BolehVPN is a Malaysia-based service that does certain things well, but suffers from mediocre security and a limited server network as well as some interface issues. On the upside, it does get into Netflix most of the time. Read our review for the details.
BolehVPN is a Malaysia-based virtual private network, the name means something like “can do” in Malay. It does a pretty good job of getting past geoblocked sites like Netflix, and offers different configurations for different kinds of user, but it should be said that it requires some ability or willingness to follow technical instructions if you want to get the most out of it.
BolehVPN may not be quite as user friendly as some of the best VPN providers out there, which you can read about in our ExpressVPN review or our NordVPN review, but if you’re up for a little bit of technical involvement it’s a highly flexible VPN service with good security features that can be adapted to many kinds of online activity.
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- No-logging policy
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- Good speeds
- Gets into Netflix & BBC iPlayer
- Good customer support
- No logs policy
- No bandwidth limits
- Split tunneling
- Clunky user interface
- Requires configuration by user
- Poor geographical spread
- No mobile app
The first thing you notice about BolehVPN is that its interface doesn’t meet the industry norm for VPN clients. It’s big and contains a lot of detail in which it can be hard to find the piece of information you’re looking for at first. However, if you use it frequently you will soon learn where things like your connection status are in its jumble of details.
The interface connects you to the range of server locations, encryption protocols, and connection types. These are mostly bundled together rather than being things you can easily select and combine as you can with ExpressVPN. So, for example, you can choose a server that puts L2PT with a proxy server and a location, but you can’t change this bundle.
This is because the unique selling point of BolehVPN is that it offers different bundles for different types of user. If you want to stream geoblocked content on Netflix you’re probably less concerned about security and so it doesn’t slow you down with heavy encryption. If VPN security is your priority it will encrypt you but you may have slower speeds on that server.
It also offers options for people who are doing a lot of torrenting and has special cloak servers for getting past national firewalls like China’s. Although this makes it a bit more technical than most other of the top players, the different options are useful if you use BolehVPN for a variety of purposes.
The interface shows you a log of your recent activity, and has an easy-to-use copying feature so you can send it to the tech support staff. It includes highly technical information about data packets but also tells the ordinary user about how many megabytes have been sent and received, which can be useful if you’re paying for limited amounts of data.
In an adjacent tab it offers two different proxy settings: SOCKS and HTTP, which allow you to bypass firewalls on your network that block certain sites. The differences between them are complicated but the main one is that SOCKS is more secure, but HTTP is usually faster.
You can do a ping test from the desktop client. This measures the reaction time of the server when you send out a request from your computer. Again, it’s a technical feature and helps to put this VPN in the same category as services like StrongVPN, that recommend themselves to engineers more than to movie buffs, though presumably some people count as both.
Although not the most user friendly app, it does have some good features like split tunneling, which allows you to select the particular apps on your computer that use the VPN and which ones don’t. This can make your internet connection faster while you’re using the app, something that’s important to gamers (though BolehVPN is not one of our best VPN for gaming, truth be told).
It also has a killswitch, a feature that will cut off your internet if your VPN connection fails, but it’s called “lockdown” in BolehVPN, a proprietary feature that’s not as self-explanatory as we might like. The support staff told us it only operates when there’s an “abnormal disconnection,” whatever that means.
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6-months plan $ 7.50 / month
$44.99 billed every 6 month
1-year plan $ 6.67 / month
$79.99 billed every year
BolehVPN is on balance quite competitively priced. It’s cheaper month by month than a competitor with a similarly clunky interface like Shellfire (see our Shellfire review) and slightly more expensive than a more attractive but notoriously leaky service as described in our ZenMate review.
Also, if you don’t mind signing up for longer, both NordVPN and CyberGhost offer three-year deals at $99, or only 20 bucks more than a year with BolehVPN. Both are better services in our opinion, read our CyberGhost review for more details.
It’s also more expensive than a service like StrongVPN that’s also highly configurable by technically adept users, and it has a similar level of security, but it seems like a less finished product with a much smaller knowledgebase. See our StrongVPN review if you want to make a point by point comparison.
It has more pricing options than most. Its free trial is for one day but you can have a seven-day money back guarantee for a low price, which you’ll probably need to really get the hang of its various quirks and complexities. However, when asked for the refund we were told that “all issues should be reported to us within the first three days” and only refunded us after an argument.
You can pay for it by credit card or by bitcoin as well as other cryptocurrencies such as Dash, Monero, Zcash and Zcoin.
Downloading BolehVPN is simple. It opens an install screen on your computer and you drag and drop the icon into the applications folder. If you download it before signing up, however, you have to manually update your client using a button on the interface before you will be able to connect to any of its servers.
The BolehVPN client is not pretty, and the mass of detail it contains makes it a little hard to use at first because you can’t take it all in at a glance. However, having everything in one place has its advantages once you get used to the interface and know, for example, where to find the tiny letters telling you that you’re connected, or how to get to the FAQs.
In other VPN clients that have several different levels like VyprVPN (read our VyprVPN review), or that have different clients that you can move around the desktop independently like in TigerVPN (TigerVPN review), it’s sometimes harder to remember where everything is. No client is perfect and in the absence of glaring shortcomings it’s really a matter of your own personal preferences.
In addition to the busy interface there are different levels on this app too, accessed by means of tabs arranged horizontally, such as “settings,” “proxy settings” and “service status.” In “settings” you can set the interface to disappear as soon as you connect as well as to connect as soon as you boot your computer up. You can also turn the sounds on or off.
