Review

WiTopia Review


Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information
Summary

WiTopia certainly gives out a positive first impression when you visit the provider’s website, with endorsements from The New York Times and The Economist, amongst other prestigious publications and websites. The good impressions continue, with great client software and instant 24/7 support.

Sadly, however, WiTopia lets itself down with extremely variable performance, leaving a service that’s hard to recommend, however much we find ourselves wanting to do so.

WiTopia VPN looks impressive from the off, with promises of a “carrier-grade” network, 24/7/365 support and an “unconditional” 30-day money back guarantee. Unfortunately the service fails to live up to the hype.

Never before have we found so much to like about a service and then been so disappointed with the performance. Perhaps the “Pro” package performs better, but the “basic” package we sampled was a real disappointment.

 

Packages & Pricing

WiTopia offer two personal VPN services, a “basic” package and a “pro” option. They also offer a hardware VPN solution, but that is not covered in this review.

Pro package

There are two fundamental differences between the two packages: The “Pro” option provides VPN servers in a greater range of countries, and supports OpenVPN, alongside a selection of other VPN protocols. The cheaper “basic” package offers no support for OpenVPN.

Another key difference is that the “Pro” package is only available on a six-month or annual subscription basis (at $39.99 or $69.99 respectively). The “Basic” package is also available for shorter monthly and three-monthly time periods.

Time periods

Price wise, the basic package comes in at a below average cost, based on an annual subscription at $49.99, and the Pro package (at $69.99) is in the average range.

Although WiTopia don’t offer any free trial, they do advertise an “unconditional” 30-day money-back guarantee. (However, please look out for a further note on this later in the review).

Warranty

Customer Service

As soon as you visit WiTopia’s home page, you are offered help, courtesy of an online chat link:

Online chat

We sent a query via this facility and received an instant and detailed response.

The “Contact” page on the provider’s website also provides a host of email addresses for different departments, including support. There is also a Web form for enquiries on this page:

Contact form

While WiTopia do provide a mailing address for their office in the USA, there is no published phone number. However, it is unusual for VPN service providers to offer phone support.

Security and Privacy

WiTopia provide a good range of different protocols, and we found it easy to find the technical details we were looking for.

Protocols

WiTopia offer PPTP, L2TP over IPsec and Cisco IPsec protocol options. In addition, OpenVPN (SSL) is on offer to those subscribing to the “Pro” package. Encryption up to 256-bit is available.

We consulted the provider’s privacy policy and also spoke to the support department to clarify WiTopia’s logging policy.

Privacy

We were told that the company doesn’t intentionally monitor or store logs of customer activity, and that cache files are regularly destroyed. However, WiTopia do keep a “trailing” log that they use to identify any breaches in their terms of service.

The process

Registering

As WiTopia’s Pro version is only available for a minimum of six months, we signed up to the basic package for one month to try out the service.

Just as we began to sign up, we noticed that the 30-day unconditional guarantee only, in fact, applies to the annual package. The guarantee is only 10-days for a three or six month subscription, and it’s unclear whether it applies to the monthly subscription at all. We couldn’t help but feel as if the wool was being pulled over our eyes a little on this issue.

Unconditional

We chose the one-month subscription and clicked “add to cart.”

Cart

After clicking the “check out now” button, we were taken to a registration form. The details we needed to provide included our desired email address and password, and our address details for billing purposes.

Registration

We were given credit card or PayPal payment options. We chose the latter and were redirected to PayPal to complete our transaction.

PayPal

Before the order completed, we had to provide a password and a “secret question.” We were unsure whether this was the same as the information we had provided on the registration form, but providing the same seemed to work.

Password

We were then sent a registration email, with a link within that we had to click to activate our service:

Email

Once we had clicked the link, we were taken to WiTopia’s customer “dashboard” and automatically logged on.

Installation and Configuration

We used an Apple Mac running OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) to carry out our testing.

We noticed a Mac download button as soon as we entered the WiTopia dashboard, so we clicked on it.

