I installed IPVanish on my mac, picked a country to connect to from a drop-down menu, was pleasantly surprised to find out that the service offers to pick the best available city and server for me, only to be greeted by this message:
While not great at first impressions, IPVanish did grow on me during my use. My wince quickly disappeared as installing the Helper Tool took seconds. The real-time dashboard, though not particularly useful, was rather pleasant to gaze at for a while too.
Let’s dissect the service. Starting with…
Security & Privacy
IPVanish offers OpenVPN TCP/UDP, L2TP, IPsec, and the much-derided PPTP. The mobile app allows you to toggle between IKEv2 and IPSec. In this case, you are better off choosing IKEv2 as it offers more security. IKEv2 is also better at reconnecting when the VPN connection gets disrupted. IPVanish also offers an option to “obfuscate OpenVPN traffic”; this can be particularly useful in countries that have banned VPN use.
2. Headquarters Location & Logging Policy
IPVanish is based in the US, a concerning fact with regards to privacy. Although the US does not have any blanket law that requires web services to retain customer data – typically referred to as retention laws – law enforcement agencies could ask them to hand over any data – addresses, credit card information, and logs of visited websites – based on a court order. This, however, shouldn’t be a problem as IPVanish has a strict zero-logs policy; so in theory, there shouldn’t be anything to hand over.
The US is a 5 Eyes member though, and given the slew of scandals involving privacy – think NSA and Prism – it is advisable to mull over your decision to use IPVanish if security and privacy are your main concerns.
3. Kill Switch, Auto Reconnect, & IP Switching
A Kill Switch function is available in IPVanish, though it is disabled by default, putting unseasoned VPN users at risk. An Auto-Reconnect feature is available and enabled however, which means that, without adjusting the settings, users’ traffic will only be compromised for the time it takes to reconnect after the connection accidentally drops. In the preferences menu, under IP settings, users can also choose to automatically switch IPs every so often (the minimum time interval is 45 minutes). This adds an extra layer of anonymity so to speak.
1. Platforms & Simultaneous Connections
IPVanish can be used on all major platforms. Desktop: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux; Mobile devices: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone; Amazon Fire TV, Chromebook, and Routers. What’s more, the service allows for 10 simultaneous connections, a welcome feature considering that most VPN services allow for less than that, and, similar to other (whispered: respectable) apps, there are no caps on bandwidth.
2. Server Network & Switches
Server switches are unlimited too. IPVanish offers run over 1000 servers, granting you access to 51 countries.
America: Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the US
Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the UK
Asia: Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates
Africa: South Africa
3. Quick Connect & Filters
IPVanish does try to simplify things. In the Quick Connect window, it offers to pick the best available city and server automatically based on the country of your choosing.
In the Server List window, the desktop app allows you to sort by country, city, or number of servers in each city. You can also filter by latency and country (which they label ‘Region’ in this case) under the “Filter” tab. Finally, there is a handy tab called “Maps” that, as you may have guessed, allows you to view the servers on a map. It must be noted that on a Macbook, running OS X Yosemite version 10.10.1, the app kept crashing time after time in the Server List tab. Another drawback I came across was that you can’t choose a specific server on Server List tab, the app will select the best one for you that for you.
We ran speed tests for servers in America, the UK, China, and South Africa, letting the service which city and server to use (which it claims can do best). Here are the results:
Running the test with the VPN disabled yielded a 32.4 Mbps download speed and a 35.86 Mbps upload speed. Looking at each city we get:
In the US, the download speed was reduced by 32.5%, while the upload speed was reduced by 76.3%.
In the UK, the download speed was reduced by 18.3%, while the upload speed was reduced by 45%.
The Chinese server, which exhibited the wort performance, the download speed was reduced by a whopping 75%; the upload 78%.
Finally, South Africa performed best when it came to downloading, with a mere 5.5% reduction in speed, but curiously, it’s upload performance was abysmal: a 92% reduction.
Overall, Aside from China, the performance of the servers ranged between decent and good when it came to downloading, but their performance regarding upload was dire across the board.
User Interface & Use
Looking at IPVanish, I couldn’t help but feel that the designers had tech-savvy users in mind, both when it comes to the color and feel of the app, as well as the functions, which seemed more granular than what a typical VPN offers.
That said, the Quick Connect window (shown above), Server List, and Account are pretty straightforward and simple enough to use. Opening the Preferences window shows more options, organized under 4 tabs.
In the iOS mobile app, in Settings, there is a rather peculiar option to use Touch ID, which would prompt you to unlock the app with your fingerprint everytime you open. I struggled to find a clear benefit to that option.
I must also note that during my use, the Mac desktop app froze a couple times while trying to pick servers in the Servers List window.
IPVanish offers three subscription packages: one month, 3 months, and a year. They end up costing $10, $8.99, and $6.49 respectively.
Aside from a few hiccups here and there, IPVanish did prove to be a solid service. It is not as user-friendly as some of the best apps out there, but that is perhaps because its target audience is slightly more niche than the average user. Its speed performance wasn’t very impressive either. But a big plus is the price, you get the same level of service for a below average cost. So if you don’t mind enduring a slightly steeper learning curve, then you should consider IPVanish.
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