Review

VPN.ht Review


Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information

VPN.ht Summary

VPN.ht exists primarily to provide a default option for VPN protection while using the Popcorn Time client to watch streaming content. However, it also offers a solid if frill-free VPN service at a low price, along with integrated SmartDNS for users wishing to watch legitimate streaming content from the USA or UK.

Pricing & Plans

VPN.ht’s pricing is on the low side for a VPN, with the maximum cost peaking at $5 a month if paid monthly, and the cheapest subscription working out as $3.34 a month if a whole year is bought at once.

vpnht_pricing_new
A number of payment options are provided, including credit card, PayPal and BitCoin. There’s a 30-day full satisfaction money-back guarantee and, although there’s no free trial, new customers get their first month for just $1.

Features

VPN.ht is registered and based in Belize, in Central America. As well as VPN servers in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Canada it has recently added servers in the US, Mexico, Singapore and Australia; its integrated SmartDNS service makes a number of streaming sites think users’ connections originate in the USA or UK.

Users can install or activate their VPN.ht subscription on as many different devices as desired, but simultaneous connections are only permitted from one computer and one mobile device at once. Its flagship feature, though – and indeed its raison d’etre – is its integration with the Popcorn Time client for Windows, OSX and Linux.

Visit VPN.ht »

Security & Privacy

As might be expected of a VPN designed specifically to protect users who are doing something big media companies with international legal clout don’t like, VPN.ht goes to good lengths to protect its users privacy. Logging is limited to connection logs and then only to the billing dashboard – no logs are kept for OpenVPN at all. Registration and payment doesn’t require handing over any personal information.

OpenVPN connection profiles are available for 64-bit Blowfish and 128- and 256-bit AES, with the former provided for users looking for maximum speed and the latter for users whose biggest concern is security. Though OpenVPN is their recommended protocol, connections via L2TP/IPsec and PPTP are also offered for users who can’t or don’t want to use OpenVPN.

The website

The VPN.ht site is a little bare-bones, but it’s fast and easy to navigate, and information is generally easy to find.

vpnht_website
The client area is functional and smart, and we didn’t encounter any particularly odd design choices except for the process to contact support (see below). What’s more, there’s an enthusiasm and earnestness to it which made us smile despite the present paucity of content.

Support

As a relatively new VPN provider, VPN.ht’s support is still somewhat rudimentary. There is, however, already a work-in-progress knowledge base full of useful setup guides for various platforms which tends towards giving more information rather than less, and a ZenDesk-powered 24/7 support ticket system with good response times and helpful operatives.

vpnht_ticket
What’s noticeably lacking is live support in the form of web chat or VoIP, but there is a toll-free US number on the site which can be used by Skype users to contact support free of charge anywhere in the world.

vpnht_support
Actually getting to the support part of the site can prove a little tricky, as for some reason the main page has a ‘Contact’ link with a mailto: recipient in place of the more helpful ‘Support’ button that pops up on other parts of the site. Registered users who log into their client area will find support options much more easily, however, and ticket support is open to all visitors to the site – if they can find the link.

The Process

Signing Up

Starting with VPN.ht is easy and simply requires users enter an email address and password for registration. Unlike some providers’ registration processes, this part of the VPN.ht site is well-designed and fast; users aren’t kept waiting around.

vpnht_signup3
Payment is similarly fast and doesn’t demand unnecessary personal info; what’s more, the default first and last name for credit card customers is “Anonymous Customer” and no billing address is required. Along with the option to pay via BitCoin, it’s always great to see VPN providers making customer anonymity easy.

The Windows VPN client

Currently VPN.ht provides no dedicated VPN client of its own (a bespoke client is apparently in the works), but does provide configuration files that can be used with the free OpenVPN client. Instead, it’s designed to integrate with the Popcorn Time beta client.

vpnht_popcorn_login
Although the Popcorn Time client is in beta, as a browsing/streaming experience it works so well that it’s slicker than most streaming sites and apps out there. As a VPN platform, however, it works a little less well. We frequently had trouble getting the built-in VPN to connect, and even successful connection attempts could be quite lengthy. There’s no option to change your desired location or server, and there’s no built-in protection against, say, the DNS leaks to which certain versions of Windows are prone.

vpnht_popcorn_movies
Despite this, when it works, it works well: speeds are good, there’s no messing about with confusing settings, and client integration is almost seamless. As a vehicle for protected streaming of questionably-legal Popcorn Time content, the only things we’d like to see added would be an option to connect automatically, and an easier way to disconnect the VPN when the Popcorn Time client is closed.

Performance (Speed, DNS and IP Test)

Speeds over the VPN.ht network are more than adequate for watching high-definition streaming content, and we found general performance and responsiveness of content streamed over the VPN-protected Popcorn Time client to be better than vanilla, un-VPNed Netflix. Results did tend to vary by server location, but we experienced neither remarkable highs nor terrible lows.

Ostrom speed test UK vpnht_speed_de_openvpn vpnht_speed_l2tp
No VPN. OpenVPN, European server. L2TP, European server.

 

VPN.ht uses Google for its DNS services. DNS and IP leak checks were all as expected.

Other Platforms

Setup guides are available on the site for a variety of platforms including Mac, Linux, iOS and Android, and there’s a version of the Popcorn Time client available from the main website for all of the above except iOS. Unfortunately, the Android version of the client doesn’t (yet – a new version is in the works) have VPN integration – instead, Android users wishing to use Popcorn Time over the VPN.ht service will presently need to use the OpenVPN Connect app or set up Android’s VPN manually.

