Anonymizer Universal is a US-based VPN that has been in business since 1998. Having survived so long in the VPN business, one would assume that Anonymizer has managed to keep up with current VPN trends.
During the course of this Anonymizer review, I discovered that in most respects the VPN provider does an ok job. Sadly, however, the cost of the VPN is very high for what is actually on offer. Anonymizer markets itself as a computer security product, and due to the fact that the service only runs two servers it certainly can’t be considered particularly suitable for most people’s unblocking needs.
Pricing and Plans
While most VPNs offer the option to pay monthly, Anonymizer has decided on a simpler (if not rather restrictive) yearly plan. A subscription to Anonymizer VPN must be for a year, and will cost you $79.99. That works out at just under $7 per month, which is pretty average for a premium VPN package.
For $79.99, subscribers are allowed to use the service on five simultaneous devices, which is more than plenty. It has software for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS and Android. Having said that, to run Anonymizer on Android, you will need this in order to run it (more on this later).
The obvious downside of having to commit to a year’s subscription is that you are tied into the service for that length of time. In order to encourage people to try its service, however, Anonymizer offers a 14-day free trial.
In addition, there is a 45-day money-back guarantee for anybody who decides that the service isn’t for them. That is one of the longest money-back guarantees that we have ever seen, and certainly appears to give subscribers a pretty generous opportunity to change their minds.
When I asked Anonymizer why they don’t have a monthly payment plan they replied as follows:
“We do not have a monthly plan at this time, unfortunately. I’ll be sure to let our team know that this would be a helpful option for our customers, in case we can implement it in the future.”
- Excellent customer support
- Zero logs policy
- Five simultaneous connections allowed
- P2P ok
- No bandwidth or data limits
- Based in the US jurisdiction
- BBC iPlayer and Netflix US not available
- Servers in Amsterdam and US (San Diego) only
- No monthly payment plan
Peer to peer is permitted using Anoymizer, which does not monitor, block, or limit traffic of any kind. Having said that, Anonymizer’s end user license agreement does technically prohibit you from using their service to access copyrighted content. As Anonymizer never monitors traffic, however, they won’t have a clue what you are doing if you do choose to.
DNS Leak Protection
Anonymizer Universal provides DNS leak protection built into its Windows client. This is a top end feature that you would expect to get with a pro service at this cost. The feature, which is called LeakBlocker, appears to function well: no DNS leaks were detected during testing.
Perhaps the most limiting part of Anonymizer’s VPN service is their choice of server locations. Anonymizer only has servers in two locations: the US and Amsterdam. In addition, on the 14-day trial, users can only try out the Amsterdam server. So, if using the US server as part of the free trial was what you were hoping for, then think again!
Obviously, this makes Anonymizer very limited for unblocking purposes, and because of where their servers are located (Amsterdam and San Diego) this service is useless for getting access to British streams such as BBC iPlayer, or many other streams from around the world. If you are looking to unblock sports streams, this isn’t the VPN for you.
The good news is that DNS leak protection is built in to the Windows and Android clients (the ones I tested) and works. No DNS leaks were detected using ipleak.net.
During my tests, WebRTC was able to detect my local IP address. This, however, is nothing to be troubled by as it doesn’t give away my identity or geo-location. If the external IP address is not detected, this is not a problem.
Anonymizer’s Windows client has a kill switch (called LeakBlocker), which will cut off a user’s internet if it is not traveling through the VPN tunnel. That means that if the VPN drops out, your internet connection is severed to stop you from accidentally revealing your internet traffic to your ISP.
Anonymizer is registered in the US, which is the home of the NSA. When using any VPN registered in the US, privacy becomes an issue. Anonymizer clearly knows this, because it has decided on a no logs policy that allows its users to access what they want without the worry of their actions being scrutinized at a later date.
Anonymizer keeps no usage logs whatsoever. Sadly, it does keep some connection logs for 24 hours:
“We do not maintain any logs that would allow you to match an IP-address and time stamp to a user of our service.”
“Since we do not log any traffic that comes over our system, we have nothing to provide in response to requests associated to service use. If a user paid by credit card we can only confirm that they purchased access to our service. There is, and would be, no way to connect a specific user to specific traffic ever.”
