Private Tunnel VPN Review (2019): A Ruined Reputation

Private Tunnel was created by none other than OpenVPN Technologies, the company behind the much-lauded VPN protocol. You can’t get much better, right? Let’s see if it lives up to such a massive reputation.

PROS

  • Cheap
  • Fast
  • OpenVPN protocol
  • Easy to use
  • 24/7 live chat
  • Flexible no. of connections

CONS

  • Only 12 countries
  • No Netflix/Hulu
  • No torrenting
  • No kill switch
  • Unclear logs policy
  • Poor encryption
  • US location

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 Private Tunnel 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: 88.8mbps
  • Upload: 13.2mbps
  • Ping: 9.2ms

Next we ran our tests on a Private Tunnel United States server:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 71.7mbps (19.3% slower) 
  • Upload: 23mbps (74.6% faster)
  • Ping: 12.2ms (32.6% 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: 30.5mbps (65.7% slower)
  • Upload: 11.2mbps (14.7% slower)
  • Ping: 105.4ms (1045.7% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 28mbps (68.5% slower)
  • Upload: 14.8mbps (12.5% faster)
  • Ping: 207ms (2150% longer)

Private Tunnel doesn’t have any South American or African servers to test.

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

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

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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-42.3%-70.1%-76.7%-64.7%-71.3%

Downloads were well above average for the US, above average for Asia and just above average for Europe.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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%
Average15.3%-28.6%-39.1%-33.9%-50.7%

Private Tunnel had great upload speeds. In the US and Asia, speeds were actually faster than without using the VPN, which is incredible. In the US, it was 75% faster. In Europe, there was a drop but it was still well above average.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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%
Average198.8%1035.9%2308.8%1639.3%2783.6%

Latency was well above average in the US, just above average in Asia, and just below average in Europe. The US result had just a 33% drop in speed.

Speed (Summary)

Private Tunnel has well above average speeds overall, with killer upload speeds and fast downloads. Almost all results in all regions were above average.

Consistently, the US was the fastest, Asia was second and Europe was third (testing from the US).

Performance & Features

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

Number of servers: 141

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

This is definitely on the low end, although it’s a respectable amount.

Number of countries: 12

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

This is extremely, extremely low. Countries included are: USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Hong Kong and Japan.

So that’s no servers in South America, Africa, or the Middle East, and only 2 in Asia. All countries have only 1 location except for the US, which has 12.

Number of connections allowed: 3 or more

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

The average number of connections allowed is 5, so Private Tunnel come in low here. You can increase the number of connections, which is very flexible, but of course you have to pay more.

Torrenting allowed: No.

Private Tunnel doesn’t allow any torrenting, which is very unusual. They say this is “due to piracy concerns”. So torrentors will have to look elsewhere.

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.

Private Tunnel doesn’t have any type of kill switch on any device, a huge shame.

Performance and Features (Summary)

Private Tunnel has a low but respectable 141 servers. However, they’re distributed across just 12 countries. They also only allow 3 simultaneous connections (though you can pay for more), there’s no kill switch, and have a blanket ban on torrenting. It’s safe to say Private Tunnel is pretty bare bones.

Privacy & Security

Is Private Tunnel secure and trustworthy?

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: BF-CBC encryption with OpenVPN protocol

Most quality VPNs use industry-standard AES-256 encryption. Private Tunnel only uses BF-CBC (Blowfish), which only uses 128 bit keys and is far less secure. This is bad news.

It does use the OpenVPN protocol, widely regarded as the best due to being open-source. This isn’t a surprise, since Private Tunnel is owned by OpenVPN. It doesn’t offer any alternative protocols, however.

They also offer obfuscation, which is helpful for getting past firewalls in restrictive countries.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: None found.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: California, USA. The USA is a founding member of the Five Eyes Agreement, and can potentially share data with 13 other countries. Coupled with its notorious NSA and subpoenas, it’s one of the worst VPN locations.

Logging policy: Some logs.

Private Tunnel’s privacy policy is misleading and vague.

It appears to say they only collect your email and payment information.

However, it never explicitly states what it doesn’t collect. There is no mention of IP address, browsing history, connection times, or any such terms that appear as standard in any VPN privacy policy.

It also says they use cookies, and third parties ‘who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you’, without giving any more details.

It also says they may release your information ‘to enforce our site policies’, which again is very vague.

It also says ‘non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.’

And lastly, ‘This online privacy policy applies only to information collected through our website and not to information collected offline.’ Whatever that means.

