PrivateVPN Review 2021: How good is it?
Thinking about going for PrivateVPN? Well, this is the right place to start. This PrivateVPN will walk you through everything you should know about the VPN. We’ll explore the capabilities, features, pricing, and pretty much everything else about the VPN service.
Pros & Cons
- Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, & more
- Lots of advanced features on all apps
- Zero logs & friendly jurisdiction
- Supports torrenting on all servers
- Solid security
- Works in China & other censored countries
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Small server network
- Unreliable speed performance
- No browser extensions
PrivateVPN is a Swedish VPN service that has been around since 2009. The VPN has become quite popular over the years as it offers several important functionalities, although it still has a network that consists of just about 150 servers.
Before we dive into the details, here’s a highlight of PrivateVPN.
- Works with most streaming services
- Varied speeds across different servers
- Multiple protocols
- Highly customizable
- Works in highly censored countries
- Small server network
PrivateVPN bills itself as “The Fastest Growing VPN Worldwide," and it promises superb privacy just as its name suggests. In this PrivateVPN review, we sought to put these claims to the test and establish exactly what it has to offer. We’ll also compare it with market leaders such as ExpressVPN, and by the end of the review, you’ll be able to make an informed decision whether this is the right VPN for you.
📑 Table of Contents
PrivateVPN promises more than just privacy as it packs lots of interesting functionalities.
Streaming: Does PrivateVPN work with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other services?
PrivateVPN prides itself in its streaming capabilities, and we tested the VPN thoroughly to know just how good it is.
In terms of Netflix, the VPN promises to unblock 22 Netflix catalogs, which is as good as any VPN. These countries include the US, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, and France.
Although we didn’t test all 22 countries, we managed to unblock the above-listed catalogs with ease.
We were also able to unblock BBC iPlayer when connected to the London servers.
Other streaming services that you can access with PrivateVPN are DAZN, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now, among others.
Does PrivateVPN support torrenting?
Yes, PrivateVPN supports torrenting. All the VPN’s servers work with P2P and torrent traffic, which is quite commendable as most VPNs limit torrenting servers.
On top of that, PrivateVPN supports port forwarding. This is important for torrenting fans as it helps increase speeds and allows their devices to become active nodes (accessible).
Does PrivateVPN work in China?
PrivateVPN is well equipped to work in China and other highly censored countries such as Iran and the UAE. The VPN has a stealth mode that bypasses China's Great Firewall.
The Stealth feature is available on both desktop and mobile applications. PrivateVPN advises that you use L2TP to enhance the chances of bypassing the GFW and other censorships.
Yes, PrivateVPN is a secure VPN.
PrivateVPN is owned by Swedish company Privat Kommunikation Sverige AB, and this means that it operates under the Swedish law. Sweden has been a champion of privacy for a long time, and in 2009, it was taken to court by the EU for failing to implement the 2006 “Data Retention Directive.” This directive required all EU Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to log and store users for a period of six months for the purposes of “investigation and prosecution.”
Sweden would later implement the directive in 2012 after pressure, but in 2014, the European Court of Justice invalidated the Data Retention Directive. Afterward, Sweden went back to not logging user data. And although the Swedish Covert Surveillance of Data Act started operating in April 2020, this does not affect VPNs in any way.
Overall, Sweden is a friendly region for VPN privacy.
PrivateVPN has the term privacy right in the name, and so we would expect that it provides maximum privacy by not logging sensitive data.
The VPN lives by this, and it states that:
We do not collect or store logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, connection time stamps, DNS queries, IP addresses (neither allocated IP nor connected IP), data content or bandwidth.
As part of the VPN’s privacy analysis, we conducted several tests to see if Private VPN leaks any data. These tests were conducted using multiple random servers.
We were glad to find that PrivateVPN doesn’t leak any IP, DNS, or WebRTC information.
The VPN ensures this by providing an IPv6 and DNS leak protection feature on its apps.
