Betternet VPN Review (2019): Ahead of the Curve?

Betternet is a hugely popular VPN due to its completely free version, which you can download and use without even having to register. In 2017 it introduced a Premium version, with a super fast custom protocol and an insanely cheap yearly price. Is this VPN ahead of the curve? Let’s find out.

PROS

  • Super fast
  • Very cheap yearly price
  • Free version
  • 72 countries
  • Easy to use
  • Full access torrenting
  • Netflix in 6 countries

CONS

  • Lots of logs
  • US location
  • No kill switch
  • Low number of servers
  • Low device compatibility
  • Poor support
  • Basic

Speed & Expectations 

To measure speed, we tested the 3 main speed indicators:

  1. Download speed: The rate at which data is transferred from the server to your device. This is measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  2. Upload speed: The rate at which data is transferred to the server from your device. This is also measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  3. Ping (or latency): Tested by “pinging” the server, it’s the amount of time it takes for it to receive and process your request. This is measured in milliseconds (ms) and a lower number is better.

First we ran a baseline test using a default 100mbps internet connection in Chicago, IL.

Then we tested various Betternet servers across the globe.

We ran each test 5 times to increase reliability.

Speed results

These are the results of our baseline test:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 81.3mbps
  • Upload: 13.6mbps
  • Ping: 9.4ms

Next we ran our tests on a Betternet VPN United States server:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 91.6mbps (12.7% faster
  • Upload: 16.9mbps (24% faster)
  • Ping: 11.2ms (19.1% longer)

(You would expect these to give the fastest results since we’re performing the tests in the US).

Next we tested Europe:

Europe’s averages were:

  • Download: 75.7mbps (6.9% slower)
  • Upload: 15.8mbps (16.2% faster)
  • Ping: 118.8ms (1163.8% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 58.4mbps (28.2% slower)
  • Upload: 15.2mbps (11.9% faster)
  • Ping: 243ms (2485.1% longer)

And finally South America:

South America’s averages were:

  • Download: 83.3mbps (2.4% faster)
  • Upload: 21mbps (54.8% faster)
  • Ping: 148.8ms (1483% longer)

Sadly, Betternet VPN doesn’t have any African servers.

We also compared these results against the average of other VPN tests. How does Betternet measure up?

First up, let’s take a look at download speeds:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Betternet13%-7%-28%2%n/a
Private Tunnel-19%-66%-69%n/an/a
IVPN-23%-45%-67%n/an/a
Avira Phantom-41%-97%-98%-75%n/a
Speedify-6%-39%-73%-69%-69%
ZoogVPN-59%-74%-80%-98%-87%
NortonVPN-34%-68%-72%-29%n/a
SurfEasy-43%-61%-65%-37%n/a
Celo VPN-75%-93%-93%n/an/a
proXPN-52%-73%-74%n/an/a
X-VPN-71%-75%-99%-62%n/a
SpyOFF-66%-57%-76%-65%-63%
VPN.ht-48%-78%-68%-67%-67%
vpn.ac-52%-51%-67%-47%n/a
Tiger VPN-48%-68%-68%-55%-72%
VPN Unlimited-27%-77%-79%-64%-61%
Cyberghost-35%-59%-71%-56%-68%
Torguard-37%-58%-81%-60%-67%
ProtonVPN-35%-50%-56%-77%-54%
PureVPN-26%-68%-94%-32%-89%
Trust.Zone-14%-99%-80%-66%-82%
AVG Secure VPN-56%-87%-69%-75%-68%
Hoxx VPN-12%-96%-93%n/a-68%
VPNSecure-68%-93%-98%-61%-77%
IPVanish-36%-54%-72%-76%n/a
NordVPN-40%-99%-69%-58%-75%
ExpressVPN-71%-58%-64%-95%-67%
Avast-45%-63%-72%-66%-77%
Windscribe-44%-57%-80%-98%-73%
Average-40.3%-67.9%-75%-61.9%-71.3%

Betternet has the fastest download speeds we’ve tested so far by a mile. There’s actually an increase in download speeds in the US and South America, which is almost unheard of.

