Faceless.me is notable from the start for two reasons. First off, it’s possible to download and begin to use the VPN software with total anonymity – no personal details are required to get started. Secondly, it’s completely free for up to 2GB of traffic per year. Admittedly this isn’t a vast amount for those who wish to access streaming media, but for certain one-off uses this may prove perfect for some individuals. Those looking for a paid service, on the other hand, will want to consider the pros and cons in more detail, as there are several of each.
Faceless.me got off to a good start during our review because of the service’s generous free offering. However, it is important to note that the free version comes with limited speed and no ability to switch between VPN server locations. Still, as a quick and easy anonymity solution, it deserves some credit.
Our feelings became more mixed once we started exploring the solution in more detail. Speed test results were very variable between different servers, and we had some irritating problems with the iPhone app. We also experienced some loading time-out issues with the provider website itself that gave cause for concern.
It does seem that work is being done to improve the solution, and as it’s possible to try it free of charge, we’d refrain from dismissing it completely, but performance really would need to improve for us to give an unqualified recommendation.
Packages & Pricing
As mentioned in the introduction, Faceless.me is a uniquely generous service, in that the provider offers up to 2GB of VPN traffic completely free of charge and with no sign-up whatsoever. However, as mentioned above, speed is limited on the free service and it’s not possible to switch between VPN servers.
For those who want to continue to use the service beyond the free period, or access the extra speed and functionality, the premium package is available in two simple variations:
A three month unlimited traffic subscription costs $19.95 and six months costs $29.95, working out to $59.90 annually, placing the price of the service towards the low end of average. However, it is worthy of note that if (like us) you are located in Europe, VAT is added onto the price.
We noticed no mention of a money-back guarantee in the FAQs, but with such a generous free offering, this is perhaps unsurprising.
Customer support options are far from extensive at Faceless.me. Aside from an FAQ section, there is a “contact us” link, which leads to a support ticketing system:
We couldn’t find any other support options, nor an email address or phone number for the provider.
We sent a test query via the ticketing system, and were pleased to receive a reply back with less than one working day.
Security and Privacy
The fact that Faceless.me allow you to use a limited version of the service with no real sign-up procedure at all means that this could be a great choice for those who want a quick, one-off privacy solution.
Moving onto more technical details, Faceless offers support for PPTP and OpenVPN. Encryption is 1024 bit RSA, according to the support department.
Many users of VPN services are interested in their provider’s logging policy. Faceless.me confirm within their FAQs that they take no logs of user activity.
If you wish to use the free, anonymous version of Faceless.me, there is no registration procedure whatsoever – you simply download the connectivity software and begin to use it (as described below).
If you wish to subscribe to a chargeable service, the “Order” link allows you to choose between the three and six month packages described earlier in the review.
Clicking the “buy now” link takes you to an order page where the price is converted to your local currency with VAT added on, as mentioned above.
Payment is handled by the third-party provider, Plimus. Payment is possible by credit / debit card, PayPal, wire transfer or check.
Once payment is complete, you are supplied with a voucher code, which you enter into the software to “unlock” the unrestricted version (see below).
Installation and Configuration
We used a MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion 10.8 for our testing. Our Web browser detected that we were using a Mac when we initially downloaded the Faceless.me software.
Installation was via a Mac (.dmg) install file and was completed, as usual, by dragging the new application to our Mac’s “Applications” folder.
We could then run the program from the folder, which also placed a new small icon on our Mac menu bar.
Before we began to use the software, we clicked the button to enter our previously obtained voucher code:
Clicking “change voucher” took us to a second window, into which we copy and pasted our supplied code:
We then spent a little time exploring the program interface:
The options available to us were actually fairly limited, and we were surprised that the “connect on startup” option was selected by default. We changed this immediately.
Beyond this, there was a button that took us to a software log, along with the option to send the log file to the support department. Then, we had the option of selecting our choice of VPN server location from the USA (default), The Netherlands and Russia.
We were a little confused by the country options, as the FAQ section states that the provider has servers in “all major countries.” However, these were all we were offered, despite entering our voucher code, and despite reference to BBC iPlayer on the provider’s website, which would require access to a UK server:
Regardless, we connected to each of the available locations in turn, and were able to achieve a connection to each with no issues.
Finally, we had a quick look at the options on the menu bar menu, but beyond language settings and the option of seeing a basic traffic monitor, there was little else to select from.
Connection speeds and reliability
As usual, we carried out a number of speed tests using Speedtest.net to assess the performance of the VPN solution.
First, as usual, we needed a benchmark of our test connection, so we ran a speed test whilst disconnected from the VPN. As shown below, we achieved a download speed of just below 7Mbps.
Then, starting with the server nearest to our physical location, we connected to Faceless.me in the Netherlands and ran a second test:
As you can see, the overhead of the VPN connection reduced our speed by around 1.5Mbps. Not a bad result, nor the best we’ve ever seen.
We then connected to Faceless.me’s server in Russia:
This result was far worse, as is clear from the screenshot above.
Finally, we connected to the US VPN server.
While this was a little better than the Russia result, this still represented less than half of our benchmark download speed.
Overall, our tests results were depressingly mixed.
Faceless.me is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
As you can see, Faceless.me also offer support for iPhone and iPad. There is also an Android app available.
We had an iPhone to hand so visited the App Store and downloaded the Faceless.me iPhone app.
Faceless.me on the iPhone
As is the case with the majority of VPN “apps” for iOS, the Faceless app is really just a front-end for the VPN’s customer area and an easier means of configuring the iPhone’s inbuilt VPN functionality without the need to manually enter settings.
Going to the “auto setup” option automatically installed certificates and a new VPN profile on our phone. It also automatically connected the VPN, which is not an option we would have chosen. Nor did we like the fact that we weren’t asked which country we would like to connect to, making Faceless.me’s mobile solution more of a privacy solution than a product to use to change your location.
Furthermore, on the second day of our testing, we spend several hours unable to connect to the VPN via our phone due to an authentication issue.
Once we were able to connect, we carried out a couple of speed tests. First we ran a test whilst disconnected from the VPN. Having already tested via WiFi, we decided to do this via 3G:
We then connected to the VPN and ran the test again:
The download speed drop we experienced (1.2Mbps) was actually quite good for a mobile speed test.
Faceless.me’s password-protected customer area has a fair amount of functionality, but we also felt it had a rather cluttered and unfinished feel. We were informed by the support department that an update to this area is imminent.
This planned upgrade is a good thing, as, at the time of writing, both of the links to manual setup instructions were dead.
- Generous and anonymous free option
- Decent mobile speeds
- Fast support via email
We weren’t so sure about
- Random website issues
- Difficulty connecting via iPhone during one day of testing
- Very variable performance results
We had high hopes for Faceless.me, and as a FREE service it meets some expectations; 2Gb of completely free and anonymous traffic will be appealing to some.
As a chargeable service, however, Faceless still feels like something of a work in progress. We found the website timeouts disconcerting and had a whole day when our iPhone wouldn’t connect due to a password error which later resolved itself. The fact that the provider states that they are still working on areas of the service is reassuring, however.
With some more work, Faceless.me could become a service to recommend. As it stands, it’s sadly not quite there.