Multi-platform, multi-protocol support. Allows P2P. Excellent interface. Hundreds of servers available across the globe. Kill Switch. Limited free account. Advanced features.
Few licenses. No ad blocking. Mixed speed-test scores.
- Bottom Line
Golden Frog VyprVPN offers advanced features, a robust service, and a friendly interface, but you won't be able to cover as many devices as the competition.
By Max Eddy
A virtual private network (or VPN) protects your identity online and safeguards your data when you browse the web on shared networks. Your antivirus may protect your computer, but a VPN offers protection where your computer touches the internet. VyprVPN has the robust offering of servers and excellent security features that I expect in a VPN service, but it offers fewer licenses than competitors in this crowded space. VyprVPN won't steer you wrong, but you simply get more (sometimes for less) with our Editors' Choice picks.
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What Is a VPN?
A VPN is an excellent way to ensure that your internet connections are secure and that no one can spy on your traffic. Once your VPN is activated, all the packets that make up your network traffic travel through an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server controlled by the VPN service. Sites that try to identify you by your IP address see one of the VPN service's IP addresses instead.
A VPN also hides your traffic from inspection by your Internet Service Provider. That's a good thing, since the current administration recently gave the green light for ISPs to sell anonymized user metadata to advertisers and third-parties.
With a VPN, you can be sure that using the public, unsecured Wi-Fi at the coffee shop won't lead to your identity being stolen. VPNs also help circumvent online censorship, and are used by activists and journalists operating in countries with repressive internet controls. On the lighter side, a VPN can spoof your location and make region-locked streaming content available.
VyprVPN recently collapsed its three-flavor pricing model to a simpler two: VyprVPN and VyprVPN Premium. Annual billing at a reduced rate is available for all account levels, though I only list the monthly rates here. VyprVPN costs $9.95 per month and Premium goes for $12.95 per month. Both tiers offer a three-day free trial. The cheaper plan allows up to three simultaneous connections and the upper tier up to five. That's a little unusual as most VPN services offer five connections at the entry level, and generally offer additional connections for a prorated monthly fee.
Editors' Choice winner KeepSolid VPN Unlimited costs only $5.99 per month and allows five simultaneous connections, as does Spotflux Premium.
Besides additional connections, the Premium tier also grants access to the custom Vypr Chameleon Protocol and VyprVPN Cloud. Vypr's 256-bit Chameleon protocol is designed to circumvent sites and services that block VPNs. The company says it is particularly useful in areas where the government has enacted strict controls over internet access, such as China.
VpyrVPN Cloud, formerly called VyprVPN Server, is a more rarified tool. It's intended to supply an additional layer of security when accessing cloud server services, and currently works with Amazon Web Services, DigitalOcean, and VirtualBox.
VyprVPN supports PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN at both pricing tiers. Only the custom Chameleon protocol is limited to the higher tier. Both the Windows and macOS versions can use all four of the supported protocols. The Android app, meanwhile, uses OpenVPN or Chameleon, while the iOS app uses IPsec. Note that you can opt to install the third-party OpenVPN app, enter your VyprVPN credentials, and use it, instead of VyprVPN's iOS app, to connect to the service via the OpenVPN protocol.
All tiers (including the free offering described below) include a Network Address Translation (NAT) Firewall, which blocks unrequested inbound traffic, such as bots scanning for open ports to exploit. Almost all routers use NAT to share the single internet connection across all connected devices. The devices themselves receive local-only IP addresses that aren't visible from outside the network. It's a nice feature, but probably not robust enough to replace a full-featured firewall.
Golden Frog VyprVPN also provides its own DNS servers to protect users, under the name VyprDNS. That's great, as a secure DNS server prevents DNS poisoning attacks. It's a feature I've seen in more and more VPN services.
As mentioned, VyprVPN does offer a free VPN product, but it's really more of a limited trial. To sign up for a free account, simply download one of VyprVPN's desktop or mobile clients. A free account allows two simultaneous connections and access to all the protocols used by VyprVPN—including Chameleon—in addition to the secure DNS and the NAT firewall. It's basically a tour of all the service's best features. The catch is that free accounts are limited to just 1Gb of data. After that, you have to pay to continue using VyprVPN.
Golden Frog allows all VyprVPN users to share files via P2P or BitTorrent, regardless of the server they are on. That's a remarkable degree of freedom, as most services limit your P2P usage to specific servers. The service does log some information, and explains the practice in detail. The gist is that the company notes your IP address and the IP address of the VPN server that you connect. This information is stored for 30 days. The company is headquartered in Switzerland, which is reportedly not subject to mandatory data retention laws that affect VPNs. The company has written extensively about why it chose Switzerland as its base.
Some VPN companies have tried to make money by injecting ads directly into users' web traffic. This is a reckless practice, and I'm glad to see it's on the decline. A company representative confirmed that, "GoldenFrog does not inject ads or profit from our user data in any way."
VyprVPN is available for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. You can also install a special APK onto Android TV devices, further extending your protection. The company also provides an application for Tomato MIPS/ARM capable routers, so you can provide VPN protection to your router. This is a smart move, since the router will, in turn, protect every device that connects with it. TorGuard also makes its software available for streaming devices and routers, but it sells the hardware with the VPN software preinstalled. That makes TorGuard's router solution expensive, but I prefer it to VyprVPN's DIY approach.
