VPNArea is a Bulgarian service that seems to be getting better by the day. While in earlier versions of this review we had a few complaints here and there, as it stands now the service gets you into Netflix U.S., no longer leaks your DNS, has recently gotten a face lift and is pretty affordable, to boot.
VPNArea is hosted in Switzerland, registered in Bulgaria, and has physical servers in a range of different countries. It nominally offers a lot of features as well as configuration options for technophiles, but it’s not the most user-friendly of VPNs, and the company could benefit from hiring a good web designer.
If you’re looking for a VPN service to circumvent the Netflix VPN ban you could do worse than VPNArea. It’s not the worst VPN service we’ve seen but do read our ExpressVPN review to get a sense of what the best ones can do. That said, the team behind it seems to be hard at work, so watch this space for future updates.
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Decent speeds
- Gets into U.S. Netflix
- Allows torrenting
- Good server spread
- Accepts bitcoin
- Up to 6 devices simultaneously
- No free trial
- Requires a lot of configuration
- Mediocre knowledgebase
- Poor customer support
VPNArea has a standard mobile sized desktop client called a “chameleon” that you access by clicking on an icon in the menu bar. It’s attached to the icon and can be moved around the screen for your convenience:
From the “chameleon” you can link to a “dashboard” that contains a log of your VPN activity which you can reset at any time. On another dashboard page you can link to a DNS server if you want to hide your IP address. The dashboard duplicates some features found in the “chameleon” such as the server list, and is effectively the main interface for VPNArea.
An unusual feature of VPNArea is the automatic “IP-changer” which you can set to change your location every few minutes or at whatever intervals you like. Other available settings include automatic connection when your computer boots up, and remembering your server settings including the encryption protocol and the port you last used.
VPNArea makes the sound of breaking glass if you lose your connection which is perhaps a bit more alarming than it needs to be. If this happens a lot you can set the killswitch to disconnect your internet until the VPN connection is reestablished, and you can also turn off the sound by selecting that option on the dashboard.
Another fairly unusual feature of this service is that you can do a speed or ping test on any individual server or on all the servers at once. Then, on the same page it allows you to change from a UDP to a TCP connection depending on how much you value speed over security.
VPNArea can also be configured with adblocking software, and has an impressive range of supported devices.
We asked the tech staff about split tunneling, a feature that allows you to choose which apps on your computer go through the VPN. It has implications for speed if you’re doing a lot of torrenting or gaming. They haven’t come back to us with an answer about whether it can be configured on this service, but VPNArea does permit torrenting (though it’s not up to the level of our best VPN for torrenting).
A feature that is available but not yet an integral part of its offerings is a business package. It will negotiate this kind of package with you individually if you contact the support staff and it says it plans to have a more streamlined standard business option available in the foreseeable future.
VPNArea and Netflix
VPNArea has two dedicated servers for getting into Netflix, one based in the U.S. and one in Europe. The U.S. one worked but not the European one when we tried it. It also has a dedicated server for BBC iPlayer and this didn’t work for us, but not many VPNs can get around the BBC. See our best VPN for BBC iPlayer article for some that can, as well as our best VPN for Netflix article for more reliable options than VPNArea.
$ 9 90monthly
$ 50 006 months
$ 59 00yearly
|Bandwidth||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
The monthly price of VPNArea is cheaper than the best VPN services and on par with many other mid-range options. The six-month option offers a one-month discount, and the one-year option is by far the most economical, being equivalent to paying monthly for only seven months. There are no multi-year options, check our CyberGhost review for a service that does.
It also offers a seven-day money back guarantee and it swears on its landing page that it always refunds you, unlike some of its competitors. We can vouch for the fact that some VPN services tend to resist living up to their advertising in this regard unless you really push them. Read our BolehVPN review for an example.
You can pay for VPNArea using Paypal, credit card, bitcoin and a range of other country-specific options. It doesn’t automatically renew your payment unless you choose that option, which makes a refreshing change from many internet vendors.
For an extra 20 euros per year you can get a private IP address and a private VPN server. The advantage of this is that it won’t slow down when a lot of other customers are using it. It offers these private servers in a range of desirable countries like the U.S. and the UK.
The first thing you notice when you log in to the VPNArea website is the sheer amount of information you need to take in. It doesn’t just offer you a series of downloads depending on your operating system, but a range of different downloads depending on which encryption protocol you prefer to use as your default, as well as other configuration options.
It has a range of downloads for router configurations and adblocking. It’s nice to have everything in one place so you don’t have to click around for it, but it’s a little overwhelming at first.
The basic download is pretty painless though the screen where you transfer the app to your applications folder is kind of busy with cartoon characters, and the drag and drop happens from right to left, which is the opposite of how it usually goes. Once this is done you can go into your applications folder and open the “chameleon.”