Download

The file that downloaded was a Mac (.pkg) file. We ran it, and a standard Mac installation routine began.

Install

After clicking “continue” a few times, the WiTopia client software started automatically, with a splash screen providing links to instructions and support information.

WiTopia

We also noticed a new WiTopia icon on our Mac’s menu bar, complete with country select and “quick connect” options.

Menu

We selected the “Open WiTopia” option to view the full program interface:

Interface

As you can see from the screenshot above, the interface is clear and attractive. We took some time to explore the options available to us. We found a “Quick connect” button that promises to find the server with the best performance, and an “Advanced connect” option that gave us the ability to select a regional server and a specific VPN protocol. As we were using the “basic” package, the OpenVPN option was greyed out.

The “Preferences” menu offered an array of advanced options, including the ability to control the way WiTopia works on startup.

We decided to start off simply, and hit the “Quick connect” button. At this point we were required to enter our WiTopia username and password.

Authenticate

We were then connected to a server in Lisbon, Portugal, the same country from where we were carrying out our tests.

Lisbon

While having an alternative IP in the same country is useful from an anonymity perspective, this wouldn’t allow us to access any region specific content from other countries. So, we disconnected and tried connecting with a couple of alternative configurations: First, we connected to New York via L2TP, and then to London via IPSec.

In all cases, we were able to connect with no issues, and browse to region locked content where applicable.

Connection speeds and reliability

We carried out a number of speed tests to check out WiTopia’s performance. First of all, however, we used Speedtest.net to benchmark our connection whilst disconnected from the VPN.

Benchmark

As you can see, our benchmark download speed was just under 7Mbps.

We then did a speed test whilst connected to the Lisbon server, chosen by the WiTopia client’s “quick connect” mode:

Lisboa

As you can see, this was a disappointing result, with the overhead of the VPN connection almost halving our download speed.

Next, we connected to New York via L2TP and tested again:

New York

This result was even worse – far less than half our original download speed.

We then decided to connect to London, this time using the IPSec protocol:

London

This was clearly a far better result, only 1Mbps or so below our benchmark.

By now, we were becoming frustrated with the inconsistency of our test results. Concerned that it may be something to do with the protocol we were choosing, we decided to do a final test, connecting to San Francisco using IPSec.

SanFran

This was the worst result of all, and concluded a set of very varied tests. Unfortunately we could do nothing but conclude that the performance of WiTopia is variable at best, despite the attractive client software.

Compatibility

WiTopia boasts a rather impressive compatibility list.

Compatibility

All the major operating systems are covered, as well as the iOS and Android mobile platforms and several systems that most providers ignore, such as the Google Chromebook and Kindle FireHD.

We had a look through some of the setup guides, and were pleased to find most of a high quality with good screenshots (however, the iOS instructions were text only and a little unclear, as mentioned later).

Instructions

We decided to spend some time trying WiTopia out via iOS using a test iPhone.

WiTopia on the iPhone

As we had already tried out the L2TP and IPSec protocols on our test Mac, we decided to take PPTP for a test-drive on our iPhone.

First, we had to visit the customer dashboard to ascertain the correct username to use. After that, configuring the connection was a simple case of entering the relevant information into the iPhone’s settings menus.

At this point, however, we were disappointed that the instructions were text only, after the screenshots we had seen provided as part of some of the other setup guides.

iOS PPTP

We configured our PPTP connection to connect to WiTopia’s London VPN server, and decided to try it out over our 3G connection.

First, we performed a benchmark speed test whilst disconnected:

MobileBM

We then connected to WiTopia via PPTP and ran another test:

MobilePPTP

As you see, whilst far from dire, the mobile speed test result was also far from impressive, with a speed drop of over 2Mbps as a result of connecting to the VPN.

Customer Area

WiTopia’s password-protected client area is referred to as “My Dashboard.” Here you can change passwords, upgrade your subscription and access the setup guides.

Dash

You can also, as with everywhere on the site, access the 24/7 chat support facility.

