X-VPN is a virtual private network that’s designed to secure your internet connection with as little hassle as possible. Based in Hong Kong, it boasts the unverifiable number of 50 million users, or about a sixth of the U.S. population.
Given that X-VPN’s landing page quotes a review that describes the service as “decent,” we didn’t go into this article expecting to be blown away. Our lowered expectations were solidly confirmed. It has some bright spots, especially in streaming, but its VPN security is brought down by one monumental unforced error: refusing to identify its own protocols.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Kill switch
- Can access Netflix, Hulu & Amazon Prime Video
- Free VPN on mobile
- Simple interface
- Consistently good download speeds
- Good server network in Latin America & Asia
- Very limited features
- Does not name security protocols
- Connecting often lags for over 15 minutes
- Slow upload speeds
- Poorly written FAQ page
Alternatives for X-VPN
- : PayPal, Credit card, CoinPayments, Advcash, gift cards
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, Giropay, iDEAL (Netherlands only)
- : Unlimited
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
X-VPN is a bare-bones VPN with very few features to distract from its core function. While many VPNs pursue nontechnical customers by cutting out unnecessary bells and whistles, X-VPN is one of several that cut too much.
The number of options for customizing X-VPN can be counted on one hand. If you’re as tired as we are of VPNs cutting features to win new customers, check out our NordVPN review to learn about one that succeeds by adding options instead of cutting them out.
You can download this VPN for macOS, Windows, iOS and Android. It’s also available for Linux, Amazon Fire TV and routers, and can be downloaded as a Chrome extension.
The major draw of X-VPN is that you can download and install it for free without creating an account on its website. You still need login credentials for the desktop app, which throws some cold water on this “perk,” but at least it makes that process easy.
X-VPN does what a VPN is meant to do by masking your server address and DNS requests from third parties. It makes a big deal out of letting you choose between nine different security protocols. However, it doesn’t tell the user what any of those protocols are, instead choosing to name them as “Protocol A,” “Protocol B,” and so forth.
The PC client claims that it does this “to protect your privacy,” which makes about as much sense as blindfolding yourself to hide from a security camera. That one decision encompasses everything wrong with X-VPN. This service is condescending to its own users and suffers for it.
Compare this to a service like CyberGhost, which trusts its users enough to let them create detailed programs for when and how the VPN handles traffic. Read our CyberGhost review to learn more.
When we tested X-VPN last year, it was trying to offer split tunneling through a feature called “app control.” App control didn’t work, and X-VPN seems to have abandoned it. That’s a shame; getting it right could have elevated this service above the pack. Our PureVPN review covers one of the best services that does offer the highly convenient split-tunneling feature.
In terms of other features, you can set it to launch when you start up your device. There’s also a kill switch, which disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops. Lastly, you can chat live with tech support 18 hours a day, six days a week.
That’s it. With so few features, X-VPN is betting an awful lot of chips on the speed and security tests. Let’s see how it does.
X-VPN Features Overview
- : PayPal, Credit card, CoinPayments, Advcash, gift cards
- : 5
- : No
- : free version
- : 8,000+ servers in 58 countries
- : Windows, MacOS, Linux
- : Android, iOS, Fire TV
- : Chrome
- : No
- : 256-AES
- : OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, X
- : No
- : office hours
- : 24/7
- : No
- : No
X-VPN charges $11.99 to use its full service for a month. If you sign up for a year in advance, each month costs $5.99, for a total of $71.88 each year.
These are fairly standard prices, so you might wonder why we’ve given them a poor grade. The answer is that VPNs aren’t priced in a vacuum. X-VPN is charging a price similar to its competitors, while offering far fewer features.
For $5.99, we expect to at least know what protocols we’re using to protect our traffic. ExpressVPN costs only $1 more per month at each level, yet it provides more options and better reliability. If you’re looking to pay a lot less for good service, try our Private Internet Access review.
To use the free plan, simply download the client and start using it without giving any payment information. All plans — free and paid — allow up to five devices to be connected at one time. If you’re looking for more, check out our list of the best VPNs for multiple devices.
The free offering is pretty slim, especially compared to some of our favorites, like Windscribe and Hide.me. Also missing are any plans longer than a year. All the best-value VPNs offer two-year, three-year and sometimes even lifetime plans. By ignoring these, X-VPN is forcing you to leave savings on the table.