PrivateVPN provides high levels of security. The highest standard is AES-256 cipher, and it’s combined with an RSA-2048 for handshake and HMAC SHA256 for data authentication. The VPN also uses the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange (DHE) to implement Perfect Forward Secrecy.
Overall, these are bank-level encryption standards, and so you won’t have to worry about interceptions from either governments or hackers.
That said, PrivateVPN’s security is quite flexible. The VPN gives users control over the levels of security they’d like, right from the encryption level to the protocol. As for the encryption, you can choose between AES-128 and AES-256, and both the GCM and CBC versions available. The available protocols are OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP. OpenVPN has various combinations, and you can check the VPN’s detailed explanations about the various protocols.
Overall, PrivateVPN is a very secure VPN. However, note that the security level you get depends on the settings you use. To get the best security, use OpenVPN with AES-256. You can switch to AES-128 and PPTP when you want more speed with minimal security, for example, when you are streaming on Netflix.
PrivateVPN offers several features.
A kill switch is an important feature of any VPN as it protects user privacy. It does this by terminating all (or specific) internet connections whenever the VPN disconnects. This prevents exposure as your real IP address won’t be displayed.
PrivateVPN provides a kill switch on both desktop and Android apps.
Before PrivateVPN introduced the kill switch, they had Application Guard. Unlike the kill switch, this feature terminates applications of your choice. The feature was replaced by the kill switch, but users on social media requested for the feature to be brought back. It’s now available alongside the kill switch.
Application Guard can be useful if you only use a few sensitive apps, for instance, when torrenting. You can use the feature to terminate your torrent client while all other applications remain connected.
Port Forwarding allows incoming from the internet and is an important feature for torrent fans as it makes torrents faster. Besides that, it makes it possible for torrent users to have their devices reachable over the internet through a specific port.
When you connect to PrivateVPN, the app displays a port number, which you can then enter into a program such as your BitTorrent client. Since port forwarding can be technical, PrivateVPN makes it easy by automatically assigning you a port you can use.
PrivateVPN provides a stealth functionality, which is basically a feature meant to bypass VPN bans in highly censored countries. The feature works by disguising VPN traffic as regular VPN traffic, helping your connection avoid deep packet inspection (dpi) blocking.
The VPN's stealth feature is found on all PrivateVPN apps, and this is quite commendable as most VPNs only offer stealth on desktop apps. Stealth VPN comes with the option to choose a stealth VPN port between port 22 (SSH) and port 443 (HTTPS).
DNS & IPv6 Leak Protection
PrivateVPN provides DNS and IPv6 leak protection. These two are features meant to prevent DNS and IPv6 leaks when you are connected to a VPN. IPv6 leaks happen when a VPN doesn’t support IPv6 routing through the VPN tunnel, while DNS leaks happen because of a security flaw that spills DNS requests outside the tunnel.
Dedicated IP Servers
PrivateVPN has one of the smallest server networks, but it still provides an interesting section of dedicated IP address servers. Unlike most VPNs that offer dedicated IP addresses, PrivateVPN dedicated IP servers have dynamic IP provision, but these IP addresses are only assigned to one user at a time.
This is great as it doesn’t do away with as much privacy as dedicated IP addresses since the IP address you get is not associated with your account. Further, you won’t have to deal with annoying captchas that come about due to shared IP addresses.
PrivateVPN has a server network that consists of 150+ servers in 62 countries. The number of servers is quite small as top VPNs such NordVPN operate in the thousands.
However, 62 countries are quite good, and the servers are very well distributed. Most users will also like the fact that you can choose a server at the city level. All PrivateVPN servers have been labeled according to the City, and the US leads here with 13 different cities.
All PrivateVPN servers offer unlimited bandwidth and server switches.
PrivateVPN provides three pricing plans. All these plans offer the same features, with the only difference being the subscription length. And as you would expect, the value you get increases with the subscription period.