Conclusion

We liked

  • Well designed and innovative client software (for PC and Mac)
  • Excellent 24/7 support
  • Support for some obscure platforms

We weren’t so sure about

  • 30-day money-back guarantee not valid for all packages
  • Setup guides inconsistent – some great, some lacking

We hated

  • Very inconsistent performance results

We had really high hopes for WiTopia – we experienced great support, the price was right, and the client software was really well designed.

It was, therefore, a crying shame to experience such inconsistent performance during our speed tests, with results ranging from very good to truly awful. As such, we find this a service hard to recommend, as we simply can’t guarantee that the server you need to connect to will perform well.

 


Pete runs Best VPN and wants to get detailed information to the readers. He is dedicated to being the best and providing the highest quality at anything he does. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+

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13 responses to “WiTopia Review

  1. I opened my bank account to check for activity and much to my surprise was a charge for 39.99. I never heard of this company before this happened. I did not authorize any payment and do not know how they got my credit card info. I contact support and hope they get this straight in a timely manner.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Now that’s scary (although it could be the fault of your bank, rather than WiTopia)!

    I’ve been using witopia for 5 years now, mainly to connect to France and UK from around the world to access location-restricted TV and VOD services and it has always worked perfectly on my various PCs and Android. Very happy with the service, and good value for money in my opinion.

    I have used Witopia VPN for many years during travels in Europe. From my perspective I give them 5 stars across the board (maybe price could be less). I have found that speed is consistent and close to the direct ISP connection. Their service personnel are available 24/7 and always very helpful in the rare case when help is required. This year we purchased the Cloakbox. This device allows all of your devices to connect via wireless to an SSID and route thru the VPN server. It came all set up for us so all I had to do is plug it into the gateway and connect to the new SSID from a laptop/phone/tablet. It works extremely well with my Netflix, Amazon and Hulu accounts.

    [Posting from Zhengzhou, China, via Witopia] I’ve been using Witopia for 4 or 5 years now. I travel extensively worldwide, including several places in China and the UAE where censorship is extreme. I am totally happy with Witopia, especially their customer service. Several times I have encountered a blocking of Witopia from one of those countries, but a quick e-mail got me a new custom gateway each time. I saved ALL those custom configurations, and find I occasionally have to rotate through a few of them to get one to work, but they DO work!

    While I do occasionally perceive a performance hit, I’d rather wait a few seconds for the download than not be able to access it at all. The extra security for financial transactions is also worth it, even when there is no censorship.

    Service like that is definitely worth the price!

    I have been using Witopia for about five years, both in Europe and China. I noticed a serious degradation of quality of service when I use it from China. When you can get through the DNS poisoning, the Witopia servers quite often could not be connected and this happens frequently with Android. IPSEC connections from Android are very slow. Also Witopia seems to interfere with my MacBook (10.6.2). It frequently just gives no connection, just remains connecting forever. I set up the DNS on my Mac as suggested but the problem remains if I select by pass DNS settings. If I do not by pass DNS settings, it plays havocs with my Skype. The service just does not seem to be stable for users in China. I am in Beijing. While I was in Europe (London and Paris), the service is better but speed is very varied and I frequently had to re-logon. Incidentally, when it was possible to connect to their London IPSEC server or PPTP server, it is so slow and it hangs so frequently that made it impossible to use BBC iPlayer. I am not going to renew and will move to the top one recommended on this site.

    I’ve used Witopia personalVPN Pro since 2011, so I have 3+ years experience as a customer. Since they don’t do automatic renewals, each year I’ve had a opportunity to switch if I was unhappy with any aspect of the service. I’ve never even wasted time considering a switch, the service has been that good.

    I download a lot of data (aka pr0n) from a paid usenet provider or 1-click hosts or even subscription websites. I have a 40Mbps internet connection, and I get almost that exact speed on usenet and whatever the max dl speeds are on the other sites. This is actual verifiable speed over a 3-year period, not a few random speed tests on site that makes its money selling advertising and trying to get you to switch ISPs.