X-VPN offers its users several payment methods. You can use PayPal or major credit cards, offshore payments through Advcash, as well as bitcoin, bitcoin cash or ethereum through CoinPayments.
You can also pay with a gift certificate, though X-VPN doesn’t make it clear how to do this. The website suggests, without explanation, that you can buy this service with a Starbucks gift card (see the screenshot). If any of you manage to do that, we’d love to know how.
Does X-VPN Cost Money?
X-VPN is free on mobile devices. Its iOS and Android apps come with unlimited bandwidth for no cost, though you’ll have to look at ads.
You can get free service on Windows and macOS, but only up to 500MB per month, and without the freedom to choose your server. After that, you’ve got to pay for a premium plan. However, you can get your money back on any premium subscription at any time, so the unlimited refund period can be used as a free trial.
Ease of Use
Since X-VPN does so little, there aren’t that many pain points in its interface. It follows the standard discount-VPN format: a rectangular window, a large button in the center, a server selection menu below and the preferences menu tucked into the corner.
Connecting is a crapshoot, though. Sometimes the progress bar fills slowly, only to get stuck at 99 percent. The last time this happened, we waited 15 minutes before giving up. Other times, it connects so fast you’ve hardly finished clicking the button. It’s maddening, but at least it works eventually.
Only the server selection menu has enough going on to risk confusing the user, and it mostly works well. The search bar is quick and responsive, and the different types of server are organized in a sensible way. Our only complaint is that the scroll bar is invisible, requiring you to navigate using the arrow keys.
X-VPN’s speeds are all over the map. Download speed is its best category, with streaming-quality speeds in the U.S. from some servers in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, latencies get very slow the farther away you connect, and the upload speed is shockingly bad everywhere. If you’re tired of VPNs slowing down your connection, click over to our list of the fastest VPN services or check out our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup to see how the top two compare).
X-VPN doesn’t always specify what city its servers are located in. In some locations, such as Mexico, you can only select the entire country.
When you stay close to home, X-VPN’s speeds look great. A protected server a few hundred miles from our location had the exact same latency as our unprotected connection. There was also no hit to download speed. It’s not quite on par with our best VPNs for streaming, but it’s close.
The problem is upload speed, which determines whether the VPN can handle video chat, streaming and other upload functions. Usually, that’s the most consistent metric, but X-VPN slashed it by 20 percent right out of the gate. It only got worse: by the time we tunneled to Australia, we were uploading data at less than half a megabyte per second.
Outside the Americas, latency was awful. Our ping lengths multiplied by a factor of 15, making long-distance connections impossible for gaming.
With all that said, X-VPN outperformed our expectations in terms of download speed. Stay close to home, and it’s perfectly good for streaming, gaming or browsing Reddit, though not likely to make our best VPN for gaming list anytime soon.
Due to X-VPN’s ill-considered choice to not tell you the names of its nine protocols, there is nothing whatsoever secure about this service. We know we’ve mentioned this a lot; it’s because we’re not just disappointed, but also confused. It doesn’t seem to provide any advantage to anybody.
Digging through the X-VPN website, we discovered that the mystery protocols, identified only by letters, include OpenVPN, L2TP, SSTP and PPTP. This doesn’t reassure us. The first three are fine, but PPTP was found to be insecure in 1998. Even Microsoft, who invented PPTP, says you shouldn’t use it.
Without knowing which of X-VPN’s protocols is PPTP, you have a one-in-nine chance to select it by accident. It’s like spinning a slot machine, except instead of loose change, you’re gambling with your online privacy and security.
We have no idea what the other four protocols are, but one of them is X-VPN’s in-house protocol, “X.” According to the website, “X” can mimic other protocols in order to circumvent security crackdowns. That sounds awesome, but since we don’t know which of the mystery letters describes the “X” protocol, we can’t test it to be sure.
We ran a leak test using ipleak.org and found that X-VPN did not leak DNS requests, WebRTC requests or IP addresses. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a weak protocol could not be decrypted by a malicious third party.
Which X-VPN Protocol Is Best?
Of the protocols we know that X-VPN offers, OpenVPN is the best. OpenVPN is a trusted, open-source protocol, and it is regularly updated by volunteers to fix known security flaws. It’s not all that useful if you only have a one in nine chance of picking it, but in theory, OpenVPN is the superior choice.