To top it off, when I asked support staff what logs they collect, they said they collect connection times.

Which isn’t mentioned anywhere on their policy.

This makes it very hard to trust a word of its policy.

Privacy and Security Summary

Private Tunnel uses secure OpenVPN protocol, but with BF-CBC encryption, which isn’t very secure. We found no leaks or viruses, however it’s based in the US and logs connections times. It’s log policy doesn’t seem to tell the full story either.

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 Private Tunnel fares.

  • Netflix: Detected. Netflix failed to work on any server, which isn’t a surprise as Private Tunnel admit they don’t have any Netflix access.
  • Hulu: Detected. Hulu was blocked as well.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi worked fine with Private Tunnel.

Compatibility

Is Private Tunnel 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 Private Tunnel.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. Private Tunnel has a fully-functional iOS app.
  • Android: Supported. Same for Android.
  • Smart TV’s: Not Supported.
  • Amazon Firestick: Supported. Surprisingly, Private Tunnel has an Amazon app for Firestick.
  • Windows: Supported. Private Tunnel has a Windows app.
  • Mac: Supported. Private Tunnel has a Mac app.
  • Routers: Partially Supported. Private Tunnel has a setup guide for DD-WRT routers only.

Overall UX/UI

Private Tunnel has a small, simple interface. It’s not the best-looking I’ve seen, but definitely not the worst either.

The default location always seems to be Canada, instead of the closest location which most VPNs usually calculate for you.

To access the server list simply click the arrow.

This is a pretty attractive and very simple server list.

I like the way it has the full names of both the country and city for easy reading.

You can’t choose between 141 servers, only specific locations. Only the US has more than one location available.

Most server lists are in alphabetical order or distance order, but Private Tunnel’s seems completely random. This doesn’t make it as easy to sort through, but it’s not much of an issue as the list is so short.

There’s zero frills to this list too; no sorting or filtering options, favorites, or stats like ping.

Connection times were generally fast.

Oddly when you connect, the interface turns red. Normally it’s the opposite.

But the system tray icon turns green, just to confuse you.

It does show 1 stat: your new IP address.

You can easily change servers without having to disconnect, although a pop-up does ask you to confirm.

There’s just 3 settings.

You can choose whether it runs on startup, choose your protocol, and set the connection timeout.

For protocols, you can choose between UDP or TCP, or use a HTTPs proxy, or obfuscation.

Overall it was very simple and easy to use, but very basic too. The obfuscation is the only advanced feature, although there aren’t any servers in heavily-censored countries.

The initial mobile interface looked very different.

It’s much more modern-looking, and includes a map.

This time it defaults to a US location.

The server list is similar, but in a different random order, with the US at the top.

Once connected, the interface turns green instead of red.

Again IP address is shown, but also your port, and you can swipe right to see a speed graph.

There’s only 2 settings, with no auto-run setting available.

There’s also a log file, which is handy.

Usability (Summary)

Private Tunnel VPN had no Netflix or Hulu access, which is a shame. It has all the standard compatibility plus some router support and an Amazon app. The apps were very easy to use but basic.

Pricing & Refunds

Private Tunnel only offers monthly or yearly pricing options.

Prices are very cheap. It’s monthly price is $6, and it’s yearly price is $36, which equates to just $3 a month.

5 devices is $8 monthly, or $4 yearly.

10 devices is $13, or $6.50 yearly.

They also offer a 7-day free trial, although you have to give your payment details. They try to hide this slightly by saying ‘free signup’, which is technically true; it’s free to create an account, but straight after that you’re asked for your payment details.

Unfortunately there’s no money-back guarantees though, so the trial is all you have.

Payment options are also sparse, limited to just card or Paypal.

Crypto users will be disappointed.

Pricing (Summary)

Private Tunnel is a very cheap VPN, with a $6 monthly price or $3 yearly price. There’s a 7-day free trial, but no money-back guarantee. There’s also no crypto option, and payment options are limited to card or Paypal.

Support

Surprisingly, Private Tunnel has a 24/7 live chat service.

The quality isn’t too great, however. For example, when I asked about server numbers, I got a lot of incorrect responses.

First they told me the country total, then said they have ‘many’ servers per country, then they told me to download the free trial and see for myself.

Then they said they have ‘more than about 100’. When I pushed again they finally went and found out the answer.

This seems to be a common theme. Staff don’t seem to know much themselves or understand many technical terms. They ask you to wait whilst they find out the answers for you, which takes about 2-5 minutes per question.

