PrivateVPN Review

PrivateVPN could be a much better service than it is. Though it offers good security and some basic streaming capabilities, its interface is a mess and its speeds need work. Overall, it's good for certain things but no all-rounder, as you can read in our full PrivateVPN review.

By Brian MurrayWriter
— Last Updated: 28 May'20
2020-05-28T08:33:40+00:00
Table of ContentsRating
Features
70%
Decent
Pricing
85%
Very Good
Ease of Use
75%
Good
Speed
75%
Good
Security
85%
Very Good
Privacy
85%
Very Good
Streaming Performance
75%
Good
Server Locations
75%
Good
Customer Service
75%
Good
User Reviews & Comments

Good
Starts from $ 414 per month
Save 46 %
best-VPN-reviews

PrivateVPN has a number of strengths that make it popular with some users and reviewers. It offers solid security with a good privacy policy, it provides a free trial with very competitive pricing and it can even get through to many streaming sites.

However, there are a number of problems with PrivateVPN, as well. In our previous PrivateVPN review, we saw that it had inconsistent speeds, couldn’t get through to all streaming services and lacked some of the most in-demand VPN features, such as split tunneling. No wonder, then, that we recommend people interested in it check out ExpressVPN, instead.

The result is a middle-of-the-road experience with a budget-friendly price tag. However, PrivateVPNPrivateVPN does excel in some areas that make it great for specific tasks. With the numerous pros and cons of PrivateVPN in mind, we decided it was time to take another look at this VPN provider to see if things have improved and whether it could take a spot among the best VPNs

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Seven-day free trial
  • Affordable pricing
  • Solid privacy & security
  • Quick customer support

Weaknesses:

  • Does not work on Netflix
  • Inconsistent speeds
  • Limited server network
  • Mediocre user interface

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Features

70% - Decent

To start things off, we’re taking a look at what kind of features PrivateVPN offers. The main features we’re looking for are a kill switch and some way to make the VPN connect automatically, since both of these features directly impact the security of the VPN

Luckily, PrivateVPN offers both of those features in the settings. The kill switch is found under the “connection guard” tab and has the odd description next to it that says, “prevents reconnect on connection failure.” This is confusing phrasing for what a kill switch does, but the feature seemed to work properly, nonetheless. 

To test the kill switch, we turned this feature on, connected to the VPN and then proceeded to shut off our internet connection entirely before restarting it. The VPN did not allow any connections after we did this, but as soon as we disconnected from the VPN, connections went back to normal. 

The auto-connect options are limited, and you can only choose to connect to the most recent location. If you look at our NordVPN vs TorGuard article, you’ll see that NordVPN lets you auto-connect to a specific server of your choice. 

PrivateVPN Application Guard

Beyond those basic must-haves, PrivateVPN includes a pair of potentially useful features. The first of these is the “application guard,” which lets you define a list of programs that PrivateVPN will terminate once you disconnect. This is a great way to make sure you don’t accidentally leave torrenting software or something similar running when you disconnect. 

The other feature is a setting that PrivateVPN calls “stealth VPN.” PrivateVPN claims that this feature can get past geoblocks and firewalls, but when we tested it on Netflix, we weren’t able to get through. It also warns that the “stealth VPN” will slow down your network, and we were able to verify this claim. 

We’ll look a bit more at this in the “streaming performance” section of this PrivateVPN review, but the “stealth VPN” not only failed to help us get through to blocked content, but it also slowed our connection down to a crawl.

One final small feature worth noting is that PrivateVPN makes safe port forwarding very easy. If you set the client to show the larger “advanced” window and connect to the VPN, there is a field that will show what port is allowing incoming connections. 

This is great for things like P2P file sharing through a VPN or running any kind of server. Port forwarding this way allows you or others to easily access your device remotely through a secure connection. 

Without features like split tunneling — which is becoming a more and more common feature in VPNs — or even a malware and ad blocker, we can’t give too much credit to PrivateVPN for its features. 

PrivateVPN covers the basics and throws in a nice application killer, but it doesn’t pack in the features. If you want a VPN service that has a ton of features, be sure to look at our Astrill VPN review.

