Based in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, IVPN is a virtual private network with an unconventional approach. Now that the general public is waking up to the importance of online privacy, many VPN services are in a race to be as simple as possible (see our Bitdefender VPN review to learn how that can go too far).
IVPN stays out of that rat race. It’s not trying to be simple or cheap: it wants to be the best. All its choices are meant to make it faster, more powerful and more secure. It’s also clearly capable of improving: in our previous IVPN reviews, it couldn’t access Netflix, but it can now.
In this IVPN review, we’ll consider this service from every angle, rating its features, price, ease of use, speed, security, privacy and other metrics before arriving at our conclusion. Though it’s private, secure and definitely unique, IVPN is too frustrating in too many other ways to make our best VPN roundup. If you’re after simply the best VPN, just read our ExpressVPN review.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Great speeds
- WireGuard support
- Trustworthy no-logging policy
- Firewall & ad blocker included
- Gets into Netflix
- Qualified support professionals
- High price for full service
- Small server network
- No split tunneling
- Only two protocols
- Can’t unlock Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or BBC iPlayer
- Overly technical knowledgebase
Alternatives for IVPN
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, Monero, Cash
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, BitPay, Coingate, PerfectMoney, iDeal
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card, AliPay, UnionPay, Webmoney, Monero
- : Unlimited
In a landscape crowded with VPNs that mostly offer the same feature sets, IVPN stands out as a strange beast. In terms of features, IVPN has some advanced, rarely seen functions, but it also leaves out some basic ones, such as split tunneling. Then there’s the third category of functions that it includes but handles very differently from other VPNs.
Before going any further, we’ll mention that if you want a VPN with split tunneling, try our Surfshark review or CyberGhost review instead.
IVPN’s app and device-startup features are some of the most detailed we’ve seen. You can set the VPN to connect automatically when you open the desktop app or anytime you connect to an unsecured WiFi network. You can also have IVPN immediately open and connect when you log in to your device.
The “trusted networks” feature merits a closer look because it’s a great example of the fine-tuned control IVPN offers. Many providers stop at letting you decide what networks to trust, but IVPN gives you a few choices about what to do with each designation. For example, you could have IVPN disable its firewall on a trusted network, but not disconnect from the VPN itself.
Speaking of the firewall, it’s what IVPN has instead of a kill switch, similar to AirVPN. The IVPN firewall prevents any traffic from reaching your computer except through the VPN. It’s constantly running in the background to sanitize network packets.
Because it runs separately from the VPN, it keeps going if the VPN crashes or disconnects. At least that’s the intention. We don’t know why IVPN couldn’t have both a firewall and a traditional kill switch.
No firewall is completely secure, and although a kill switch might leave you slightly vulnerable, its ability to fully drop the network connection means it is effective in preventing malware transmission.
If a kill switch is a non negotiable feature for your VPN, check out our NordVPN review or our IPVanish review (though beware the privacy issues of that last service).
IVPN AntiTracker and Hardcore Mode
AntiTracker is another IVPN feature that stands out for mostly good reasons. It’s always nice when a VPN also blocks ads and saves you from visiting unsafe websites. It’s even better to see IVPN going further to block trackers, including Google Analytics, similar to Private Internet Access.
The only drawback is “hardcore mode,” which blocks you from visiting any website known to rely on surveillance techniques. That currently includes Google, Facebook and all their subsidiaries. Hardcore mode makes for good blog posting, but in practice, it’s not very useful.
IVPN is available on a good range of devices. In addition to the usual suspects — macOS, Windows, iOS and Android — you can install it on Linux or on your router (see our list of the best VPN routers). IVPN also is available for network-attached storage (NAS), but so far it works only on Synology products.
IVPN Features Overview
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, Monero, Cash
- : 7
- : No
- : 75+ servers in 32 countries
- : Windows, MacOS, Linux
- : Android, iOS
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : 256-AES
- : IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKev2
- : 24/7
- : 24/7
- : No
- : No
IVPN offers two tiers: Standard and Pro. Rather than setting up a recurring subscription, you pay for your plan up-front, which means you won’t accidentally pay for more than you want by forgetting to cancel your account.
You have five options for duration, namely one week, one month, one year, two years or three years. By choosing a longer plan, you end up saving a bit of money in the long-term. Emphasis on “a bit,” because this can be one of the more expensive VPNs out there, especially if you want the full service.
- 7 day plan ($2)
- : Unlimited GB
- : 2
The Standard plan includes all security protocols and two simultaneous connections per subscription. The Pro plan increases that number to seven devices, and it adds port forwarding and multi-hop connections. Both plans grant you unlimited bandwidth and access to the entire server network.
