Ivacy is a Singapore-based VPN which – according to its website – is an 'award-winning best VPN' that 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 5,700 servers in over 100 locations, for instance. But the Server Status page talks about 3,500+ servers over 180+ locations and 100+ countries, so we're not entirely confident in the figures. Still, we'll accept that there are 'lots' of locations, and most users should have plenty of choice.
A wide range of apps covers you on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, there are extensions for Chrome, Edge and Firefox, and the support site has instructions for manually setting up the service on routers, Kodi, consoles and more.
Ivacy has torrent support in some locations (we tried using P2P on three sample servers and it worked just fine), there’s malware blocking, no logging, the service supports up to 10 simultaneous connections, plus the apps include a kill switch to protect your privacy if the VPN connection drops.
Protocol support includes L2TP, OpenVPN, IKEv2 and WireGuard (not on all platforms, though), 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.
Ivacy's range starts with a free plan. It's basic, as you'd expect: you can't choose a location, and there are none of the advanced features, not even WireGuard. It was also relatively slow in our tests at around 35Mbps – but there are no bandwidth limits, and that alone makes it worth a look.
To put that in perspective, sign up for a one-year HideMyAss! plan and you'll pay $60 immediately, another $60 a year and a day later – making $120. Spend $72 upfront at Ivacy and that's it for five years. Even if you only use Ivacy for 18 months, you'll more than get your money's worth.
Optional extras include dedicated IPs (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore) for a very reasonable $1.99 a month (NordVPN asks an extra $5.83, or $70 a year), and port forwarding support for $1 a month.
There's support for multiple payment methods, including card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, plus Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies via BitPay or CoinGate.
As we write, Ivacy is also throwing in a StickyPassword license for the length of your subscription. We're not going to review StickyPassword here, but it provides all the core password management features you'd expect, and costs $30 a year if you buy it direct.
Ivacy doesn't advertise them much, but there are a couple of trial options (they're linked from this support page). You can get one day entirely for free, or buy a week's coverage for $0.99. 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).
Privacy and logging
'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.'
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 via Firebase and Crashlytics, Google Analytics on the website). This isn't ideal, especially as Ivacy's apps don't give you the ability to choose whether you'd like to send this crash information. This isn't unusual, though – IPVanish also uses crash reporting without asking you first – and at least Ivacy allows you to request the deletion of your personal data via the Members Area of its website.
There's no way to verify any of Ivacy's privacy promises, unfortunately. Other VPNs are increasingly putting themselves through public security and privacy audits – TunnelBear has annual audits of its apps, infrastructure, website and more – but Ivacy hasn't done this yet. Hopefully, that will change soon.
Signing up with Ivacy worked much like any other VPN we've ever used. Choose and pay for a plan, click a link to download the Windows app, and it was ready to go within a few seconds – very straightforward.
The interface is familiar. The opening screen has a large button which automatically connects you to the nearest server, or you can choose your location from a list.
This list can be displayed as countries or cities. Seems a good idea, but the city list still displays its locations in country order. You'll scroll through a sequence such as Zurich, Taipei and Bangkok, for instance, because it's sorted alphabetically ordered by country (Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand). We still found the cities we needed, but it's a little trickier than we'd like.
The locations have no ping times or server load figures, no filters or sort options to help you make the best choice. The app does have a Search box, though (typing LON cuts the list to Thessaloniki and London), and a Favorites system can 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 iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix and many more). That's genuinely helpful, and a big improvement on the 'connect to each US server in turn until you find one that works' strategy you'll need with many VPNs.
Other options are more questionable. An 'Unblocking' page gives you another list of locations, for instance, apparently to help you access geoblocked sites. Uh, isn't that what we'd expect from the regular and the streaming areas? Why do we need a third?
A 'Secure Download' feature apparently '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 as though the service is checking the contents of the files you're downloading, which doesn't sound like the best move on the privacy front. If you were accessing a zip file of Office documents, for instance, would you really want the system to extract and inspect each one? Fortunately, this looks like Ivacy is overselling its abilities a little, and our tests suggest Secure Download is 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, IKEv2 and WireGuard), split tunneling, a kill switch and a multiport setting which enables scanning for open ports to help bypass VPN blocking.
It's a reasonable feature set, but the app's quirks and strange design decisions make it difficult to recommend. Even uninstalling the software revealed one more oddity. Ivacy's Windows setup app creates Ivacy and Atom folders in the \Program Files (x86) directory, but Ivacy's uninstaller only removes the \Ivacy files. The Windows service in \Atom stays there until you remove it manually; not exactly professional.
Ivacy's Mac app looks much like the Windows edition. Although we're not entirely happy with the interface (as we made clear above) this scheme of things does have an advantage: once you're used to the app on one platform, you'll be able to use it on the other right away.
Settings are a different story, with the app missing several Windows features. Protocols are limited to IPSEC and IKEv2, for instance, with no OpenVPN or WireGuard support. There's no split tunneling to help some apps bypass the VPN tunnel (if it happens to cause them problems). The app doesn't have Ivacy's Multiport feature, and no kill switch (the best the app can offer is a 'redial automatically if the connection drops' setting).
This all leaves the Mac app looking distinctly underpowered. Still, it's not difficult to use, and the free plan could make the app a smart choice for some.
