IPVanish Review 2017
IPVanish offers some of the most innovative security measures available in the commercial VPN market.
Last Updated: 23 Jun'17
Just a few months ago, I gave IPVanish a quick look while shopping around for a new VPN provider. While I wasn’t left unimpressed, at the time, nothing about this service captivated me
Things sure change fast, don’t they? IPVanish underwent a major overhaul in September 2016. In addition to introducing a shiny new dual interface, the developers also added a slew of security additions (like expanded kill-switch functionality and LAN blocking) to improve user privacy. Also, IPVanish offers server connections to over 60 different countries and has 24/7 helpdesk support.
Plus, it uses the OpenVPN standard, considered to be the best VPN tunnel protocol available in the commercial market. During this review, I’ll take you on a guided tour of the new-and-improved IPVanish, and show you why this is a service worthy of consideration. Along the way, I’ll also point out a few shortcomings – including some nagging concerns regarding speed – that you’ll want to be aware of before deciding if IPVanish is worth your bitcoin.
5 simultaneous connections
Unlimited P2P traffic
Based in the US
Slower than competition
No live-chat support
Lacks user forum
No Referral Program
IPVanish has a broad feature set that checks off most of the boxes I typically look for in a VPN service.
I’ll detail the essentials throughout this review, but here’s an overview to get you started:
- 500+ servers
- 5 simultaneous connections
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Automatic VPN connection
- Unlimited P2P traffic
- NAT firewall
- LAN blocking
- Servers in over 60 countries
- No browser logging
- Activity kill switch
- No bandwidth throttling
- DNS-leak prevention
- OpenVPN Scrambling
- Traffic visualizer
- 40k+ Shared IP addresses
- OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec
- Automatic IP switches
- Unlimited server switches
- 24/7 customer support
- DD-WRT/Tomato router support
For a tech guy, it sure took me a long time to get on the commercial VPN bandwagon. Research a topic long enough, however, and it has a way of altering one’s mentality. It’s kind of like looking at the germs on your hands under a high-powered microscope; once you know they’re there, you start scrubbing a little more vigorously.
Today, outside of my home network, VPN tunneling is pretty much my modus operandi when browsing the Internet. Why is that? Services like IPVanish mask user identity by redirecting web traffic through a VPN server located in another city. Which in turn spoofs your IP address and location. Spoofing an identity and location has many benefits.
One such benefit is the ability to access streaming video services that aren’t available in certain countries, including popular services like:
- Amazon Prime Video
Many authoritarian countries also censor Internet content. A popular example is China, where web services like:
Are blocked. With a well-designed VPN service, like IPVanish, users can thwart censorship by changing their geographic location virtually. Geo-tagging technologies are also getting more advanced. Geo-tagging allows corporations to target you with location-based marketing and pricing (including VOIP call rates). IPVanish also supports P2P connections like BitTorrent, an activity routinely monitored by ISPs and other entities.
VPN tunnels are also a good idea if you frequent public Wi-Fi networks, such networks are the fertile hunting grounds of hackers. For me, this is probably the pre-eminent reason I now routinely use a VPN service.
Headlining these features is OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a tunneling protocol that scrambles data so that if a third-party is indeed listening, they won’t be able to discern what your device is saying.
That means they can’t capture valuable information like:
- Credit card info
- Phone numbers
The degree of peace of mind and flexibility you achieve with a VPN service is well worth the cost, in my estimation. However, not all VPN services are created equal.
VPN services are a hot topic in the online community. As used to be the case with me, the conversation often revolves more around video streaming, rather than privacy. As mentioned, many streaming services are only available in a select few countries. Others, like Netflix, is now available in 190 countries and provides a different video library, depending on where you’re connecting from.
Many streaming services are now implementing measures to block VPN access; this is mostly done under pressure from film and television studios, who are looking to further tighten control on their licensing agreements. I found this to be true when connecting to Netflix using IPVanish.
