payment method, handed over our cash, Ivacy sent us a Welcome email with a link to set up our password, and the website offered links to Ivacy's many apps. We downloaded and installed the Windows client, and it was ready to go within a few seconds.

The client interface looks similar to many other VPN apps. The opening screen has a large button which automatically connects you to the nearest server, or you can choose your location from a list.

Ivacy

It's possible to choose your location from a list of countries or cities (Image credit: Ivacy)

This list can be displayed as countries or cities, but there are no ping times or server load figures, no search box, filters or sort options to help you make the best choice. The app does at least have a Favorites system, though, allowing you to group your most commonly-used choices.

A left-hand toolbar helps you select servers for particular tasks. Click Streaming, for instance, and you're able to choose platforms you'd like to unblock and view (Amazon Prime Video, BBC, Hulu, Netflix and many more).

Other options include 'Unblocking' to help you access geoblocked sites, and 'Secure Download', where apparently the service 'scans for any viruses or malware in the data being downloaded and removes it at server level.' The website page on this feature says it 'scans and removes such viruses and malicious files before they even make their way to your devices.'

That makes it sound like it's checking the contents of the files you're downloading, but our tests suggest it's probably using a simple DNS blacklist to block dangerous URLs.

Settings enable choosing your preferred startup mode, for example opening with the Streaming page. There's an option to switch protocol (OpenVPN UDP or TCP, L2TP or IKEv2), split tunneling, a kill switch and (a new addition since our last review) a multiport setting which enables scanning for open ports to help bypass VPN blocking.

Desktop clients normally offer many more features than their mobile equivalents, but Ivacy's Android app is surprisingly capable, with the same connection modes (streaming, downloading, unblocking), a connection list displayed by country or city, a kill switch, split tunneling and multiport mode. Settings are a little more basic, and in particular it only supports the OpenVPN protocol, but otherwise this is a decent app, easy to use but with a reasonable feature set.

It's a similar story with the iOS app, which aside from the lack of a kill switch and its use of IKEv2 rather than OpenVPN, is a very close match for Ivacy's other offerings.

If there's an issue here, it's the apparently slow pace of software development. Ivacy's apps haven't added any significant new features for some time, and if you're hoping for major improvements, like WireGuard support, that suggests you might be waiting for some time.

Ivacy

Ivacy's split tunneling feature (Image credit: Ivacy)

Windows testing

We found multiple usability issues in our last review of Ivacy's Windows client, but many of them seem to have been fixed.

The client keeps your currently selected location if you switch between modes, for instance (Streaming, Secure Download and so on). Connect using Automatic mode and the client displays the country it selected. And if you minimize the app, it goes to the system tray by default, just as we'd expect (you can still change this in settings if you'd prefer).

The client's Automatic location choices might not be what you expect, though. We tested from the UK, but the client always connected us to Denmark.

The client status display is still below par, too. It didn't always display our location when in Streaming mode, for example, just showing it as 'Anonymous'. It wasn't able to display our new IP, either, reporting only 'Hidden IP.' And we couldn't switch from one location to another, or even browse another list, until we closed the current connection.

Non-technical annoyances included regular prompts to rate the service, or open our browser at 'the world's most private search engine, Startpage.com.' The last had a 'Don't show me again' option, but when we're paying for a commercial product, we don't expect to be served ads. (Though as we're paying so little, this maybe shouldn't have been a surprise).

The client did a fair job of securely setting up the VPN tunnel. It configured IKEv2 connections with IPv6 disabled, encryption required (not maximum encryption, though) and didn't save our credentials locally. It set up OpenVPN with AES-256-CBC encryption, and the kill switch was enabled by default.

The only oddity we noticed is that although the client offers L2TP as a protocol, choosing it only ever got us an IKEv2 connection. If you really need L2TP, you could potentially waste quite some time here before you realize what's happening.

Ivacy

The kill switch feature has been improved since we last evaluated Ivacy (Image credit: Ivacy)

The kill switch is better than it was the last time we reviewed Ivacy. When we forcibly closed the VPN (OpenVPN or IKEv2), the client noticed, blocked our internet, alerted us and reconnected. That's great, but we noticed two further issues.

