An enthusiast-built program, AirVPN has security that rivals that of any of the top providers on the market. Its interface, however, requires a lot of patience and support in nonexistent, making this a poor choice for people just getting to grips with VPNs. Read all the details in our AirVPN review.
AirVPN was started by “a very small group of activists, hacktivists and hackers” in 2010. It started with only two servers and has since grown to have more than 200. The virtual private network is still operated by activists and its dedication to privacy gives even the best VPN providers a run for their money.
In this AirVPN review, we’ll talk features, pricing, ease of use, supported devices, server locations, speed, security and customer service before giving our verdict. While we like the back end of the app a great deal, we have our reservations concerning the front.
AirVPN has a clear focus on privacy and security, so much so that other areas have been sacrificed. Ease of use is the Achilles’ heel for this provider and, while you can learn the interface, VPN newbies may be turned off by its dated appearance.
- Exclusively uses OpenVPN
- Support for SSH, SSL & Tor
- Port forwarding support
- Decent server array
- Prompt customer support
- Difficult to use
- Blocked by Netflix
- No long-term plans
AirVPN doesn’t have the usual suspects we look for in features. It lacks a killswitch, ad-blocker, and additional privacy controls. It’s focused on security and customization and, as such, the features center on those areas.
AirVPN exclusively uses the OpenVPN protocol on ports 80 TCP / UDP, 443 TCP / UDP and 53 TCP / UDP. Every server also supports OpenVPN over SSH, SSL and Tor, meaning even the most intense monitoring shouldn’t be too much for it to handle.
Port forwarding is supported, too. Essentially, port forwarding forwards traffic coming from the internet to the VPN server to a certain port in your client. It’s used to move incoming traffic around that would otherwise be blocked.
You can forward up to 20 ports at once with AirVPN on any port above 2048 over TCP, UDP or both. The settings for that are configurable in the client area on AirVPN’s website, which we’ll talk more about later.
AirVPN supports double hop connections, but that’s not directly configurable in the client. You can hop from up to five servers, using your five simultaneous connections, with a virtual machine. That is, in AirVPN’s words, a “sub-optimal solution,” though, as you’ll be sharing system resources and network bandwidth with all of your machines.
A much better solution would be to connect to AirVPN through Tor, which it supports.
AirVPN doesn’t have a killswitch, per se. It has network lock, though, which blocks all communication unless it goes through AirVPN. The difference is that a killswitch may only be active when you’re connected to a server, while network lock stays on constantly.
AirVPN and OpenVPN
OpenVPN is a highly configurable protocol and AirVPN’s dedication to it shows. All aspects of your connection can be set to your liking, including your port, DNS and network layers for IPv4 and IPv6.
It’s a testament to who AirVPN targets. Users unfamiliar with VPNs will feel lost in the technical details and find it a feature-poor service, but, for those who understand what’s going on, AirVPN is a highly configurable and feature-rich VPN.
AirVPN Streaming Performance
AirVPN was snuffed out by the Netflix VPN ban, making it a bad contender for our best VPN for Netflix list. BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video worked, though. We used a UK server to connect from the U.S., and all the exclusives showed and streamed without problems.
AirVPN Features Overview
Located in Italy, AirVPN bases its pricing on euros. If you’re a U.S.-based customer, that could mean varying rates depending on the day you pay. At time of writing, 1 euro is equal to $1.17 but, only a few years ago, it would have been nearly $1.40.
Even so, rates aren’t bad. AirVPN is paid for on a non-recurring basis, so you can get the protection you need for the time you need it.
|Plan||Three days||One month||Three months||Six months||One year||Two Years|
$ 1 16monthly
$ 8 14monthly
$ 17 453 months
$ 34 906 months
$ 62 82yearly
$ 106 062 years
|Bandwidth||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
The best prices are in the three to six-month range. Buying a year is cheaper per month, but other VPN providers have a larger discount on annual plans. CyberGhost, for example, charges around $3 more on a month-to-month basis, but almost $20 less on an annual one (read our CyberGhost review).
A way to mitigate this issue is to offer subscriptions for a longer term, which AirVPN, unfortunately, does not do.
AirVPN doesn’t offer a free plan, either, which doesn’t bother us too much. A glance at its website suggests that marketability isn’t this VPN’s M.O. and most free plans are mediocre at best, anyway. Read our Windscribe review for the exception to that rule.
AirVPN offers a free trial, but you’ll have to request it. The company doesn’t address why that is the case in its FAQ, either. The three-day plan substitutes for the trial, but it seems against AirVPN’s ethos to require your email and payment info to try the service.
Prices aren’t bad, overall, though. Trimming the fat of three-month and six-month options in favor of biennial and triennial plans would help lower the cost for long-term supporters and a simpler way to try the service would help bring in new customers. As it stands, AirVPN is okay, but it could use some work.