However, the good news is that they also grant subscribers the use of a DNS proxy service. A DNS proxy spoofs your location, just like a VPN tunnel. Since DNS proxies don’t bother with encryption, they’re faster and work better for video streaming anyways. Other popular services I tested, include:
- HBO Now
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime Video
All worked fine with IPVanish. To help give you a better idea of what’s out there, here’s a quick overview of streaming services that are known geo-tagging users, to restrict or alter a watcher’s experience.
|Netflix||Hulu||Amazon||HBO Now||Sky Go|
|Sky Go||AOL TV||Adult Swim||Showtime||TalkTalk|
|BBC iPlayer||CBS||ABC||MLB||BeIN Sports|
|Comedy Central||Deezer||History Channel||TCM||MLB TV|
While IPVanish offers a single-month subscription, users will get a price reduction by signing up for three to twelve months in advance.
$ 10 00monthly
$ 26 993 months
$ 77 99yearly
IPVanish is priced in line with other popular commercial VPN providers.
IPVanish doesn’t exactly offer a free trial, however, if you’re not satisfied with the service and cancel within 7-days, they will refund your money. Users who sign up on iOS will receive a 7-day, no-money down free trial. Note that iOS users are not eligible for the 7-day money back guarantee. So there’s no way to con the system for two weeks of free VPN service.
Refunds get processed automatically within ten business days once you cancel. I’ve yet to hear any horror stories about consumers not getting their refunds; mine came within 24 hours. IPVanish claims to offer more payment methods than any other VPN service, I haven’t fully vetted this claim yet, but they do certainly offer plenty of options.
In case you were wondering, IPVanish does not currently offer a referral program. If that’s something you’re interested in, consider checking out our ExpressVPN review instead, as they give a free month of service for every referral.
IPVanish can connect up to five devices simultaneously, by comparison, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN can only work with three. On top of that, IPVanish provide application support for numerous operating systems, which will please the technophiles out there.
Desktop applications are available for:
- Windows: Vista and higher
- Mac OS X: 10.6.9 and higher
Manual setup is an option for Ubuntu and Chromebook users.
Mobile apps can be downloaded for:
- iPhone/iPad: iOS 8 and higher
- Android: 4.0 and higher
For those who wish to provide blanket security for their home’s LAN, IPVanish can also be manually installed to a router. However, doing so will require a router that’s been flashed with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware. Router installation has the benefit of extending IPVanish’s protection to devices not directly supported, including game consoles and video streaming devices.
|Playstation 4||Xbox One||Amazon Fire TV||Android TV||Roku|
|Chromecast||Apple TV||Nvidia Shield||Boxee||GEM Box|
|Chromebook||Nintendo Wii||Android TV||Smart Hub||Roku TV|
Router support also extends protection to SmartTVs:
- Sony (Android TV)
- Samsung (Smart Hub and Tizen OS)
- Panasonic (Firefox OS)
- LG (Web OS)
- TCL, Sharp, Hisense (Roku TV)
Then, there’s the emerging array of IoT (Internet of Things) devices like wearables (i.e., smartwatches, fitness trackers) and home appliances (i.e., thermostats, refrigerators, microwaves). For those who’d rather not set it up themselves, pre-configured IPVanish routers can be purchased through Flashrouters.com.
While there are certainly commercial VPN services with more servers than IPVanish, having 500 on every continent other than Antarctica (poor penguins) is a good amount.
Having server locations in over 60 different countries promotes IPVanish to the near top, among big name contenders, outpaced only by ExpressVPN.
|VPN Service:||Number of Countries:|
|Private Internet Access (PIA)||24|
Speedwise, IPVanish certainly performs better than any free VPN service I’ve ever used, and much better than most low-cost VPNs. However, compared to options like ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and PIA, I found my experience to be pretty underwhelming.
