PrivateVPN Review

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.

By Brian MurrayWriter
— Last Updated: 09 Mar'19
2017-09-14T03:28:04-08:00
Table of Contents Rating
Features
75%
Good
Pricing
85%
Very Good
Ease of Use
85%
Very Good
Speed
80%
Good
Security
90%
Excellent
Privacy
85%
Very Good
Streaming Performance
75%
Good
Server Locations
80%
Good
Customer Service
60%
Fair
User Reviews & Comments

Good
Starts from $ 414 per month
Visit PrivateVPN
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PrivateVPN is a 10-year-old Swedish virtual private network provider. With as much competition as there is in the VPN market, it holds its own well in many ways. Its security features are top of the line and its performance is strong.

That said, there are still things that PrivateVPN needs to improve. For one, the customer service system seems to be broken at the time of writing. Also, though the PrivateVPN client has interesting design features, the VPN’s ability to get around geoblocking, such as you find with BBC iPlayer, is weak. Read our best VPN for streaming article for better picks.

If you’ve come to our website looking for the best of the best, we suggest heading to our best VPN guide now to save time. If you’re interested in hearing about what we liked and disliked about PrivateVPN, though, read on.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Good sustained download speed
  • Responsive browsing
  • Lots of server locations
  • Solid security options

Weaknesses:

  • Broken customer service system
  • Could not connect to some servers at times
  • Cannot access some geoblocked websites

Alternatives for PrivateVPN

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Features

75% - Good

PrivateVPN covers what most people would consider the essential and in-demand features. It has clients for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android that are laid out well and easy to use. It can be set up to run on routers, as well, to ensure all devices in your household are protected.

The clients are easy to configure and boasts things such as a killswitch. They can even be set up to run and automatically connect on start-up. That allows you to make sure no data is being sent or received without the VPN running.

It does lack split tunneling, though. Split tunneling is a useful feature that is difficult to find among VPNs. If you’re looking for a way to choose which programs need to go through your VPN, take a look at our ExpressVPN review. ExpressVPN is feature-rich and supports split tunneling.

PrivateVPN also lacks malware and ad blocking capabilities. Most VPNs forego this though, because it is expected more often than not that you’ll use a separate software for it. If you are looking for protection against malware, check out our best antivirus software article after you’re done reading this.

Pricing

85% - Very Good

PrivateVPN sports competitive pricing. It offers three payment time frames: monthly, quarterly or annually. All plans come with up to six simultaneous connections and an unlimited amount of data.

Unfortunately, it does not offer plans longer than one year. Though its pricing is competitive, if you’re on the hunt for the most affordable VPN out there, you should read our Private Internet Access review.

  • Unlimited GB Bandwidth
  • 6 Included Devices
  • Bitcoin
6-months plan $ 8.58 / month
$51.46 billed every 6 month
1-year plan $ 4.14 / month
$49.68 billed every year
Save 52 %

PrivateVPN allows customers to pay using a credit card, PayPal, or bitcoin. It also has a lenient 30-day money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, all you need to do is let it know within that window and you can get a refund.

It also offers a free trial. Though that is not made clear from the start, you will find in the FAQ section of the website that you have to contact support and request a trial. This will give you seven days to test things and see if it’s for you. If you’re looking for a free VPN, we have a guide to free VPN services waiting for you to read it.

Ease of Use

85% - Very Good

The PrivateVPN website is laid out well for the most part. If you plan to buy the service or want to read about its features, it’s easy to find what you need. That said, it was a hassle to find out that it offered a free trial. Most VPNs that so say so upfront.

Instead, PrivateVPN hides that fact in the FAQ and makes you contact support to get the trial activation code.

Other than that, account setup was easy, as was installing the client. Once you start the program and log in, you’re greeted with a simple interface with a pleasing blue background. At the top left, there’s a link to live support, which we’ll discuss in more detail shortly, while the top right tells you how much time is left in your subscription.

At the center of the window is a drop-down menu to browse and select the server you want to connect to. Below that is a button that simply says “connect”. The list of servers is alphabetized and has small flags next to each option, which makes it easy to find a server that is in a location you want. Some servers are also labeled with the services they have unblocked, such as Netflix.

At the bottom left, a button labeled “advanced” allows you to dig deeper into the settings. You can choose from a handful of VPN protocols and encryptions, which we’ll address in more detail in the “security” section. You can also configure the client to run on start-up or a killswitch.

There’s an application guard that lets you make a list of programs to terminate if your connection is lost. There’s also a tab called “stealth VPN” that helps the VPN get around VPN blockers and punch through firewalls.

Considering the options the client gives you, PrivateVPN does a good job of presenting them in way that’s easy to interpret and use. The descriptions of each feature are wordy enough to convey what they do, and the toggle switch controls make it easy to see whether features are enabled or disabled.

Speed

80% - Good

PrivateVPN did well in speed testing for the most part. We used the OpenVPN UDP protocol with AES 128-bit encryption for our testing. Using the nearby New York City server, which was about 400 miles away, we hardly saw an increase in ping, which is impressive. Speeds were also good at that distance.

Location: Ping (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
Unprotected (Virginia, U.S.)1472.255.96
New York, U.S.1969.435.72
Tokyo17569.154.26
Manchester, UK11069.445.03
Zurich10968.855.10
Johannesburg27726.083.10

As the distance from us to the server increased, so did the ping, as is expected. The Tokyo server is just about 6,800 miles away and had a ping of 175 milliseconds. Distance didn’t affect download speeds much, though, with most of the far-away servers performing similarly to the New York City option.

Despite the high-on-paper ping of the servers that were farther away, the browsing experience was still pleasant and there were no obnoxious loading times on websites. While connected to the Tokyo server, we were even able to play Japan-only strategy games without issue. If you plan to play more fast-paced games, though, check out our best VPN for gaming article.