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, and a choice of WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
We'd like a little more. Server selection is a little awkward; there are still no Favorites; and you can't set the app to automatically connect when you access Wi-Fi. But these aren't critical issues, and overall, this is a decent app, easy to use and with a reasonable feature set.
Ivacy's iOS app is visually a close match for the Android edition. It's reasonably easy to use, but with the same disadvantages (awkward city selection, no Favorites, no auto-connect on accessing Wi-Fi), and a brand new problem of its own.
When we used the app in portrait mode, a few of the options disappeared off the right of the screen, and we had to swipe left (and know they were there) to see them. This doesn't happen with all devices, and the app works fine in landscape, so this isn't a huge deal. But it looks a little unprofessional.
The app is a tad short on features, too. You get Ivacy's core functions: the secure download, streaming and unblocking connection modes, an always-on VPN setting (a system-level kill switch) and a choice of protocol (IKEV2 or IPSEC.) But there's no WireGuard or OpenVPN, split tunneling, multiport mode or anything else.
Ivacy's slow pace of iOS app development suggests this isn't going to change any time soon, either. As we write, the app hasn't seen any significant new technical features since October 2020.
Ivacy's Windows app got off to a speedy start in our tests, connecting to most servers in around 2-4 seconds. Even OpenVPN connections only took around 6 seconds (some apps keep you waiting 20 seconds or more).
The app 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, more than enough to keep you safe.
The Windows app doesn't have any DNS leak settings, but that didn't seem to matter. We checked it with several test sites, and none of them detected any DNS or other leaks.
The kill switch was less effective. It gave good results when we forcibly closed our OpenVPN connection, instantly blocking our internet access and automatically reconnecting to the VPN server. But when we ran our tests using WireGuard, IKEv2 or L2TP, our internet wasn't blocked, and we were exposed until the app could re-establish the connection.
Ivacy's speedy connection times helped to reduce the impact of this, and our traffic was only ever unprotected for a few seconds. If VPN drops are rare, that means they're unlikely to cause you any serious harm. Still, this is bad news, and it's a vulnerability you won't see elsewhere.
However, bear in mind that this is a Windows app issue, and doesn't apply to other platforms. Android and iOS users can enable their device's 'always on' VPN feature, for instance, a built-in capability which prevents internet access unless you're connected to a VPN.
Our performance tests began by running checks with SpeedTest.net, TestMy.net, Netflix's Fast.com, and others, from a UK data center with a 1Gbps connection. We ran each test five times with a WireGuard connection, five times with OpenVPN, repeated the full set of tests for morning and evening sessions, then analyzed the data and calculated median speeds.
WireGuard speeds proved excellent, with the best sessions averaging 520-570Mbps. OpenVPN couldn't match that, but its 260-300Mbps should still be very acceptable in many situations.
We repeated the full test set from a US home with a 1Gbps connection. A testing glitch meant we didn't get OpenVPN results, but WireGuard speeds stretched to an even better 500-840Mbps.
That competes well with providers including NordVPN (730-760Mbps), Surfshark (720-790Mbps) and Mullvad (740-820Mbps). But if you're after the maximum possible speeds, IPVanish (890Mbps), Hide.me (900Mbps) and TorGuard (950Mbps) are currently top of our performance charts.
Netflix and streaming
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 when we clicked 'Yes' it opened our default browser at the Netflix site. That's not just convenient, it also unblocked the site, and we were able to stream content.
Streaming platforms may sometimes partially block a VPN (they detect some IPs, not others), so we check each site three times, with three different IP addresses, to make sure everything still runs smoothly. And it did; we got access with each connection.
The good news continued as Ivacy got us into BBC iPlayer and Disney Plus. The app couldn't bypass Amazon Prime Video's defenses, though, and the site demanded we disconnect the VPN before it would stream anything. But Ivacy also provides browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Edge, and we found these allowed us to stream US Amazon Prime Video content.
That's a decent unblocking record, but some VPNs do better. CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, Surfshark and others all unblocked everything we threw at them in our most recent reviews.
The Ivacy support site is always available if you run into problems, with an assortment of installation, troubleshooting and other guides. There's a little useful content here, but sadly most articles are short on detail, and some can be confusing.
For example, see a title like 'Protocol Explained: Point to Point Protocol (PPTP)' and you might expect a detailed technical guide. But this is the entire, unedited article: 'Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the fastest protocol and does not affect your internet speed. But on the other hand, it lags behind on security a little when connecting with PPTP protocol.'
If you have even a little VPN experience, we'll bet you could write a far more accurate and detailed guide in two or three minutes.
'What is VPN protocol and how to change it' sounded more promising – but then we looked at it.
The article is dated 2019, doesn't mention WireGuard, and doesn't say what a protocol is. Instead, after listing four options (TCP, UDP, L2TP, IKEV), it says this about your choice: 'The protocols vary in terms of speed and level of encryption.' Uh, yes, so what about telling users how they vary? Wouldn't that be helpful?
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 two to three hours, with the fastest response being around 30 minutes; also better than you'll see with many more expensive competitors.
Ivacy review: Final verdict
Ivacy offers a pile of features for a seriously low price, but speeds aren't great, and we noticed plenty of app issues. Bargain hunters may want to check it out, but do some intensive testing before you buy.
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