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US-based IPVanish is an appealing VPN provider with a long list of features, including several that you won’t often see elsewhere.
IPVanish has a decent-sized network with 40,000+ shared IPs, and 1,300 P2P-friendly servers in 75+ locations.
Some VPNs give you more, but, the website explains, IPVanish is ‘the world’s only Top Tier VPN service provider’. The company owns and manages its own servers rather than renting other people’s hardware, giving it far more control over how the network and servers are set up and run. This also demonstrates a level of resources and expertise which you won’t see with some other VPNs.
The company doesn’t shout about it, but all servers support P2P. (That’s not an academic point – it means you’re more likely to be able to download from a nearby location, ensuring you’ll get the best possible speeds.)
- Want to try IPVanish? Check out the website here
A wide range of clients covers Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, even Amazon Fire TV, as well as providing a host of setup guides for routers, Linux, Chromebooks and other platforms.
IPVanish supports connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously, and unlike most VPNs, these don’t have to belong to the account holder – they can be owned by anyone in your household. A single account can cover your partner, your kids, everyone – potentially a real money-saver.
24/7 live chat support is available if you need it, but even here, IPVanish delivers a little more than we expected. There’s phone support, too, though with more limited hours (9am – 5pm CT, Monday to Friday).
The big change since we last evaluated this service is that, like many other VPNs, IPVanish is trying to expand its horizons and branch out into other security and privacy areas. As a first step, IPVanish accounts now include 250GB of free secure storage space via SugarSync (worth $9.99 a month). That could be very useful, and as IPVanish now calls its product a ‘security suite’ we expect more functions and features will be arriving very soon.
Editor’s Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.
- Number of servers increased to 1400. (May 2020)
- Pricing changes. $7.50 for the first month, $6.75 per month for the first three months and $4.87 per month for the first year. (June 2020)
- Number of servers increased to 1500. (July 2020)
- The service now offers unlimited simultaneous connections. (July 2020)
IPVanish offers discounts on its regular price when you sign up for a longer plan (Image credit: IPVanish)
Plans and pricing
A quarterly plan doesn’t save you very much at $4.50 a month for the first term, $9 on renewal.
The best value is with the annual plan at just $3.25 a month for year one, $6.50 afterwards.
If you’ll make regular use of SugarSync, this looks like an excellent deal. Buy SugarSync direct from the SugarSync site and you’ll pay $10 a month, so opting for the IPVanish plan saves a pile of cash and gets you the VPN effectively for free.
It could also be appealing if you’d just like to trial the SugarSync service over a long period, see how it works for you. The $3.25 a month price for year one is less than even some value VPN providers (Ivacy asks an effective $3.50 a month for its annual plan, Private Internet Access charges $3.33), so you can think of it as a free one-year SugarSync trial.
If you’ve no real need for web storage, though, opting for another VPN provider could save you a lot of cash. Surfshark’s two-year plan costs just $2 a month, for instance, an upfront payment of $48. IPVanish requires $39 for year one, $78 for year two, $117 in total.
Testing isn’t quite as easy or convenient as we’d like. There’s no free trial, although you do now get a 30-day money-back guarantee to bring it in line with most other VPNs – while CyberGhost and Hotspot Shield give you 45 days.
IPVanish used to support payment via Bitcoin, but not anymore – it’s strictly card and PayPal only.
IPVanish protects your privacy with encryption and secure protocols (Image credit: IPVanish)
IPVanish protects your privacy with its use of rock-solid, industry-standard AES-256 encryption, and its support for the highly secure protocols, OpenVPN and IKEv2.
The IPVanish apps go further by giving you an unusual level of control over their OpenVPN setup. The ability to choose your OpenVPN port (1194 or 443) may help you connect, while a ‘Scramble OpenVPN Traffic’ option reduces the chance of your VPN tunnel being detected or blocked in anti-VPN countries such as China or Iran.