Europe drops by just 7%, and Asia by just 28%, well above its competitors.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Betternet24%16%12%55%n/a
Private Tunnel75%-15%13%n/an/a
IVPN77%-83%108%n/an/a
Avira Phantom252.9%-87%-60%-30%n/a
Speedify-36%-40%-29%-34%-25%
ZoogVPN117%24%50%3%24%
NortonVPN161%38%59%9%n/a
SurfEasy-4%-17%-50%-2%n/a
Celo VPN-35%-30%-40%n/an/a
proXPN-7%-15%-52%n/an/a
X-VPN-33%-61%-98%-77%n/a
SpyOFF-9%-18%-88%-52%-50%
VPN.ht-10%-17%-25%-23%-63%
vpn.ac-6%-18%-44%-16%n/a
Tiger VPN-3%-14%-20%-17%-42%
VPN Unlimited-13%-39%-85%-19%-56%
Cyberghost-8%-16%-92%-37%-48%
Torguard-9%-20%-35%-22%-41%
ProtonVPN-2%-15%-20%-41%-29%
PureVPN13%2.5%-54%-11%-72%
Trust.Zone-13%-45%-67%-28%-84%
AVG Secure VPN-19%-58%-75%-80%-77%
Hoxx VPN-5%-90%-24%n/a-51%
VPNSecure-9%-19%-92%-26%-56%
IPVanish-5%-19%-84%-22%n/a
NordVPN-13%-46%-26%-16%-70%
ExpressVPN-9%-24%-34%-72%-42%
Avast-13%-42%-78%-70%-77%
Windscribe-6%-17%-52%-97%-53%
Average15.6%-27.1%-37.3%-30.2%-50.7%

Amazingly, upload speeds are also the fastest we’ve tested by a large margin. In fact, uploads speeds are faster than without a VPN in all regions. This is just incredible.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Betternet19%1164%2485%1483%n/a
Private Tunnel33%1046%2150%n/an/a
IVPN36%1321%2572%n/an/a
Avira Phantom35%1147%2322%1596%n/a
Speedify506%1160%2604%1689%3051%
ZoogVPN386%1931%4176%5004%6194%
NortonVPN194%1569%2276%1426%n/a
SurfEasy-9%792%1711%1058%n/a
Celo VPN915%1161%1654%n/an/a
proXPN194%996%2194%n/an/a
X-VPN-28%397%837%560%n/a
SpyOFF213%944%4278%2533%2598%
VPN.ht273%785%1667%1282%2109%
vpn.ac60%388%968%487%n/a
Tiger VPN9%895%1786%1105%2309%
VPN Unlimited33%935%3946%1411%2535%
Cyberghost27%1085%2344%1352%2415%
Torguard7%1036%2023%1384%2502%
ProtonVPN17%810%1840%1185%2017%
PureVPN-23%708%489%1018%1823%
Trust.Zone104%1206%2438%1396%2750%
AVG Secure VPN1021%1111%2419%3560%3336%
Hoxx VPN566%1098%2470%n/a2794%
VPNSecure281%1051%2519%1530%2917%
IPVanish240%1038%4144%1424%n/a
NordVPN34%1278%2328%1560%2696%
ExpressVPN98%965%2122%1545%2461%
Avast33%1133%2465%1556%2815%
Windscribe310%1018%1904%2042%2782%
Average192.5%1040.3%2314.9%1632.8%2783.6%

Latency was definitely not the fastest we’ve tested. Although it was well above average in the US with just a 19% drop, it was only just above average in South America, and actually just below average in Europe and Asia.

Speed (Summary)

Betternet VPN is one of the fastest we’ve tested. Downloads and uploads were faster than others by a mile, and mostly showed a speed increase. Latency wasn’t nearly so fast, though still above average overall.

Performance & Features

In this section we look at the key features all VPNs have and see how Betternet matches up.

Number of servers: 99

How many active servers are available to connect to across all countries, regardless of their physical location.

This is definitely low. It’s dwarfed by the big VPN names with thousands of servers, but there are also many VPNs with less.

Number of countries: 72 (1 on free)

How many countries the total number of servers cover, regardless of how many are located in a single country.

This is very high, higher than a lot of the giants. For example, PIA has only 32, and Cyberghost 57. Most VPNs focus on North America and Western Europe, but Betternet has an extremely impressive spread worldwide.