To give you a better idea of how using IPVanish impacts data speeds, I did a few quick checks with speedtest.net, using the most common tunnel protocol — OpenVPN. These tests were performed over my home’s Wi-Fi network, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
|Download Speed:||% Change:|
|VPN Off:||34.40 Mbps||n/a
|New York:||19.11 Mbps||-44.45%|
|Hong Kong:||11.02 Mbps||-87.67%|
Using a VPN service will always drop your data speeds to a certain degree since you’re re-routing traffic and applying encryption. However, these reductions occurred more often than I would have expected with IPVanish. For context, here are my download speeds when using the three rival services mentioned above:
|New York:||30.22 Mbps||30.55 Mbps||32.39 Mbps|
|London:||18.93 Mbps||18.13 Mbps||22.61 Mbps|
|Hong Kong:||9.83 Mbps||18.45 Mbps||10.90 Mbps|
Across the board, all three services are faster than IPVanish, who’s upload speeds showed similar slowdowns.
|Upload Speed:||% Change:|
It’s hard to say what exactly the problem is. IPVanish gets a lot of press, which in turn boosts its popularity; could it be a victim of its own success, burdened by overloaded servers? It’s worth pointing out that depending on location, you’re likely to get different results. Should you choose to sign up with IPVanish, just make sure to fully test it before your 7-day refund-period is up.
While IPVanish fell short in its speed trials, it stands tall with regards to security. Which is important, since user privacy is the most compelling reason to use a VPN service. In addition to the basics you’d expect of any VPN provider, I was duly impressed with many additional features that push IPVanish to the forefront of the security curve.
1. VPN Protocols
IPVanish provides three different VPN protocols with which to establish a tunnel:
You can switch between any of these protocols pretty quickly from settings > connection — as long as you’re not actively tunneling. For the most part, though, you’re going to want to stick with OpenVPN, since it’s open-source and a widely vetted protocol that’s considered the most secure and stable of all VPN protocols.
OpenVPN has the added benefit of being configurable to run on any port, making it very difficult for web services and ISPs to distinguish a VPN connection from ordinary HTTPS traffic. Port forwarding, as this act is called, makes it harder to block a connection using a firewall, which translates to more access for you.
IPVanish sets its OpenVPN tunnels to use uncrackable AES 256-bit encryption. Thanks to that, even if someone was able to eavesdrop on your connection, any traffic they pick up will be scrambled and meaningless. L2TP/IPsec is reasonably secure, too, if you’re connecting to a server that doesn’t support OpenVPN, however, it’s slower and less configurable than OpenVPN.
These days it’s considered common sense amongst VPN users and privacy advocates, to shun PPTP. While fast, it’s an older protocol that’s unstable and not nearly as sophisticated as OpenVPN. Worse yet, it’s widely rumored to have been cracked by the NSA.
2. Shared IP Addresses and Automated Switching
IP addresses assigned by IPVanish are shared, altogether, IPVanish has over 40,000 such addresses. With multiple users spoofing the same IP address, your identity and activity is further obfuscated. This brings me to an interesting security feature offered by IPVanish: the ability to auto-cycle IP addresses based on fixed:
Intervals. Once the timer goes off, your VPN connection gets temporarily disabled, while your IP address changes.
That way, ISPs can’t snag your identity in the midst of a change. VPNArea is the only other service I can think of that does this. However, their implementation doesn’t halt your activity while changing IP addresses, which leaves you momentarily exposed.
3. Kill Switch
IPVanish has joined the train of VPN services rolling out kill-switch functionality, which it did in April of 2015, but only for OS X. Since that time; it has been implemented into all of its applications. If you lose a VPN connection, the kill switch automatically terminates your Internet activity. That way, you won’t get unmasked, so to speak, allowing ISPs or others to log user identity and activity.
Torrents will find this feature particularly useful since such P2P activity is usually monitored.
