PrivadoVPN Review – PCMag


A VPN’s main function is to secure your online activities and hide your IP address by routing your web traffic to a server controlled by the VPN company. PrivadoVPN does this, and it does so for far less than most of the competition while offering double the number of simultaneous connections. Its free subscription is also more generous than most, giving new users an easy on-ramp. But PrivadoVPN lacks some features found in the best VPNs, and also has not released a third-party audit. It’s a serviceable choice, but there are a few more attractive for-pay competitors that manage to beat the prices of PrivadoVPN’s paid tiers.

How Much Does PrivadoVPN Cost?

PrivadoVPN is among the most affordable VPNs we’ve yet reviewed, costing just $7.99 per month. That’s well below the average of $9.90 we’ve seen across the VPNs we’ve evaluated. Other VPNs do manage to come in cheaper, but it’s a short list. Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN is the most affordable we’ve reviewed at $4.99 per month, but Mullvad VPN is an Editors’ Choice winner and costs only 5 euros per month ($5.19 at time of writing).

Impressively, PrivadoVPN manages to undercut its own offering with a completely free VPN subscription. As is the case with nearly all other free VPNs we’ve reviewed, PrivadoVPN does place limits on its free usage. PrivadoVPN’s Free customers are limited to 10GB of data every 30 days, one simultaneous connection, and access to just 12 servers. That’s more generous than Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear VPN, which provides only 500MB per month for free customers, but not quite as permissive as Hotspot Shield VPN’s limit of 500MB per day. Interestingly, while those services cut you off after you exhaust the data, PrivadoVPN merely throttles the bandwidth of free users that exceed their 10GBs.

While a very strong free offering, it doesn’t quite match Editors’ Choice winner Proton VPN. Like PrivadoVPN, Proton VPN also limits free customers to one simultaneous connection, but it also provides free users with 100 servers (in the Netherlands, US, and Japan) and places no limit on bandwidth. It’s our top pick overall, in no small part because of its generous free subscription option.

As with most VPNs, PrivadoVPN offers a discounted rate if you sign up for a long-term subscription. A one-year subscription with PrivadoVPN costs $59.88, just under the $67.37 average across the VPNs we’ve evaluated. It’s a good deal, but not the cheapest. Ivacy VPN and Kaspersky Secure Connection both cost $29.99 per year. 

Although it’s tempting, we advise readers not to start with a long subscription. Instead, sign up for a free or short-term subscription so you can test the service in your own home and see how it fits in your life. This might cost a little more up front, but it will save you money in the long run. Besides, VPNs are almost never never not on sale.

You can purchase a PrivadoVPN account with any major credit card, PayPal, or semi-anonymously with a variety of crypto currencies. Editors’ Choice winners IVPN and Mullvad VPN both go further, accepting cash sent directly to their respective HQs. That’s hard to beat in terms of anonymity.

What Do You Get for Your Money With Privado?

Customers who pay for a PrivadoVPN account are able to use up to 10 devices simultaneously. That’s double the average number of simultaneous connections we’ve seen from other VPN providers, and will easily cover a single device-heavy household or a small family. However, some VPNs have abandoned this limitation entirely. Avira Phantom VPN, IPVanish VPN, Editors’ Choice winner Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN place no limit on how many devices you connect at a time.

(Editors’ Note: IPVanish is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)

The basic VPN service will protect your traffic as it travels from your computer to the VPN server, keeping your ISP (and anyone else) from seeing what you’re up to online and making you harder to track by hiding your device’s true IP address. Most VPNs go further with additional tools for locking down your privacy.

Many VPNs say they provide a modicum of malware protection, or at least protection from malicious websites. Testing the efficacy of such features is generally beyond the scope of our VPN reviews, and PrivadoVPN doesn’t offer them anyway. Note, however, that Surfshark VPN recently launched an antivirus bundle called Surfshark One. We can’t recommend you buy it, however.

Because not every app will place nicely with your VPN, many VPNs include a split tunneling feature. It lets you decide which apps send their traffic through the VPN connection and which send their data in the clear. Split tunneling is particularly useful for high-bandwidth but low-risk activities like streaming media or playing video games. PrivadoVPN supports split tunneling in its Android and Windows apps. We’d like to see the company make this feature universally available.

The best VPNs include a multi-hop feature, which allows you to route your traffic through two VPN servers. That way, you can be assured that even if one of those servers is somehow corrupted, your traffic will remain secure. PrivadoVPN does not include this feature and has no plan to add it. Granted, it’s an exotic feature most people will ignore because of the significant slowdowns multi-hop connections cause, but it’s one we like to see. IVPN is unique in that it lets you select any two servers for a connection, while most others limit you to premade paths.

