Astrill would be a decent service, if it weren't for some highly dubious practices surrounding your privacy, including device fingerprinting and storing your phone number. As it stands, however, all we can do is recommend you stay away from this dodgy service. Read our full Astrill review for the details.
We’ve always seen Astrill VPN as a mixed bag, and it has always been one of the pricier VPN providers out there. However, since our last Astrill VPN review, this problem has ballooned out of control. Astrill VPN is currently the most expensive VPN we’ve looked at, and it offers no refund policy, to boot.
To make matters worse, we made some unexpected discoveries while working on this Astrill review regarding Astrill’s practices of storing device fingerprints and now collecting phone numbers during account creation.
Astrill VPN does offer a ton of features, but from a privacy standpoint, Astrill collects so much information that it should immediately be ruled as unusable. We recommend that you avoid this VPN service and check out our VPN reviews, instead, or have a look at ExpressVPN, which is our top pick.
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Strengths & Weaknesses
- Split tunneling by app or site
- Good protocol & encryption
- Works on Netflix & Hulu
- Logs device fingerprints
- Collects phone numbers
- No refunds
Despite the small size and minimalist layout of the client, Astrill manages to pack in an abundance of features and customization. Due to the small size of the client, though, the settings menu is divided into 10 different pages, with each one having only a few options.
The first page gives some interface customization options while the second page gives some protocol options.
The third page is the application filter, which allows you to set up a list of applications that have to use the VPN’s tunneled connection. Alternatively, you can do the opposite and create a list of programs that are exempt from using the VPN connection. You can read about another VPN with this feature in our ExpressVPN review.
The next page in the settings is the site filter, which, as the name implies, does the same job as the application filter but uses a list of websites rather than applications. You have to know the IP address of the sites you want to either exclude from or force to use the VPN, but these aren’t too hard to find.
Astrill Port Forwarding
Astrill VPN also supports port forwarding, which gives you more control over incoming connections while using the VPN. The sixth settings tab is where you can set up Astrill’s VPN sharing, which lets you share your PC’s VPN tunnel with devices like Apple TVs and PlayStations over your WiFi for improved security and privacy.
There are pages in the settings for DNS options and proxy settings for those who want to improve their security even further beyond what a VPN can offer. There’s also an app guard that blocks applications when the VPN is off.
Finally, the last settings page in Astrill VPN’s desktop client is the privacy page. This is where the kill switch is located, as well as various miscellaneous privacy-related options like cache clearing and “fix DNS leak.”
Astrill VPN has no shortage of features and options. It has almost everything we look for, including a number of protocols, split tunneling on a per-app or per-website basis, an app guard and VPN sharing. The one glaring omission is that there is no way to make the VPN connect automatically.
This means that no matter what you do, there will always be a window of vulnerability when you first start your computer before you can open up the Astrill software and tell it to connect.
Astrill Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, AliPay, UnionPay, Webmoney, Monero|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available|
|Worldwide server amount||111 locations in 60 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Apple TV, Boxee|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|Encryption types||128-AES, 256-AES, Blowfish-128|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, OpenWeb, StealthVPN, WireGuard|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Astrill is one of, if not the, most expensive VPN we’ve looked at, to the point that it can outright be called overpriced. The monthly plan is a whopping $20 a month. Even with the variety of features built into Astrill’s VPN service, this is still a ridiculous price tag (OverPlay isn’t far behind, though, as you can see in our OverPlay review).
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
If you look at our ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost article, you can see two VPNs that also offer split tunneling and a variety of other features. Both of those VPN providers charge around two-thirds of what Astrill does at the monthly level.
Astrill also offers six-month and one-year plans that come out to $15 and $10 per month, respectively. Again, these prices are much higher than almost any other VPN service. For example, if you look at our Private Internet Access review, you’ll see that paying for PIA’s monthly plan is a better deal than Astrill’s annual plan on a per-month basis.
Not only is Astrill exorbitantly expensive, but your money gets you an account that only allows for a maximum of five simultaneous connections. In comparison, if you look at our Windscribe review, you can see that Windscribe accounts allow for an unlimited number of connections at the same time for much less money.
Astrill Refund Policy
To make matters worse, while most VPN services have adopted a practically industry-standard 30-day refund policy, Astrill VPN has decided that it will offer no refund policy. The actual refund policy states that “all sales on our website are final and refunds are not possible once purchase is made.”
To really rub salt into the wound, Astrill puts some of the features of its VPN behind a paywall that requires additional add-on purchases on top of the already high price tag.
