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.
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.
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).
As soon as you visit WiTopia’s home page, you are offered help, courtesy of an online chat link:
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
We chose the one-month subscription and clicked “add to 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.
We were given credit card or PayPal payment options. We chose the latter and were redirected to PayPal to complete our transaction.
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.
We were then sent a registration email, with a link within that we had to click to activate our service:
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.
The file that downloaded was a Mac (.pkg) file. We ran it, and a standard Mac installation routine began.
After clicking “continue” a few times, the WiTopia client software started automatically, with a splash screen providing links to instructions and support information.
We also noticed a new WiTopia icon on our Mac’s menu bar, complete with country select and “quick connect” options.
We selected the “Open WiTopia” option to view the full program 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.
We were then connected to a server in Lisbon, Portugal, the same country from where we were carrying out our tests.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
WiTopia boasts a rather impressive compatibility list.
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).
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.
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:
We then connected to WiTopia via PPTP and ran another test:
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.
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.
You can also, as with everywhere on the site, access the 24/7 chat support facility.
- 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
- 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.