Few VPNs include push-button access to the Tor anonymization network. It lets you access hidden Dark Web sites, and provides anonymization to a degree that a VPN alone cannot match. It will also slow your connection way down. Keep in mind you don’t need a VPN to access Tor; it’s just convenient. PrivadoVPN does not provide this feature. Editors’ Choice winners NordVPN and Proton VPN are among the slim number of VPNs that include split tunneling, multi-hop, and Tor access.

In fact, the only additional feature that Privado offers is a Kill Switch. Nearly every VPN includes this tool, which disconnects your internet connection if the VPN is interrupted to prevent data leaking out unencrypted. 

PrivadoVPN is a bargain at its price, so it’s not surprising it’s so scant on features. But bear in mind that most VPNs—even very cheap ones—include at least a few of them. 

Although VPNs are useful privacy tools, they do not protect against everything. We recommend creating unique and complex passwords with a password manager, enabling multi-factor authentication wherever possible, and using antivirus software.

What VPN Protocols Does PrivadoVPN Offer?

When it comes to VPN protocols, we prefer open-source options that have been picked over for any potential vulnerabilities. OpenVPN has long been the gold standard in this regard. WireGuard is a relative newcomer, promising better speeds and newer encryption technology. We’re happy to see PrivadoVPN supports both, albeit not with full parity.

Privado supports OpenVPN and IKEv2 on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. WireGuard support is currently limited to Android and Windows. This is still fairly new technology so that’s not a major issue—yet.

Where Are PrivadoVPN’s Servers?

Most of the time, you want to connect to the closest possible VPN server for the best performance. Having numerous servers in many locations means a VPN service will be able to support you, no matter where you are. Additionally, a large number of server locations means you have more options for spoofing your location as well.

Some companies rely on virtual locations to provide global coverage. Virtual locations are VPN servers that are configured to appear somewhere other than where they are physically located. They’re not necessarily bad, as they allow VPN servers to provide local access to dangerous areas while the servers themselves are housed elsewhere. However, we like to see companies be transparent about this practice. ExpressVPN, for example, has servers in 94 countries with very few virtual servers but HMA VPN covers 190 countries with nearly 120 of those locations being virtual. It’s a non-issue for PrivadoVPN, which says that all its servers are located exactly where they claim to be.

PrivadoVPN has servers in 46 countries, which is just shy of the 51 countries average we see across the services we’ve tested. It’s a decent assortment of locations, including a few in South America and Africa, two continents often ignored by other companies. However, I would like to see its regional diversity expand. 

The average VPN service we’ve evaluated has about 1,600 servers, but PrivadoVPN comes in at just 330. That’s not surprising as it is a smaller, newer operation. Also, more servers does not necessarily equate better performance. Cyberghost currently has the largest network of servers at 8,058.

Notably, PrivadoVPN provides servers in Hong Kong and Ukraine, as well as some regions with repressive internet restrictions, such as Turkey. It does not provide servers in Russia.

Some VPN companies only use dedicated servers, while others share space. PrivadoVPN told us that in some important locations it uses dedicated servers while it shares space in others. 

In order to protect their physical infrastructure, several VPN companies including NordVPN and ExpressVPN, use RAM-only servers that do not write any information to disk. PrivadoVPN says it does not use this technique. The company tells us that it employs disk encryption on all its servers.

How Does PrivadoVPN Protect Your Data?

At the top of its policy, PrivadoVPN states that it does not store any information on what specific users viewed while using the service and that the contents of users’ traffic is not inspected or recorded. The company further says that it does not log “browsing history, traffic destination, data content, IP addresses, or DNS queries,” and also pledges to not sell data to third parties. This is excellent.

PrivadoVPN’s privacy policy is fairly clear on what information the company gathers and why. According to the policy, PrivadoVPN does gather crash analytics from client devices and collects mobile identifiers provided by the Google Play and Apple App stores. They can be manually reset by individuals, though. The policy also notes that the company does monitor the total of data used by free customers in order to enforce limitations on those accounts. However, the policy reiterates that data content is not monitored. None of this is unusual, although an audit would provide greater insight for customers on these issues.

The company told us that it’s based in Zug, Switzerland, and operates under that country’s legal jurisdiction. The company operates under the name Privado Networks AG. Unlike many VPN companies, PrivadoVPN’s address and company registration are available on its website.

As with all companies, PrivadoVPN is required to comply with legal requests for information from law enforcement. The company says it cannot provide information on browsing history, the contents of user data, DNS requests, IP addresses, or traffic destinations. The company says it will only respond to requests approved by Swiss law enforcement and can only supply user email addresses and usernames. This is not unusual, although the unique login systems at IVPN and Mullvad VPN mean those companies could potentially store even less information.

Many companies seek to build trust with customers by issuing transparency reports—which record interactions with governments and law enforcement—and maintaining warrant canaries. PrivadoVPN does not have either of these, which is disappointing. Many VPNs also issue regular third-party audits of their infrastructure and policies. TunnelBear VPN, for example, has one of the longest-running and most transparent audits in the industry. PrivadoVPN has not published any third-party audits but says it plans to in the future.

