AirVPN Review 2021: What does it offer?
Every VPN claims to be unique, and carefully reviewing each of your options is the only way to know your best fit. AirVPN is one of the visibly unique VPNs, and this AirVPN review expertly analyzes its strengths and weaknesses.
Pros & Cons
- Free Trial
- Expert-level configuration options
- Works with Netflix
- 3-day trial plan
- Allows P2P & torrenting
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Has a small server network
- Windows client looks dated
- No iOS app
- Doesn’t work with other streaming services
AirVPN is not your regular VPN service, but it is a VPN provider worth looking at due to its uniqueness and privacy and security focus. The VPN claims to be “operated by activists and hacktivists” with the aim of restoring privacy and defeating censorship.
Here’s an overview of AirVPN:
- OpenVPN-based VPN
- Zero monitoring and logging
- Military-level encryption standards
- Zero restrictions on the VPN usage
- Circumvents censorship
- Lots of configuration options
As you can see, the VPN’s primary focus is privacy, security, and internet freedom. So how does it compare to market leaders such as ExpressVPN, and is it worth a try? This AirVPN review looks at all essential aspects of the VPN to help you make an informed decision.
Table of Contents
Although AirVPN focuses on privacy and security, it also offers various other services.
Streaming: Does AirVPN work with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other services?
During our AirVPN review, we tested the VPN against several of the most popular streaming services. We were glad to see that the VPN wasn’t blocked by Netflix when we tested using several US servers.
However, we could not access US-only TV shows, most likely due to the VPN’s DNS geolocation issues. We also tested the VPN using UK servers, and the same happened. For this reason, AirVPN is not among our best VPNs for Netflix.
Apart from Netflix, we also tried accessing other streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and HBO Now. AirVPN couldn’t bypass any of them, but you can check our recommendations for the best VPN for streaming.
Does AirVPN support torrenting?
AirVPN states that the VPN does not have any “discrimination toward any service, protocol or application.” This means that AirVPN supports P2P and torrenting, and you can use any of the VPN’s servers for that purpose.
To boost usability, AirVPN also allows port forwarding to make your device reachable from the internet (if you wish to seed). You can also use DDNS to provide persistent access, for example, if you want to host a game server.
Does AirVPN work in China?
Yes, AirVPN works in China. The VPN provides several methods you can use to bypass VPN blocking. The first one is routing OpenVPN over TCP port 443, a port used to encrypt regular SSL traffic. This means that censorships that only focus on the ports will allow the traffic to pass through.
The second method, which is more suitable for users in countries like China, is encrypting OpenVPN with SSL or SSH. This method defeats deep packet inspection (dpi) as censorship systems can only see the last layer of encryption. OpenVPN over SSL is more advisable as it offers more security.
The last method of bypassing censorship is the use of Tor. This method tunnels your OpenVPN traffic through Tor, eventually changing it to regular SSL traffic. However, both Tor and OpenVPN over SSL require fast connections.
Yes, AirVPN is secure, and it offers out-of-the-box security measures.
According to the VPN’s about us section, AirVPN came about in 2010 as a project to take back control and internet freedom. It was started by a very small group of activists, hacktivists, and hackers, together with two lawyers. Today, it is still operated by similar individuals.
To support the privacy mission, Air Company has developed and funded projects such as ipleak.net (a popular leak test tool), mirrors (for software download), and mywhisper (an online text encryption tool). It has also funded/ donated to Tor, Edri, Wikileaks, and more.
Going back to the VPN, AirVPN is headquartered in Perugia, Italy. This is not an ideal location as the country is part of the 14-eyes multilateral, but this threat is negated through various measures.
First, Italy is within the EU GDPR directive, and the VPN states that “servers located outside the European Union will treat user data with the same (or higher) level of privacy and data protection.”
In terms of logging, AirVPN states that “activity traffic and/or traffic content and/or IP addresses of the customers or users are not inspected, logged or stored into any mass storage device.”
To boost the privacy offered, all servers run their own AirVPN DNS servers (same public IP and DNS IP). This is quite rare in the VPN industry, and it boosts privacy by preventing injections and hijackings. When we tested for IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks, we didn’t notice any.
AirVPN is one of the most secure VPNs you’ll come around, and it starts its security with transparency. The VPN has a specs page that lists everything from the ports used to the multiple combinations of TLS ciphers used. It also displays all your connection details in the stats tab on desktop apps.
As for the encryption strength, AirVPN uses the industry-standard cipher AES-256-GCM. Further, all the VPN’s software runs of OpenVPN, the most recommended protocol which is known for its great balance between speed and security.
The VPN uses HMAC SHA384 on the control channel, and handshake is done through 4096-bit RSA keys. Perfect Forward Secrecy is implemented through Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange (DHE).