There’s an interesting divide between AirVPN’s checkout process and using the application. Both look dated, but signing up for a plan proves much more difficult than connecting a remote server.
Clicking on the “join & download” button on AirVPN’s website brings up all the possible places it can be used. If you’re using a router, for example, you’ll be brought to a step-by-step guide for configuring it to your router’s firmware. The desktop client is the same as any download: run the program and wait for it to finish.
That is what we did first, as it’s the most direct way the website points to, but, when we loaded the application, we couldn’t log in and had to go back to the website, register and purchase a plan. AirVPN is clear on the downloads page that you have to create an account and purchase a plan, but the link from the homepage still takes you to the downloads.
Maybe that’s a byproduct of AirVPN’s dated website design. Creating an account, purchasing a plan and downloading the client are all on separate webpages, which makes the sign-up process lengthy and confusing. We would say common sense should prevail, but for some users on the internet, common sense isn’t common and AirVPN doesn’t cut them any slack.
The client is good, despite the dated look. We may have more confidence in it than AirVPN, which said its technicality is its “only major drawback.”
Using the AirVPN Client
Once you land in the client, you’re prompted to log in, after which you’ll see two buttons on the bottom: one to connect to a recommended server and one to activate network lock. The recommended server works well, though we found a faster option in our speed tests.
Even so, AirVPN works fine for users who want to download the client, connect to a server and call it a day.
Digging deeper isn’t done gracefully, though. The server list is just that, a list. You can organize by name, location, score and load, but it’s a difficult way to get through the network. AirVPN has a separate “countries” tab, which cuts down on the size, but you can’t connect to a server from there.
If you want to organize by country, you’ll need to whitelist or blacklist countries. Blacklisting will remove the country from the server page and whitelisting will show only that country. For example, if you only want to see servers in Canada, Netherlands and Sweden, you can whitelist those countries and only the available servers there will show up in the servers tab.
It’s a decent way to cut down on the list of servers, but, without explanation, it may be an organizational feature that some users never understand.
Below the server selection, there are tabs for speed, stats and logs. If you’re troubleshooting or just trying to see how the VPN is performing, they are nice links to have. Otherwise, they’re largely unnecessary.
AirVPN gets technical in the settings menu, which is accessed by clicking the icon at the bottom left of the UI. Here, you can configure DNS, set up Tor, set up network lock and much more. As long as you know what you’re doing, it’s an excellent area. For everyone else, it’s best to stay away.
Some features are accessed through the client area of AirVPN’s website. It’s mostly an area for you to view your usage, pay invoices and contact support, but you can also set up port forwarding, generate configurations for installation on platforms that don’t support the AirVPN client and manage your device keys.
There are two areas we’d like to see improved. The checkout process should be streamlined so that it starts at registration and ends at downloading, not the other way around, and the UI could use a facelift so navigation of the available servers is easier to get through.
Other than that, AirVPN provides a decent, if dated, experience that’s better suited for technical users, but newbies shouldn’t get too lost in.
AirVPN has a nice spread of supported devices. Desktop clients are available for Windows, macOS, Linux and Chrome OS. Mobile connectivity is available for Android and iOS. There isn’t a dedicated mobile app, though. You can only connect using the OpenVPN app, which you can get through the App and Google Play stores.
Given AirVPN’s dated interface, the trade-off isn’t that bad.
Router versions can be configured for DD-WRT, Tomato, AsusWRT and pfSense. AirVPN has guides for doing so with step-by-step instruction and plenty of screenshots, too. You can also use AirVPN with Tor or through an SSH or SSL tunnel.
AirVPN supports five simultaneous connections, no matter the period of time you purchase. That’s the same as IPVanish and Private Internet Access (read our IPVanish review and Private Internet Access review), which is pretty good.
AirVPN has 223 server locations in 20 countries. There are also 12 double hop servers in 10 countries that you can’t connect to directly. The list isn’t bad, but it isn’t impressive, either, especially compared to NordVPN, which sports 3,357 servers in 60 countries (read our NordVPN review).
AirVPN claims the smaller spread is because of its strict server placement requirements. It says simply adding servers would be “…in disrespect of service quality and customers’ security.” We agree, for the most part, but there are many VPN services that provide more servers and do so with consistent quality and security.
Even so, the placement of servers is good, though most are in the Netherlands, U.S., Canada and U.K., so you may need to look elsewhere for if you want more diversity.
Speeds are inconsistent, though not bad. AirVPN won’t be making our fastest VPN list, but you shouldn’t see too much of a decline in speeds if you’re not traveling across the globe.
|Location:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|Unprotected (St. Louis, MO)||10||102.32||11.12|
|Manchester, United Kingdom||194||15.70||6.72|
|Los Angeles, United States||110||97.25||6.91|
As expected, greater distances bring longer latency, making AirVPN a poor choice for the best VPN for gaming. Even the best performer in terms of latency, Toronto, was over five times as long as our unprotected score.
