F-Secure’s Freedome VPN is a solid, secure service based around an attractive and easy-to-use client, and the price is pretty good too.
Pricing & Plans
F-Secure Freedome is available as a one-year subscription, with prices depending on number of devices allowed and whether or not the user wants to have access to premium support – more on this below, but it basically means you can talk to an actual support agent by web chat, email or phone.
Premium support is available as a separate $19.99 addon, or – for visitors to the EU versions of the site – as a bundle including use of the VPN on seven devices for around the same price.
The basic one-device plan works out as around $3.33 per month, which is at the cheaper end of the scale and not bad at all for what’s on offer. Going full-hog for five devices ($59.99) and premium support ($19.99) in US dollars will raise the monthly figure to $6.67, which is still not expensive as VPN providers go. Seven devices with premium support will cost European customers €6.65 or £4.83, which works out as around $7.50. Clicking through from the free trial on the Freedome client, though, offers users a further discount: $35.99 for a year’s use on one device ($3/month) or $47.99 for five ($4/month).
As well as the 14-day free trial for new users – which requires no registration whatsoever – subscribers are given a full 30-day money-back guarantee. Payment can be made by credit card, PayPal or wire transfer.
First established in 1988 under the name Data Fellows, F-Secure is a venerable provider in the area of online security and is based in Finland. As well as the Freedome VPN, they offer a range of products for personal and business customers, including anti-virus and a password manager.
As for the VPN itself, it gives access to servers in 16 countries including Hong Kong, Australia and the USA. Simultaneous connections from different devices are permitted according to subscription chosen as above.
F-Secure uses OpenVPN for its Windows, Mac and Android clients, though it takes some digging to find this out – the relevant section of the knowledge base omits to mention it. Encryption is AES-128 for data, with SHA-1 for data authentication and 2048-bit RSA for handshaking: this is a slight step up from OpenVPN’s default, and acceptable security for most users. They keep no personally-identifiable logs of users or their activities and are not subject to EU Data Retention laws. Use of BitTorrent is allowed on some servers, but automatically blocked on others including the UK, Netherlands and Singapore.
The iOS app, meanwhile, uses IPsec AES-128 for data encryption, AES-256 for key exchange, and SHA-1 for data authentication. Though generally we’d recommend OpenVPN when you can get it, it’s less common to see it on the iOS platform and IPsec is a decent alternative.
F-Secure’s presentation is slick and professional throughout, and this is reflected in the quality of their website. It’s visually pleasing and generally easy to navigate – so long as you know initially what you’re looking for, at least – with prices, features and supported platforms all presented clearly and up-front. The technical nitty-gritty of what’s on offer is, unfortunately, hidden away deep in the knowledge base – but the very fact that it’s there is at least a plus point. Meanwhile, we skipped past the download link for the client a couple of times while seeking to take advantage of the advertised free trial – the otherwise featureless black buttons linking to PC and Mac versions are a bit inconspicuous amidst the block colours and bold text of the rest of the site.
For most users, support for F-Secure Freedome will probably have to be handled through the website’s knowledge base and community forums: unlike many other VPN providers, live chat and email support reside behind a paywall opened only by purchasing the most expensive subscription. While it’s a pity these latter services don’t come as standard, it is nice to see a well-implemented forum for a VPN provider, and it does seem to encourage good communication between the company and its users. The forum is, however, a bit sparsely populated, and replies from F-Secure seem to come pretty slowly.
The knowledge base, meanwhile, has a good range of articles on it with some helpful and pleasingly direct answers to questions, but we did find it a little tricky to find and not always very intuitive to navigate. We also had an issue when searching for topics that results weren’t automatically differentiated by product or language, resulting in pages and pages of irrelevant or incomprehensible information to wade through unless one manages to find the correct tab and filter options. Although the client links to ‘Follow up on Twitter’ under the ‘Help’ section, the account doesn’t seem to be used to provide support to users.