PrivateVPN Features Overview

Starts from$ 414per month

General

Payment methods
PayPal, Credit card
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections
6
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available
7 days
Refund period
30 Days
Worldwide server amount
150+ in 60 countries
Desktop OSes
Windows, MacOS
Mobile OSes
Android, iOS
Browser extensions
Can be installed on routers

Streaming

Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video

Security

Encryption types
128-AES, 256-AES
VPN protocols available
OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included

Support

Live Chat
Email support
24/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase

Pricing

85% - Very Good

PrivateVPN’s pricing is solid overall and offers a pretty good deal for a middle-of-the-pack VPN. The monthly plan comes in a bit below most VPN providers, and the three-month and annual offerings improve on this value. 

  • Unlimited GB Bandwidth
  • 6 Included Devices
  • Bitcoin
3-months plan $ 4.88/ month
$14.63 billed every 3 month
Save 36 %
1-year plan $ 4.14/ month
$49.68 billed every year
Save 46 %

Although the one-year subscription option offers a good price, it still doesn’t beat out the very-long-term pricing offered by some VPN providers, such as NordVPN. If you read our NordVPN review, you’ll see that NordVPN offers a three-year plan that costs even less than PrivateVPN’s best offer. 

However, one thing PrivateVPN does have that NordVPN doesn’t is a generous seven-day free trial period. You will have to jump through some hoops, though. To sign up, you have to contact support, which will give you a code that you can redeem for your seven-day free trial account. 

This is a great way to try the service out for yourself, but it’s still not quite the most generous free VPN plan out there. That would probably go to ProtonVPN, which you can read about in our ProtonVPN review

On top of the trial, PrivateVPN also has a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is pretty much industry standard, but this helps give potential new users an added layer of security when trying out a VPN service for the first time. 

As for payment methods, you’re relatively limited to just the basics — debit card, credit card and PayPal — with the inclusion of bitcoin, as well.

Ease of Use

75% - Good

The desktop client that PrivateVPN offers is easy to use, if not a bit dated in appearance. The window is narrow, with the top third or so taken up by a “PrivateVPN.com” logo. Below this, PrivateVPN displays the name of the country you’ll be connecting to, as well as a small flag next to it. 

Due to size constraints, the U.S. flag has been simplified so it has only a single star and five red-and-white stripes. The problem with this design is that it looks incredibly similar to Liberia’s flag, which has a star with 11 red-and-white stripes. 

This, along with the tightly packed names of the server list, caused a moment of confusion when we were initially looking for servers. To be fair, though, PrivateVPN does not yet have a Liberian server location.

Aside from this minor grievance, there’s not much else to complain about, beyond the interface’s dull looks. The “connect” and “choose location” buttons are on clear display and can’t be missed, and all the settings are easy to find.

However, we would like to see more descriptions added to the settings options. As it is now, there are only a couple of options that have a description next to them, such as the kill switch. As we mentioned, though, even this description wouldn’t help someone who doesn’t already understand how VPNs generally work.

Speed

75% - Good
LocationPing
ms
Download
Mbps
Upload
Mbps
Unprotected4296.69343.89
U.S.9
274.41
316.75
UK84
154.91
322.24
Hong Kong240
26.44
6.07
Germany93
48.96
40.34
South Africa265
14.94
21.19
Average138
103.93
141.32

When we first started running our speed tests on PrivateVPN’s network, we were very impressed. Starting with the U.S. servers, we kept a vast majority of our download and upload speeds while connected and added only a few milliseconds to our ping time.

The UK was a bit slower, but it was still reaching quite admirable heights. Things took a drastic turn for the worse, though, when we started testing locations that see less traffic. Hong Kong, Germany and South Africa all performed much worse on paper than either of the initial servers we tested. 

What we noticed while testing the VPN in real-world situations, though, was that the fast servers were not quite as fast as they seemed in our on-paper testing, and the slow servers were not quite as slow as we expected. 

Even the slowest server, South Africa, still got about 15Mbps, which is enough to stream YouTube in 720p or even 1080p if the conditions are ideal. We were able to surf the web pretty comfortably, even on this server. Many people might find this performance passable, but it’s certainly not ideal.