If you want to enable the split tunneling feature you’ll have to download the instructions and register which apps on your computer go through a BolehVPN proxy server and which don’t. You’ll also have to get used to choosing servers not based on location but on what you’re trying to do with the VPN.
BolehVPN claims it supports Windows, MacOS, Android, Linux and OpenVPN supported routers. It doesn’t however have apps for iOS and Android yet, and says in its FAQs that it is concentrating on the PC market before it devotes its energy to mobile matters. Currently, it only supports up to three simultaneous connections.
This kind of mixed message is something we’ve found in more than one VPN service, showing that many of these products are works in progress whose advertising claims need to be scrutinized.
This VPN service is unusual in that as well as having servers in the U.S. and Europe catering to the Netflix demographic, it offers a selection of offshore locations in the Asia Pacific region that it tells us are outside the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance (see the “security” section below for more about this).
In any case, its spread of only 12 server locations is among the worst we’ve come across. It has a lot of servers in its list but they’re concentrated in only a few countries and it has no servers in Australia, New Zealand, Africa or South America.
This poor geographical spread is disguised by the long list of server choices in the menu on its interface. Choosing among these servers is not always easy because although the order is alphabetical, the servers are not listed by country but by random words that could include “IPv4” or “UK” or “proxy”.
This means that you can have UK servers with different protocols or connection types at different places in the list, which makes them quite hard to find, and there are no options for organizing them by country or region such as one finds in many other VPN services.
BolehVPN’s speeds were good compared to the unprotected speed of our connection in Russia on the day we tested it. The connections on most of its servers were stable and we experienced little disruption, though we’re loath to put it on our list of the best VPN for streaming. Or, for that matter, among our fastest VPN providers.
BolehVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption, which it has become common in the VPN industry to describe as “military grade.” It offers two main encryption protocols, OpenVPN and L2PT. OpenVPN is the default, but you can configure it to activate an L2PT option on the main interface.
You can also choose different protocols as part of one of the bundles in its server list based on whether you’re streaming geoblocked content, playing games or trying to get past a firewall in order to surf Facebook from China or LinkedIn from Russia.
When it comes to covering your tracks on the internet, BolehVPN operates a no logs policy, but it does occasionally turn on the logs if it’s troubleshooting a problem. It emphasizes, however, that its servers are completely independent of its central database and that the different servers don’t talk to each other, so these logs shouldn’t get linked to your customer information.
These security features are presented in the context of the FVEY intelligence sharing agreement. This coalition of five countries dates back to the second world war but it has gained new relevance in the era of the war on terror.
That a Malaysian VPN service promotes itself with reference to this anti-terrorism alliance might be seen by some as an interesting commentary on its target demographic, especially since it’s not something that its Europe and America-based competitors do, even the most security conscious of them.
BolehVPN partly disguises its location for the international market with a friendly American voice narrating its videos but in the comments local users have noted her mispronunciation of the Malay word “boleh”. The company responded that the “Angmoh” it hired for the video couldn’t pronounce the word. Angmoh means “red hair” and is local slang for a white westerner.
The American voice helps conceal the fact that this VPN seems aimed at people in the region who might want to break the law for political reasons. Interestingly, it also has a “warrant canary,”a statement on its website that it removes if it’s been made subject to a government gagging order preventing it from telling somebody they’re under surveillance.
BolehVPN failed one DNS leak test, meaning that our Russian IP address was visible to third parties while connecting through its Singapore servers using the IPv4 encryption protocol:
However, when we used one of its special extra cloaking options it passed the test:
Its ability to get into Netflix seems unrelated to what kind of encryption protocol you use, and it has special bundles designed for this purpose. Unlike many VPNs that can handle Netflix but not BBC iPlayer, BolehVPN sometimes gets into the BBC if you use one of its GEO servers. However, in our experience the connection on this server was so slow as to be not worthwhile.
We had some trouble with our initial sign-up for BolehVPN, because we downloaded the client before signing up for the trial period. Then there was confusion about whether the email address was the same as the username.
We contacted customer support about this and although it doesn’t have a live chat feature the staff responded instantly, asking to see the log, which we were able to copy and paste easily into an email. They then responded within minutes with an accurate diagnosis of the problem, and we were operational.
We contacted them a couple of more times over the next few days, to ask questions about whether the VPN has a killswitch or how to enable the split tunneling feature, and on each occasion the email response with the answer we needed arrived in minutes. This puts it considerably ahead of several of its competitors, like TunnelBear or TigerVPN (read our TunnelBear review).
However, the BolehVPN FAQs are clearly a work in progress, and the “troubleshooting” tab repeatedly brought up a “page not working” signal from Firefox when we clicked on it. It does have a community page where users share information about workarounds to some of the problems they’ve encountered and this seems to be at least somewhat active.
To sum up, BolehVPN is a quirky alternative on the VPN market. It has good speeds and does a good job of getting into the most popular geoblocked content like Netflix. Not all of its servers are fully secure, but if security is a priority for you it probably has a server to suit your needs as long as they’re not too dependent on being in a very specific location.
It does seem to target people who might be interested in breaking the laws of nation states for reasons one can only speculate about, but this might offer reassurance to ordinary users as well that this is a service that’s flexible and secure enough to meet their needs. If, however, you’re not convinced, feel free to take a look at our other VPN reviews.
What do you think of BolehVPN? Can do, or won’t do? Let us know in the comments below, thank you for reading.