In my testing, I installed VyprVPN on a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running Windows 10. The installation process is remarkably fast and easy, and I was up and running within minutes.
Once installed, VyprVPN presents a window showing your connection status, current IP address, and the time connected. It also displays the protocol being used to encrypt your connection (OpenVPN by default), and your firewall status. A handy graph shows network performance, and the large Connect button doubles as the button for selecting your server. The design is slick without being overwrought. It's a little more techy looking than Hide My Ass, but still very friendly and easy to understand.
VyprVPN has 73 server locations across Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. It's a great selection of locations. Taken together, this adds up to more than 700 individual servers, which is on the low end among services I've reviewed, but acceptable. Many VPN services ignore the Middle East and Africa, and I'm especially glad to see these regions included here. Note that VyprVPN has servers in locations with notably repressive internet laws, including China, Russia, and Turkey.
I consider server locations and the number of servers to be very important. More servers means you're less likely to connect to an overcrowded server, which can reduce performance. More server locations means that you'll have an easier time finding a nearby server when traveling; generally speaking, the closer the VPN server the better performance you'll see. A multitude of server locations also gives you more options for spoofing your location.
I'm less impressed that in order to select a VyprVPN server, I had to open a separate window. The same is true for changing settings in the app. Every other VPN service I have tested manages to fit their entire interface into a single, simple window.
In addition to the network security tools, VyprVPN also includes a Kill Switch feature that can be configured to halt all web traffic should your VPN connection become disconnected. If you're keen on this feature, it can also be found in NordVPN and TorGuard, among others.
You can activate the Kill Switch feature from the Settings menu. You'll also find an option to have VyprVPN activate automatically when you connect to an untrusted Wi-Fi network. You can also keep a list of trusted networks on which you don't feel VPN is necessary and VyprVPN won't activate when it detects them. I like this feature a lot because it takes the burden of remembering to activate the VPN off the user. The Settings panel also lets you adjust some of the deep functionality of VyprVPN, which will surely please security wonks.
Though VyprVPN brings many security features to bear, other services go further. NordVPN has specialty servers that offer double encryption and even access to the Tor network. F-Secure Freedome and Spotflux boast malware and phishing protection, keeping dangerous sites and software far away from your computer.
Speed and Performance
Using a VPN usually degrades your web-browsing performance, simply because your internet connection is taking a more circuitous path. To get a sense for what kind of impact a particular VPN has on web browsing, I perform two sets of tests using the Ookla speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag's publisher, Ziff Davis.) First I compare the average test results without a VPN to the average results with a VPN connected to a nearby VPN server. This is how most people will probably use their VPN, as it puts an emphasis on speed and reliability. For the second test, I compare the average test results while connected to an Ookla test server in Alaska, but not using the VPN, to the same configuration while the VPN is active and connected to a VPN server in Australia. This extreme distance, from Alaska to Australia, puts strain on the connection and stress-tests the service.
Networks are notoriously finicky. Speed and performance can change quickly, so the best measurements are taken over time, and even in different contexts. For my testing, I aim for more of a snapshot in time, controlling for as many variables as I can. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
In my domestic testing, I found that VyprVPN increased latency by 17.6 percent, which is on par for other products in this test. Spotflux Premium VPN takes the lead in this test, reducing latency by 4 percent. VyprVPN had no effect—positive or negative—on download speeds. That's great, but not quite as impressive as PureVPN, which actually improved download speeds by 346.4 percent. That streak was broken in the upload test, in which VyprVPN dragged down upload speeds by 14.2 percent, nearly double the average. Spotflux again has the best score in this test, reducing upload speeds by only 0.4 percent.
In the harsher international tests, VyprVPN increased latency by 285.7 percent. That's on the higher end of average, and a far cry from AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite, which increased latency by only 155.4 percent. The download test was also middling for VyprVPN, which decreased download speeds by 24.2 percent. PureVPN again has the best score, improving download speeds by some 403.4 percent. VyprVPN managed to redeem itself in the upload test. Here, it reduced upload speeds by only 3.2 percent. That's the second best score behind Hotspot Shield Elite, which improved upload speeds by 1.4 percent.
There are many ways to measure network performance, I do consider the download metric to be particularly significant as most of us use the internet to consume digital content. So when I try to figure out the fastest VPN service, I'm usually looking at download speeds. For two years, PureVPN has far and beyond surpassed the competition on speed alone, and has earned an Editors' Choice award for its feat.
A Strong VPN Option
Golden Frog VyprVPN is a worthy choice. It brings a strong collection of security tools to the table, with easy installation, numerous and globally diverse servers, advanced security tools, and fine-grained controls. I also greatly appreciate the latitude it provides users with its P2P and BitTorrent policy. Its data-capped free version is more of a trial, but you'd want a trial before signing up anyhow, because VyprVPN is fairly expensive. And it only allows three simultaneous connections at the entry-level tier, which is stingy. For excellent security at a better value, I recommend Editors' Choice winners KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access. And for raw speed, try PureVPN.
By Max Eddy Software Analyst
Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to Android apps and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. When not polishing his tinfoil hat or plumbing the depths of the Dark Web, he can be found working to discern the 100 Best Android Apps. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote for the International Digital Times, The International Science Times, and The Mary Sue. He has also been known to write for Geek.com. You can follow him on… More »
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