Le VPN uses an interesting blend of a VPN and a smart DNS to create a unique “hybrid VPN.” This selectively encrypts your traffic according to the type of website that you would like to contact. Read on to find out whether this strategy is effective.
Le VPN is a rapidly evolving privacy service. The company has a presence in countries that many competing VPN services overlook. Le VPN is a Hong Kong-based VPN that offers a blend of VPN and Smart Domain Name System (DNS) services. You can use these in combination.
This company uses intelligent solutions to universal problems that customers experience – privacy and speed. Tight security and privacy procedures can slow down connections. However, Le VPN manages to deliver speed when it is needed the most. It also offers identity protection.
Seven-day money-back guarantee
Servers in 114 countries
Hybrid VPN and Smart DNS service
Choice of OpenVPN, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
Le VPN provides both VPN and Smart DNS services. It puts both of those facilities into one plan. You can reduce the monthly cost of the service if you subscribe for a longer period. However, you have to pay for the entire subscription period up front.
As well as the standard options on the pricing page, look for seasonal special offers on a two-year deal, which is posted on the website’s homepage.
You get a seven-day money-back guarantee with all of the subscription options.
Le VPN accepts a long list of payment types, which includes credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin.
Le VPN delivers its service from Hong Kong. This is a great location for privacy services because the territory has no data retention requirements.
The features of the company’s package are:
A total of 400 servers in 114 countries
Multilingual website and app
Protection for peer-to-peer (P2P) downloads
A no logs policy
Automatic WiFi protection
Optional hybrid service incorporating Smart DNS
OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP protocols
Apps for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, iOS, and Android
Manual install for routers and Linux machines
The impressive server network includes many countries in the Caribbean and South America. There’s also a strong presence in Middle Eastern countries, where web restrictions are prevalent and penalties are tough.
There are six different ways to access each VPN server. You can use the Smart DNS service, or a mix of VPN and Smart DNS. If you want to stick with a pure VPN connection, you can use Open VPN over User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), L2TP/Information Protocol Security (IPSec), or PPTP.
Le VPN’s OpenVPN implementation uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption with a 256-bit key. Session establishment uses a 1024-bit key RSA cipher – which is weak. The support team wasn’t able to give me any other information about the system’s encryption.
The connection log policy is a worry. This could be all the information that a copyright lawyer needs to trace your activities.
If you download copyrighted material without paying for it, you’re actually stealing. In some countries, copyright owners pursue downloaders for payments. They trace you through your IP address. In order to track you down, they monitor the activity in a torrent swarm, noting the IP addresses of participating peers. Your IP address is registered with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Lawyers can force that company to turn over records that show who was using that IP address at a given time and date.
A VPN changes your IP address from the one that the ISP gave you. This hides your identity. The copyright team will see an IP address belonging to the VPN company if they monitor downloads. If they get a court order, they can force the VPN company to hand over records of who was using that IP address and which real IP address it was mapped to. Thus a VPN that keeps connection logs doesn’t give you cast iron protection from prosecution.
The Le VPN website is very well designed. It has an uncluttered navigation menu at the top of each page. This header is fixed, so stays visible as you scroll down the page.
You can use the pick list at the top of the page to change the website language to French, Italian, Russian, or Spanish.
Many of the navigation items lead to drop-down menus with plenty more options on them.
There are more link options in the site’s footer.
You can get interesting insights into Le VPN, plus current topics of interest in the VPN industry, from the website’s blog. You access this through a link in the footer.
Although members are supposed to check out the knowledge base or raise a support ticket if they need support, it is much quicker to ask your questions via live chat. You access the live chat via the blue oblong at the bottom right of the website.
If you just want answers about the service, the live chat operator can help. If there is no one available at that moment, you’ll be asked to raise a support ticket.
Unfortunately, the default live chat operator isn’t very knowledgeable, so you’ll probably end up raising a support ticket.
The knowledge base is more focused on installation instructions. It doesn’t have much troubleshooting advice. However, there’s a search field to help you look for subjects, so you don’t have to scroll through the list of articles in the system.
If you have to raise a support ticket, you can access this webpage either through the menu at the top of the main pages of the site, or through the client area.
You can set the language of the support form. However, even though I submitted a request in English with English set as the screen language, I got an autoresponse email written in French. The technical support team isn’t very knowledgeable. They weren’t able to tell me what type of encryption is used for the L2TP and PPTP implementations.
To sign up for the service, click on the button for the subscription period that you want to buy in the pricing page.
The sign up page is very straightforward. It only requires an email address to identify you. If you want to remain anonymous, you can create a burner webmail account for communications with the VPN company. However, it is important that you enter a real email address, because Le VPN will send your login details there.
The PayPal payment options allow you to choose whether to take out a one-time subscription, or set up a repeat billing agreement.
Once your payment clears, Le VPN presents you with an online receipt. The transaction generates five emails. Le VPN sends these to your inbox immediately. These are an order confirmation, a welcome email, a receipt from your payment processor, an email with your username and password for the VPN service, and a payment confirmation. The most useful of these is the credential email. It also includes a link to the download area of the site.
Click on the button for your operating system to get the installer to download. If you have other VPNs on your computer, make sure that they’re not running before you launch the installation. The installer is straightforward and should complete without a hitch.
As a subscriber, you now have access to the client area of the Le VPN website. Click on “My Account” in the website’s top menu to access this page.