Firstly, the client switches protocols when it reconnects, from OpenVPN to IKEv2, or IKEv2 to OpenVPN. There could be a sort-of justification for that: maybe the drop was due to some system-wide problem with the current protocol, so switching might give better results. But it's not what a user will expect, and the client doesn't display the new protocol to show you what it's done, so this might cause problems.

And secondly, when we simulated a more fundamental problem by turning our router off and on again, the client told us it had reconnected, but our internet access remained blocked. This was easy to restore – just turn the connection off and on again – but it could still cause confusion.

These hassles aside, Ivacy's Windows client has come a long way in recent months. There are still some quirks to be addressed, but the company has tackled the big issues, and we hope the others will be cleared up soon.

New Speedtest Image

Our speed testing ran into technical issues with Ivacy, but we could determine that it was a little shaky in terms of performance levels (Image credit: Ookla)

Performance

Our performance tests began by looking at connection times. We've seen issues here in previous Ivacy reviews, but this time they were very acceptable, for example connecting via OpenVPN in as little as 5-6 seconds (some VPNs take twice as long, or more).

We weren't able to complete our UK speed tests due to technical issues, but as we're unsure of the cause, we're not going to count this against Ivacy. The results we managed to get ranged from 75-170Mbps, which is a wider gap than usual, though that could also be due to our testing problems. Most decent VPNs score around 100-200Mbps, though, so Ivacy looks like it can reach mid-range speeds.

We crossed-checked our results by running some tests from a US location using an ultra-fast 600Mbps connection. This time we had no issues collecting our data, and Ivacy's downloads were consistent but a little below average at 70-80Mbps.

The service has enough power for many tasks, then, but it's still trailing a long way behind providers including Speedify (which peaked at 315Mbps+ in recent testing), NordVPN (380Mbps+) and Hotspot Shield (415Mbps).

Ivacy

Ivacy eventually succeeded in unblocking US Netflix in our tests (Image credit: Ivacy)

Netflix

The Ivacy website boasts that it allows you to 'stream anything, anytime, anywhere', which sounds good to us. And this isn't just vague marketing waffle – the apps include specialist streaming locations which aim to unblock Netflix and many other streaming platforms.

To try this, we launched the Windows client, chose the Streaming mode and the Netflix channel, and watched as the client connected.

After that, the client asked if we wanted to watch US Netflix, and if we clicked Yes, it opened our default browser at the Netflix site. That's all very convenient, but it turned out not to work; Netflix detected the VPN and refused to stream content.

Fortunately, this wasn't the end of the story. Ivacy also provides browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Edge, and like the apps, these also support various streaming platforms. We switched from the Windows client to the Chrome extension, chose the US Netflix channel, and this time managed to view content.

That was good news, and as our testing continued, it only got better. We switched back to the client, moved on to check BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, US YouTube and Disney+, and Ivacy got us into all four.

This isn't a perfect unblocking performance – ExpressVPN got us into everything from its apps, with no need to use the browser extension at all – but Ivacy outperforms many, and it's just the start of the VPN's abilities. The client Streaming panel supports unblocking many other platforms, including ABC, BT Sport, CBS, Fox Sports Now, HBO Now, Hulu, NBC and more.

Ivacy

This VPN provider offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Edge (Image credit: Ivacy)

Support

The Ivacy support site is always available if you run into problems, with an assortment of installation, troubleshooting and other guides. There's some useful content, but not as much detail as we would like, a few of the articles are outdated (for example using screenshots from old versions of the client), and it can't begin to match the professional articles from major VPN providers such as ExpressVPN.

Fortunately, the website also offers 24/7 live chat support. We had a useful response in around a minute when we posed a test question – much better than we've seen with most of the competition.

Ivacy's email support is a little slower, unsurprisingly, but still acceptable. We typically received helpful replies within around three hours, with the fastest response being around 30 minutes; also better than you'll see with many more expensive competitors.

Final verdict

Ivacy offers a pile of advanced features for a seriously low price, but speeds aren't great, and we noticed significant issues with the Windows client. Bargain hunters may want to check it out, but do some intensive testing before you buy.