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VPNArea review

A full-featured P2P-friendly VPN from Bulgaria

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Our Verdict

Our connection issues are a concern, but VPNArea's wide platform support and interesting features mean it's worth a look anyway. Check it out.

For

  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Clear privacy policy
  • P2P support
  • Wide platform support

Against

  • Poor speeds on a few servers
  • Some connection problems
  • No trial

VPNArea is a popular and well-established VPN run by the Bulgarian-based firm Offshore Security EOOD.

The service has a lengthy list of appealing features. It covers 69 countries across the globe, has support for six simultaneous connections, P2P, a kill switch to protect your identity if the service fails, and offers a clear ‘no logs’ claim.

Read more: Tenta Browser

VPNArea claims to block DNS, WebRTC and even IPv6 privacy leaks. The company has its own DNS servers to help make this happen, too – it's not solely relying on third-party services like Google DNS or OpenDNS (although you can use those or any other service, if you prefer).

The company offers custom clients for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, and includes detailed setup guides for routers and other devices.

Prices are reasonable at around $9.90 (£7.62) per month, $8.33 (£6.41) a month if you pay for six months upfront, or $4.92 (£3.78) a month with an annual contract.

The company has a ‘dedicated IP’ option which it says provides your own private VPN server from $20 (£15.38) a year extra.

There's no trial, but VPNArea does offer a 7-day refund. This isn't automatic – you must request it by sending an email – but otherwise it seemed fair, with no 'can't use more than xGB data' or other sneaky exclusions.

Privacy and logging

VPNArea's website highlights the fact that it doesn't keep logs, and the company’s privacy policy provides much more detail than usual.

"We do not monitor, record or store logs for any single customer's VPN activity. We do not monitor, record or store any login dates, timestamps, incoming and outgoing IP addresses, bandwidth statistics or any other identifiable data of any VPN users using our VPN servers. We do not log or track any DNS requests sent to our DNS servers."

VPNArea's policy on disclosure of personal information is encouraging. Many other providers say they'll hand it over if they believe it to be a legal requirement, which could just mean they're persuaded by whoever is asking. VPNArea says it won't do anything until it gets a court order, and will "fight every legal request for compliance with the law". Although as the company also says it hasn't received any requests yet, it doesn't seem like much of a risk.

While scouring the small print we also noticed that VPNArea allows account sharing with friends, family or colleagues, something explicitly forbidden by most providers. The company also says it recommends no more than two users connect at the same time, and although it probably won't accept both of you downloading torrents 24/7, this is still much more flexibility than you'll usually see elsewhere.

Main

Apps

Choosing your VPNArea plan is unusually easy, as the company crams everything onto a single page: a comparison table for the various plans, the form for creating a user account, a choice of payment details (card, PayPal, Bitcoin, more), even a FAQ to clarify some important product issues.

The signup process largely worked as expected. After we'd paid, the website redirected us to its web dashboard. Download links pointed us to apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux, and there were manual setup guides for those platforms, routers, Kodi, Amazon FireTV, and instructions on setting up other clients (OpenVPN, Viscosity.) 

Unusually, the dashboard also recommended the servers to use for Netflix USA, Amazon, Hulu and BBC iPlayer, as well as advising you which settings give you the best chance of getting online from China. It's good to see a VPN which aims to keep its customers informed, rather than leaving everyone to guess which servers to choose for any particular task.

After asking us to log in, VPNArea's Windows client displayed its very comprehensive location list. This opened with a list of all servers, sorted by country, with figures for server load, ping time, and even the approximate distance from your current location. You can sort by any of these, too, for example ordering the list by ping time with a click.

Tabs allow you to view particular groups of servers. 'Recommended' displays the fastest servers for you; 'P2P - Torrents' includes the best torrent-friendly servers; 'Special' offers servers for specific tasks (DoubleVPN to improve security, Netflix to unblock streaming), and the 'Favorites' panel stores your most commonly-used locations.

Although this makes for a bulkier interface than the more streamlined competition, it's easy enough to use, and a versatile search box speeds up server-finding even further. Just type P2 and the client displays P2P-friendly server; typing IP is enough to find the BBC iPlayer server; LOS gets you Los Angeles, New highlights New Zealand and New York, and so on.

Apps

A Settings pane gives you access to a lot of tweaks and options. There are a couple of kill switch options, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, the ability to set custom DNS servers, change the connection port and type (UDP or TCP), enable blocking ads and malicious websites, and more. This doesn't have all the features we'd like to see - you can't change protocol, or ask the client to automatically connect when you access an insecure network - but it's more comprehensive than many competitors.

Netflix

Netflix

VPNArea clearly commits to unblocking popular services on its website and in its clients, which is good to see - but does the company really deliver?

Logging in to the catchily-named 'UnitedKingdom-0-BBCiPlayer' worked just as expected, immediately enabling us to browse and stream BBC content.

VPNArea has three specialist servers for Netflix: one in the US, one which gets you in to US Netflix but is physically located in the EU (and so faster, in theory, if you're in Europe), and one for UK Netflix. All of these worked just fine in our tests.

As you'd expect, any VPN which unblocks Netflix has a good chance of helping you access many other services. We tried YouTube and VPNArea successfully gave us access to US-only content.

Performance

Performance

Running performance tests on VPNArea gave us mixed results. UK to UK connections managed an average, if acceptable, 40-50Mbps on our 75Mbps test line. Switching to European servers made little difference, with most achieving a creditable 35-40Mbps. But we also noticed that connection times could be long, and some servers wouldn't connect at all, a real annoyance when you just want to get online.

US speeds were distinctly variable at anything from 15-50Mbps, and it was a similar story with long-distance connections (Australia managed 5-10Mbps, Singapore did much better at 15-30Mbps.)

We completed our evaluation with some privacy tests, and these were more successful. VPNArea correctly shielded our identity at all times, blocking DNS and WebRTC leaks without any extra effort on our part.

Final verdict

VPNArea is a likeable service with some decent apps, interesting features and effective Netflix-unblocking thrown in. The speed and connection issues we noticed are a concern, but may not affect everyone, and shouldn't stop you giving the VPN a try.