CactusVPN Review

CactusVPN is a relatively young company that delivers speed and security, which it combines with great customer service.

By JeanLuc Gusmao
— Last Updated: 23 Mar'18
2017-07-27T08:25:55+00:00
Table of Contents Rating
Features
80%
Good
Pricing
75%
Good
Ease of Use
80%
Good
Supported Devices
55%
Fair
Server Locations
50%
Poor
Speed
90%
Excellent
Security & Privacy
80%
Good
Customer Service
90%
Excellent
User Reviews & Comments

Good
Starts from $ 217 monthly (All Plans)
Visit CactusVPN

Cactus VPN Overview

CactusVPN is a young VPN service, having started business just six years ago. Although a newcomer in the VPN industry, it delivers fast speeds, solid security and great customer service.

On its website, CactusVPN advertises the ability to unlock over 200 geoblocked websites, and, while we weren’t able to stream content from Netflix UK during our testing, BBC iPlayer and Netflix U.S. worked perfectly.

CactusVPN also offers a Smart DNS service. Customers can choose to have it bundled with the VPN, or they can buy them separately. New users can try out either of these services offered by CactusVPN with a 24-hour free trial, no credit card required.

Alternatives for CactusVPN

Starts from$ 666monthly
  • Great for all streaming
  • Highly secure
  • Split tunneling
  • Massive server network
  • 3 simultaneous connections
  • Pricey
$ 291monthly
  • Easy & fast server switching
  • Fast
  • Cheap
  • Mediocre server network
  • Doesn’t get into most streaming services
  • Can be a pain to use

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Fast speeds
  • Easy to use
  • Zero-logs policy
  • Good security
  • Solid customer support
  • 24-hour trial

Weaknesses:

  • Limited server selection
  • Worrisome terms and conditions
  • Fragmented multi-platform support



CactusVPN provides a fast, easy to use service that utilizes a zero-logs policy and five VPN protocols with MPPE and AES 128-bit encryption methods.

Features

80% - Good

CactusVPN has a simple desktop app that allows users to secure their connection without much fuss. The layout is clean and minimal, and provides straightforward access to the app’s features, allowing users to pick the server they want and get protected within minutes of signing up.

From the desktop app, customers can switch between the different servers that are provided with their package. In this review, we’re using the VPN + Smart DNS package, which provides us access to all of CactusVPN’s servers in addition to its Smart DNS service.

Switching between servers is fast, and CactusVPN provides a “sort by speed” button that orders the list of servers from fastest to slowest, allowing users to quickly find the server that provides the best connection.

Switching to the settings tab allows you to choose from a variety of toggles, ranging from start-up preferences to DNS leak protection, along with the option to change your VPN protocol between SSTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and PPTP. Unfortunately, most of these options cannot be changed if the VPN is online, so users are forced to disconnect from CactusVPN’s servers to make changes to certain settings.

This makes sense for certain options, such as VPN protocols, but we would’ve liked to keep the ability to change most of our settings with the VPN service online, or at least be able to toggle the killswitch functionality, which allows CactusVPN to cut all Internet connectivity upon losing the VPN connection.

Another prominent CactusVPN feature is the “application killer,” which allows you to set certain applications to close when the VPN connection is dropped. This is a great feature, as it allows users to protect their data within specific apps without losing their internet connection.

CactusVPN boasts the ability unlocks over 200 websites: in our tests we initially weren’t able to use BBC’s iPlayer, but after some troubleshooting with the CactusVPN support team, we were able to stream BBC content perfectly (BBC fans may want to also check out our best VPN for BBC iPlayer article, as well).

Additionally, we could stream Netflix with no issues from within the U.S., but weren’t able to watch Netflix content from other countries. If you want to get around the Netflix VPN ban, we can recommend any of our best VPN for Netflix picks.

CactusVPN is also available on mobile platforms, but their mobile app falls a bit short, with limited VPN protocol choices and no support for their app killer feature found on their Windows and Mac client. If you’re looking to setup your VPN via any of our best VPN routers, CactusVPN also allows this, with support for Tomato and DD-WRT.

Pricing

75% - Good

CactusVPN’s pricing is competitive, but also confusing, as servers from each region are bundled into separate packages. American customers may, for example, assume the U.S. package is what they need and purchase it, only to find that they cannot access the servers they want.