Here’s a breakdown of the plans:
- 1-month plan: Costs $9.99 a month, billed every 30 days.
- 3-month plan: Costs $6.00 a month, billed $17.99 every 3 months.
- 1-year plan: Costs $4.99 a month, billed $59.99 every 12 months.
The 1-year plan currently comes with an extra 12 months after the first billing, and this takes the price further down to $2.5 a month for the first 2 years. The plan then automatically converts to the yearly plan at a decent $4.99 a month.
Overall, PrivateVPN is priced on the upper side of the mid-table VPNs.
Supported payment methods
PrivateVPN accepts payments through credit/ debit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, GPay, and Apple Pay. The last two are provided on the website as one-time payment means, so your subscription won't be recurring.
Does PrivateVPN have a free trial?
The VPN website has been offering a 7-day PrivateVPN free trial for a long time. This trial used to offer the full functionality of the VPN, and you didn’t even need to provide a payment method to use it. However, at the time of this PrivateVPN review, the service has been terminated. The support team cities “abuse” as the reason.
You can check out VPNs with a free trial.
Does PrivateVPN have a money-back guarantee?
Yes, PrivateVPN has a money-back guarantee. This guarantee runs for the first 30-days after purchase, and there are no tricky bandwidth limits that you have to worry about. All new customers are eligible for a refund, but the VPN states that you need to provide the reason for the refund.
The PrivateVPN website is well designed and organized. You can easily find the information you are looking for, from capabilities to encryption strength.
You can get started by simply clicking the "Get PrivateVPN" button right on the first page. This will lead you to a checkout page where you can select the plan you want. In most cases, you’ll find a special offer on the 1-year plan. After selecting a plan, you can provide an email address and password to create an account, then choose your preferred payment method.
After payment, you will receive a link to activate your account.
Which devices & platforms does PrivateVPN support?
PrivateVPN is quite compatible, and it provides apps for most of the popular devices.
These are not really exhaustive (we’d love to see browser extensions), but PrivateVPN provides configuration guides for other platforms. You can set up the VPN manually on Linux, Kodi, and Routers (Asus, Synology, DD-WRT, Tomato, Linksys, QNAP, and pfSense).
If you are having trouble setting up the VPN on Windows, macOS, or Linux, the support team can do it for you through TeamViewer. PrivateVPN allows you to connect up to 6 devices simultaneously.
Ease of use
To assess how easy-to-use PrivateVPN is, we set up the VPN on various devices.
Desktop App (Windows)
The PrivateVPN download file for the Windows app is about 25 MBs in size, and the installation takes about a minute.
Once you log in to the app, you’ll notice that it takes a simplistic look that resembles other VPNs, with a connect and a change server button. There’s also a menu button that leads to settings and a few other bits and pieces.
That’s not all though. Clicking the Advanced View button changes the outlook of the entire app. It opens a whole new world of configurations and advanced options that you can use to customize your connection.
Under the dashboard tab, you can see the external IP (VPN), connection status, selected server, open port (when connected), and the data used. You can also customize your connection by selecting the protocol you’d like to use and the encryption standard.
The settings tab lets you determine how the app behaves, and you can also install/ repair the tap driver when you can’t connect due to a conflict with another VPN. The Connection Guard tab has the IPv6 Leak Protection, DNS Leak Protection, Kill Switch, and the Application Guard.
It's advisable that you never turn off the IPv6 and DNS Leak Protection features as you will expose your actual connection through leaks.
The Stealth Tab has the Stealth VPN feature, and you can also select a port between port 22 and port 443.
Going back to server selection, PrivateVPN doesn’t have a feature for selecting the optimal location, something that we’ve become used to. To select a server, click the server option either in the simple or advanced view versions of the app. This will open a pop-up window that lists all servers.
You can scroll down, search servers, or use the filter function to display specific servers. Servers are displayed according to both countries and cities, and each of them displays its ping from your location.