We only graded this VPN as high as 40 because there aren’t yet any news stories about X-VPN passing on user data, like there are with IPVanish. Also, X-VPN does use AES 256-bit encryption, which is a sensible choice and ensures your connection is actually encrypted, no matter what you get from the protocol slot machine.
However, there’s also cause for concern about the VPN’s location in Hong Kong. Information is still coming to light about how much data the Chinese government can extract from the Hong Kong special economic zone. The people of Hong Kong are deeply concerned about their privacy and about potential censorship, and we share that worry.
Plenty of VPNs focus directly on user privacy and would never be caught dead plagiarizing someone else’s policy. Read our AirVPN review and ProtonVPN review to learn about two of the best.
Streaming is one of X-VPN’s bright spots. While connected, we were able to access Netflix with excellent video quality. Amazon Prime Video worked just as well.
We were also able to watch videos on Hulu without lag. Given that Hulu has recently become the streaming service most likely to block VPN traffic, this puts X-VPN in the top tier of streaming VPN services. It also has streaming-focused servers, though they’re not quite as user-friendly as VyprVPNs (read our VyprVPN review to learn more).
X-VPN sadly wasn’t able to keep up its winning streak with BBC iPlayer. We tested several UK servers and failed to get through each time. Try one of our best VPNs for BBC iPlayer instead.
Three out of four is not at all bad, so we’ve given X-VPN its best grade here.
On its website, X-VPN claims to offer “50+ server locations in 25+ countries with over 8,000+ servers.” Last year, it had about 5,000, so its network is growing fast.
However, it’s important to be skeptical about big numbers like this, especially from a VPN that says it has 50 million users. VPNs often inflate their server counts using VPS hosting. As cordoned-off spaces on servers owned by somebody else, virtual servers are both less reliable and less secure. They’re the reason you so often find the connection on X-VPN not working.
Between its real and virtual servers, X-VPN has nodes on every continent. It covers Latin America better than some competitors, with servers in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
Africa gets shafted, with just one data center in Egypt. However, X-VPN makes up for it a bit with good offerings in Asia, including the often-skipped Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines. As usual, Europe and the United States are well-covered.
X-VPN’s network isn’t bad, but it could be better. For a newcomer with an even more promising server network, check out our Surfshark review.
If you have problems getting X-VPN to work, you’ve got three options: visit the FAQ help page, chat live with a support agent or send an email for assistance.
The FAQ page isn’t great. There’s a total of 20 articles, and most have vague titles with scant and unhelpful contents written in broken English. We don’t expect sparkling prose out of a VPN knowledgebase, but there’s no excuse for not hiring a freelance copy editor.
We give X-VPN credit for honestly announcing it won’t be able to live chat 24/7. It’s currently offering 18/6 instead, down from 24/6 last year. A few off hours are fine, but it would be nice to know which 18 and which six (experiments suggest Sunday is the off day).
If you can’t get a response through chat, you can send an email. X-VPN responds to all of these, though expect to wait at least 24 hours.
The trend of stripping VPN apps of their features to be more “user-friendly” is getting really tiresome. The conventional wisdom (to which X-VPN closely adheres) is that regular folks will never care about online security unless it’s spoon-fed to them.
Times are changing, though. Your grandma knows what Zoom is now. There’s room to be a little more ambitious. The best VPNs on the market understand that.
Services that trust their users are better for torrenting, for beating geoblocks and for hiding your IP address. X-VPN can at least connect to a server, so it will never be the bottom of the VPN barrel, but you should never settle for mediocrity when the best is just as accessible.
If you’ve used X-VPN and have a story to tell, or if you’d like to sound off on anything in this review, let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Is X-VPN Safe to Use?
X-VPN passes basic security tests. However, when using it, you’re likely to accidentally connect using a protocol that’s either new and untested, or outdated and unsafe. Being based in Hong Kong also opens it to potential interference by repressive governments.
What Is X-VPN Used For?
X-VPN keeps your browsing activity hidden from third parties by “laundering” your connection through a distant server. You can use this to browse privately, access your corporate network remotely or view video content that’s blocked in some locations.
Which Protocol Is Best In X-VPN?
It’s impossible to tell which protocol is which in X-VPN, but in general, OpenVPN is the best security protocol.