CactusVPN addresses this issue with an online test to find which package best fits your needs, but this is only found in the support section, out of view for most customers.

It’s possible that CactusVPN wanted to give customers the option of using the servers closest to them and so maximize speed, but for us, distance from their servers didn’t heavily affect speed making this a moot point. Users residing in Asia are also out of luck, with no package to access just the Asia server.

CactusVPN also separated their DNS service, even though other VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN and TorGuard, provide smart DNS features with their VPN packages. Most users will likely choose their VPN + Smart DNS package, which has all servers and the Smart DNS features for just shy of seven bucks a month.

Long-term users who are looking to save can enroll in quarterly or annually billed packages, saving 14 percent and 35 percent, respectively. CactusVPN also provides a 50 percent discount to users who are already signed up with one of their services, allowing customers to purchase additional packages for colleagues or friends at a discount.



PlanU.S. VPNUK VPNLiberty VPNVPN + Smart DNSSmart DNS
Price Plan
$ 4 99monthly
$ 12 996 months
$ 38 99yearly
$ 4 99monthly
$ 12 996 months
$ 38 99yearly
$ 4 99monthly
$ 12 996 months
$ 38 99yearly
$ 6 99monthly
$ 17 996 months
$ 54 99yearly
$ 4 99monthly
$ 12 996 months
$ 38 99yearly
Bandwidth Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB Unlimited GB
Included Devices 5 5 5 5 Unlimited
Bitcoin


Ease of Use

80% - Good

CactusVPN is very easy to use, but can be slightly confusing during the initial setup. Once an account has been created, you have to access the client area, where users can view their packages and settings, along with details on the status of CactusVPN’s service.

Through the client area, you are given a second set of login credentials that are used to sign into the VPN service. Initially the login credentials are randomly generated strings of letters and numbers, but the user can change them at any time. Customers will have to get used to having two sets of credentials: one to access their client area, and one to access their VPN services.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the Smart DNS service also has its own key, so users with the VPN + Smart DNS package have to keep track of two sets of login credentials and one login key.

Once the credentials are all set, CactusVPN will remember your username automatically, and you can set it to remember your password as well, making the sign in process much snappier. After you’ve signed in, using the software is incredibly easy. Just select the server closest to you (or sort by speed and select the first option), hit “connect”, wait a second or two and you’re protected.

We would’ve preferred if CactusVPN kept the user experience more streamlined by integrating the client area into the main app, as well as utilizing only one set of credentials, but these are minor complaints as they only refer to the initial setup of the service.

Supported Devices

55% - Fair

CactusVPN has apps for the most popular platforms, and has step-by-step tutorials on how to set it up on almost every other platform out there, including Linux and Chromebooks. Unfortunately, there isn’t an official Linux client, so Team Penguin may want to check out our best VPN services for Linux.

Even though your platform of choice may be supported, it might not have the features you’re looking for, as not all clients have the same feature set. The macOS client, for example, lacks a dedicated killswitch, and the iOS and Android clients only have one VPN protocol each, OpenVPN and L2TP, respectively.

This kind of fragmentation is confusing and even a little unfair, as CactusVPN might provide a great experience for some, but leave others paying the same price for less features. Mac users might prefer taking a look at our best VPNs for Mac rather than paying for features they can’t use.

CactusVPN also supports a wide variety of router platforms, so customers can set their router up and browse comfortably while being protected on all connected devices. If a user prefers to connect all their devices through their own clients, CactusVPN allows up to five devices to be connected through one account.

One weird part of CactusVPN’s terms and conditions is where they clarify that no two devices signed into the same account can be on the same server. This means that you cannot have your phone and laptop connected to the same server on the same account, which could prove to be a bit annoying for some users.

Fortunately, the differences in speed between the servers is very minimal, so choosing a more distant server shouldn’t be an issue, but we’ll elaborate more on speeds later. Another part of the terms that’s worth mentioning is where CactusVPN doesn’t support port forwarding, a possible deal breaker for users with more unique network setups.

Server Locations

50% - Poor

This is where CactusVPN falls short compared to the competition. With only 20 servers across the world, only one in Asia and none in South America, the server spread is incredibly low. A quick glance at our PIA review or even our ExpressVPN review shows that there are plenty of other providers with much better global coverage.