For an additional $10 a month, you can get the “VIP” add-on, which lets you use features like the multi-hop VPN. If you read our NordVPN review, we talk about how NordVPN offers this feature without an add-on and that the service costs less than Astrill’s add-on alone.
If you can look past the insane price tag and complete lack of a refund policy, Astrill does have one positive thing worth mentioning when it comes to pricing. There is a seven-day free trial that you can get by setting up an account with your email address and giving Astrill your phone number for confirmation.
Yes, when you make an account for Astrill VPN, you have to confirm your phone number. We’ll talk more about this very strange aspect of Astrill in the “privacy” section of this article, but it’s worth mentioning now that it is a required step in getting a free trial. Check out our ProtonVPN review for a free VPN that doesn’t collect your phone number.
Ease of Use
Astrill has one of the most compact desktop clients we’ve seen to date. About half of the interface is taken up with a massive on/off button that lets you connect and disconnect from the VPN. Just below that is a dropdown menu where you can pick what server you’re connecting to, as well as a graph of your internet traffic that takes up the bottom half of the window.
The ridiculously small size of the client actually makes the server dropdown pretty hard to browse because only a few options out of the massive list are shown at a time.
There is an option in the settings to use the “big server menu,” but this server menu doesn’t work with the mouse scroll wheel, making it practically unusable. You have to click the arrow at the bottom of the dropdown to scroll through the servers one by one.
Another strange default setting is that the client will always appear on the top layer of your desktop no matter what. Again, there is a setting to turn this off, but having it constantly in front of browser windows and everything else on your computer as a default seems like a strange choice.
Aside from the issues caused by the cramped size of the client, things run pretty smoothly. The settings menus are easy enough to navigate, and hovering the mouse over options in the settings will reveal a small box with some text explaining what each option does. It’s a good solution to the problem of otherwise not having space to include the explanations.
On its website, Astrill mentions that its servers have either 1Gbit or 10Gbit connections. This is an interesting thing to voluntarily mention since, as you can see from our unprotected speed test, normal residential internet can easily take up a third of 1Gbit bandwidth using a single connection.
With that in mind, we began our testing on the most nearby server in the U.S. We got solid download speeds but somewhat paltry upload speeds.
Interestingly enough, the U.S. server was actually one of the most noticeably sluggish during our actual use, with websites taking an extra second or two to start loading in. Whether this had something to do with the low upload speed is uncertain, though.
The UK server had better upload speeds but slightly worse download speeds and ping time. However, it actually felt more responsive when in use than the U.S. server did. The Hong Kong server performed similarly, as well, despite the very mediocre results on paper.
The Switzerland server also felt decent, but the Argentina server performed very poorly. Argentina had by far the lowest download and upload speeds, and it was noticeable during use. Sites took a decent while to load, and YouTube videos would load for about 10 seconds before playing at no higher than 720p.
Astrill used to be a top-tier VPN when it came to speed, as you can see from our past fastest VPN rankings. In fact, to this day its website and marketing put a heavy emphasis on the speed of Astrill’s network. However, that no longer seems to be the case. Astrill’s speeds now fall into a category that is probably best described as serviceable but not ideal.
When it comes to security, Astrill VPN gives users a lot of good options. However, we feel the default configuration isn’t actually the best of what Astrill has to offer.
With that said, there are a few settings we would recommend people change right away if they’re using Astrill VPN. First, in the top right, there is a dropdown menu of VPN protocols. Astrill offers OpenWeb, StealthVPN, WireGuard and OpenVPN as options.
You can read more about protocols in our VPN protocol breakdown, but Astrill VPN is set to OpenWeb by default. We suggest changing this to OpenVPN. After doing this, we suggest going to the OpenVPN options page in the settings and changing the encryption to AES-256. You can learn more about encryption in our description of encryption article.
This pairing of OpenVPN with AES-256 is considered the gold standard for VPN security. We also suggest going into the “privacy” settings and turning the internet kill switch on, as this will help prevent your data from leaking if the VPN disconnects or encounters a problem.
With this setup, we tested numerous servers for any kind of IP or DNS leaks and weren’t able to find anything. Overall, the security offered by Astrill VPN is ample for most applications, but it lacks auto-connect options, which loses it some points.
Astrill VPN makes a number of claims on its site, including that there are “no logs kept” and that it offers a service that leaves you with “no digital footprint.” This is in stark contrast to the fact that you’re asked to provide your phone number for verification when you sign up for the free trial or create an account with the intention of paying by credit card.
