Shellfire VPN 2019
Shellfire VPN is a service that seems to think highly of itself, but once you pop open the hood fails spectacularly. Between the ugly interface, the slow speeds and the iffy security, we recommend that shoppers look elsewhere. Read our Shellfire review for the dirty details.
Shellfire is a Germany-based VPN service that seems, judging by its price, to position itself as a competitor with the best VPN providers on the market today (we’ll let you judge for yourself if it succeeds with our ExpressVPN review). However, the features it offers make Cloudwards.net think it would be more realistically marketed as a lower-priced, slimmed-down option.
It’s an inferior product in almost every respect to other services (read our VyprVPN review for another example) that have streamlined their technology to protect you against prying ISPs and government censorship. You certainly don’t want Shellfire if you need to get past the Great Firewall, or are addicted to a show that you can only get by circumventing the Netflix VPN ban.
- Great for all streaming
- Highly secure
- Split tunneling
- Massive server network
- 3 simultaneous connections
- Well priced
- Highly secure
- Thousands of servers
- Six simultaneous connections
- Lack of detail on server location
- No split tunneling
- Free 3-day trial
- Gets into Netflix U.S.
- Bit slow
- No refund policy
- Network disappoints
- Good mobile app
- No logs
- Frequent & sudden disconnects
- Poor encryption
- User interface
- No killswitch
- No split tunneling
- Poor technical support
Feature-wise, Shellfire isn’t all that great. It does include some cosmetic features that its competitors don’t have: for example, it shows a graphic representation of the connection to the server that might be helpful to those who don’t quite understand what goes one when you use a VPN (read our VPN guide if you need more than a pretty picture).
There’s a settings wheel on the interface that allows you to choose options like whether to connect automatically when your computer starts, or to save your preferred server location. It also allows you to change the interface language from English to French or German.
A fairly unusual feature of the interface is the list of U.S. TV streams, most of which are ones you don’t need a VPN to get into (like Fox TV). Netflix and Amazon Prime are not listed, but that doesn’t matter as you can’t use Shellfire to get into either, nor the BBC iPlayer. Read either our articles on the best VPN for Netflix or the best VPN for BBC iPlayer if that’s a priority for you.
Shellfire doesn’t offer a killswitch, a feature that disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection fails. A killswitch might be redundant in any case as you’ll see in the “security” section of this review.
Shellfire doesn’t offer a split tunneling feature either (read our StrongVPN review for a service that does). This is a feature that allows you to choose which apps on your computer go through the VPN. For example, you might not want your communication with your printer to be held up by the slower connection speeds caused by VPN encryption.
Killswitches and split tunneling are features which distinguish the more upmarket VPN services from the more downmarket ones. Shellfire can’t make up for their absence with the bells and whistles on its interface, especially when they’re so aesthetically crude.
Shellfire accepts payment by bank transfer, PayPal, credit card, bitcoin, HiPay and Paysafecard. The pricing scheme varies wildly from country to country, we’ve taken the U.S. pricing for the table below. Note that the service is a bit cheaper in EU countries.
$ 4 00monthly
$ 38 40yearly
$ 9 00monthly
$ 67 26yearly
|Bandwidth||1000 GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
Unlike many of its competitors, Shellfire does offer a basic VPN service at no charge (read our best free VPN article for more suggestions). This doesn’t give you a choice of server or country but may offer a minimal amount of peace of mind to some users, though it’s arguable that it shouldn’t. If you upgrade to the Premium and PremiumPlus services you get a choice of servers and connection types.
The prices are close to those of services ranked at the top of our VPN reviews: $9 if you pay month by month, compared to $12.95 for ExpressVPN. This is a steep price for a service that doesn’t offer that many features, especially if some of those top-ranked providers are significantly cheaper, to boot (read our PIA review for one example).
The price goes down if you opt for a self-renewing subscription, but cancelling this is harder than with other VPNs. There’s a 14-day money-back guarantee, but unlike those services where you can cancel at the click of a button or by asking the 24/7 tech support staff, Shellfire asks that you fill out a form and submit your bank details.
This might act as a deterrent to signing up for Shellfire in the first place, especially since it offers little price advantage to compensate for its inferior features.
Shellfire’s pricing seems based on access to the most desirable server locations. However, since these server locations sometimes have inferior encryption protocols, this doesn’t seem worth paying for. The reason for many people wanting a U.S. based server is to get into Netflix, which you can’t do with second-rate encryption.
Shellfire is easy to install. You download the appropriate package for your operating system and install it in your applications folder by dragging and dropping the icon when the prompt appears.
The first thing you notice about Shellfire is the low-resolution fuzziness of its interface, which differs from the standard being set by market leaders like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, which have very streamlined, attractive desktop clients (read about one in our NordVPN review).