Hands On With PrivadoVPN for Windows

To test PrivadoVPN on Windows, we used an Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast Kit (NUC11PHKi7C, ‘Phantom Canyon’) running the latest version of Windows 11. PrivadoVPN updated its interface very recently, and we were glad to see the changes. The app is much larger and much easier to read. It’s also added a large, clearly labeled button that will get you connected fast. The light purple color scheme is quite eye-catching, a bit like ProtonVPN’s recent rebranding. The bright-yellow and Editors’ Choice winning TunnelBear VPN is still the best option for new VPN customers, but PrivadoVPN is certainly much more accessible than it was just weeks ago.

Still, there are some quibbles. The app’s primary window is still not resizable, so what you see is all you get. The PrivadoVPN app also persists on starting up bolted to the taskbar—a design decision we do not care for. Fortunately, an un-dock button has been added to the main interface.

By default, the app should select the best available server. Typically, it would be the server that’s nearest to you. Weirdly, PrvadoVPN insisted that the nearest server was across the border in Montreal, which seemed unlikely. Clicking the current server location lets you select a new VPN server. Unlike NordVPN or Proton VPN, you can only see available cities—not the specific servers in those cities. You can, however, easily search PrivadoVPN’s list of available locations, or order the list by name or latency. That’s handy, since you can easily pick out a nearby, low-latency server. We were a little disappointed PrivadoVPN doesn’t include a map view, which can take some of the guesswork out of selecting a server location.

As we pointed out above, PrivadoVPN doesn’t have many additional privacy features. We did test its Kill Switch and confirmed that it blocked our internet traffic when the VPN connection went down.

We are pleased to see that split tunneling—which PrivadoVPN calls SmartRoute—has been added since we began our review of this service. Adding an app to be excluded from the VPN was simple, and we especially liked that PrivadoVPN automatically showed all running processes as options to add to the SmartRoute list. Other VPNs have more robust split tunneling. ProtonVPN, for example, lets you choose whether to require or exclude specific apps as well as domains and IP addresses from the VPN connection. We confirmed that PrivadoVPN’s implementation worked as expected.

Netflix and other streaming companies try to block VPN use with their services in order to enforce regional licensing details for content. While connected to a US-based PrivadoVPN server, we were able to stream content from Netflix without issue.

A VPN that leaks information isn’t useful, which is why we run every VPN through the DNS Leak Test tool(Opens in a new window). It showed that the Privado server we used wasn’t leaking any DNS requests, but other VPN servers may not be correctly configured. We also verified that Privado successfully hid our public IP address.

Testing PrivadoVPN’s Performance

When you use a VPN, you’re all but guaranteed to see an impact on your internet connection. In general, you should expect a decrease in upload and download speeds and an increase in latency. In order to compare how each VPN service performs, we find a percent change between Ookla Speedtest(Opens in a new window) results with and without the VPN running. You can read more about how we gather these results in our article on how we test VPNs.

(Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)

Although many of our readers are concerned about VPN speeds, we don’t place a lot of emphasis on them. Network speeds are extremely variable based on time of day, location, and your individual network. It’s far more useful to focus on privacy, features, and cost when evaluating a VPN.

In our testing, we found that PrivadoVPN did not perform exceptionally well. Speedtest results for uploads and downloads were reduced by 58.6% and 71.6%, respectively. Our results showed that PrivadoVPN increased latency results by 83%. All these figures are worse than the medians we’ve seen for all three categories across about two dozen VPN services.

You can see a full breakdown of our results in the chart below. Note that we now test VPN speeds throughout the year, so the chart is likely to change periodically. For more information on how we interpret these results, you should read our article on the fastest VPNs.

Getting What You Pay For

PrivadoVPN is undoubtedly a good deal. Offering 10 simultaneous connections for significantly less than most competitors charge for fewer connections, it will easily cover most households. Its free subscription is also impressive, making it an easy starting point for anyone new to VPNs. But lacking a fully fledged set of features, there’s little else to say in its favor. It also did not perform well in our Speedtest evaluation.

For now, we continue to recommend our Editors’ Choice winners. NordVPN and Surfshark VPN both offer far more than PrivadoVPN, but at a premium price. Mullvad VPN and IVPN both have more features and privacy-protecting login systems, and cost even less than PrivadoVPN. TunnelBear VPN backs up its claims with a history of public audits and provides a friendly, whimsical interface. Proton VPN, meanwhile, is an all-around good value and slightly bests PrivadoVPN’s free offering by placing no restrictions on free users.

The Bottom Line

PrivadoVPN offers a stripped-down VPN experience at a low price—or no price at all with its generous free subscription. A recently improved interface helps enormously, but its list of features is still sparse.

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