Download speeds were strange. The second-best performer was in Hong Kong, which is on the other side of the world from our test machine. U.K. rates were pitiful, making it a bad option for BBC iPlayer, but U.S. speeds were good. We’d recommend it as a speedy Netflix VPN, but we couldn’t get by the dreaded Netflix proxy error.
The speeds are erratic, overall. GooseVPN, for example, has a gradient drop-off depending on the location of the remote server (read our GooseVPN review). There’s no rhyme or reason to AirVPN’s speeds. Your performance is largely dependent on what server you choose for the area you’re trying to access.
Given the poor organization of locations, hunting down the fastest server for you will be a chore. AirVPN doesn’t suffer the speed decline of Shellfire (read our Shellfire VPN review), but we were hoping for better.
AirVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol exclusively with AES-256 encryption backed by a 4096-bit RSA key. Our guide to VPN security explains these terms in-depth but, for now, all you need to know is that AirVPN provides best-in-class security.
The exclusivity to OpenVPN shows where AirVPN’s head is. It’s found PPTP, L2TP and even IKEv2 less secure than OpenVPN and that’s something we can get behind.
Even with the lack of protocols, OpenVPN should get you past most firewalls. AirVPN has multiple entry ports, native OpenVPN UDP/TCP and tunneling over SSL or SSH. The connection methods and 4096-bit RSA encryption earned it a spot as one of the best VPN services for China.
Tunneling over SSL is effective, as it looks like standard HTTPS traffic. Blocking it would mean blocking any encrypted connection online and, as SSL certificates become more commonplace, that would basically shut down the internet.
Privacy and the Italian Eye
Privacy is where things get interesting. Let’s start with the bad news. AirVPN is located in Italy, which is part of the 14 Eyes, a group of 14 countries that share information and spy on each other.
Despite that, AirVPN adheres to a strict no-logs policy and is transparent about it. You can pay through Bitcoin and AirVPN only keeps your username on record. Even with an intermediate payment method, such as PayPal, AirVPN doesn’t store any of the information transferred.
Plus, AirVPN doesn’t have servers in Italy, making it difficult for a government body to snoop on VPN traffic.
Information related to AirVPN’s services, such as networking, bandwidth, etc., is stored in the server’s RAM only, not in mass storage. No identifying data is stored unless you want it to be.
That’s great news, considering the Italian government could demand that AirVPN hand over everything. As it stands, there wouldn’t be anything to hand over, but if there’s any logging in the future, it’s a major privacy concern. Given how transparent AirVPN is about your privacy, though, we doubt that will be the case.
The ability to connect through the Tor browser is also reassuring. Even if a government agency came knocking and AirVPN somehow kept logs, the only thing on record would be the IP address of the exit node for your Tor session.
The no-logs policy and best-in-class protection are strong points for AirVPN, but it’s lacking features such as a killswitch, which is a tool that cuts your internet connection if you disconnect from the VPN. Adding one would make AirVPN comparable to ExpressVPN for security (read our ExpressVPN review).
We tested WebRTC, IP and DNS leaks using ipleak.org. We made sure to run it on ipleak.org and not ipleak.net as the latter is managed by Air. Still, AirVPN passed all tests and IPLeak couldn’t see that we were using a VPN. Everything was how it should be.
The community is the strongest point of AirVPN’s service. The rest of the support is lackluster at best, though.
AirVPN offers email support through a contact form. We reached out twice, once for a trial request and once asking about the number of server locations. AirVPN got back about a trial in just over 24 hours and about server locations in under an hour.
The reply email was straightforward, telling us the number of servers and countries. AirVPN seemed defensive about the number of servers, though, saying “We wish to underline that we do not perform IP addresses geo-location tricks and addresses overload,” and challenging us to “verify this claim via route tracing.”
The FAQ is good, but difficult to get around. There are 37 topics, most of which are focused on sales and the client software. The FAQ is lumped in with the rest of the forum, though, making it confusing to navigate. Guides use a similar format but, unfortunately, AirVPN mixes its official guides in with community ones.
The forums are good. The community posts new topics and replies every day, with prominent areas such as suggestions and troubleshooting racking up over 15,000 topics. That is where you’ll find the bulk of support, so as long as you play nice with others, you should be fine.
As with the rest of AirVPN’s service, there isn’t much hand-holding when it comes to support. Compared to more commercial VPNs, it’s a failure. Against other community-pushed VPNs, though, it’s not bad.
Still, there’s much to like about AirVPN. The dedicated community backs up a highly customizable platform. If you’re into tinkering, AirVPN is for you.
Even with the dated interface, we don’t hate the average user experience, either. You can automatically connect to a server, which is good. We just wish that would be carried over into the sign-up process.
You can try AirVPN yourself by requesting a trial or purchasing a three-day pass. If you want to shop around more, read our other VPN reviews. What do you think of AirVPN? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.