IVPN tells you outright that it’s going to be expensive. However, it’s not as bad as that warning makes it seem. Paying $10 per month is average at the monthly level, and if you’re okay with limited service, $60 per year isn’t bad at all. If it is too much for you, we recommend our Windscribe review or our list of the best free VPN services.
Paying $100 per year is about on par with ExpressVPN, and we’re much bigger fans of that service’s feature set. IVPN’s Pro annual level is when it starts to fall behind in value. For us, losing split tunneling, a standard kill switch and streaming in exchange for an ad blocker and firewall isn’t a worthwhile trade.
Although there’s no free trial available, IVPN does offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Although this isn’t quite as good as a proper free trial, it still lets you try the service for up to a month and then request a refund if you decide it’s not for you. The weekly plans are also a good option for testing, as they’ll only set you back $2 or $4 for the Standard and Pro packages respectively.
IVPN is flexible when it comes to payment methods. You can use a credit card, debit card, PayPal or bitcoin (but no other cryptocurrency). Using cash is also allowed, which is about as anonymous as it gets. Still, for a service that’s so concerned with tracking, it would be nice to have some other crypto options.
Ease of Use
IVPN has a pleasant visual interface, but if you’re a beginner, the number of options it presents can feel like drinking from a firehose. The IVPN download process itself makes you jump through a few hoops.
Buying a membership and downloading the app happen separately. You aren’t taken to a download page immediately after you’ve paid. That said, setting up your account is incredibly easy and doesn’t require you to enter any kind of personal information, so the signup process only takes a couple of seconds.
Downloading took us a minute or two, but after that, the setup was straightforward. That is, until we saw that we couldn’t use our own user ID, but had to enter one IVPN generated for us. We had to go back onto the website to find out what it was.
This above qualified claim greeted us once we started up IVPN’s desktop app. It led us through a brief tutorial before dropping us at the main control panel.
The desktop app isn’t hard to navigate. Press the large button in the center to connect to the VPN. The two switches above the “connect” button turn the AntiTracker and firewall on and off. The gear in the top right leads to the preferences menu and is also used to check for updates. The name of your chosen server is displayed at the bottom; click it to pick a new server.
IVPN makes it difficult to connect to a specific location instead of just whatever’s fastest. With no map screen or search bar, like IPVanish and NordVPN have, all you can do is scroll through the list entries one by one.
The preferences menu comes across as cluttered. Each tab gathers a lot of options without very much background information. When there is background information, it’s sometimes cut off mid-sentence, as seen in the picture below.
To be fair to IVPN, it’s not positioning itself as a beginner-friendly service. This VPN is about giving you power and control, and having information-overload is sometimes a consequence (TorGuard is a prime example of that). For the most part, the UI is organized well, with just a few unforced errors, like the server list.
IVPN is fast. Impressively fast. We ran these tests on a WiFi connection, which are almost always slower than wired connections, and we still achieved streaming-capable speeds on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from our testing location in Portland, Oregon.
IVPN recommends using the firewall in almost all situations, so we ran this speed test with the firewall active. Here’s what we got.
We also tested a few of the same servers with the WireGuard protocol to see if it really is faster (our unprotected speed is reprinted below for reference). Changes in both directions were small enough to be explained by the usual day-to-day variations in servers, so it doesn’t appear that WireGuard is revolutionizing IVPN’s service just yet.
|Server location:||Latency (ms)||Download speed (Mbps)||Upload speed (Mbps)|
|Portland, Oregon (unprotected)||17||14.73||2.37|
In both tests, latency on nearby servers was consistently low, making this a great VPN for gaming if you have a server close by. At a distance, though, the speed test showed latencies suffering.
By contrast, the download speeds almost never wavered. No VPN is completely free from lag, and IVPN’s slowdown-to-distance ratio is excellent. It doesn’t quite make our list of the fastest VPNs, but you could still do a lot worse.
We tested IVPN for IP address leaks, WebRTC leaks and DNS leaks, and we found it to be secure every time (check out our VPN security rundown to learn more). Despite its limited choice of protocols, IVPN is overall a secure service.
Although IVPN gives you lots of options in other areas, its approach to security bucks that trend. You can choose between only two protocols and one encryption.
This isn’t wholly a bad thing. We’ve knocked VPNs in the past for clinging to weak, outdated protocols — like PPTP — just so they can advertise more choices. It’s far too easy for an untrained user to select a weak protocol and browse using encryption that’s already been cracked by the NSA.
There’s no chance of that with IVPN. You have two options: OpenVPN and WireGuard. OpenVPN is a clear leader among VPN protocols, recognized as both fast and secure. We recommend it almost every time, whether there’s one other choice or six.
Then there’s WireGuard, which we recently added to our VPN protocol breakdown. Several services, including IVPN and Hide.me (see our Hide.me review), now support WireGuard, and the list is projected to grow.
