Avast SecureLine VPN: Covers the Basics, but Overall Underwhelming
- Cheap if you're interested in protecting one device
- Produced by Avast, an established security company
- Connects very fast
- Barely any effect on upload speeds
- Frustrating installation process on iOS
- Few customisation options
- Limited server network
- Takes a heavy toll on download speeds
Avast, the cybersecurity software company that commands the largest market share among anti-malware application vendors worldwide, offers its own VPN service: the Avast SecureLine VPN. Naturally, I was curious to see how a VPN produced by a security behemoth stacks up against the competition. So I gave a try. Here’s what I found out.
To be fair, I was expecting more from Avast. Getting the service to run on my iPhone was extremely frustrating. After installation, the app kept shuffling me between an activation page – where I would click on the activate my free trial period button – to a settings page on the app store that displayed the subscription packages (both seen below).
Eventually, I discovered that I had to click on “Already purchased?”, tiny blue text sitting right below the much more prominent Trial Period button, to start using the app.
Installation on my Mac was seamless though; the app was up and running in just a few clicks.
Both the desktop and mobile interface are clean and straightforward with little fuss. There is a button to connect, a button to pick your location, and, for the desktop version, some additional info.
Avast Secureline has servers in 34 countries around the globe. They are unevenly distributed though. There are no South American countries for instance; its presence in the Middle East is very meek with only two locations; it is only available in one country in Africa. Here’s the list:
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
- North America: Canada, Mexico, and the US
- Middle East: Israel and Turkey
- Asia Pacific: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan
- Africa: South Africa
Aside from the US, which offers you the option to connect through 16 different cities, your choice is pretty limited, if any. In each of the remaining countries, Avast Secureline has servers in either one or two cities. Overall the service’s network is pretty barebone.
The company does claim that if their servers are squeezed, they can tap into a network of trusted partners and extend their capacity.
Avast also claims that all of their VPN gateways run on dedicated hardware servers and that they “make sure they have enough excess capacity to maintain performance even under peak loads.” They have systems that automatically balance traffic across different servers to avoid overloading.
Platforms & Simultaneous connections
Avast Secureline has native apps for the all big 4 platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. The service allows for 5 simultaneous connections, but that is exclusive to one subscription package. The others limit you to one device. We’ll discuss this more in detail in the pricing section.
Security & Privacy
You cannot pick your protocol. Avast Secureline employs the OpenVPN protocol on Windows and Android devices and IPSec on Mac and iOS. The service uses the super secure 256-bit advanced encryption standard (AES).
Avast is headquartered in the Czech Republic, a country with no mandatory data retention laws Avast does collect some to metadata – network location and time of connection to be exact – but that information gets deleted within 30 days. The service does not log any data related to the content from apps or websites.
It is also worth mentioning that the Czech Republic is not part of the notorious 14 Eyes global intelligence alliance.
Shared IP, Kill Switch, & DNS Leak Protection
On its website, Avast claims that “It’s easier to get lost in a crowd. Whenever you connect to our servers, you get the same IP address as everyone else connected to it – making it that much harder for traffic on that server to be associated with any one of you.”
This is all fine and dandy, but the increased anonymity comes at a price. Streaming services, such as Netflix, monitor for this kind of behavior to identify users using a VPN and blocks them.
SecureLine includes a Kill Switch, though disabled by default. A Kill Switch shuts off your internet whenever the connection to the server drops, otherwise your connection would automatically default back to your original IP and leave you exposed.
SecureLine also protects from DNS leaks. A DNS leaks occur when your system sends DNS requests outside of the tunnel created by the VPN.
Secureline does not have dedicated support. What you can do is either call Avast or email them for help; there is no live chat available. Their email support took about 3 hours to answer my query; I had enquired about their DNS leak protection system works – as it wasn’t explained properly on their website. The response arrived a couple of hours later, a brief email with a link to one of their support pages, which included very basic and broad information about Avast products that protect from DNS leaks with no actual explanation.
We ran speed tests using servers in Chicago, Amsterdam, and London. Additionally, we also ran a test for Istanbul, the city that the app automatically chose as the best route to connect through.
Starting with the latter, speed witnessed a significant drop, cut in half by 51%. Upload though remained almost intact, a mere 2% drop.
Download speeds also suffered when using servers in Chicago, Amsterdam, and London. The speed dropped by 45, 30, and 52.4 percent respectively. Oddly enough, the servers performed rather well when it came to uploads: reductions of 25, 10.6, and 11.32 percent.
I must note here that SecureLine connects really fast. After clicking the connect button, I never had to wait more than 2 seconds to be connected.
Price & Verdict
Pricing plans are rather unusual. Avast offers SecureLine in either a multi-platform package, which allows for up to 5 simultaneous connections, for $6.66 a month, or in a single platform plan. The desktop apps – Mac and Windows – retail for $5 dollars a month; Android and iOS apps go for $1.66 a month.
There are no monthly or biyearly plans. You can only purchase a year’s worth of subscription.
Not to mince words, it’s really hard to recommend SecureLine. It’s not the fastest, it doesn’t have the best interface, it was a bit awkward to install on mobile, and support is abysmal. The only way it would make sense would be if you’re only interested in using a VPN on one device; at $1.66, it’s hard to beat.