Due to the use of OpenVPN, AirVPN provides multiple configuration options such as OpenVPN over SSH, SSL, and Tor.
Overall, AirVPN is one of the most secure VPNs you’ll come across.
Kill Switch (Network Lock)
AirVPN has a powerful kill switch known as Network Lock. This feature is available on the VPN’s overview tab, right below the recommended server button. Unlike some other VPNs that only block traffic during server switching, the AirVPN network lock immediately disables all traffic that is not going through the VPN tunnel.
Split Tunneling (Routes)
AirVPN provides split tunneling in that you can set a hostname and IP address or a range of IP addresses that you want to exclude from the VPN tunnel. You can also set them as the only addresses that go through the VPN.
The problem with AirVPN’s split tunneling is that you can’t set specific applications as we’ve become used to seeing.
Direct Tor Integration
AirVPN provides a Tor integration functionality that works by encrypting your traffic then exiting to a Tor node. The VPN’s app can communicate with Tor Control to detect and route to a node. This setup is different from VPNs that offer Tor servers such as NordVPN in that your traffic does not come back to the VPN server.
DNS Leak Protection (DNS Lock)
AirVPN does well to provide a private DNS, which means it doesn’t rely on third-party servers which can’t be trusted. The VPN goes further to ensure that your original DNS is not exposed by providing an automatic DNS leak protection feature.
Alongside this feature are other options to “Force all network interfaces for DNS” and “Ignore IPv6 DNS pushed by server.” All these features are meant for Windows users as they are more likely to experience DNS leaks.
AirVPN has a server network that consists of 240+ servers in 22 countries. This is nowhere near the market leaders' network sizes, and AirVPN knows it too. To help enhance user experience, the VPN runs a live status page that lists all servers, the number of users on each server, and the server load. The VPN also provides this information within the VPN clients, and so it’s easy to choose a server that doesn’t have many users.
All the VPN servers provide up to 1 Gbps bandwidth. Server switches are unlimited, and you can select servers at the city-level in some countries.
AirVPN is quite flexible when it comes to pricing, and the VPN offers seven different plans. All these plans provide the same features, so the difference is only in the subscription length. And as you would expect, the longer the plan, the bigger the discount.
Here are AirVPN’s pricing plans (they are charged in Euros, but the website has a conversion option for viewing in USD and Bitcoin):
- Three-day plan: Costs 2 € (approx. $2.36)
- One-month plan: Costs 7 € (approx. $8.26)
- Three-month plan: Costs 5 € (approx. $5.90) a month, billed 15 €
- Six-month plan: Costs 4.83 € (approx. $5.70) a month, billed 29 €
- One-year plan: Costs 4.08 € (approx. $4.82) a month, billed 49 €
- Two-year plan: Costs 3.29 € (approx. $3.88) a month, billed 79 €
- Three-year plan: Costs 2.75 € (approx. $3.25) a month, billed 99 €
Overall, AirVPN is well priced. The 3-day plan is a good touch as it lets users try the VPN without committing to a long plan. The monthly plan is also among the best priced, and the longer-term plans provide a good discount.
Supported payment methods
AirVPN allows users to pay using a wide range of payment services. These include PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, American Express, Diner’s Club, JCB, and cryptocurrency. The VPN accepts cryptocurrency directly with no intermediaries, and you can pay using Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Doge, and Monero. You can also buy an AirVPN coupon and use it later or gift to a friend.
Does AirVPN have a money-back guarantee?
Yes, AirVPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is a recent but welcome improvement from a 3-day money-back guarantee that required less than 5 GB bandwidth usage.
Now there are no conditions, and the VPN states that you don’t need to give a reason to get a refund.
Does AirVPN have a free trial?
Yes, AirVPN provides a free 3-day trial. This trial gives you access to all the VPN’s features and functionalities, and so you can use it to test the VPN. To get a trial, you first need to create an account (you won’t need to provide a payment method).
In the client area, you’ll find a form you can use to request a trial. In our case, our account was activated within 5 minutes, which was quite impressive.
The AirVPN website looks quite dated and nothing like what you’d expect from the standard VPNs. The website provides lots of details about the VPN, although you’ll find some of the information to be quite technical.
On the main page, there’s a huge “Get AirVPN” button that takes you to a page where you can register an account or sign in to buy a plan. AirVPN accepts anonymous email addresses if you wish to protect your identity, but note that this will limit the control you have over your account.
After creating an account, you can then choose a plan and a payment method.
Which devices & platforms does AirVPN support?
