ProtonVPN Review: An excellent VPN

ProtonVPN Review: An excellent VPN

Brought to you by Proton Technologies AG, the Swiss company behind encrypted email provider ProtonMail, ProtonVPN places an emphasis on security and has both free and paid-for VPN services.

The free version provides basic endpoints in just three countries: the US, the Netherlands and Japan. There aren't any bandwidth caps on the free service but high user numbers can lead to slower transfer speeds. Paid-for tiers get you access to many more endpoints in 33 countries and additional features, including support for BitTorrent, 'Secure Core' servers for users in risky places and US video streaming.

In our latest tests, ProtonVPN's servers gave us HTTP download speeds averaging 8.09MB/s (64.72Mbit/s) from the UK and 8.51MB/s from the Netherlands. US speeds have been more variable: over the course of the past month, we've measured downloads at anything from a slightly disappointing 2.68MB/s to a quick 6.12MB/s. We also noticed quite a lot of variability in performance between individual endpoints.

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The fastest speed we got this month from ProtonVPN's free endpoints was 3.91MB/s from the Netherlands and 1.72MB/s from the US.

With the exception of US services, ProtonVPN isn't great at region-shifting for streaming TV. Its Plus servers provide reliable access to US Netflix, but if you want access to European region-locked streaming services, you're largely out of luck.

Proton Technologies is remarkably transparent about where its money comes from. That includes a European Commission development grant, funding from Swiss startup incubator FONGIT (Fondation Genevoise pour l'Innovation Technologique) and the Swiss Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation (Innosuisse).

It also maintains a legal transparency report, updated whenever it receives a legal information request. Although Swiss law requires traditional ISPs to keep connection logs, that doesn't currently apply to VPN providers, allowing ProtonVPN to maintain a no-logging policy. Note, though, that Switzerland is part of the "14 Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance, which may put off those with specific geopolitical concerns.

ProtonVPN reports that, earlier this year, a "data request from a foreign country was approved by the Swiss court system" and that it informed the requesting party that it has no records of the IP addresses its users connect from. Further information on the case in question is not available.

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That makes ProtonVPN's privacy credentials a little less well proven than rivals who've been referenced in court or carried out independent audits, but nonetheless indicates a sound concern for user confidentiality.

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