CactusVPN advertises as a small-scale business that prizes personal interaction with clients, which is an admirable goal, but it shouldn’t mean a low count of servers as it compromises security, stability and even speed as more users join their service.

Speed

90% - Excellent

In our tests, CactusVPN was pretty fast, with speeds taking a 2Mb hit on average.

 Download:Upload:
Home (American Northeast):237.4511.90
Chicago, IL:236.5111.80
Kansas City, MO:235.4411.80
London, UK:235.5411.83

All tests were run twice for accuracy through speedtest.net; CactusVPN consistently delivered fast, reliable speeds. With unlimited bandwidth and speed, CactusVPN provides a very fast service.

Its terms and conditions, however, mention that they may impose a bandwidth limit on some people should their usage disrupt the service for others, which may lead some particularly heavy VPN users to turn away.

Security & Privacy

80% - Good

CactusVPN uses a tunnel method, in which all data inside is encrypted. It also offers support for five different VPN protocols, as well as a useful breakdown of each of them in the FAQ section on their website. Depending on what protocol you use, CactusVPN will use AES-128 or 128-bit MPPE to encrypt your data, keeping it private and secure.

CactusVPN also provides DNS leak protection and offers a killswitch in their Windows client, but the macOS client lacks a killswitch, and the iOS and Android clients lack both features. Missing both DNS leak protection and a killswitch makes the security on mobile platforms much weaker than we’d like.

The terms and service state that CactusVPN abides by a zero logs policy, but it also states the following under the service quality section of its terms and conditions:

“We may block certain kinds of usage to protect other users, to comply with legal restrictions or to minimize the threat or legal action against us or our users.”

This leads us to believe that CactusVPN does implement some monitoring into its services, so while they may not record what you do, they can still see it. Also in their terms is a slightly concerning portion regarding legal requests, where they state that they respond to requests that require them to disclose registration data as they deem necessary.

CactusVPN is based in Moldova, Europe, which does have laws in place permitting the government to monitor Internet usage and collect information, but this is only allowed with a court order.

Customer Service

90% - Excellent

In the support tab of the desktop client, CactusVPN gives shortcuts to save the logs of your session or submit a support ticket. In the support ticket form, you can input your name, address, subject of your ticket and the urgency (low, medium or high). CactusVPN also provides live chat support, but it’s only available Monday to Friday, from 9:00 to 18:00 CET.

When the live chat is open, customers browsing the CactusVPN website can see a small, blue chat bubble in the bottom right corner of the screen. Clicking on it opens up a live chat window, where users can ask questions directly to the CactusVPN support team. When we tried it, we found the responses to be fast and to the point, providing us with answers to our questions.

On the CactusVPN website, there are several tutorials on getting started with an account and setting up the VPN on your device. These tutorials are clearly written and easy to follow, and a welcome addition to their support page. Alongside these tutorials is a learning center, which features detailed articles on several aspects of Internet security and why it’s important.

The learning center isn’t totally necessary to the website, but it’s a nice way of showing that CactusVPN wants to help educate its customers, and facilitates a feeling of CactusVPN as an authority on Internet security.

CactusVPN advertises on their website that they provide 24×7 customer support, so we tested this by submitting a ticket with high urgency regarding a simple question. In about eight hours, CactusVPN got back to us with the answer to our question. When we asked another question in the same ticket, we received our response within minutes.

The Verdict

CactusVPN is an affordable VPN service that allows users to quickly and easily protect themselves on the Internet. It can easily be implemented in a home or business setting, and provides the security features that allow customers to feel safe while browsing, without sacrificing speed.

Netflix users can enjoy content that they normally have access to, but users looking to view Netflix content from other regions are out of luck. BBC’s iPlayer, on the other hand, is perfectly accessible through CactusVPN.

We definitely recommend you give CactusVPN a shot, and with a 24-hour free trial of their service, you’ve got nothing to lose. Be sure to share your thoughts on CactusVPN down in the comments, as we’d love to hear what you think. Thank you for reading.

CactusVPN Review

A fast-ish, decent service that still has some growing to do

CactusVPN is a relatively young company that delivers speed and security, which it combines with great customer service.
Starts from$ 217monthly
Visit CactusVPN
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