We signed up for a trial account using an email and phone number we had never used before with an Astrill account. We got our account set up, and upon downloading the client and signing into the new account, we were met with a notification that we needed to upgrade our account because we had already used a trial in the past.
We contacted Astrill to ask how we were identified as having already used a trial when we were using a different email and phone number. We were told that a form of device fingerprint was used and stored to prevent people from using the trial repeatedly.
In short, a device fingerprint is created by looking at a huge number of variables related to the software and hardware that makes up your computer. The odds of someone else having your exact same monitor, keyboard, computer hardware, version of operating system, etc., is practically zero.
So a company can log this information at the time that you use the trial, and if that exact combination shows up again, it will be recognized and your trial will be stopped.
The idea that Astrill has a “no logging” policy as it claims is a bit of a joke, as you have to cough up a phone number and it stores a device fingerprint, making this a very questionable VPN when it comes to anonymity and privacy.
We asked Astrill for a comment on our findings, but we were met with little explanation except the digital equivalent of a shrug. It ignored our further inquiries, which is never a mark of a trustworthy service.
Astrill was a mixed bag when it came to streaming performance. We were able to get Netflix and Hulu both working without a problem. Not only that, but both sites were very responsive and loaded quickly.
Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, did not let us stream anything while connected to Astrill VPN. Trying to stream from sites across the pond didn’t work either, with BBC iPlayer telling us we weren’t allowed to watch its content.
Although the performance was good on the sites we were able to access, Astrill was not able to get us into every streaming site we tried. For those who are interested in a more reliable VPN for getting around geoblocking, check out our best VPN for BBC iPlayer article.
The most recent information we were able to find puts Astrill’s network at 365 servers, which is up from the 328 servers it had in our previous Astrill review. These servers are pretty well distributed, with servers located in 114 cities across 64 countries.
However, 365 servers is not a huge number by any means and is absolutely dwarfed by larger server networks, such as the one that HideMyAss runs. If you head over to our HideMyAss review, you can read about a truly massive network with 290 locations in 190 countries.
In Astrill’s server list, there are a few kinds of servers. There are the basic plain servers that offer no special features or benefits. Then, about half of the servers in the catalog have a small star next to them. These servers are optimized for P2P and allow port forwarding.
Finally, there are servers that are labeled as “supercharged,” which are available only in China. These servers supposedly offer lower latency, better overall performance and greater security to users in China. Of course, with your phone number and digital fingerprint stored by Astrill, using it to tunnel under the Great Firewall is just asking for a ride in a van with a bag over your head.
Astrill has adopted the relatively standard practice of having a speech bubble at the website’s bottom right that you can click to connect to the 24/7 live chat. There were times when live chat support took around 10 minutes to get to us, but it was generally closer to two or three minutes.
There is also the option to send an email or support ticket, which takes much longer to hear back, in our experience. At the time of writing, we actually have emails that we sent to support that have simply gone unanswered.
As for self-help options, there is a wiki, FAQ and video tutorials. The wiki and video tutorials both focus heavily on the installation and setup process, while the FAQ is more geared toward people who are interested in getting the VPN but who might have questions.
The live chat is a great resource that offers quick and helpful answers, and it is definitely the best option when it comes to getting support from Astrill. The email support system and the FAQ could both use a bit of work.
In a way, we almost have to admit this is a bit of a shame. Astrill has the makings of a very solid VPN with tons of features that rival some of the best providers out there. However, the price is absolutely ridiculous, regardless of the features offered.
The real deal breaker, though, is the sheer amount of information that Astrill collects when you sign up. Collecting phone numbers is not a common practice and neither is logging a device fingerprint. This kind of behavior is unacceptable and violates the privacy of the user, defeating the entire purpose of why many people choose to use a VPN in the first place.
If you’ve used Astrill VPN, we’d love to hear in the comments section how your experiences compare to ours. As always, thanks for reading.
- Astrill VPN uses a strong encryption and protocol, and it is free from any kind of DNS or IP leaks. However, it collects your phone number and logs a device fingerprint when you set up an account, which arguably compromises your privacy right from the start.
- Astrill VPN will generally work in China and even offers special “supercharged” servers that will give users in China lower latency and better overall performance.
- A mirror of Astrill’s website can be accessed from China using the link https://www.astrill4u.com. From here, you can download Astrill’s client and set up an account.
- Although it isn’t entirely free, Astrill offers potential customers a seven-day free trial in order to test the service out. That said, you have to verify your account with your phone number before you can use it, which will turn many people away from even trying it for free.