4. SOCKS5 Web Proxy
An IPVanish subscription includes the use of SOCKS5 proxy. When it’s enabled, Internet traffic gets routed via a proxy server, making it appear as though your traffic is originating from that server, rather than your personal device. Due to the absence of encryption, SOCKS5 proxies are quite a bit faster than VPN tunnels, providing better video and VOIP quality, and more rapid torrents.
In most cases, however, I’d recommend sticking to using OpenVPN for its added security.
5. NAT Firewall
NAT stands for Network Address Translation. A NAT firewall is designed to filter inbound packets in order to weed out attacks from hackers and botnets. Doing so protects devices from malware and similar attacks.
6. LAN Blocking
LAN blocking was also recently implemented by IPVanish. When turned on, it prevents any other devices connected on the local area network from communicating with your device. This provides additional protection from hackers trying to access your hard drive. Don’t forget it’s turned on, though, since there are times you’ll want to connect to local devices.
7. On-Demand VPN
On-demand VPN is another innovative little trick that IPVanish surprised users with, during its September revamp. Many VPN providers configure their application to start tunneling automatically, when your OS boots up. IPVanish has refined this capability further, by letting users more acutely define when this happens.
Specifically, IPVanish’s application auto-connects when you login into certain Wi-Fi networks or visit particular websites. This feature is fantastic for those who only want to get protected when using public Wi-Fi, or engaging in more sensitive activities, like online banking. It’s also handy for those of us that forget to turn our VPN connections on.
8. DNS Leak Protection
DNS leaks occur when requests to translate URLs into IP addresses get routed through your ISP’s DNS servers, rather than those belonging to IPVanish. This lapse can result in your identity and activities getting logged. IPVanish prevents such leaks with a reinforced architecture, that forces all activity to a secondary DNS.
9. IPv6 Leaks
For all the great things it does, IPVanish does not yet protect users against IPv6 leaks. IPv6 is the next generation of IP address, meant to supplement IPv4, as the limited supply of those addresses will eventually run out. But not all VPN services can handle IPv6, and if they can’t, then your activity again gets routed through an ISP’s DNS server.
You can get around this problem by disabling IPv6 through the operating system. However, at this time, IPv6 isn’t very widely used, so such leaks won’t impact users very often.
As with any VPN service, you have to take them at their word; though IPVanish seems genuinely committed to user privacy. They support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and use their blog as a portal to spread privacy awareness. Probably the biggest downside to IPVanish’s privacy position is that they’re headquartered in the United States.
The issue with this is that the US government is more lax about privacy rights than many other countries around the world, particularly:
IPVanish offers desktop applications for:
Before the September retool, the Mac version was a little more advanced than the other two. However, at this time, I believe all IPVanish features are idea across all three platforms. During the revamp, the application also received a much-needed makeover that’s darker, sleeker and more intuitive.
I’ll be introducing you to the Windows version here. All apps can be downloaded directly from the IPVanish website. The entire download and installation process was quick, taking me about a minute to complete. Once booted up and logged in, you can quickly connect to a VPN server by clicking the On/Off button on the top-right side of the interface.
That’s all it takes to get up and tunneling. Before connecting, you can also self-select a country, city, and server from the menu on the bottom-right of the application. Every time you select a different country or city, it pings the servers anew to check for latency and load.
Another way to go about server selection is by navigating to the servers > filter tab. There, you can filter by:
- Encryption protocol
While tunneling, IPVanish utilizes a handy visualizer to help monitor upload and download activity.
If you don’t care about this kind of information, you can head to settings > general and switch to “simple mode.”
This nicely compartmentalized interface takes up less desktop space.
IPVanish can be used to protect mobile Internet activity with apps for both iOS and Android. As with the desktop app, the experience is similar on both. For personal testing purposes, I used my Android phone. You can download the apps from Google Play or the App Store. Once installed, you can sign up through the app or just plug-in in your login credentials, if you’re already an IPVanish subscriber.
Next up comes the connection screen.