The Johannesburg server was the only one we saw as an outlier. It is about 8,200 miles away from us and had much higher ping than most of the others, as well as significantly reduced speeds. This seemed to be a symptom of that server being under considerable load at the time, though.

If you’re on the hunt for the fastest VPN available, head to our fastest VPN services roundup. PrivateVPN offers good speeds and reasonable ping times, but there are better options, especially when the server you want is already under load.

Security

90% - Excellent

When it comes to security, PrivateVPN has the most important bases covered. It supports several protocols, including PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN. If you want to learn more about them, check out our VPN protocol breakdown, but, in short, OpenVPN is ideal for most people. It offers excellent security, along with solid reliability and speed.

The PrivateVPN client lets you choose between AES 128-bit and AES 256-bit encryptions for your connection. Encryption is an important aspect of security, and data encrypted with either of those methods is practically impossible to decrypt. If you’re interested in learning more about encryption, read our description of encryption for more insight into how it works.

If you go into the settings, there are many additional options for further improving security. A killswitch, along with an application killer, lets you terminate programs and connections immediately if the VPN disconnects, so no information leaks on an unprotected connection. You can also set the VPN to run on start-up to be secured as soon as you boot your computer.

We tested the VPN for DNS leaks, too, and it passed. DNS leaks are yet another way your browsing information can leak into the open, even when tunneling. Again, if you’re interested in learning more, we have the answers in our what are DNS leaks piece.

Privacy

85% - Very Good

PrivateVPN has a strong privacy policy. The company is based in Sweden, which has great consumer protection laws regarding information logging, as well as what kind of information the government can force a company to hand over.

PrivateVPN follows a no-logging policy and doesn’t collect or log traffic information or other forms of information about the use of its VPN service. All it needs to set up your account is an email address, password, and payment information, which it stores on a secure and encrypted database.

On the website, non-identifying information is collected using cookies. The cookies only exist for the duration of your visit to the website and track non-identifying information about how the website is being used. That allows PrivateVPN to make improvements to the website and ensure everything is working.

Unfortunately, the use of cookies is standard practice on websites. The most concerning portion of the privacy policy is that it says third parties might analyze the data. That presumably refers to an outsourced web design firm, but the wording is ambiguous. It explicitly states the information is non-identifying, but the practice could still be off-putting to some people.

Streaming Performance

75% - Good

Streaming was the area where we had the most trouble with PrivateVPN. We were able to get U.S. Netflix working, as well as other U.S. services, such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. When you open the server list in the client, some are labeled with the services they are designed to get into. For example, a New York server is tagged with “Netflix/Hulu/ABC.”

When we tried to connect to the London server labeled “Netflix,” it would not connect. We then tried another one of the seven available there and still failed to connect. After trying four of the servers without being able to make a connection, we moved on.

We tried the Manchester server to get to the BBC iPlayer. The BBC iPlayer denied us service, but the Manchester server doesn’t indicate it has the ability to get past geoblocks. Turning on the stealth VPN setting, which is supposed to help with this, did not get the job done.

We were later able to get on the London server that is supposed to be able to access UK Netflix, but it still wasn’t able to get BBC iPlayer to work. That said, none of the servers specifically list BBC iPlayer as one of the unblocked websites. If it’s what you’re planning to use your VPN for, check out our best VPN for BBC iPlayer roundup.

When we used Netflix, the performance was decent but not great. At first, it defaulted to a low resolution and the stream was choppy, but sorted itself out after about a minute. It’s nothing like our best VPN for Netflix picks, but it’s okay.

Server Locations

80% - Good

PrivateVPN has a decent number of servers, coming in at about 80. That is far from the lowest we’ve seen, but still falls short of being impressive. If you want to see a VPN provider with an impressive number of servers, take a look at our NordVPN review. It boasts over 5,000.

That said, the 80 servers PrivateVPN operates are placed well in 59 countries. Some countries, including the U.S. and the UK, have servers spread across multiple cities and multiple servers per city. For example, London has seven servers and there is an additional one for the UK in Manchester.

Practically every continent is covered, including servers in Africa, South America, Asia, North America and Europe. Though it might not sport the most impressive server count in sheer numbers, we are impressed with the coverage PrivateVPN achieves with the servers it has.

 

Customer Service

60% - Fair

We contacted PrivateVPN’s support by email to get a trial account set up. We immediately received a confirmation email saying that our message went through, which was nice. It said we’d be hearing back from support within 24 hours.

A little over six hours later, we got our trial code and were set to get started. Six hours is a longer response time than many people are willing to tolerate, but, luckily, PrivateVPN offers a live chat feature that can be accessed from the client. At least, in theory it does.

For some reason, any time we clicked the live chat button in the client, we were taken to a blank white page that wouldn’t load anything. Plus, the contact form on the website was non-existent. There was also no way to contact PrivateVPN by phone.

On the bright side, the setup guides on the website are well-written and accompanied by plenty of clear pictures. The FAQ is lackluster, though, and mostly just covers basic and general VPN-related questions.

 

The Verdict

PrivateVPN has been in the market for a decent amount of time and seems to be making a genuine effort at being the best it can. The client is functional and the number of servers is expanding. That said, it’s still far from being at the top of our list because of issues with the live chat and its inability to circumvent some geoblocks.

If you’re wondering where to go from here, we invite you to check out our catalog of VPN reviews. It’s sorted from best to worst for your convenience. You could, of course, give PrivateVPN a shot and make use of its refund window.

If you have experience with PrivateVPN, or just want to give us your two cents, feel free to leave a comment below. We love hearing from you and, as always, thanks for reading.

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

2 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.

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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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