There are a couple of glitches in this page. The client area page showed in English. However, the system had registered my location as being in France – which it wasn’t. The section of the screen that shows open support tickets displayed none, even though I had three open at the time.
The Le VPN Windows VPN Client
To log in to the VPN, you need the username and password that you received after you paid. The username and password for the website client area are the ones you entered when you set up the account. These generated credentials aren’t easy to remember. You can cut and paste them from the email. Fortunately, you only have to enter them the first time you use the app.
The layout of the app’s main screen is very simple.
You can click on the Connect button to connect directly from the server selection list or click on the Back button and press Connect in the main screen.
The system settings are accessible though the three dots menu at the top right of the app.
The main screen of the settings screen has few options. This app doesn’t include a kill switch to block access to the internet if the connection to the VPN drops. This is a surprising oversight. You can change the language of the app in this screen.
A drop-down list on the main screen of the app provides another access point to the app’s language settings.
Here is the Settings page in Spanish.
It is better to turn off the “Automatically select protocol” option and proceed to the Protocols tab.
PPTP isn’t an option on this screen because that system is only available for manual set up. The Smart DNS is optional in the app. You would be better off using OpenVPN over UDP for streaming video, online games, or internet telephony apps. This is because the TCP system creates session establishment procedures that quick, interactive apps have been designed to do without.
The app gives access to servers in eight locations in the US, including a specialist media streaming server. IPLocation.net reported this server to be in Wilmington, Delaware.
Once you’ve the VPN turned on, the Connect button changes to become a Disconnect button.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
I conducted speed tests for Le VPN without the hybrid DNS system turned on. This is because the functions of the hybrid DNS optionally tunnel traffic. It wouldn’t be a good indicator of the speeds of the VPN if it channeled speed tests outside of the tunnel. If it does tunnel the speed test traffic, it would be behaving exactly the same way as if the option was turned off.
I performed the tests with the protocol set to OpenVPN over UDP. In each case, I performed five test runs with testmy.net from a location in the Caribbean. I made the US tests to a server in Miami and the UK tests to a server in London.
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
The local internet service where these tests took place isn’t good. However, it’s important to look at the change that applying the VPN imposed on the connection speeds in the test. On the transatlantic tests, Le VPN delivered a similar performance to the transfer speeds recorded without a VPN. In all upload tests, the speeds with the VPN applied to the connection were within the range of speeds achieved on the line without it.
The North America servers were able to improve speeds on some test runs. However, the range of results when I tested both the New York server and the Toronto server was large. In each case the range was about 1Mbps. This is a big difference on a line that ordinarily achieves speeds of about 2.5Mbps.
I tested for IP leaks while connected to Le VPN’s New York server. Tests found no IP leaks, DNS leaks, or WebRTC disclosures. Tests consistently showed my location as New Jersey in the United States, using a DNS server in Georgia (I was actually in the Dominican Republic).
I used ipleak.net to check DNS leaks and the WebRTC bug. The test site doileak.net is particularly keen on WebRTC leaks. That site couldn’t detect my actual location.
My Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn’t use IPv6 addresses, so I was unable to test for IPv6 leaks.
I engaged the Media Streaming server in the US and tested access to videos at Netflix, ABC, and NBC. I couldn’t get into Netflix at all. For this test, I used OpenVPN over UDP, both with the Smart DNS hybrid option turned off and on. I also couldn’t watch a video at the ABC website, because its system spotted the VPN. NBC let me watch.
I switched the VPN server to use the US New York server and tried all three tests again. The results were exactly the same.
I changed over to the Le VPN UK server to try accessing Netflix over there. Again, I got the SSL error. BBC iPlayer refused the connection. Channel 4 and ITV, however, let me watch shows. I turned off the hybrid DNS option and tried the tests again. This time, I got into the Netflix UK site. However, it blocked me from watching a show because the proxy detection system spotted the VPN. I was also able to get into BBC iPlayer without the hybrid Smart DNS turned on. However, the BBC’s video delivery system spotted the VPN and wouldn’t let me watch a show. Channel 4 and ITV allowed me to watch videos.
You can install the Le VPN app on Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. You can also load the Le VPN software onto DD-WRT routers and Linux machines. PPTP is available via a manual installation on Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, and iOS.
You can access the Le VPN Smart DNS service separately by altering the setup of the network for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS and Linux computers. You can also alter mobile devices that run Android or iOS to use Le VPN’s Smart DNS system. In addition, you can access the Smart DNS from games consoles, smart TVs, and routers.
Le VPN Review: Conclusion
The option to use a Smart DNS service on a home TV is a great feature for expats. However, the allocation of just two connections is a little tight. The service would lose little money by expanding this up to three, which is what ExpressVPN offers.
The Smart DNS/VPN hybrid concept is a great idea. It creates a situation called “split tunneling.” This is a hot topic in the VPN industry at the moment. However, the hybrid settings made access to streaming video sites worse, not better. This is a feature that other VPNs, such as ibVPN and CactusVPN, get right and deploy to great effect.
Multilingual site and app
Seven-day money-back guarantee
Simple app design
Works on routers
I wasn’t so sure about:
Customer support operators don’t know the system
No kill switch
Hybrid function made video access worse
Can’t get into Netflix
Although this VPN service is reasonably priced, you should probably avoid it if you want identity protection for downloading. Also, this service won’t get you into many video streaming services. Le VPN has a good looking site and an easy-to-use app. The fact that you can change the display language of both is a great feature. However, the VPN isn’t able to deliver the services that most people would want a VPN for.