As for the servers that did very well in our on-paper testing, these would also load in videos at 720p more often than 1080p. The performance was undoubtedly more responsive than the server that scored poorly in our testing, but it was still a bit more sluggish than the negligible difference we saw between the U.S. VPN connection and unprotected one. 

Although PrivateVPN is fast enough to cover the basic needs of most users, a VPN like ExpressVPN offers much more reliable performance and speeds on all of its servers around the globe. You can compare PrivateVPN’s speed performance to ExpressVPN’s results in our ExpressVPN review

Security

85% - Very Good

As we mentioned in the “features” section, PrivateVPN covers the pair of features that we consider to be critical for any VPN’s security performance: a kill switch and some way to connect automatically. Together, these features ensure that no information leaks out of your system before the VPN establishes its connection or after the VPN disconnects. 

The next biggest determining factor in a VPN’s security performance is the protocols that it offers. PrivateVPN gives users the choice between OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP. You can read our VPN protocol breakdown to learn more about each of these, but in short, OpenVPN is what we recommend most people use.

The ideal setup for most VPN users is OpenVPN paired with AES-256 encryption, which PrivateVPN offers. However, AES-128 is PrivateVPN’s default, instead.

You can look at our encryption article to learn more, but we recommend that PrivateVPN users change this setting to the higher AES-256 encryption level as soon as possible, as it offers much better security with a very minor performance impact, if any. 

PrivateVPN’s client also has settings for IPv6 leak protection and DNS leak protection. We tested for IP and DNS leaks, and we weren’t able to find any, so these seem to work. Additionally, PrivateVPN’s “application guard” adds yet another layer of security by automatically closing any applications you tell it to when you disconnect.

Although it doesn’t offer any specialized protocols — like VyprVPN’s Chameleon protocol, which you can read about in our VyprVPN review — PrivateVPN covers the essentials with OpenVPN and AES-256.

Privacy

85% - Very Good

PrivateVPN has a remarkably concise privacy policy that you can read through in only a few minutes. In it, PrivateVPN says that it does not log any information regarding VPN traffic, your IP address or the use of its service. 

It does collect some non-identifying information through cookies on its website, but this is unfortunately an unavoidable aspect of almost all websites at this point. The information collected is essentially limited to your email address and payment method. 

For the best possible privacy and security, you can use bitcoin as your payment method and a burner email to minimize the amount of information PrivateVPN has on you. Overall, PrivateVPN’s short privacy policy actually puts it a bit ahead of the industry standard, in this regard. 

Streaming Performance

75% - Good

We started our test of PrivateVPN’s streaming performance by connecting straight to a server in New Jersey from the regular server list. Using this method, we were able to access Hulu, Amazon Prime and even BBC iPlayer without a problem.

However, Netflix was able to detect our VPN and block us out. As the next step, we went to the “by service” tab of the server page, which shows a list of streaming services with servers under each one. 

The servers listed under each streaming service, however, seem to be the same servers as the ones under the “all servers” tab. Under “Netflix” is a list of most of PrivateVPN’s servers spanning the entire globe. 

Seeing this, we chose the same New Jersey location. Unsurprisingly, we still could not get Netflix to work. This is when we finally turned on the “stealth VPN” option in the settings. 

As we already mentioned, this dropped our connection speeds down to almost nothing. What’s worse is that even with this on, we still could not access Netflix content. 

Although PrivateVPN was able to get most streaming sites working, there are still much better options out there. Take a look at our best VPN for Netflix article to see what VPN providers can reliably get you through to Netflix content.

Server Locations

75% - Good

At the time of writing, PrivateVPN’s network contained only around 150 servers that are spread across 60 countries. Although the number of locations is enough to satisfy most users, it still fails to measure up against many competitors.

What’s worse than the lack of overall servers, though, is the number of servers per location. It seems like PrivateVPN’s network is spread pretty thin, which could explain some of the poor results we saw earlier in the “speed” section. Hopefully, PrivateVPN has some network expansion planned soon. 