All of the DNS leak tests we performed showed that IPVanish didn’t leak any of our information (Image credit: ProxyRack)
The Windows client offers a kill switch, DNS and even IPv6 leak protection to reduce the chance that your real identity will be exposed online, for example if the VPN connection drops.
Privacy pluses elsewhere include the iOS app’s ability to create lists of wireless networks which IPVanish will always protect, and others which it can ignore, as you know they’re safe. You can then mostly leave the VPN to turn itself on and off as required, preserving your privacy at all times.
To confirm the service really does preserve your identity, we checked for leaks at sites including IPLeak, DNS leak test and Do I Leak. None of the tests revealed any issues, with the apps shielding our real IP address at all times.
IPVanish keeps zero logs on its users (Image credit: IPVanish)
Point your browser at IPVanish’s website and you’ll read what seems to be a clear no-logging policy.
“Our strict zero-logs policy keeps your identity under wraps. We do not record any of your activity while connected to our apps in order to preserve your civil right to privacy.”
“IPVanish is a zero-logs VPN service provider, which means that we do not keep a record of any connection, traffic, or activity data in regard to our Services.”
Comforting words, but customers shouldn’t have to blindly trust any provider’s website promises. VPN providers such as NordVPN, TunnelBear and VyprVPN have tried to reassure their customers by allowing external companies to audit their systems and find out what’s really going on. Hopefully IPVanish – and the rest of the industry – will follow suit.
SpeedTest by Ookla is one of the services we used to test IPVanish’s performance (Image credit: Ookla)
We began our performance tests by using Speedtest.net, TestMy.net and other benchmarking websites to find the best download speeds of our local UK servers.
The initial results were very inconsistent. Here are five consecutive UK download speed measurements from a single website, for instance: 9.2Mbps, 70Mbps, 11.3Mbps, 75.9Mbps, 70.3Mbps.
Would switching protocol to IKEv2 help? 37.8Mbps, 31.9Mbps, 6.1Mbps, 36.8Mbps, 16.1Mbps.
So no – not really.
We repeated these tests across two days, using different UK servers, and most sessions had similar problems.
These results would normally earn some major black marks, but this time, we can see a possible explanation. The tests took place in mid-March 2020, a few days after the UK government had recommended everyone who could do so, should work from home, and it’s possible this has had a major effect on some UK data centers and internet performance overall.
To test this idea, we switched to measuring speeds from the UK to the Netherlands, and results were much better at an average of around 69Mbps on a 75Mbps test line.
US download speeds were very reasonable, too, at an average 220Mbps, and with a minimum individual test result of 153Mbps. That’s more than enough for most applications.
Overall, it looks like IPVanish is at least capable of delivering decent speeds. UK performance was disappointing this time, and it’s possible this was down to some IPVanish problem, but because of the exceptional local circumstances, we’re not going to count it against the company in this review.
In our tests IPVanish was able to unblock Netflix in the US, so we didn’t see any dreaded errors (Image credit: Netflix)
Unlike some of the competition, IPVanish doesn’t boast about its website unblocking abilities. Browse the website and you’ll eventually find its Services page, but that’s limited to relatively unprotected sites such as Sling TV, Spotify and YouTube.
Does this mean IPVanish doesn’t have much to boast about? Our iPlayer tests seemed to confirm that, as none of the UK servers got us access, a repeat of what we found during our last review.
All US VPN servers allowed us to watch geoblocked YouTube clips. That’s not such a big deal – everyone else does, too – but we like to check, anyway, just to confirm there are no problems.
The surprise was that although IPVanish doesn’t seem keen to talk about it, all test servers gave us access to US Netflix, a far better performance than you’ll see with many competitors and an earned place on our best Netflix VPN list.
IPVanish offers clients for a wide variety of platforms (Image credit: IPVanish)
IPVanish directly supports a wide range of platforms, with clients available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Fire TV. There are no browser extensions, but the support pages have setup guides for Chrome and Firefox, as well as tutorials covering routers, Chromebooks, Linux and more.
The app download links are easy to find on the website, and, conveniently, you don’t have to log in to your IPVanish account to access them.