Other/ Free Services

VPN.ht also provides customers with a SmartDNS service, but as well as being a little rudimentary at present – it only advertises support for US Netflix and Hulu, though we found several more channels to work including UK iPlayer and 4od – there’s no information on the website on how to actually set it up, and users instead have to contact support to get the details.

As SmartDNS is integrated into VPN.ht’s VPN service, users will automatically find themselves on the SmartDNS version of these sites if visiting with the VPN active; this is regardless of which VPN server location is chosen, and does make the service a little less useful for anyone wanting to use it to watch, say, Netflix from a location other than the USA.

Conclusion

We liked

  • Integration with Popcorn Time client
  • High level of user anonymity
  • Connection logs only (and none for OpenVPN)
  • Low pricing
  • Good speeds
  • Multiple options for encryption
  • Choice of protocols
  • Based in Belize

We weren’t so sure about

  • SmartDNS locking users into US streaming sites
  • Sparse knowledge base and no live web-based support
  • Popcorn Time integration still a bit shaky
  • No integration with Android Popcorn Time client just yet

We hated

  • Nothing

As a vehicle for Popcorn Time users, VPN.ht does its job pretty well. Although Popcorn Time client integration is still clearly not without its issues, once connected (whether through the PT client or via a third party solution such as OpenVPN) users will find little to complain about. Though many aspects of the service are still pretty bare-bones or under-developed – such as the forced SmartDNS locking users to US Netflix – what’s there is generally pretty solid. Perhaps the real issue raised by VPN.ht regards its nature as a service to allow users to avoid paying for media content without worrying about being targeted by grumpy media corporations… that users have to pay to use.

Visit VPN.ht »


Charles Tosh I'm a freelance writer and English teacher who loves travel, technology and mushy movies.

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12 responses to “VPN.ht Review

    Initially I gave this company a huge failing grade. However, after spending three hours trying to figure out why OpenVPN wasn’t creating a connection, I figured it out. You have to manually generate a .config file from VPN.ht’s website. DO NOT USE the .config file that comes with their tutorial. It will probably not work. Once I figured out that it wasn’t my network, firewall, router etc. causing the connection failure, things worked as they should. Their customer service was a bit slow, but I mentioned my issue to them and hopefully they will revise their tutorial to prevent other people from having the same issue.

    Hi Wallydz,

    Well, according to its Tos, VPN.ht does keep quite extensive connection logs of users activities’ (for more details on our distinction between usage and connection/metadata logs, please see here),

    ‘In addition, we may collect the following information: times when connected to our service, choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred per day. We store this to be able to deliver the best possible network experience to you. We analyze this information generically and keep the data secure.

    Furthermore, when I connected to the VPN.ht website yesterday I was greeted with a warning that all my activity would be logged in compliance with the laws of my country (I was using a VPN server located in the Netherlands, which does not require VPN providers to log internet activity). No country that I know of requires websites to log visitors. This warning is not present today, but hardly inspired confidence…

    1. “VPN.HT does not as a matter of ordinary practice actively monitor user sessions for inappropriate behavior, nor do we maintain direct logs of customers’ Internet activities. However, VPN.HT reserves the right to investigate matters we consider to be violations of these Terms. We may, but are not obligated to, in our sole discretion, and without notice, remove, block, filter or restrict by any means any materials or information that we consider to be actual or potential violations of the restrictions set forth in these Terms, and any other activities that may subject VPN.HT or its customers to liability. VPN.HT disclaims any and all liability for any failure on its part to prevent such materials or information from being transmitted over the Service and/or into your computing device.”

      http://www.vpn.ht/terms
      And from what i know , we keep only error_log

      “Furthermore, when I connected to the VPN.ht website yesterday I was greeted with a warning that all my activity would be logged in compliance with the laws of my country (I was using a VPN server located in the Netherlands, which does not require VPN providers to log internet activity). No country that I know of requires websites to log visitors. This warning is not present today, but hardly inspired confidence…”

      About Logging in Netherlands , all ISP must keep logs( not talking about VPN provider) , the script cannot know that you are behind VPN ,
      This is not logging the visitors
      “Hide your IP with a VPN to block unwanted exposure and data leaks.
      Without VPN.ht, XXXX will continue to track and record everything.”

      It is intended to non VPN users to show and explain that IP is public and anyone can know what you were doing , nothing related to logging ….

    I have been shut down twice by my ISP for streaming movies off of Popcorn-Time. Not being all that computer savvy, my question is, now that I’m a VPN.ht client, will this happen again. I should state that my ISP is Cox Cable Internet in New England.

    1. Hi Al,

      Using VPN will shield you from your ISP, but VPN.ht does keep some logs, and so can in theory be forced to hand them over. Since it is built into the PT.io app, VPN.ht is easy and convenient to use, and is probably fine for protecting you against copyright action. There are, however, better options out there.

    I recently opened a support ticket with them and they pasted my password back to me. Yep, they are storing passwords in plaintext. Keep that in mind when registering for this service.

    1. This is extremely concerning.

      Anyone at the company care to weigh in as I’m contemplating not renewing for this very reason.

    first vpn ive ever bought , easy to set up , and the price is great

    Use it every day. The best VPN out there and I got the chance to beta test their new desktop client. One word. Amazing.

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