Hong Kong-based TowerVPN inspires initial confidence, thanks to a clear and well-designed website. We were also pleased to see custom VPN client software available for both Mac and Windows. Providers who have “gone the extra mile” in providing something like this usually mean business.
Pleasingly, TowerVPN live up to the positive first impressions, with a good value service, great support and decent performance results. This is a provider well worth detailed consideration.
TowerVPN boasts a respectable compatibility list and servers in a number of countries. A 14-day money back guarantee is also reassuringly present. We had high hopes for this service based on our first impressions, and were not disappointed. Aside from some slightly inconsistent mobile speed tests, everything here went well, making TowerVPN a provider that’s definitely worthy of a place on your shortlist.
Packages & Pricing
TowerVPN offer two VPN packages, named “Standard” and “Premium.”
As you can see from the screenshot above, both packages support all compatible platforms and offer unlimited bandwidth usage. The only real difference between the two packages is that “Premium” offers access to servers in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, in addition to the five core countries provided by the “Standard” package (USA, UK, France, Germany and Russia).
Prices are as shown in the table below:
As with many VPN providers, TowerVPN reduce their prices when you commit for a long period. In TowerVPN’s case, these commitment discounts are particularly generous. For example, a one month subscription to the “Standard” package costs $7.99, but an annual package only works out to $2.99 per month. These discounts are certainly a good enticement to commit for a year up front.
One thing that did surprise us about the pricing was the disparity between the “Standard” and “Premium” options. Based on a one month subscription, “Premium” costs $6 more, just for access to servers in three additional countries. We suspect most users will find the cheaper package meets their needs anyway, and on this basis, an annual cost of just over $35 is extremely good value and certainly far below average.
While TowerVPN offer no free trial, they do offer a 14-day money-back guarantee.
TowerVPN’s support options are far from the most extensive we have seen.
All support is handled via a ticketing system, and you interface with this via a “support” email address or a web form, as shown above.
TowerVPN describe 24-hours as a “normal” support response time – so no 24/7 support is available here. Given the low cost of the service it would perhaps be unfair to expect this.
Despite the lack of different support options, however, we were impressed with the service: A test query was answered in less than two hours, and the reply provided plenty of detail.
Security and Privacy
TowerVPN highlight their use of secure TLS and IPSec on their “Features” page:
However, from browsing the setup guides in the support section, it’s clear that the provider also supports all the normal protocol options: PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN. We were unable to find out the exact encryption levels used (i.e. 128/256 bit etc.)
We chose to sign up to a one month “Standard” package to review the TowerVPN service.
First we had to complete a basic registration form, which only required a username, email and password combination:
We then had to activate our account, via an email sent to the address we provided.
We were quite surprised by what happened next: Clicking the link in the email took us to a screen containing server details and a VPN username and password. We thought this a little strange as no payment had yet been taken!
All became a little more clear when we hit the “Account” link and were told, in no uncertain terms, that we must subscribe before using the service!
After hitting subscribe, we were able to choose a plan:
We also had to enter our name and payment details:
We chose the PayPal option, and were redirected to PayPal to authorise the payment. Even though we only chose a monthly subscription, this was a recurring payment, which by default is set up for three years. We made a mental note that we would need to cancel the payment within PayPal after our review!
Finally, our subscription was live and we were directed back to TowerVPN. While the sign up process had been smooth, it did seem a touch long-winded. Still, we had no problems with the procedure.
Installation and Configuration
Our test machine for this review was a MacBook Pro running the latest revision of OS X: Mountain Lion 10.8.
A “Setup Guides” link was prominent on the web page once we’d subscribed, so we clicked this and explored our options:
We clicked the OS X Logo:
Next, we were prompted to download the client software for TowerVPN. We were also provided with links to manual setup instructions for L2TP and PPTP.
It’s worthy of mention that the TowerVPN client software is only compatible with Lion and Mountain Lion. Users of earlier Mac operating systems would need to perform a manual setup.