Number of connections allowed: 5 (1 on free)

How many devices can be connected to a server (or number of servers) based on a single VPN account or subscription.

5 is average in the VPN industry, so Betternet do OK here.

Torrenting allowed: Yes

Betternet allows torrenting across all its servers, which is great. A lot of VPNs restrict it to certain servers.

Kill switch available: No.

Whether the VPN software can disable your connection to the network in the event you disconnect from the VPN server. This prevents your IP address from being exposed.

Unfortunately, Betternet doesn’t have a kill switch on any devices.

Performance and Features (Summary)

Betternet VPN is a bit mixed in this section. It has a low number of servers but in a very high number of countries, which is unusual. There’s an average 5 connections allowed, and full access torrenting, but no kill switch.

Privacy & Security

Is Betternet VPN secure and trustworthy?

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: Catapult Hydra

Betternet uses an unusual custom protocol called Catapult Hydra. This is probably one of the main reasons for it’s high speeds.

It’s actually based on standard encryptions. It uses TLS 1.2 with Perfect Forward Secrecy, 2048-bit RSA. and AES-128, 256 and ChaCha, which is quite a mix.

AES-128 isn’t as secure, but 256-bit and ChaCha definitely are. Infact, ChaCha is seen as the next big thing in encryption.

They say they used to use standard protocols IPSec and OpenVPN, but found them slow. There’s no doubt that Catapult Hydra is fast.

The lack of transparency surrounding the protocol may worry users. However, to be fair, lots of other companies do use it, including Telefonica, BitDefender and McAfee.

They also say it’s been “evaluated by 3rd party security experts from more than 60% of the world’s largest security companies” that use their protocol.

However, there’s no doubt there’s a bit more trust involved here.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: None found.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: California, USA. The US is a founding member of the 5 Eyes Alliance, and has data-sharing agreements with 13 other countries. It can also force companies to secretly hand over their data on you, so it’s an all-round bad location.

Logging policy: A lot of logs

Betternet has an extremely long and wordy privacy policy.

At the top it says ‘we do not identify you’.

However, the details completely contradicts this.

They collect an awful lot of data.

When you open the app, before you connect to the VPN, they collect a ton of info about your device: mobile ID, OS, hardware, language, and network information.

They store your IP address whilst connected, but they say it’s encrypted and deleted when you disconnect.

It turns out they also log browsing history, but say this is in aggregate, which is very unusual and frankly unnecessary.

On the free version, ads are involved. Your approximate city location is logged and shared with advertisers, and advertisers can also access your device’s IMEI, advertising ID, MAC address, and wireless carrier.They may also be able to see your IP address if your device isn’t connected to Betternet.

If you visit the Betternet website, they also collect everything about your device.

They may share your personal information with third party service providers, or if you’re in the EEA, any third party ‘that has a legitimate interest’.

They say they may also share your personal information if required by law, but also if ‘in the good faith belief such action as appropriate’. So basically, whenever they want.

To sum up, they:

  • Collect a ton of device data as soon as you open the app
  • Have your IP address when connected
  • Collect browsing history, but in aggregate

They share your device data with pretty much anyone they want, for whatever reason they want.

If you’re on the free version, it’s even worse. ‘Third parties’ see:

  • IP address
  • City location
  • Your device’s IMEI, advertising ID, MAC address and wireless carrier

So basically, if you’re on the free version you’re being completely farmed for data. In fact, a CSIRO 2016 report found that Betternet uses more third-party tracking libraries than any other VPN.

Even if you’re paying, your device data is logged and shared.

This is one of the worst policies I’ve seen. Both in the amount of data they collect, and the fact they’re happy to share it with advertisers and undisclosed ‘third parties’ for very vague reasons.

This is obviously not a company concerned with your privacy. Which for a VPN, is extremely concerning.

Privacy and Security Summary

Betternet VPN uses its own custom protocol, which is unusual but fast. There’s no leaks or viruses. However, they’re based in the US, and their logging policy is awful. Not only do they collect a lot of data, they share it with advertisers and third-parties.