IVPN is currently using AES-256 encryption by default, which is extremely secure and never a bad choice (read our description of encryption for more).
It may earn more points for promising not to log things that other privacy-focused VPNs consider necessary evils, such as the timestamp and duration of your VPN connection, or the amount of bandwidth you use. Additionally, IVPN logs as little information as possible to create your account: namely just your payment info.
No-logging policies are a dime a dozen, but there are three things that make us relatively willing to trust IVPN here. First, it underwent a third-party audit by cybersecurity company Cure53, which verified IVPN’s no-logging policy.
Second, it’s based in Gibraltar, which — although it’s the territory of the UK, a Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nation — isn’t subject to UK data laws (we’ve had some dealing there ourselves, as you can read in our BestVPN.com & Buffered piece). Gibraltar follows the EU Data Protection Directive, which frees it from the requirement to share data with more repressive jurisdictions.
Third, the whole thing is open-source. This means that anyone, including you, can dig through the code of IVPN’s website and applications to verify their claims.
We were dismissive of IVPN as a streaming service last year, when it failed to get into any of the four major streaming services. This year, the VPN did a little better. We managed to get into Netflix and had no issues with the video.
We were apprehensive about going into Hulu, since it’s caught a lot more VPNs lately. Our fears were confirmed when Hulu blocked us from watching any shows while connected with IVPN (try our best VPN for Hulu list to see which services can still get in). Amazon Prime Video worked, but BBC iPlayer gave us problems.
We’re still rating IVPN a lot higher as a streaming service than we have in the past because it can at least get around the Netflix proxy error and do so at video-capable speeds.
If that’s not enough, some of our best VPNs for Netflix picks can get around other platforms’ blocks, too. If you’re craving your British comedy fix, see our roundup of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer.
IVPN has servers in 45 cities spread across 32 countries. The United States has 12 of its server farms. Canada and the United Kingdom each have two, while the rest of the countries have just one.
Pickings are slim with IVPN’s server locations, particularly compared to heavy hitters like HideMyAss, which has around 1,000 servers in more than 190 countries. IVPN has only three data centers in East Asia (Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore), one in South America (Brazil), one in the Middle East (Israel) and zero in Africa.
This VPN service is best for Americans and Europeans alone. Even Canada and Mexico aren’t guaranteed useful speeds. It’s also unclear how many servers are in each city or how many are physical servers owned by IVPN, as opposed to less secure rented or virtual servers.
Customer support is often a gimme category for VPN providers. However, IVPN fell disappointingly short in a few areas. Read on to learn why, or click over to our SaferVPN review to learn about customer support we love.
You cannot access IVPN’s customer service from its desktop app. In fact, other than a few informational tags, there are no support features whatsoever in the main control panel. Forget about being able to record error logs for more efficient help, like you can with Speedify.
Once you access the knowledgebase through your browser, things look a bit better. The various FAQ articles are organized into intuitive categories, such as setup guides, troubleshooting and billing questions.
Lots of VPN services include blog articles on various privacy issues, but IVPN’s articles are some of the most thorough we’ve seen. We just wish they were written better. The articles mostly aim toward a technical audience and don’t appeal well to the average user.
Support via live chat and email was much more helpful. You can start a live chat from anywhere in the knowledgebase, or submit an email ticket from the bottom of the FAQ page. We tried both and were quickly connected to genial, knowledgeable experts. There’s no forum, but the IVPN Reddit community is fairly active.
IVPN is trying to be the thinker’s VPN: the go-to choice for people who know their Five Eyes from their Nine Eyes and have strong opinions on whether WireGuard will ever supplant OpenVPN. In the two most important metrics — security and privacy — it passes with flying colors by protecting IP addresses and other sensitive information.
The problem is in the other areas. Though a VPN doesn’t need to be anything more than secure and trustworthy, it does need to appeal in a crowded market. IVPN’s gambit of becoming the premium option doesn’t quite pay off.
If you’re a privacy wonk and you want a service with a team that thinks like you do, IVPN is the service for you. Otherwise, we recommend you keep looking. Let us know what you think in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.
Is IVPN Safe?
Yes. It employs strong encryption and two security protocols that are known to be safe and secure. The only plausible weakness would be something shady in WireGuard that hasn’t yet been discovered. However given its relatively small codebase, the chances are low of a nasty surprise.
Who Owns IVPN?
IVPN is owned by Privatus Limited, a Gibraltar-based firm that has no parent company.
Where Is IVPN Based?
It is based in Gibraltar, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Until the end of 2020, Gibraltar is subject to EU privacy laws under the agreed-upon Brexit grace period. After that, the future of its data policy is uncertain.