What is IPVanish?
IPVanish is a US-based VPN service that has consistently demonstrated some of the highest levels of performance in the industry. To be absolutely sure that we are doing an excellent job, however, we thought we would re-review this oft-recommended VPN. In reality, not much has changed, and we were still impressed with its no logs policy, use of shared IPs, BitTorrent-friendly attitude, huge selection of servers (which has grown), and fast connection speeds.
One thing to remember is that IPVanish VPN is based in the US, which is far from ideal. Wikileaks’ Vault 7 has once again shed light on widespread US surveillance practices. With warrants and gags a huge threat to privacy in the country (according to groups like privacytools.io), US firms are in a precarious position. As such, a US-based VPN may not be the best option for privacy – zero logs or not. However, if privacy is not an absolute priority, then IPVanish VPN offers a fast and efficient service (with a nice Android app) that does an absolutely fantastic job.
Pricing and Plans
IPVanish has just one simple plan, which is available in three different pricing structures. Subscribers have access to the same full set of features on every plan, but are rewarded with a discount for signing up for a longer period of time. Subscribing for just one month works out most costly, at $10.00. A three-month subscription is $26.99 (which works out at $8.99 per month). The cheapest option is to pay $77.99 per year (which works out at $6.49 per month).
As you can see in the screen grab above, subscribers can pay with many different payment methods. These include all major credit cards, PayPal, and bitcoin. Refunds are available within seven days of payment (seven-day money-back guarantee). To understand the different refund procedures (which are necessarily different for bitcoins) you are advised to check the terms of service.
- Lightning fast: tier 1 network
- Easy to use VPN software
- Same clients, regardless of platform
- Superb app features
- Super secure: Strong OpenVPN encryption
- Based in the US: not great for privacy
- Limited support options (US daylight hours)
We previously made this short video giving an overview of the service. A few things have changed since it was made, so please read the rest of this review to be sure of knowing everything about IPVanish VPN.
IPVanish VPN keeps no connection or metadata logs, and it permits P2P BitTorrenting (though it asks people to respect the law, it has no way of telling if users don’t). Subscribers can use the VPN on five devices simultaneously. This means that the VPN can be used on a laptop, iPhone, tablet, PC, and Android phone, at the same time if necessary.
IPVanish VPN offers 40,000+ shared IPs on 700+ VPN servers in 60+ countries, giving it truly global coverage. In addition, it provides coverage in some often highly unrepresented locations, such as Egypt and South Africa. IPVanish VPN rents tier 1 servers for its network, which is why it provides such fast speeds. Overall, it is a high performing service, which if paid for yearly is a great value package.
In September of last year, IPVanish introduced SOCKS5 proxy to its service. A proxy server acts as a middleman between your computer and the internet. Any web traffic directed through a proxy server will appear to originate from the proxy server’s IP address, not your personal address.
SOCKS (short for Socket Secure), is a protocol specifically used for proxy servers. SOCKS5 is an extension of the SOCKS protocol, which supports advanced networking technologies, such as the UDP protocol and IPv6. As such, it is a highly secure proxy service, and is a nice addition to the IPVanish VPN platform.
A NAT firewall protects users when connected to the VPN network. It blocks unwanted incoming traffic to protect your system from outside attacks, including DDoS attacks. If you want a VPN for gaming in tournaments (when it is common to be hit with DDoS attacks to disrupt play), this feature is great.
Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection
IPVanish VPN also has pro features such as a kill switch for cutting your internet connection if the VPN drops out. This helps subscribers not to accidentally leak any traffic to their ISP. In addition, it provides DNS leak protection to guarantee that VPN users don’t leak DNS requests (a common way that poor VPNs accidentally give away their subscriber’s location and identity).
With so much on offer, this really is a VPN that is well worth a try. The fact that it has a seven-day money-back guarantee also means anyone can try it risk-free, which we really like.
Security and Privacy
IPVanish VPN provides all the encryption protocols that you would expect, including our most highly recommended protocol, OpenVPN. OpenVPN is the best VPN encryption available today, but only if it is implemented strongly. Many VPNs offer OpenVPN, but at such a poor level that it can be cracked easily. This is not the case with IPVanish, which, although not the strongest implementation of OpenVPN we have ever seen, is still highly robust.
OpenVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption, with SHA-256 for authentication, and RSA 2048 for handshaking purposes. Add this security to its zero logs policy (and shared IPs) and you really do have a secure service.
Also excellent, is the ability to select which port to use for OpenVPN (443 or 1194) and to select the “obfuscate OpenVPN traffic” setting. This means that on top of having the best VPN encryption on the market, IPVanish ensures that ISPs can’t tell that the traffic isn’t regular web traffic (it masks the encryption from the ISP). This is an excellent feature.
Don’t forget, however, that IPVanish is based in the US (registered under Mudhook Marketing). Although it hasn’t had any problems so far (as far as we know), this is a country that can and does serve firms with warrants and gag orders. As such, even if the VPN has the best of intentions, the US is a risky place for a VPN to be based – as it could at some time become compromised by the likes of the NSA or CIA.
The IPVanish VPN website hasn’t changed much over the years. It still provides plenty of relevant information, and is pretty forthcoming with details about the service, which is good. At the bottom of each page, there are plenty of navigation options, so that users can find what they are looking for quickly. In addition, the VPN has plenty of infographics to try and keep things interesting.
The blog is another aspect of IPVanish worthy of praise. Rather than boastful self-promotion, it has plenty of useful and in-depth analysis, guest spots, and information about VPNs and the IPVanish service to keep subscribers up to date and informed about changes.
The Control Panel is set out nice and clearly, with Account, Billing, and Subscription links all placed logically. In addition, a handy server status infographic that is updated in real-time allows subscribers to get useful information.