Usability

This section looks at the following aspects:

  • Streaming/Geo-spoofing
  • Compatibility
  • Overall UI/UX

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

Geo-spoofing streaming services is a great benefit of using a VPN, but many struggle to trick Netflix and like nowadays. Let’s see how Betternet fares.

  • Netflix: Detected. Netflix worked in several countries: US (Tampa), UK, Algeria, Argentina, Germany, Vietnam, and Uruguay.
  • Hulu: Detected. Unfortunately, Hulu was blocked.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi worked fine with Betternet.

Compatibility

Is Betternet compatible with most devices?

We tested everything from Tor, iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TV’s, Amazon Firestick, Mac, Windows, to routers:

  • Tor browser: Supported. Tor works fine in conjunction with Betternet.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. Betternet has a fully-functional iOS app.
  • Android: Supported. Same for Android.
  • Smart TV’s: Not Supported. Due to Betternet’s custom protocol, connecting to anything other than standard devices is awkward.
  • Amazon Firestick: Not Supported.
  • Windows: Supported. Betternet has a Windows app.
  • Mac: Supported. Betternet has a Mac app.
  • Routers: Not Supported. 

Overall UX/UI

Betternet has a small, minimalistic interface with lots of white space.

There’s not much on the home screen, just a connect button and location.

As usual, you can quickly connect to the nearest server by clicking the Connect button.

With the free version, you can’t select a server. You can only hit the connect button, which connects you to a US server.

The server list is extremely basic.

Countries are listed in alphabetical order with flags, so it’s nice and easy to scroll through. However, cities aren’t included. There’s only one server per country, except for the United States.

The US has a staggering 28 locations, and you can see each city which is nice.

That’s literally all there is to the server list. There’s no added functionality, such as favorites, a search bar, or sorting options.

Beginners/casual users may appreciate this, whilst the lack of control may frustrate others.

Connection times were extremely quick, which is again probably due to their custom protocol.

It’s all very smooth and quick, with a single click on any server instantly taking you back to the home screen and connecting. You can change servers without having to disconnect first.

There’s not even any lags. Disconnection is pretty much instant. It makes it extremely pleasant to use.

The cute shield character on the home screen is gray when not connected, and blue when connected. The system tray icon also changes color, giving an easy visual indicator outside the interface.

Settings are quite sparse.

There’s none of the key settings you usually see, such as protocol or encryption choice or kill switch. There’s not even any startup settings.

However, you can prevent IP leaks and choose to reconnect automatically.

There’s also a couple of nice advanced-type settings.

You can make Betternet auto-connect for certain wifi networks. There’s also a split tunneling option to keep certain domains outside of the VPN network.

The mobile app (we tested Android) looks the same, but is extremely stripped down.

It has a whole lot less servers, just 9! The US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, and Singapore.

The US has only 1 location.

This is a huge downside if you’re looking at mostly mobile use.

There’s also literally no settings. Not even split tunneling, which would make more sense on a mobile.

Usability (Summary)

Betternet had amazing Netflix access, including the US, UK and several other countries. It’s only got basic compatibility though due to its protocol. The apps were smooth and easy to use, but simple. The mobile version has only 9 servers and no settings.

Pricing & Refunds

Betternet has a free version, but you can only connect to a US server. You can download and use this without even having to register. However, it’s also slower, and has ads.

The paid version has monthly, 6 month and 1 year options.

The monthly option is very expensive, but the 6 month option is cheap, and the 1 year price is insanely cheap at just $2.99 a month. Normally you have to commit to a much longer time frame to get such a price.

Their pricing structure is obviously really pushing users to commit long-term.

There’s also a 7 day free trial, which is generous considering there’s already a free version. This mean you can try out the full premium version. You do have to input your payment details, however.

Unfortunately, payment is literally only by card. This is rare, as most VPNs offer at least Paypal as well.

There’s no money-back guarantee, but considering there’s a free version and trial, this isn’t that bad.

Pricing (Summary)

Betternet has a free version, but you can only connect to a US server. The paid version is expensive monthly at $11.99, but very cheap yearly at just $2.99. There’s a 7 day free trial, but no money-back guarantee. You can only pay by card; no Paypal or crypto.

Support

Betternet only offers 24/7 email support via a ticketing system. This is also only available to paid users.