A highlight in this section is the dedicated IP server list which gives an IP address that is unique for you. However, it’s still a dynamic IP address.
Overall, the PrivateVPN Windows app is an excellent mix of simplicity and functionality. If you are new to VPNs, you can easily select a server and connect with the default settings. If you are a power user, you can tweak the settings to either maximize speeds, security, or functionality.
The PrivateVPN Android and iOS apps are almost identical, and they take a similar design and approach to the desktop apps for familiarity. The main connection page has a huge connection button that connects you to a selected server, which is usually displayed right below the button along with the connection status.
You can simply click the server button to change a server, and you'll get a list of All Servers, Dedicated IP Servers, and Favorites. And just like on the desktop apps, servers are listed according to cities, and they also display their ping from your location.
You can customize your connection by selecting VPN Settings under the hamburger menu. On iOS, you can choose a VPN protocol (between OpenVPN, IKEv2, and IPSec), select encryption level, activate stealth VPN, and choose a stealth port.
On Android, you can do all the above, plus enable/ disable IPv6 leak protection, allow connection on startup, and activate the kill switch. However, the protocols are limited to just OpenVPN UDP and TCP.
Overall, the PrivateVPN apps are some of the best you’ll come around. The apps are well designed and easy to use, and they beat most VPN mobile apps in the feature section.
We carried out several PrivateVPN speed tests during this review to give you an idea of how fast the VPN is.
We used a base connection with speeds of 50 Mbps during the tests and then connected to multiple nearby and distant servers during different times of the day.
To our surprise, the nearest server performed impressively, giving us speeds of around 45 Mbps. Other nearby servers averaged between 40 Mbps and 45 Mbps.
However, when connected to distant servers, we noticed that PrivateVPN speeds vary from server to server. This is due to the VPN’s small server size of 150 servers, and so the speeds you get ultimately depend on the server’s load. And disappointingly, the PrivateVPN apps do not show server loads (they only show the ping).
This means that you can get good or bad speeds depending on the server you choose. Some distant servers were impressive and gave us 35 Mbps, but others only managed about 24 Mbps. We didn’t notice any difference when connecting using either AES-128 or AES-256.
Overall, PrivateVPN offers impressive speeds. However, these speeds vary by server, and so you may have to use trial and error to get the best performance.
PrivateVPN provides live chat support, and there’s also a ticketing option on the website. The VPN states that the agents are available 24/7, but the live chat support is not. In our case, we were able to connect to an agent in less than a minute.
Apart from the representatives, the VPN provides a comprehensive support section that has a knowledge base, tutorial section, and FAQs. In case you encounter any issues that you can’t solve, the agents can also help you set up/ troubleshoot the VPN via zoom.
Is PrivateVPN safe?
Yes, PrivateVPN is a safe VPN option. It is both private and secure.
Is there a PrivateVPN free trial?
No, the PrivateVPN trial offer has been scrapped.
Can I set up a PrivateVPN OpenVPN connection?
Yes, PrivateVPN supports OpenVPN on multiple devices.
Which are the PrivateVPN Netflix servers?
PrivateVPN doesn’t label its Netflix servers. You can either use trial and error or contact their support team for assistance. However, most of the servers work with Netflix.
Can I get a PrivateVPN coupon?
You can get a PrivateVPN coupon on the VPN’s website, but they are usually applied automatically when you are selecting a plan.
PrivateVPN comes out as a great VPN service. The VPN is most suitable for streamers who would like to unblock Netflix and other streaming services. It also a great torrenting option as it supports P2P and torrents on all its servers, offers port forwarding, has leak protection, and features a robust kill switch.
PrivateVPN manages to balance simplicity and advanced functionalities by providing a simple and advanced view of the app, and so it’s suitable for both novice and power users. The biggest problem with the VPN is its small server network, as you may have to gamble with speeds. But if you look past that, you’ll be getting value for your money.