Support is said to be available 24/7 via an email answered ticket system. However, the live chat feature that it used to have has been abolished, which is a real shame. From my experience, although IPVanish does answer questions effectively and correctly, I would suggest that, in reality, it tends to answer those questions in US daylight hours most of the time.
Despite this, the help section is excellent and has plenty of FAQs, which are informative and can get most problems solved quickly. We also really like IPVanish’s setup guides, which are plentiful and well illustrated. Another excellent selling point is its user forum, where fellow subscribers can share knowledge and help each other out.
Signing up to IPVanish is a simple process. All that is required is an email address, password, and billing information (unless you pay with bitcoin for extra anonymity). Once payment is complete, users are directed to the downloads page of the members’ area to download the software for the platform that they have.
The IPVanish Windows VPN Client
The IPVanish Windows client hasn’t changed much over the years. The reason for that is pretty simple: it has always been really good. IPVanish has made a few adjustments here and there, to improve the service. The Windows VPN software has all the pro features that you would expect like auto-connect, a kill switch, and dedicated DNS and IPv6 leak protection. All those features can be toggled on and off at will.
The good news is that the kill switch performed perfectly during testing. When connected to an IPVanish VPN server, if the VPN connection drops out for any reason, the kill switch guarantees that users don’t leak any data. A really cool feature is the more recently introduced IP address scrambler, which can be used to circumvent deep packet inspection, like that used by the Chinese government in the Great Firewall of China.
Last year, IPVanish also introduced an IP cycle feature. It cycles your IP once every 45 minutes (at least) for extra security. This makes it harder for users to be tracked, though it probably wouldn’t stop the likes of the NSA from tracking a user if they performed a targeted attack (a highly non-trivial and expensive process). The kill switch feature kicks in when the IP is changed using this feature, to guarantee no data leaks. All in all, I was really pleased with the performance of the Windows client, which is definitely at the top of its game and still remains at the forefront of the VPN industry.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
Connection speed is where IPVanish has always shone, and this year was no different. I tested the US, UK, and Dutch servers five times each to get the averages you see in the tables below. I tested on a 50 Mbps connection in the UK. As you can see, compared to my base-level tests performed without a VPN, the drop off in speeds was minimal. This is fantastic, and certainly means that this VPN is still perfect for intensive tasks such as online gaming and streaming in HD.
The graphs reveal the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for a full explanation of how this is done.
I used ipleak.net (a highly respected tool) to test for IP leaks and DNS leaks. The good news is that I found both the Android and Windows clients to have no leaks. Sadly, my ISP does not provide IPv6, so I was unable to test for this. However, IPVanish does have IPv6 leak support built into the Windows client, and if the rest of the client is anything to go by then it is likely to work well. I did not detect any WebRTC bug leaks either, so IPVanish performed well all round during my tests.
Another great thing about IPVanish is that it has dedicated apps and installers for all popular platforms. Some VPNs require subscribers to use third party OpenVPN software, but this is not the case with IPVanish, which has designed custom software that has OpenVPN integrated for all platforms. This includes apps for Windows, Android, OS X, and iOS. On iOS, a little bit of manual setup is required (it nearly always is on iOS).
The good news is that there are fantastic, easy to follow illustrated setup guides and video tutorials on their website to help you when you do have to set something up. This includes setup guides for simple things like changing encryption protocol in the software (for beginners).
IPVanish also provides support and setup guides for Tomato and DD-WRT routers. Flashing a VPN onto either of those allows subscribers to protect their entire network without having to physically connect each device.
The IPVanish app requires Android 4.0.3 and up. It fully supports Lollipop devices. When I tested the app, it performed really well in terms of speed. Performing in an identical manner to its Windows desktop counterpart (which it should, because it is utilizing the same servers – but this isn’t always the case for some reason).
Also impressive is that the IPVanish Android app has exactly the same feel and look as the desktop version. This includes having all the same high-end features such as auto-connect, a kill switch, and the deep packet inspection avoidance scrambling measure. This is excellent, and is something that other VPNs often fall down on. As such, I can strongly recommend this VPN for use on Android phones and tablets.
iOS and iPad
I don’t own either of these devices, so I was unable to test this platform. However, I can tell you that the IPVanish iPhone and iPad apps require iOS 8.0 or later. Also, the app is optimized for iPhone 6 and iPhone 7. Ikev2 and IPsec are supported, though OpenVPN will require some setup.
IPVanish VPN Review: Conclusion
- Zero logs
- Cross-platform functionality
- Five simultaneous devices
- SOCKS5 proxy
- Outstanding speeds
- P2P (BitTorrenting) permitted
- Varied payment methods include bitcoin
- Kill switch, scrambler, IP cycle features
- Servers in over 60 countries
- Good value for money (if a yearly subscription is purchased)
- Unblocks BBC iPlayer
I wasn’t so sure about:
- No live chat support
- Based in the US (home of the CIA and NSA)
- Doesn’t unblock Netflix anymore
IPVanish has been one of the best VPNs on the market for quite a few years now. Despite it being based in the US, so far no evidence has emerged that this has caused IPVanish any concerns. After all, because it keeps zero logs, even if served a warrant it wouldn’t actually have anything to hand over to the authorities. As such, its commitment to privacy seems to be working out ok.
App improvements that were added last year are working well, and the VPN is certainly “fully featured.” In fact, it has all the great features that the world’s best VPNs have. The only slight drawback with this VPN is the fact that it doesn’t offer live chat support. However, IPVanish is truly superb, and can answer your queries via email. If you are tempted by IPVanish, why not give the seven-day trial a go? You won’t regret it.