However, it turns out it’s not really available to premium users either. We submitted a request 5 days ago and got nothing back apart from an automated response.

Either they’re extremely, uselessly slow, or they just don’t respond.

Initially their knowledgebase looks good, with separate sections for different platforms, plus an FAQ section.

However, there’s not much to the platform-specific sections. They’re mostly very vague troubleshooting advice (use the Windows Troubleshooter, etc).

The FAQ is extensive, however there’s a significant bug where if you click ‘See all articles’, it takes you to a blank page.

This makes it hard to see a lot of the articles. Fortunately there’s a search bar that works well if you know what you’re looking for.

Unfortunately a lot of the FAQ section seems woefully out-of-date. For example on its locations article, it lists just 10 countries, rather than the 72 it currently has. 

It also advertised 6 connections, when it’s actually 5.

Support (Summary)

In theory Betternet has email support via a ticketing system for Premium users, but we didn’t get a response. The knowledgebase has an extensive FAQ section, though a lot of the information is out-of-date.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

What does the rest of the internet have to say about Betternet? Here’s a summary of other reviews.

A lot of reviews placed Betternet in Canada, with only 1 reporting it as located in the US. They weren’t happy about either location, since Canada is also part of 14-eyes. A lot also reported lower server and country numbers than us, for example just 10 countries.

A lot stated Betternet used the OpenVPN protocol, which has changed. Those that were up-to-date generally liked the Catapult Hydra protocol, saying it was secure, fast and growing in popularity. However, one noted the trust concerns since it’s not open-source like OpenVPN.

Some found very fast speeds, although unlike us they didn’t seem to find any speed increases.

However, one found very slow speeds, but this seemed to before the new protocol was introduced.

Another reported slow speeds with the new protocol for US locations, but fast speeds outside the US. They reasoned this was because US servers were included in the free version.

They all appreciated the full access torrenting, but surprisingly none found any Netflix access. Only one found iPlayer access.

They weren’t impressed with the lack of device compatibility, particularly routers.

Understandably, almost all had concerns about Betternet’s ads on the free version, and their logging policy. The general opinion was it was a lot more logging than usual, and one agreed that collecting browsing history in aggregate was also worrying. However, a few said it might not matter for just basic browsing.

One said the policy was straightforward and no-logs, but quoted an out-of-date policy. They weren’t as worried about ads, and praised Betternet’s honesty with how it makes money.

Most found no leaks, but one found IP and DNS leaks. One said that due to the lack of kill switch, your real IP address was visible for a fraction of a second when the connection dropped, although it reconnected quickly.

Opinions on the support varied. One thought it was pretty good. Another said the answers weren’t that great and they couldn’t help with a technical issue. Response times varied from a few hours to 72 hours. They generally thought the FAQs didn’t have much information.

All agreed the app was very user-friendly and extremely straightforward to use. They liked that you didn’t need to register to use the free version initially. However, some didn’t like the lack of settings, saying you could get more powerful VPNs for the same price. 

They agreed that the monthly pricing was high, but the yearly price had a massive price drop. However, they didn’t think the yearly price was as cheap as we did it, calling it reasonable instead.

They liked the 7 day free trial, but not that it renewed at the expensive monthly price if you forgot to cancel.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Ratings varied wildly from poor to excellent. They liked the easy to use interface, custom protocol, and some liked the speeds. They didn’t like the logging policy, lack of kill switch, streaming and device compatibility.

Our Verdict

Betternet has almost unbelievable speeds, largely down its nifty Catapult Hydra protocol. You can take full advantage of these speeds with incredible Netflix access in 6 countries, including the US and UK, full access torrenting.

It’s got a free version, and a paid version with a very cheap yearly price.

Sadly, the reputation of this VPN is abysmal, and for good reason. It’s got an atrocious logging policy. Your IP address, location and identifying device data are logged by Betternet and many other organisations. Betternet also collects browsing history in aggregate, which is worrying.

Betternet sneakily tries to appear as a ‘risk-free’ free option by not making you register before using, but then logs everything about you as soon as you open the app. It does this whether you’re a free or paid user.

You can’t trust Betternet with your data. We wouldn’t recommend this VPN and rate it 1.5 out of 5. Shame on you Betternet.


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