For comparison, the largest server network we’ve come across belongs to HideMyAss, which has a monstrous network with more than 1,000 servers in 290 locations spread across 190 countries. You can read more about this massive network in our HideMyAss review.

Customer Service

75% - Good

PrivateVPN’s customer service is a mixed bag. The “contact us” page mentions live chat support, but as far as we could tell, there is no such thing. There is no bubble in the bottom right of the site and no tab for it on the support page. This was a problem we noticed in our last PrivateVPN review, as well. 

That said, the email support is very fast and responded to us within minutes, in most cases. The installation guides are clearly written and thorough, but the FAQ as a whole mostly covers very basic information and is pretty limited in scope. 

With a relatively small FAQ section, it’s good that email support is responsive and helpful. However, if the live chat customer support is no longer available, the references to it need to be removed from the website or the service needs to be moved somewhere on the website where it can be more easily found.

The Verdict

Although PrivateVPN was able to improve in some aspects since our last review, such as customer support, it still did not do enough where it counted. The interface is arguably more confusing, thanks to the streaming services tab, and speed performance is still inconsistent. 

If PrivateVPN aims to climb out of the middle ranks, it will need to improve its streaming performance and speed quite a bit. If you’ve used PrivateVPN, we’re interested to hear about it in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.

PrivateVPN FAQ

  • Who Owns PrivateVPN?

    PrivateVPN is run by the roughly decade-old Swedish company Privat Kommunikation Sverige AB. There are a few other VPNs based out of Sweden, the most notable of which being Mullvad VPN.

  • How Much Does PrivateVPN Cost?

    PrivateVPN’s shortest option -- and also the most costly on a monthly basis -- is the one month plan. This costs about $8 per month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The three-month plan cuts this price down by a few dollars a month, and the annual option brings the monthly cost down to about half of the month-by-month payments.

  • Does PrivateVPN Work in China?

    PrivateVPN should work in China, though it might not be the best option. If your connection is blocked, you’ll need to use the “stealth VPN” option, which isn’t the best, based on our testing. If you need a VPN for China, it’s wise to stick with an option like ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Private Internet Access.

PrivateVPN Review

A good service that consistently falls short of greatness

PrivateVPN is a good service that offers a no-frills VPN experience at reasonable prices. However, it doesn't do a good job of getting into most streaming services and its customer support system seems to be badly broken. Read our full PrivateVPN review for all the details.
Starts from$ 414per month
Visit PrivateVPN

4 thoughts on “PrivateVPN”

  1. I used PrivateVPN, mainly to unlock Netflix and Facebook games while I live overseas. I had an issue with a server and first I was told to check one thing, which you don’t have on Windows 10, then I was offered live support. After 2 weeks I finally got that support from the most rude person in the company apparently. Kevin @privatevpn is not professional, he became rude when I asked a question during the support and he didn’t answer it so I asked again. Then he made another statement that made no sense to me, so I questioned that as well. This is when Kevin decided to attempt to belittle and berate me. I eneed the “help” session and went looking fir a way to speak with someone other than Kevin. Guess what, there is NO WAY because it’s all email. I had to send another email to which the ever awesome Kevin replied “you won’t get a refund, my manager approved this message, go find another company we don’t want rude customers like you” ……. so I’m rude because I asked 2 questions? I think not, Kevin. So I will be handling this with my bank.

  2. Worked with Amazon Prime for a bit but I had to keep reinstalling a new version. The last time it stopped working I sent several emails and did not receive a response until I logged a PayPal dispute. So I’ve paid for 3 months and only got about two weeks of service. I’m with ExpressVPN and could not be happier.

  3. PrivateVPN User Rating

    Customer support ATROCIOUS!!! contacted them using Online, Twitter and Email Still waiting. So if you have issue then what are you supposed to do expect Cancel subscription within 30 DAYS.

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PrivateVPN Review

A good service that consistently falls short of greatness

PrivateVPN is a good service that offers a no-frills VPN experience at reasonable prices. However, it doesn't do a good job of getting into most streaming services and its customer support system seems to be badly broken. Read our full PrivateVPN review for all the details.
Starts from$ 414per month
Visit PrivateVPN
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