    My main concern has always been that Witopia would hit me with an abuse charge or throttle me for moving so many gigabytes, but that’s never happened. The only message I’ve ever got from them is an annual email telling me my service will expire in 30 days and I’ll need to renew to continue using it.

    (I should note that I don’t use bittorrent so can’t can comment on speed or possible abuse issues using that platform. You should definitely look into any VPN’s policy on bittorrent, because iirc most VPN providers frown on bittorrent)

    Also, I’ve never had a problem with a website banning my Witopia IP address due to abusive use by some other users, which happened with other VPNs I tried before Witopia. I’ve also used Witopia VPN on my iphone and ipad with no problems. I’ve had 100% reliability as far as I can remember, and the few times I’ve had a question it’s nice they have the live chat on the website so I can get immediate answers rather than sending an email and waiting forever.

    Hope this helps people who download a lot and are concerned about losing speed or getting abuse complaints from the VPN provider. I definitely would recommend Witopia.

    Just started using this service and it is very fast for me, I’m in Japan going through gateway in Australia and getting > 1MB/s which is faster than I was expecting and more than enough for what I need.

    Not sure of most of the benchmarks as I had it only for a day. I had to disconnect it as it does not provide me a critical feature of starting up and disconnecting certain apps/programms when Witopia starts and disconnects.

    I’ve used Witopia for years on the iPad, Android converted Nook, Windows XP and 7 and consider it a great company and have recommended it both for its price and its performance. Perhaps I’m less picky than the reviewer.

    Hi Pete. We totally appreciate the review, but if i could explain a couple things. Testing from Portugal is the issue with respect to the speed loss. We don’t throttle at all and have AMPLE overhead at all gateways which tend to have 1Gbps and 10Gbps handoffs to multiple backbones. When you get back to UK, try our Manchester and London gateways…or even New York and you’ll see that we have fantastic speed even with full 256-bit encryption w/ IPsec or openVPN. Testing us from Portugal, while testing others from UK on main Internet backbone isn’t “apples to apples” (I hate myself for using that expression, but it fits).

    As far as our 30 day Unconditional Moneyback Guarantee, we’re very proud of that. We’ve had it since launch in March 2005 and feel we pushed others who followed us into having better guarantees. When we added shorter duration subscriptions, we did officially add a 10 day trial versus 30 for the shorter subscriptions. This was mostly to prevent being taken advantage of. That’s all. We have what I hope is an impeccable reputation for being an honorable and reasonable company so we’d never keep someone’s money that had a legitimate issue just because it went a few days over the policy. No “gotchas” here. We actually care about our customers. After all, they pay us money! 🙂

    1. They are awful. Worst kind of people. Speed is terrible. Their servers are not on locations where they said they are. I traced my query and leaving address was in LA instead in Miami. Speed was terrible and their setup is far too complex than any other VPN out there.
      Also their money back guarantee is not valid if you get 1 month subscription but their support didnt say that when I asked. I clearly asked should I be able to get refund if I’m not satisfied from their service and they said that they will refund me at any time. I was using their service for less than 10 minutes and was disappointed, asked for refund and then they said oh sorry you cant get refund if you get 1 month package.
      LIARS LIARS LIARS!!!!!!!!
      Stay away from those scammers

      1. right. we’re scammers. after doing this since 2005, you got us! 🙂 What you likely did was connect to one of our Miami servers that we get from Quadranet. The server is *absolutely* in Miami, but Quadranet is based in LA, so whatever IP tester you used, incorrectly, thought the IP was in LA. You then, accidentally ran a speedtest to LA, through Miami and back, which would indeed show horrible speed because the speedtest is going across the country and back. It is a simple misunderstanding, that is easy explained (and proven by using a traceroute), but I’m guessing you gave us no chance to explain that before labeling us scammers and liars. We’re known for our speed, reliability, and support, Stefan. Our Miami servers are VERY fast, in fact. Next time, give peace a chance and allow us to explain before jumping to conclusions and accusations. You’ll be a happier person. 😉

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