There are no big surprises during the client setup process (or indeed small surprises, really). The Windows and Mac clients install like any other, iOS and Android apps may be installed from their app stores, and there’s a bonus direct download of the Android APK file for experts who need more control of the setup process.
If you’re not interested in the official clients, IPVanish has manual setup tutorials for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and others. These aren’t as numerous or detailed as we’ve seen at ExpressVPN, but there’s still plenty of information here. The website has 12 tutorials just covering Windows, for example, with separate guides for OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IKeV2 setup on Windows 7, 8 and 10.
If you’re using OpenVPN or anything else OpenVPN-based, you’ll also appreciate IPVanish adopting a sensible naming scheme for its .OVPN configuration files. While NordVPN starts file names with a country code, like ‘us2356.nordvpn.com.udp.ovpn’ (poor practice if you’re mixing files from different providers) and doesn’t mention the region, IPVanish leads with its own name and includes the city, too (‘ipvanish-US-New-York-nyc-a01.ovpn’), making it far easier to read and use.
If you’ve used a VPN before, IPVanish’s Windows client will look quite familiar (Image credit: IPVanish)
If you’ve used several VPN clients, you’ll know they’re mostly very similar. There’s a list of locations, a Connect/ Disconnect button, a page of settings, and generally nothing much else.
Once again, IPVanish does things differently. Its clients can look more complex than the competition, but that’s mostly because they have more features and functionality than just about anyone else.
The opening Quick Connect panel is cluttered, for instance, but there are welcome touches, too. Tap Connect and a status panel displays the protocol, time connected, server name, and data uploaded and downloaded, a level of detail you’ll rarely see elsewhere. The client even displays a good-looking real-time graph of your upload and download speeds. (Essential? Probably not, but you have to applaud the developer’s efforts.)
In addition to the map view, you can also view IPVanish’s locations as a country list (Image credit: IPVanish)
If you don’t like this interface, one click and you’ve viewing a more conventional country list. This looks more like other clients, but again, IPVanish has added extra features. A search box enables filtering the list by keyword. You can sort the list by country, load or response time. You’re able to add servers to a Favorites list with a click, and these can be sensibly displayed at the top of the country list, rather than hiding them away on a separate tab.
IPVanish also allows selecting locations from a map, and it makes a better job of implementing this than most. Pan the map over to the US, for instance, and instead of being confronted with a mass of overlapping location markers, the map displays only four. If you know you’re after an east coast location, zoom in there and more locations appear, with numbers representing how many servers they offer. So for instance we could see there were 55 servers in New York, 67 in Washington and 57 in Los Angeles. Click any location and the client automatically connects to the best available server.
You can easily change VPN protocols from within the settings of IPVanish’s Windows client (Image credit: IPVanish)
Even the Settings dialog delivers more functionality than we expected. You can switch protocols between IKEv2, SSTP, PPTP and L2TP, as well as OpenVPN TCP and UDP. You’re able to choose an OpenVPN port (1194 or 443). There’s both DNS and IPv6 leak protection. You can define which server IPVanish uses when the client starts, repair the IPVanish OpenVPN driver if it’s affected by another VPN, and view the OpenVPN logs within the interface to troubleshoot problems.
The client’s kill switch isn’t enabled by default, so we turned it on and ran a few tests. The results were excellent in every area: whatever we did, whatever protocol we used, the client warned us immediately with a desktop notification and reconnected if we’d enabled that option in Settings, without ever revealing our real IP.
The closest we could find to an issue is that IPVanish doesn’t update its apps very often. Our client’s Windows executable had a ‘modified’ date of June 2019, and the bundled OpenVPN build dated from December 2018. It was 120 days since the last iOS update, although in the case of Android, the app was actually updated only 16 days before our review.
While we don’t need to see weekly updates, having several months between releases could feel like a very long time, especially if you’re waiting for some issue to be fixed. Most top VPNs update their iOS apps at least every month, for instance, squashing bugs or making improvements, and we’d like to see IPVanish doing something similar.