Hit the green “connect” button and IPVanish will select the fastest VPN tunnel for you, based on latency and server load. Or, input your country, city and server selections manually. As with the desktop app, inputting the desired country without putting in a town or server information, will cause IPVanish to ping all the servers in that country to find the best available connection.
You can also manually select a server by tapping the menu button and selecting the “server” option. This option presents a rundown of every city in the world, where IPVanish has servers; the number to the left is how many servers are available in that particular city.
Select a particular server by tapping the number associated with the country of your choice. Once connected, IPVanish gives a beautiful visual representation of Internet activity passing through its tunnel.
Configuration options, including auto connects and security protocols, can be managed from the “settings” tab accessible via the menu.
I mentioned earlier, IPVanish has partnered with FlashRouters.com to offer pre-configured routers. However, if you can follow instructions and have a little patience, you can save yourself some money by handling these configuration instructions personally. First, you’ll need to flash a router using either DD-WRT or Tomato firmware.
That will require owning a supported router, which can be quickly determined from the DD-WRT and Tomato websites:
Once you’ve purchased a DD-WRT or Tomato router or flashed your own, just follow the IPVanish setup tutorial tailored to either OS.
I won’t go through the full process, since IPVanish does a pretty good job of that themselves.
IPVanish’s SOCKS5 proxy was introduced during the September reboot thanks to a deluge of requests from their user base. I suspect this has something to do with Netflix blocking access for many VPN services, including IPVanish. You can access your credentials for the proxy service by logging into the IPVanish website, and clicking on the SOCKS5 Proxy tab.
These credentials are different from your VPN login, which is a bit inconvenient, but the right approach security-wise. After all, proxies aren’t encrypted. Configuration with whichever client you want to use should be relatively straightforward. However, the IPVanish support portal only has a few how-to tutorials, so you may need to rely on your own ingenuity (or rely Google instead, it’s smarter than you).
I’ll use Vuze as an example, since it’s a popular BitTorrent client. The first thing to do is change Vuze’s user proficiency setting, which is required to configure a proxy server. This can be done from tools > options and clicking “mode” in the menu on the right.
Select the “user proficiency” radio button and click on “advanced,” congratulations on the promotion!
Next, click the arrow beside “connection” on the same tab menu and select “proxy.” Make sure the following two options near the top are checked:
- Enable proxying of tracker communications
- I have a SOCKS proxy
Then, fill out the:
Fields with your IPVanish credentials. The host will be “ams.socks.ipvanish.com” and the port will be “1080.” Username and password will be whatever you’ve been assigned.
Be sure the box that reads, “prevent local DNS lookups,” is checked. Then, under “peer communications,” check “enable proxying of peer communications.” Do the same with “inform tracker of limitation” and change the SOCKS version to V5. The box that reads, “use same proxy settings for tracker and peer communication proxy” should already be checked. Leave that, and the rest of the settings, alone.
Your finished settings should look like this:
You can run a test to make sure everything is running as it should. Once Vuze restarts, going forward, any torrenting perform in the app will be incognito.
Support for IPVanish is available 24/7, everyday of the year. Support requests are handled on a first-come-first-serve basis, via email. The fact that IPVanish doesn’t offer live chat is a shame. Still, email support responses are fast. A test message I sent received a response in just 15 minutes.
As you fill out your email request, IPVanish will semi-intelligently link a variety of possibly related support articles below the request form, just in case one answers your question directly. IPVanish maintains a robust centralized support portal, where users can check service updates and browse various topics. The portal also includes a search option to help speed things along.
IPVanish lets you contribute to the portal by posting a public question, which they then answer. However, they do not offer a public forum, so users can’t touch base with each other. To me this isn’t as big a deal with a VPN service, as it is, say, with a cloud storage solution, but it would have been a nice touch.
The service does maintain a regular blog, however, which is rife with not only rollout news and technical tips, but informative privacy articles as well.