They then give you a copy and paste response, without really understanding what it means. For example, when I asked about encryption and protocols, they only responded with an obviously copied spiel about encryption.

Some of their answers weren’t too reliable either. For example, when asked about protocols they gave incorrect information.

Their English also isn’t perfect, and they constantly call you ‘Sir’ without checking your gender.

However, it’s still preferable to just email support. At least you can get a quick response.

They also have email support, which responds in about 2 hours.

Luckily their knowledgebase is great for general questions, covering everything from Netflix to router support.

I like the way they are honest about not having Netflix access.

There’s also a great search bar which shows relevant articles in a dropdown as you type.

The connection questions’ section is a bit more haphazard, covering everything from setup guides to troubleshooting.

There’s not many troubleshooting articles, and they all offer very general advice.

Support (Summary)

Private Tunnel has 24/7 live chat and email support. Live chat quality isn’t great, with many copy and paste responses. The knowledgebase is OK, with plenty of general information articles and a nice search bar.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

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

Most reported total server numbers of 50, which is much lower than ours and probably out-of-date. They agreed that the number of countries were very limited, and not useful to those who need to shift location often.

Many stated Private Tunnel as being located in Canada, so they must have since changed to California. They thought the fact that it was founded by OpenVPN made them very trustworthy.

Most speed results were much slower than ours, with reviewers testing poor to mediocre speeds. One said UK download speeds ranged from 35-45Mbps. Another said the US came out at just 1.7Mbps, one of the slowest tested. However, one tested very fast speeds, with their fastest ever result for Europe.

Encryption was another surprise, as all reported either AES-128 or AES-256 encryption. Blowfish wasn’t mentioned. All were happy with the OpenVPN protocol. They weren’t really bothered by the lack of other options as they consider OpenVPN to be the best.

None found any IP or DNS leaks or viruses.

Predictably, none liked the 14-eyes location, and those that agreed Private Tunnel was in the US were particularly concerned.

Like us, none found any Netflix or Hulu access. Some found iPlayer worked, but some found it was blocked.

Reviewers also seemed to talk about different logging policies, so Private Tunnel must have changed this around a lot over time. One stated Private Tunnel collects IP, connection times and number of bytes used, and keeps this for 14-30 days.

Another said it logs bandwidth and connection times for two weeks. They agreed this doesn’t give you complete anonymity and makes it theoretically possible to trace you, though hard. A few said it has a no logs policy.

They seemed to agree on the interface though. They all though it was very easy to use and streamlined, with a stable performance and no lags. However, they thought it looked dated appearance-wise. They didn’t really like the low number of settings and bare-bones approach, with no favorites or kill switch. 

One also said if the connection drops you’re not warned outside of the interface, which is a big danger.

Most were pretty impressed with the compatibility, covering all the basic devices and an Amazon app, which they said could be used to connect Smart TVs. They said plenty of routers would support OpenVPN. 

In terms of support, one found the live chat staff to be very knowledgeable and friendly. However, another said staff didn’t know much, even though they were quick to respond.

They also said that email responded quickly, within 2 hours. However, they thought the knowledgebase was limited, with vague advice. Some reported only 9-5 support hours, whilst others said it was 24/7.

Some agreed the price was cheap, but others thought it was more towards the middle of the pack. They all really liked the flexible number of connections, which they said was unusual.

All said the trial didn’t require a credit card, which wasn’t our experience. A few talked about Private Tunnel having a pay-as-you-go type service, with plans for different data amounts. This is no longer the case.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Ratings ranged from poor to excellent. They liked the reputation of the company, the protocol, easy to use interface, price and flexibility with connections. They didn’t like the US jurisdiction, and lack of kill switch, torrenting and streaming. Most didn’t like the speeds either.

Our Verdict

Private Tunnel has fast speeds, with a respectable number of servers and simple interface at a cheap price.

Device compatibility is pretty good, with all the basics covered plus some router support and an Amazon app.

However, country options are severely limited to just 12, with most locations in the US, and none in South America or Africa.

There’s also zero torrenting and Netflix/Hulu, so it’s not suitable for streamers or torrentors.

You also only get 3 connections, unless you choose to pay for more.

To top if off, their log policy can’t be trusted as it doesn’t really say anything, whilst staff say they collect connection times. And it’s based in the US, which is even more cause for concern.

Although it uses OpenVPN protocol, it combines it with subpar encryption.

If you want a cheap VPN for very basic use, it might be one for you. But there’s nothing stand-out here and its logging policy isn’t up to scratch.
Overall, we would rate this VPN 2.5 out of 5.


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