A new direction for us here at BestVPN, we decided to investigate BitTorrent’s rival to the filesharing crown, Usenet, so if you are new to Usenet then check out our articles here and here. UseNeXT is a high profile Usenet provider who supplies everything you need to get downloading binaries at far higher speeds then you will ever achieve with BitTorrent (although we do feel that for a Usenet service it could be faster in this regard). The software in particular is excellent, and once you get used to it, makes downloading a trivially easy affair.
UseNeXT offers three plans, starting at €9.95 (approx. US$14) for 30GB of data per month, going to €14.85 (approx. US$20.50) for 80GB per month, and €24.95 (approx. US$34) for 250GB per month, with discounts for bulk purchases.
If you go over your monthly limit then you can use choose to use up the next month’s allowance, and there is also a ‘free download’ mode which lets you download as much data as you want without it counting against your limit, but at the much slower rate of 200 kilobits/s (0.02MB/s), which equates to 600GB per month.
UseNeXT offers a free 14 day trial with a 300GB download limit. You should be aware however that payment details are required up-front, and if you fail to cancel or choose different package within that 14 days you then will be automatically charged for a year of the 30+ package (€95.35, approx. US$131).
UseNeXT supports over sixty thousand newsgroups, has a binaries retention time of up to 1,538 days, and a text file retention time of up to 1,953 days.
Connection speed and Server Locations
UseNeXT has six server farms located ‘worldwide’ (as far as we can tell this means in Europe and the United States). We downloaded some test files to see how fast the service was, and consistently got similar results.
2579 kbyte/s = 2.52 MB/s, which is not exactly maxing out our 20 MB/s internet connection. It is still a great speed when compared to BitTorrent, but for Usenet is a little disappointing.
Security and privacy
UseNeXT uses top-notch 256-bit SSL end-to-end encryption, so no-one will be able to spy on what you download.
An important factor when judging a Usenet service is its completion rate, which is the number of articles it stores compared to the total number of articles on Usenet, expressed as a percentage. Unfortunately there is no way to accurately measure this except anecdotally, but UseNeXT claims an impressive message completion rate of 99.9%.
The website & Customer support
The UseNeXT website looks good, and does a pretty good job of explaining the service it offers. There is a FAQ that answers all the basic questions, and you can contact the UseNeXT staff through a Contact Form or by phone (available in English, German and French). We are pleased to say that the phone hotline is not a premium rate number, although it is a German landline number, so international charges will apply if calling from abroad.
Although the UseNext service can be used with any newsreader software, one of the best aspects of the package is its inclusion of the UseNext newsreader (made by Hong Kong firm Tangysoft), available for Windows, OSX and Linux.
Available for free and preconfigured for UseNext, this is a powerful piece of software, and although a lack of documentation means that Usenet newbies might face a bit of a learning curve at first, veterans will feel right at home.
The only real criticism we have is that is that the software is designed purely for downloading, so if you wish to browse Usenet or join newsgroup discussions, then you will need a different newsreader. This is not a big problem however, as there are plenty of other suitable and free programs out there and, really, that’s not what most people will use UseNeXT for.
There are, to be honest, prettier and more newbie friendly newsreaders out there, but in terms of features the UseNeXT software is excellent
To download a binary, search for what you want (its best to narrow your search to ‘filegroups’, select the filegroup you want, and click ‘Download’ to bring up the Download Wizard
The Wizard will take care of downloading all the archives, and then stitch them back together again. Easy!
Lots of newsgroups (60,000+)
Long retention times
High completion rate (claimed)
Great free software for downloading
14 day free trial (with large download limit)
Telephone hotline not premium rate (although call fees to Germany apply)
You can ‘rollover’ your download limit to the next month
Free download mode
We weren’t so sure about
Download speeds could be better
Other than the speed (and bear in mind that we were still downloading 10GB Blu-ray quality files in less than an hour and a half), UseNeXT provides a compressive Usenet service. The free software from Tangysoft is great, and the number of newgroups, retention times, completion rate and encryption used are all excellent. The fact that you can use up the next month’s data allowance, together with the inclusion of a free download mode, means that you are unlikely to ever be unable to download the files you want, and with a 14 day free trial there is little reason to not to give UseNeXT a spin.
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