The client is mobile sized, and it’s a little rough in terms of its visual design. We found it was mostly a cosmetic affair. It offers you a selection of servers but if you click on one of them while connected to another it disconnects with a sound of breaking glass. Then you have to click on the “dashboard” button which opens a separate window and reconnect from there.
The dashboard takes up most of your computer screen and annoyingly it doesn’t disappear when you click on one of the other windows behind it. You have to click the “x” at the top left of the screen to get rid of it. To get it back you then go into the icon in the menu bar, bring up the “chameleon,” press the dashboard button and it pops up again.
The list of servers is also present on the dashboard as a pop up menu. There’s a connection button that you press once you’ve selected a server, and if you click on another server you can get the impression that you’ve changed from say Austria to Singapore but actually you have to disconnect and reconnect manually. It’s a poorly designed way to change servers.
You need to input your username and password in the dashboard to do anything with the VPN, but it will remember your details and so you don’t have to do it every time you connect. The dashboard contains most of the features listed above, but they don’t all work very efficiently.
For example, the screen where you select a DNS proxy server requires you to go to the website, copy as many DNS server numbers as you want, and manually paste them into the dashboard, making it one of the least user friendly client interfaces we’ve seen lately. Read our NordVPN review to see a user experience done right.
VPNArea supports Windows 7 through 10, Mac OSX, Android, iOS and several flavors of Linux. It’s also configurable with your router. This versatility puts it ahead of most of the competitors in this one area.
Not only that but you can connect up to six devices at the same time, which is good when you consider that most VPNs allow five simultaneous connections at best. We won’t be placing VPNArea on our best VPN for multiple devices list, however, due to its interface issues.
VPNArea has servers in 70 countries and has multiple servers in many of them, including South Africa, the U.S., Britain and Australia. It’s therefore ahead of the pack when it comes to geographical coverage. It also covers some unusual locations such as Honduras, Kyrgyzstan and, importantly, Russia, where VPNs are sort of illegal.
The servers were a little hit and miss in that some of them didn’t appear to be operational, but you can test them from the dashboard to see how heavy the traffic through each one is before you decide whether to use it.
Most of the servers we tested did quite well on the speed test compared to some VPN services we’ve tested from Russia. However, compared to the unprotected speed recorded on this particular day it wasn’t much above average, and quite bad on its Vancouver server as you can see in the table below.
Interestingly you can speed test VPNArea from its dashboard, but the speeds it reported itself as having were several times faster than the ones we recorded using independent speed testing software.
VPNArea has a no-logs policy and says that because it is not officially an internet service provider it is not subject to Bulgaria’s data retention laws. However, one wonders about the fact that it is hosted in Switzerland and whether it is subject to that country’s data retention laws. Switzerland is known for its strict privacy laws, however, so we’re not too worried about it.
VPNArea claims it uses “AES-256 cipher encryption with SHA256 to ensure integrity and 4096 bits RSA keys for handshake on our OpenVPN servers. For IKEv2 we also use AES-256 with SHA512”. SHA stands for Secure Hash Algorithm and is an extra layer of security that the company says is light years ahead of any future decryption technology.
From the “dashboard” you can change your connection type from TCP to UDP, an increasingly common feature of today’s VPNs. These connection types differ based on their stability and speed. They’re called “protocols” by VPNArea, but OpenVPN is the default encryption protocol and if you want IPv6 you have to configure it separately.
Like some others such as StrongVPN (read our StrongVPN review) this service offers a DNS proxy feature that you also have to configure separately. In this case you do it from a window on the dashboard, by copying and pasting one or more DNS server IP numbers that are provided from a list on its website. Different servers are operational at any given time.
VPNArea has a pop up messenger window in the subscribers’ area of its website, but as is commonly the case, this isn’t really an instant messenger service but an email function. Sometimes email is almost as fast as live chat for getting tech support, but not in this case. The response time of the support staff was measured in hours rather than minutes.
Added to which, VPNArea doesn’t allow you to connect to the support staff from the desktop client. You have to go to its subscriber area, and it doesn’t have an impressive knowledgebase that’s accessible from this page. It does have a community area where there are discussions about how to configure it for different devices and functionalities.
Instead it has a series of email addresses that you can use depending whether you’re seeking a refund, looking for technical support, wanting to contact the company’s management, or needing help with Skype.
If you want the FAQs you have to go back to the landing page and access them through the menu bar there. They’re informative about the basic features of the service, but not a good resource for troubleshooting. This landing page is the most polished part of VPNArea, which feels like a service that’s still under development.
VPNArea doesn’t feel like a finished product in the way that some of its better known competitors do (see our VyprVPN review for one example). It has varying levels of efficiency depending on whether you’re looking for speed, security, or geographical coverage.
It’s one of those VPN that requires technical know-how to get the most out of it, but it’s probably not the best of these, unless you’re looking for one of the unusual features that it doesn’t share with too many of the competing VPN services. See our Mullvad review for a similar service with better security and better value for money.
What do you think of VPNArea? Friend or foe? Let us know in the comments below and thank you for reading.