Making use of F-Secure Freedome’s free trial couldn’t be simpler: as soon as you’ve found the download link for your chosen platform, you just install the client and the 14-day trial starts immediately without requiring any sign-up. Past this point, however, users are required to register with a full name, ZIP/postal code, city, country and email address – it’d be nice to see the option for greater privacy here, and some anonymous payment options wouldn’t go amiss either.
The F-Secure Windows VPN client
Using the F-Secure Freedome Windows client is a beautiful experience from start to finish. From the moment you start installation, you’re presented with a slick, attractive and professional-looking interface which is easy to use and works very well. The main screen has a large button to turn protection on and off, with a summary of time left on the user’s trial or subscription as well as some other information, and there’s a large friendly button to tell you what country you’re connecting to; clicking this brings up a lovely clean menu of possible locations, complete with spinning globe animation when you change to a new country.
Along the left-hand side are tabs for managing your subscription, settings for making the client run with Windows or automatically connecting to the VPN, and some ancillary features of the service. There’s one for browser protection, which when turned on prevents the user accessing sites deemed harmful (for, e.g., hosting malware) and one for tracking protection, as well as for F-Secure’s private search page complete with instructions on how to use it to prevent third parties tracking your search history (though we were amused to see it was powered by google).
As we never experienced any DNS leaks while using F-Secure’s VPN, we assume the client has built-in protection for both IPv4 and IPv6 – more on this below.
Performance (Speed, DNS and IP Test)
As you can see from the graphs below, F-Secure Freedome’s connection speeds compared very favourably to the control results from our unshielded test connection. We had particularly good results to the Amsterdam server, and though performance to the London server was noticeably worse, speeds were still very usable and not far below our control. In general we found F-Secure’s connection speeds to be more than adequate both for general Internet use and for video streaming. Reliability was also good.
Graphs showing highest, lowest and average results for connection speed tests. Check out our news post for more information on our new speed tests.
F-Secure use their own DNS servers. DNS and IP tests came back fine, with no sign of leakage past the F-Secure client on our Windows 8.1 test system. What’s more, IPv6 tests came back with no problems either.
F-Secure’s Freedome client is available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Kindle Fire. No Linux client is offered or planned. Use of the VPN is limited to the client only – it’s not possible to set up a manual connection using an operating system’s built-in functionality, or a third party app.
Connecting to the VPN server took only a handful of seconds, and speeds while connected to the VPN were very good: our UK test came back with nearly 20Mbps, a significant chunk of our 30Mbps test connection’s maximum.
The Android app has its own free trial and subscription options through Google Play, covering the Android app only but available for one-day or one-month periods as well as a full year and covering any Android device logged into that Google Play account. A subscription purchased from the main website can also be used with Android, but on a per-device basis.
Other/ Free Services
As a major internet security company, F-Secure provide a range of other services including an anti-virus, password manager, computer cleanup service (“Booster”) and private search. There’s also their SAFE product, which is intended as a complete multi-device internet security package featuring antivirus, anti-spam, parental control settings and a firewall, as well as remote data protection for mobile devices. Presently, until the end of September 2015, purchasing the SAFE service includes Freedome for free.
F-Secure Review Conclusion
Good-looking and easy-to-use clients
Smooth user experience
No-strings and no-registration free trial
Robust DNS leak protection
Decent speeds and good reliability
Built-in protection from suspect sites and tracking, plus private search
We weren’t so sure about
No anonymous payment or registration option
Technical information on VPN not easy to find
Personal support behind a paywall
Mandatory one-year subscription unless on mobile
Freedome provides a fantastic, easy-to-use service pitched especially at the novice user. The great price is only tempered by the requirement of a full year’s subscription, but with a 14-day trial plus 30-day money-back guarantee, users at least have plenty of chance to know what they’re getting into. We’d like to see more anonymity offered in the signup process, stronger encryption options all around and particularly OpenVPN on the iOS app, but overall F-Secure’s offering is solid, secure and good value for money. Go give them a try today.