Update issues aside, overall, the Windows VPN app for PC performs very well, and old VPN hands in particular will appreciate its lengthy feature list.
IPVanish’s Android app closely resembles its desktop counterparts (Image credit: IPVanish)
The IPVanish Android VPN app opens with a simple Quick Connect screen which displays your current IP and location, lists a target country, city and server, and provides a Connect button to speedily get you online.
The app selects your closest server by default, but you’re also able to set your destination country, the city within that country, or choose a specific server with a couple of taps.
Just like the desktop client, once you’re online the app displays a real-time scrolling graph showing your upload and download data rates. We’re unsure whether there’s anyone who actually needs this, and presumably it will reduce your battery life if you leave it open for a long period of time, but there’s no doubt it looks better than the usual dull country list.
The app presents some genuinely useful status information along with the fancy visuals: your new IP address, server name, location, time connected, and so on. It’s welcome reassurance that the system is working as you would expect.
The location picker is relatively basic. You’re able to select servers by country or city, but there are no ping times or server load figures to help you choose, and there’s no Favorites system or Recent Servers list to speed up reconnections. Instead, you’re forced to manually scroll to specific servers when you need them, a potential hassle on mobile devices with small screens.
You can download IPVanish’s Android app right from the Google Play Store (Image credit: Google)
The app has more settings and options than most of the competition. You can choose to make OpenVPN UDP or TCP connections, optimizing for speed or reliability. There’s a wider choice of ports than you’ll see with the Windows client (443, 1194 and 8443).
A Scramble feature makes it more difficult for networks to detect and block VPN connections. A kill switch blocks internet access if the connection drops. Most interesting of all, a Split Tunneling feature allows you to select apps you don’t want to use IPVanish; great news if some of your apps don’t work with VPNs. ExpressVPN has something similar, but otherwise that’s an option you’ll rarely find elsewhere.
There are minor weaknesses in some areas. While many apps can automatically protect you whenever you connect to an insecure network, for instance, IPVanish displays an optional warning and leaves you to decide what to do. That’s enough to help you stay safe, though, and overall, the app works very well.
IPVanish’s iOS client is quite similar to its Android app (Image credit: IPVanish)
The IPVanish iOS app launches with much the same Quick Connect screen as the Windows and Android clients. There’s a clear display of your IP address, location and VPN status, and you can choose your target country, city and server before connecting to the VPN with a tap. As with the Android app, the default country is always the US, wherever you might be in the world.
Once you are online, there’s similar eye candy in the shape of a scrolling real-time internet traffic graph. This isn’t exactly necessary, but it’s good (and very unusual) to see a VPN app with some visual style.
If you prefer, you can also select locations from a simpler text list. As with the Android app, this can be sorted by country or city, but these fields are displayed in separate columns which makes the list much easier to browse. Server load and ping times are displayed, too, helping you to figure out which is the best location for you.
IPVanish not only works on iPhones but also on Apple’s iPad (Image credit: IPVanish)
Even better, and unlike the Android client, the iOS app supports a simple and straightforward Favorites system. Tap the star to the right of one or more servers and it’ll appear whenever you choose the Favorites tab, allowing you to avoid all the other filtering and sorting hassles entirely.
The Settings pane looks sparse, at least initially. There’s no integrated kill switch to protect your identity, and you only get two significant VPN tweaks: an auto-connect option, and the ability to switch protocol between the default IKEv2 and IPSEC.
Check out that auto-connect feature, though, and you’ll find a stack of options and controls (essentially, all the goodies we’d like to have seen in the Android app). As well as a basic “connect automatically” setting, you can have IPVanish automatically turn itself off when you’re connected to trusted cellular networks. You’re able to build whitelists and blacklists of wireless networks, so IPVanish knows which connections to protect, and which are safe. You can even compile a list of domains which you’d like IPVanish to automatically protect, so for example you can have the VPN kick in whenever you visit Netflix’s website.
