ProtonVPN review: A superb free option

ProtonVPN is the secure VPN for those that want next level safety and unlimited data on a free plan.

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)
T3 Verdict

ProtonVPN is a powerful VPN with great security that offers an unlimited data free plan, with Netflix unblocking on the paid tier.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Unlimited data free plan

  • +

    Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video

  • +

    Advanced features

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Could be faster

  • -

    No 24/7 support

ProtonVPN is a great choice for anyone that wants a free option which doesn't scrimp on data. This manages to do that while also offering plenty of security – a rare and powerful combination that makes this stand out from all the best VPN options out there right now.

One minute ProtonVPN review

ProtonVPN is the go-to choice for free use with lots of data capacity, in fact it has unlimited data. On top of that this will also let you unblock streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus for viewing anywhere – but this is only for the paid plan version. 

The mobile apps are well made and of a high quality while the auditing helps to keep that standard maintained. You also get a great level of security and privacy with this VPN service. It's even P2P friendly for torrents and, in the case of paid plan versions, also supports up to 10 devices at once. 

So why ever pay for a VPN? Well this doesn't offer some of the more up-to-speed protocols like WireGuard. That means that it does struggle to compete in terms of speed performance. You may also find this won't work on as many devices as some of the competition.

The stats:

  • Servers: 1,200+
  • Locations: 55 countries
  • Devices: 10 simultaneous connections
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, and Chromebook
  • Protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2
  • Top features: Free, unlimited data, great unblocking

ProtonVPN review: How much does ProtonVPN cost? Is there a free trial?

ProtonVPN is totally free to download and use with unlimited data. You can unblock some streaming services and enjoy tight security but for the full service you'll need to pay out.

The Basic paid plan gets you two devices supported at once but won't unblock Netflix or give you access to the fastest premium servers.

Go for the ProtonVPN Plus tier and you get those faster servers, unblocking of all streaming services, and access to 10 devices used at the same time.

From the competition, at the lower end you've got Surfshark at $2.49/AU$3.19 a month for its two-year plan and CyberGhost for $2.25/AU$3.11 a month when you commit to three years. 

The free trial isn't limited on data but expect to notice a difference in speed. And, of course if you want more than one device connected at the same time you could just start another free account to get around that issue. But there's no getting around Netflix unblocking unless you pay for the top tier.

This is a good option as one of the best cheap VPN choices and in the case of the paid tier, and could even be one of the best free VPN choices for you.

Does ProtonVPN work on Netflix? What other streaming services can it unblock?

This isn't the best streaming VPN. But that only applies to the free and Basic plans. As mentioned these don't get you Netflix unblocking, but that isn't to say it's entirely out of reach.

Shell out for the top end plan and you will not only be able to unblock Netflix but also the likes of Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and more. It really does do a good job of geo restriction evasion. That said, with very little protocol choice outside of OpenVPN (you can setup manual IKEv2), you may be stuck if you do run into an issue here.

The access to premium servers, on the top tier plan, does mean you can get greater speeds and more locations to appear from. But you're still limited by the protocols, or lack thereof, meaning you won't ever be able to expect the top end speeds of some services out there right now. So if it's 4K and HDR Netflix you want then, depending on your location and servers used, you may find yourself wanting.

ProtonVPN review: What features can you expect and how do they boost security?

ProtonVPN comes from the company behind the famously secure ProtonMail. As such it runs all of its own end-to-end encrypted servers. Most servers are in Europe and North America with others in the likes of Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea and beyond. All that means lots of access no matter where you find yourself, physically or digitally, worldwide.

ProtonVPN interface

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

ProtonVPN features a secure kill switch which is further backed by DNS leak protection, all keeping you super safe. That security extends to P2P torrenting too and there is even built-in Tor support for accessing Onion websites securely. 

Split tunnelling is another addition which lets you route varying websites through different server locations. The native apps for Windows, Android, Mac and iOS all work well with lots of features which are audited and continually being updated.

NetShield is a more recent addition which is a DNS-based web filter which will help to protect you and your device from malware. It'll even stop ad tracking to help keep you anonymous online.

ProtonVPN review of speed and overall performance

To test the speed and performance of ProtonVPN we used both US and UK locations on a 1Gbps connection in the UK and 600Mbps in the US. Testing was done by measuring the download speeds using SpeedTest, Netflix's, and more. Each one is done with at least five times at morning and evening times.

Based in UK

OpenVPN: 300-310Mbps

At an average of 300Mbps the results aren't bad. They're not stand out fast but they were consistently decent and considering that's with OpenVPN it's impressive. 

This was on a 1Gbps line though so we could have expected a lot faster from other VPN services. If you actually need all that extra speed is another matter. Surfshark, which is very affordable, was able to hit 600Mbps, so if speed is what you're after that's a good alternative without breaking the bank.

Based in US

OpenVPN: 280-290Mbps

While the US speeds appear to be similar to the UK, which is impressive alone considering it was on a slower 600Mbps, this goes further. 

The tests were never below 200Mbps right across 60 separate tests. Yes, this isn't the fastest and we never saw a peak over 400Mbps, but it is consistent. And at 200Mbps that may be enough for many people using the service. For those that want more, ExpressVPN hit 630Mbps in our US speed tests.

Client set-up and available support from ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN interface on iOS

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

The client selection is decent and setup for each one is simple, as you'd expect to install any app on a mobile or software on a computer. Sign up, download and you can pay by card or by using Bitcoin, PayPal and even cash if you're going for the paid tiers.

Once in your account dashboard, which is a web-based portal, you can setup the OpenVPN or get links to download various other clients. Installation takes under a minute to download and get running, it couldn't be easier. 

The desktop clients use large maps as the VPN menu screen, if you want. This is easily resized to suit and is super clear with zooming in and out as well as scanning about done easily. Or go for a server menu style display with a list that lets you pick based on location. This is handy for P2P as it shows which will support that and those that won't. 

There's also a useful indicator load for each server, shown in color with green being low and red being high. It all makes browsing for the ideal server a very easy and quick process. That said, you can just quick auto connect at a click if you prefer.

ProtonVPN devices

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

ProtonVPN doesn't have live chat support which makes it far less helpful than a lot of the competition which offers this 24/7 so you can get a response near instantly. If you want to ask a professional which is the best server for your needs, in the moment, you won't be able to like on some services. 

You can send an email for any issues but even that isn't great as you'll have to wait a day or two to get a response. That said, we did a test and got a response in four hours, so perhaps those day response time claims are set just to lower expectations. 

The reply to our test question was clear and helpful, so if you're not in a rush support is there for you.

ProtonVPN review: Our final verdict

ProtonVPN is a super option for anyone that wants a free VPN which won't limit you on data. The paid for options do offer more services, like Netflix unblocking, and faster premium server access. If you don't need those, and don't mind opening up a new account for each device you use, then the free version may serve you well enough for all your gadgets. This is definitely worth a commitment-free try before you potentially buy.

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Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.