It also shows a map of the Shellfire servers around the world and gives an impression of the geographical route your internet connection is travelling through. By clicking on a different tab you can see which server and which country you’re connected to in a list format.
The Shellfire client stands out from the herd in taking up quite a large amount of real estate on your screen. It’s not a big issue but it does make it harder to keep an eye on your connection while you’re doing other things. This is especially true if you’re using a laptop with a smaller screen.
When changing servers you have to disconnect first, but the list of alternative servers is right there on your screen so you don’t have to go into a menu to see it. This is a convenient feature; less convenient is the lack of options for organizing the servers by location, although you can see them on the map that comes up if you click the appropriate tab.
The Shellfire mobile app is a lot more professional-looking and attractive than the desktop client. It has the advantage of being able to switch servers without having to disconnect first, and allows you to tell at a glance where you’re connected to by displaying the country’s flag in the center of the screen.
Shellfire supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. It offers instructions on how to manually configure each device with the different encryption protocols that are available, but doesn’t have all protocols for each kind of operating system.
It allows unlimited devices to be used and says in its FAQs that only one device can be connected at a time, so if you connect on your phone it will automatically disconnect on your computer. However, we didn’t find this to be the case. With the PremiumPlus subscription it was possible to connect with at least two devices. If that’s not enough, check out our CyberGhost review for a service that offers more.
Shellfire has servers in 35 countries. The geographical spread is decent, but not great. The vast majority are clustered in Europe, with only one in the U.S. and one in Canada. The only African country on their list is South Africa, and the coverage in Asia is sparse.
The servers aren’t all available to all customers. Only PremiumPlus customers get access to the U.S. and UK servers, for example. Most other VPNs give you access to all servers and vary the price based on the levels of encryption that are available.
Another drawback of Shellfire are its slow connection speeds. Even considering we were connecting from faraway Western Siberia, the speeds were mediocre at best.
|Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
If these figures don’t make you jump for joy, and they shouldn’t, check out our article on the fastest VPN services. If you were thinking of using Shellfire for streaming, think again.
Shellfire doesn’t log any customer information, but it does warn that the German privacy laws are a gray area at the moment. In the FAQs they explain that in Germany ISPs don’t have to log data, and so Shellfire doesn’t do it, but this may be subject to change in the future. It emphasizes that the no log policy doesn’t mean it won’t cooperate with the law in criminal cases.
Shellfire offers what might look like two different encryption protocols with its Premium and PremiumPlus options. However the UDP and TCP options on the interface are actually connection types, and are not encrypted. UDP is faster. TCP involves proxy servers and therefore some significant delays. It failed a DNS leak test, however.
Shellfire doesn’t tell you on the interface which encryption protocol you’re using. It just gives the different servers star ratings based on how well they’re encrypted and you have access to them or not based on the level of your subscription. Interestingly, the U.S. server sometimes has a low security rating and yet is only available on the PremiumPlus subscription.
You can configure encryption protocols like OpenVPN for yourself, depending on what kind of operating system you have. To do so you need to download the instructions .pdf from their site. These instructions are far from idiot proof.
Installing encryption protocols manually is not only more technical than most customers want to get, but making customers do it is a pretty ridiculous shortcoming in a VPN service that you’re paying to protect your privacy on the internet.
There are other similarly priced services (read about one in our TorGuard review) that are aimed at engineers and that require a bit of technical knowhow to get the most out of them, but they also offer the basics to ordinary users without expecting them to download instructions in this way.
You can connect to the helpdesk via the question mark button on the desktop client, which is a handy feature. However, help isn’t 24/7, and if you call out of hours the livechat carries a message saying there’s no one there. The alternative is email, but it took us three days to get an answer.
Unlike StrongVPN, which has been around for seventeen years, Shellfire doesn’t have a deep knowledgebase. Their FAQs cover basic information such as “what is a VPN,” but nothing more advanced than that.
On the mobile app the knowledgebase is even smaller, offering two FAQs: “What is a VPN?” and “is my connection data being logged.” This is information you only need to learn once by reading it on their website and its presence in the app is purely cosmetic. Sadly, this attempt to conceal a lack of substance is typical of Shellfire’s service at the moment.
To sum up, Cloudwards.net thinks that Shellfire is not the best choice of VPN provider. Almost all of its features are inferior to those of similarly priced competitors, and it conceals this fact using some fairly laughable strategies like making you pay more for inferior encryption in a more desirable geolocation.
It also has some ambiguous testimonials that it has translated into English itself. These are from German publications and the way they’re excerpted leads one to suspect that they may not have been rave reviews.
Taken altogether, you’re better off going with another provider like ExpressVPN or NordVPN. Have you used Shellfire? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.