Although no usage logs are kept, Anonymizer does keep some connection logs for 24 hours:
“The logs maintained by Anonymizer of each customer’s personal usage are limited to the specific log-in time to our service, the amount of bandwidth utilized, and these are held for a period of 24 hours maximum.”
While these few connection logs are kept for internal use, the fact that they are deleted within 24 hours is a huge bonus.
Anonymizer provides our recommended protocol, OpenVPN, for all platforms. However, it doesn’t have a dedicated client for Android, which means you will need to install third party software in order to access their servers via OpenVPN.
Anonymizer offers PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec. The firm’s OpenVPN implementation uses AES-256 cipher. Sadly, even though I asked them, Anonymizer was unwilling to inform me about handshake key encryption size, authentication method, or if there is Perfect Forward Secrecy in place. As such it is very hard to determine the actual level of protection afforded via Anonymizer. The general rule is that if the VPN isn’t forthcoming, encryption is likely to be less secure than one would hope.
The website is easy to navigate and pretty self explanatory. It doesn’t attempt (as some VPNs do) to tell you that it is the ‘best VPN in the world’. On the whole it attempts to give as much information as is needed without overly self-advertising.
Support is provided via a ticket system and the Anonymizer team communicates via email. Even though there is not a live chat option with Anonymizer, this is offset by the fact that the team does reply to emails in a very timely manner. My experience with Anonymizer’s representatives was as good on the 14-day free trial as it was when I subscribed to the full VPN package.
Their team was helpful, responsive and knowledgable. They were friendly, and they attempted to take care of my every need. This is a great side of the service and I would definitely give them a thumbs up for their customer care. Outstanding.
Downloading the Windows version of the Anonymizer VPN software was quick and easy.
The client installed with minimal fuss. During installation, I accepted the full install option and allowed it to install the OpenVPN software that was recommended (it does have an option to keep your current OpenVPN settings if you wish).
The Anonymizer Windows VPN Client
The Windows VPN client is great. Once installed, it appears in the notification area of your start bar. From there you can easily control all of its features. The software is intuitive and all the features are laid out in a helpful manner. The client has a little dropdown menu in the settings tab for choosing between the two servers. In addition users can toggle the kill switch (LeakBlocker) on and off in this area of the client. Connecting to the server is via the big switch at the top.
The Android version of Anonymizer requires you to do a manual install of a .ovpn file. Anonymizer provides a knowledge base with instructions for setting it up. In addition, the customer service team is extremely helpful and will gladly walk you through the process if you prefer.
The process is: Download the Anonymizer .ovpn file from the downloads page of the website. Download this app on your Android device. Run the app. Now import the .ovpn file that you downloaded from Anonymizer. Once it is installed you can connect. It is very straight forward and will take you no more than a couple of minutes.
When I tested for DNS leaks on the Android client, none were detected.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv4 Tests)
Tests were performed using TestMy.net on a UK Virgin Media VIVID 100 optical connection. The results for downloading were bad on both servers, with the US server performing terribly, with an average of just 2.5mb per second (compared to around 50mb with no VPN in use). The upload speeds on the US server didn’t take any noticeable hit with the VPN on. All in all, both the servers were slow. This is a part of the review that Anonymizer really failed.
The good news is that no IPv4 DNS leaks were detected in the Windows or Android clients. Unfortunately, however, WebRTC did show my internal IP address in both clients (though as mentioned before, this does not reveal your identity or geo-location and is not a problem at all). Sadly, I was unable to test for IPv6 leaks as that connection is not available with my ISP.
Anonymizer Review: Conclusion
- No DNS leaks on Android or Windows
- 5 simultaneous connections
- Excellent customer support
- No usage logs, but…
I wasn’t so sure about
- Connection logs kept for 24 hours
- Netflix US and UK BBC iPlayer unavailable
- Only two servers
- Absolutely terrible download speeds
- Encryption is almost certainly lacking (despite plenty of options)
- The US is terrible for privacy (home of the NSA)
Why settle for Anonymizer when you could have something better at the same price?