Updates since the last review have been minimal, but you can now use Siri shortcuts to connect and disconnect the VPN, and there’s support for iOS 13 Dark Mode, too.
The IPVanish iOS app isn’t perfect, then, but unlike many competitors, it’s not just a basic port of the desktop or Android apps, either. There’s real power here, and we’ll be interested to see how it develops in future.
IPVanish now bundles a SugarSync account with 250GB of online storage (Image credit: SugarSync)
Signing up for IPVanish now gets you a SugarSync account with a sizeable 250GB of secure web storage, which is very convenient for backups, file sharing or whatever else you might want to do.
As IPVanish calls this bundle a ‘security suite’, you might expect some kind of integration, a launcher, or something which makes it easier to use the services together.
But, well, you’ll be disappointed. Open a VPN account and IPVanish sends you a separate email with your SugarSync username, password and a few links, but otherwise you must download and set up the SugarSync app yourself.
That doesn’t take long, though, and once it’s up and running, SugarSync is very easy to use. You can add a Windows folder to your account from its right-click menu, for instance. Its current contents and any subsequent changes are uploaded to your storage space, then synchronized across all your devices (PCs, Macs, iOS and Android).
Don’t expect much on the service integration front, though (Image credit: SugarSync)
When you need to share with others, it’s easy to create links to documents, or distribute read-only files.
And if your device is stolen and you really, really, really don’t want to share, no problem – remote wiping enables removing synchronized files from any of your devices.
We’ve no space to review SugarSync here, and we’re not going to tell you whether it might be the right solution for you. But if you could use this kind of backup, file syncing or secure collaboration-type service, getting it bundled with the VPN for just $3.25 a month in year one has a lot of appeal.
If you’re in any doubt, though, keep in mind that if you sign up with SugarSync direct, you can try it free for 30 days anyway. Once the trial is up, you’ll have a much better idea of whether the service works for you.
IPVanish’s support site provides you with a great deal of information about your connection (Image credit: IPVanish)
If the VPN isn’t working as it should be, the IPVanish Help Center aims to point you in the right direction. A System Status link warns you of any big company-wide problems, support articles are intelligently organized into key categories (Setup, Troubleshooting, Billing, more) and you can search the web knowledgebase for specific keywords.
The articles aren’t quite as polished as you’ll see with ExpressVPN and other top competitors, but they’re not bad, and there’s plenty of information to explore. You don’t just get one or two generic setup guides, for instance – there are multiple tutorials for Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and Linux, as well as guidance on using the system with Chrome OS and various routers, and related advice for using it with Roku, Chromecast and Kodi.
There are more issues with some of the troubleshooting guides. The ‘Slow Speed Troubleshooting‘ article, for instance, is more than 1,200 words long, but it wastes more than 800 of those on pointless analogies between VPN usage and driving a car. If you were going to the store to pick up ice cream, for instance, you would want to ‘travel via the least congested street possible’ and ‘choose a location that you can check out of quickly’, it explains (we’re not kidding).
If you can’t find an answer in the knowledgebase, live chat is available on the website.
We posted a test question, asking about the inconsistent speeds we’d seen from our local UK servers.
A friendly agent replied in less than a minute, and went on to advise we switch from IKEv2 or OpenVPN to L2TP, and choose a server manually rather than allowing the client to pick the best one. Trying a new protocol is a very standard idea, but hearing that we might get better results by not trusting the client’s server choice isn’t exactly encouraging.
Still, we can’t argue with the speed of IPVanish here; we were talking to an agent almost immediately, they got straight to the point (no messing around asking for account details or anything else), asked relevant questions and made suggestions very quickly. That’s a great performance, and a major improvement on the ‘send an email and wait’ approach of some other services (although if you’re happy to send an email, IPVanish supports that, too).
IPVanish has lots of features, highly configurable apps and speedy live chat support to help keep everything running smoothly. But there are some problems, too, and issues with usability and a scattering of smaller glitches are just enough to keep it off the top spot.
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This article originally appeared on https://www.techradar.com/reviews/ipvanish-vpn