The software downloaded as an 8.2MB installation (.dmg) file. Opening it resulted in our being prompted to drag the client software into our “Applications” folder.
We then went to our “Applications” folder and opened the software. Pleasingly, there were some simple instructions on the web page as to how to use the software.
Getting connected was a simple case of selecting a country and region. We were then presented with a big, blue “Connect” button.
We decided to connect to London first. We hit the blue button, were connected almost instantly, and an IP lookup revealed we now had a London IP address.
We then disconnected from the London server and tried a couple of others: one in New York, and another in Bavaria (Germany). Both worked instantly.
Connection Speeds and reliability
We decided to test our download speed with all of the VPN server locations we connected to. First, however, we needed a benchmark speed for our test broadband connection, so we performed a speedtest using Speedtest.net, whilst disconnected from the VPN altogether.
The speed shown, just under 7Mbps, was exactly as expected.
We then connected to the London server, with the following results:
This was a very good result, with the overhead of the VPN connection only taking down our download speed by around 0.6Mbps.
We then tried the server in Germany:
This was an even better result, with a drop of about 0.4Mbps which would probably be unnoticeable in day-to-day use.
Finally, we connected to the New York server to run our last test:
Clearly, this was a less spectacular result – a drop of about 2Mbps. However, some of this could fairly be explained by our physical location in Europe, which was much closer to Germany and the UK than to New York.
All in all these were a very pleasing set of performance results, and we felt prepared to overlook the disparity between the European and US servers, with the latter’s performance still acceptable, if not earth-shattering.
TowerVPN is compatible with a fairly wide range of platforms. The custom connectivity software is only available for Mac and Windows, however there are also guides for iOS and Android.
As shown above, there are also “generic” guides for other platforms, but it’s fair to say these assume that you already have the technical knowledge to configure VPN connectivity for your chosen platform.
We had a test iPhone to hand, so decided to click through to the iOS instructions and set TowerVPN up on that.
TowerVPN on iOS
In order to “install” TowerVPN on an iOS device, you are advised to visit the provider’s webpage using the device. From there you can log on and install a VPN profile to the device.
We like this setup, as it minimizes the need to enter manual settings whilst still integrating with the iPhone’s inbuilt VPN functionality.
Once the profile is installed, simple instructions are provided to show you how to activate the VPN connection from the iPhone’s settings menu.
We had no problem connecting to the VPN, and were pleased to see that L2TP connections had been created to all of the different TowerVPN servers, allowing us to easily pick a location.
As we had already performed speed tests over our WiFi connection, we decided to do a couple of quick speed tests via 3G. We disconnected our WiFi and ran a benchmark speed test whilst disconnected from the VPN.
We then connected to one of TowerVPN’s London servers and ran another test:
Finally, we connected to a Los Angeles server for our last test.
As you can see, our mobile test results were rather more variable that those we had experienced on the Mac. This was slightly disappointing, and seems to suggest that TowerVPN’s OpenVPN technology (used on the Mac client) performs better than the provider’s L2TP infrastructure.
TowerVPN’s customer area is slick and well-organized, but doesn’t really offer all that much in the way of functionality.
Here, you can update passwords, access setup guides and view details of your subscriptions and invoices. The area does all it needs to, but nothing more!
- Excellent pricing for a comprehensive service
- Strong desktop performance
- Fast answers to support queries
- Great custom VPN client for Mac and PC
We weren’t so sure about
- L2TP performance was not up to OpenVPN standard
- Slightly long-winded subscription process
- Large price increase between “Standard” and “Premium” packages
On the whole, we were very impressed with TowerVPN. You get a lot for your money in terms of country and protocol options, and the service is excellent value if you subscribe to an annual package. Support response was impressive too.
Also in TowerVPN’s favour is the company’s “zero logging” policy, which will appeal to those who want no record of their usage.
Our only misgivings relate to the mobile performance, which was rather patchy – so perhaps compare some other options if mobile use is your main priority. But, if you are a Mac or Windows user you could do a lot worse than TowerVPN’s great value service.