Here are a few sample posts:
In this section, I’ve gathered some of the common questions users ask when shopping for a new VPN service. If there’s any particular question not covered, that you think should be, let us know in the comments below.
Q: Can I Use IPVanish in China?
A: Automated VPN tunnel connections will not work while in China, because the Chinese government has blocked the IPVanish domain. However, you can manually configure a connection to an IPVanish server IP address, rather than a server name, and connect that way.
IPVanish provides configuration guides for this process on various operating systems.
|Windows 10||Mac OS X|
Q: What is a SOCKS5 Proxy Server?
A: Proxy servers acts as a middleman for Internet activity, causing your web traffic to appear as though it originated from another server.
SOCKS stands for “socket secure” and is a protocol used for proxy servers. SOCKS protocols are considered the most flexible proxy server protocols, as they don’t differentiate between various types of network traffic.
Simply put, SOCKS5 is an extension of this protocol that supports more advanced networking technologies, including UDP and IPv6.
Q: Why Should I Use A Proxy Server?
A: Like VPN, SOCKS5 masks your IP address. However, unlike VPN, it does not encrypt data. Because your data isn’t encrypted, it achieves faster upload and download speeds, making it ideal for torrenting and other P2P activity.
Q: Can I Cancel My Service at Anytime?
A: Yes. IPVanish doesn’t hold you to any type of formalized contract. However, because you get significant discounts for signing up for 3 or 12 months in advance, they really don’t need to. Beyond the initial 7-day trial, any amount paid in advance will not be refunded. Upon cancelling, you’ll be able to continue to use the service through your subscription end date.
Q: Does IPVanish Ever Go Down?
A: Occasionally, IPVanish does take servers down for maintenance. However, because they stagger maintenance and have so many servers, you’ll be able to find a connection 99.9% of the time. They also post scheduled maintenance times in advance, on their support portal, just in case you have questions about a specific server.
Q: Does IPVanish VPN Work With Netflix?
A: Nope. I tried watching a program on Netflix while VPN tunneling with IPVanish, and received the following message: You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.
Q: Is There a Workaround to Watching Netflix with IPVanish?
A: Yes. Use their SOCKS5 proxy service. While it basically accomplishes the same goal of letting you watch Netflix while appearing to be in a different place, for some reason Netflix isn’t cracking down on DNS proxies, like they are with VPN.
Q: How Many Devices Can I Use With IPVanish?
Q: Does IPVanish Accept Bitcoin?
Q: Does IPVanish Offer a Referral Program?
Q: Does IPVanish support a free trial?
A: IPVanish has a 7-day free trial if you sign-up on iOS. For all other subscription routes, they offer a 7-day money-back guarantee, instead.
There’s a lot about IPVanish that I loved. The dark tones of its interface and handy visualization tools make it a lot of fun to use. Additionally, IPVanish offers a good amount of global server locations, uses OpenVPN, and has numerous innovative security features that will keep your online wanderings safe and secure. The downside, however, is a big one: speed.
I spent considerable time playing around with different servers, in different locations, and try as I might, I couldn’t find a connection that I was jubilant with. Is it faster than free VPN services? Unquestionably. However, if speed is a primary concern of yours, at this time, I’d recommend looking elsewhere. Are worth looking into, if you need that speed bump.
Otherwise, thanks for sticking with me all the way, and I’d love to hear your opinions on IPVanish, in the comments section below.
List of Content
- IPVanish Overview
- Strengths & Weaknesses
- Who is IPVanish For?
- What to Watch With IPVanish
- Supported Devices
- Server Locations
- How to Use IPVanish on Your Desktop (Windows)
- How to Use IPVanish on Your Mobile Device (Android)
- How to Use IPVanish on Your Router
- How to Use IPVanish’s SOCKS5 Proxy Service (with Vuze)
- Customer Support
- Answers & Questions
- Final Thoughts