AirVPN has a custom GUI client that is playfully named Eddie. The app can be installed on:
- Fire TV
A highlight for AirVPN apps is that you can download a VPN app depending on your device or operating system's variation. For example, in the Windows case, you can choose the Windows type (10, 8/7, Vista, XP), the processor type (64-bit or 32-bit), and whether you want an installer or a portable version. There are also variations for Mac and Linux.
Apart from the apps, you can also configure the VPN manually on iOS, ChromeOS, and various routers (DD-WRT, Tomato, AsusWRT, pfSense). AirVPN provides guides for all these platforms.
Ease of use
To give an overview of what you can expect from AirVPN, we installed the VPN on Windows 10 and Android.
Desktop App (Windows)
The AirVPN desktop app (Eddie) is entirely open-source, which is good to see at it can be independently audited to ensure there’s nothing fishy going on. However, just like the website, the app looks a bit dated. Eddie doesn’t have a similar design to what many users have become accustomed to, but it also provides more customization options than we’ve come across.
After installing the GUI, use your credentials to log in. Here's what the VPN app looks like.
You can easily connect to the fastest server using the button provided if you don’t need the VPN’s customization. The Network Lock button below shuts down all internet connections whenever you are not connected to the VPN.
The servers tab displays all available servers, and you can see their score, server load, and the number of connections. The countries tab allows you to either whitelist or blacklist servers. Whitelisted servers are the ones that will be displayed in the server section, while blacklisted servers won’t be shown.
AirVPN has named all servers after stars, with the locations appearing in small letters (as if to make things even more complicated).
Below the servers, there’s a speed tab that shows a real-time graph of your bandwidth, a stats tab that shows the details of your connection, and a logs tab that keeps track of everything.
That’s nothing about the app though. The real customization begins when you open the settings using the button on the bottom left side. This gives you lots of customization options, ranging from changing the app’s font to adding custom encryption directives.
The protocols section lets you choose a protocol for circumventing geo-restrictions, but you’ll have to go through 60+ options to determine the best combination of protocol, port, and IP. Each of them has definitions for various scenarios. Other configurations include split tunneling, DNS, kill switch (which surprisingly is customization), and so much more.
Overall, the AirVPN desktop client is not user-friendly, although that’s not its goal. The app can be hard to use, even for technical users. Some of the customization options provided should include an on-hover explanation as we've seen with some VPNs. Further, the use of unfamiliar names for familiar features (e.g., routes for split tunneling) makes the app unnecessarily hard to use. That said, if you are a techy user, Eddie may be a potential best friend.
Mobile App (Android)
AirVPN’s mobile app is not a regular VPN app either. The app follows a unique design and has several customization options such as choosing a protocol, encryption algorithm, port, and IP type. There are also features such as VPN Lock (kill switch), proxy, custom DNS, and more.
It’s easy to choose a server, and you can also customize how the servers are displayed.
However, we found some of the information displayed in some sections unnecessary, and it can be redesigned to make it simpler while still maintaining the same features.
To give you an idea of the speeds you can expect when connected to AirVPN, we carried out several tests using nearby servers and servers in several other continents. Our base connection was 50 Mbps.
Some nearby servers managed to go as high as 41 Mbps. However, due to the small server network, the speeds you get depend pretty much on the server load. Select a server without many users for the best speeds.
Our speeds averaged between 20 Mbps and 35 Mbps when using distant servers. These are not the best speeds you can find, but they are not the worst either.
AirVPN does not have a live chat support system, and they state that they do not outsource sales or technical support. There's a message system (not really a ticketing one) available on the website to get in touch with the team. You can also send an email to [email protected] for support or [email protected] (PGP) for general information. The support isn’t available 24/7, but you can expect to receive a response within the day.
The most impressive part of AirVPN customer support is their community forum. The forum is very active, and it’s divided into several areas. You will most likely find some of your issues have already been asked and answered by other users. If not, you can submit your problem, and you will get responses from other users and/ or an admin.
Apart from the forum, there’s also an active AirVPN Reddit community. But before you go far, check their FAQ section as well.
Can you get an AirVPN trial?
Yes, AirVPN provides a free trial. However, you’ll need to request it by submitting a message via the website.
How do I get an AirVPN Coupon?
The VPN no longer provides coupons unless you buy it as an AirVPN gift voucher. The free trial is activated directly on your account.
Is AirVPN free?
No, AirVPN does not have a free plan. The VPN is however quite affordable, and you can also start with a free trial.
AirVPN is a VPN service created by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. The VPN offers superb privacy and security and rarely compromises on either. It also provides lots of customization options that can help you make the best out of your VPN connection. You can use the VPN to bypass government censorship and torrent safely.
However, AirVPN is not for newbies. User-friendliness is not a priority for the VPN, so novice users may have to look elsewhere. But if the challenge and control tickle your fancy, the VPN comes at a friendly price and it’s worth a try!