VPN.ht Review (2019): What’s the Final Verdict?

VPN.ht has an interesting history. It was first integrated as a VPN for Popcorn Time, a movie piracy service, but suffered a major setback when Popcorn Time was discontinued in 2016. Since then, its offering its VPN to a wider audience whilst preserving its torrent-friendly roots. Is it a high-quality VPN? We put VPN.ht through our rigorous testing..

PROS

  • Record server numbers
  • 6 connections allowed
  • 2 kill switches
  • Specialist servers
  • Some very cheap prices

CONS

  • Slightly faster speeds
  • 94 countries
  • Record Netflix access
  • Full access torrenting
  • Easy-to-use app

Speed & Expectations

Speed usually takes a hit when using a VPN, though VPN.ht would have had to be fast to satisfy Popcorn Time users. We tested its speed out using three 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 VPN.ht servers across the globe.

We ran each test 5 times to increase reliability.

VPN.ht speed test results

These are the results of our baseline test:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 82.7mbps
  • Upload: 12.2mbps
  • Ping: 13.2ms

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

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 42.7mbps (48.4% slower)
  • Upload: 11.1mbps (9.7% slower)
  • Ping: 49.2ms (272.7% 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: 18.6mbps (77.5% slower)
  • Upload: 10.2mbps (16.6% slower)
  • Ping: 116.8ms (784.8% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 26.7mbps (67.7% slower)
  • Upload: 9.2mbps (24.6% slower)
  • Ping: 233.2ms (1666.7% longer)

Next, South America:

South America’s averages were:

  • Download: 27.5mbps (66.8% slower)
  • Upload: 9.4mbps (22.9% slower)
  • Ping: 182.4ms (1281.8% longer)

And finally, Africa:

Africa’s averages were:

  • Download: 27.2mbps (67.1% slower)
  • Upload: 4.6mbps (62.5% slower)
  • Ping: 291.6ms (2109.1% longer)

To help get a clearer picture, we compared these results against other VPNs we’ve tested.

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

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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-40.8%-71.5%-75.4%-65.8%-71%

Download speeds are above average in the US and Asia, slightly above average in Africa, but slightly below average in South America and below average in Europe.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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%
Average-7.7%-29.2%-53.4%-37.3%-57.4%

Upload speeds are above average in Europe, Asia and South America, but below average in the US and Africa.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
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%
Average181.8%972.9%2227.8%1489.8%2550.7%

Latency speeds are above average in all areas except the US.

Speed (Summary)

VPN.ht has above average speeds, particularly for latency.

Performance & Features

In this section we compare the most common features across VPNs.

Number of servers: 128

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

VPN.ht has a pretty low server count compared to a lot of VPNs. The top tier offer between 500 and 5,000, for example Cyberghost’s 3,000+.

Number of countries: numbers: 24

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

This is also low, focused on mainly Europe and the US/Canada. Here’s a map of countries covered.

Number of connections allowed: 3

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

This is below the industry average of 5, so VPN.ht isn’t being very generous here, and won’t be suitable for people with a lot of devices.

Torrenting allowed: All servers

Whether you can download and share files on a peer-to-peer or P2P network as opposed to a single server.

VPN.ht allows torrenting across all servers, and are very torrent-friendly on their website. Since it was originally setup to work with a torrent platform, this isn’t much of a surprise.

Kill switch available: Yes (Android only).

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.

Most kill switch VPNs only offer them on desktops, but VPN.ht does a complete 180 and offers it on Android only. This is because Android was the first platform they released to. Unfortunately on desktops and iOS this leaves you exposed if your connection drops.

Performance and Features (Summary)

VPN.ht is definitely a no-frills VPN with a low server selection, just 3 connections and only 1 kill switch on Android. Torrenting is allowed across the board though.

Privacy & Security

How secure is VPN.ht really? We take a look at all the privacy and security aspects involved with a VPN.

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: OpenVPN protocol with AES-256 or AES-128 encryption

VPN.ht offers only one protocol, OpenVPN. However, this is generally regarded as the best and most secure protocol, since it’s open-source.

Some other protocols are available manually.

It also offers AES-128 or AES-256 encryption. AES-256 is industry-standard and offers military-grade protection.

However, it also uses Smart DNS to unblock streaming sites, which doesn’t use encryption and won’t hide your IP address. Definitely something to be aware of.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: 1 false positive.

Only one engine found one case of adware. However, since every other engine found nothing, we chalked it up to a false positive.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: Hong Kong. This outside 14-eyes, and generally viewed as a favorable VPN location due to its pro-privacy reputation. However, some may be concerned by its ties to high-censorship China.

Logging policy: No logs.

VPN.ht states on their website that they are a ‘no logs’ company.

Their privacy policy is extremely brief, but it seems like good news. It says they collect your email address and payment information (as every VPN does), as well as diagnostic data to third party analytics, but this doesn’t contain any identifying data.

It also says it uses third party cookies, pixels and website analytics tools…without giving any specifics on which they use or any data they collect.

We would appreciate more detail, but it clearly states they “do not collect or log traffic data or browsing activity from individual users.”

They also have a warrant canary to let users know if they’ve been requested to hand over data to any authorities, which is nice and pretty uncommon.

Privacy and Security Summary

VPN.ht uses the OpenVPN protocol with secure encryption. However it uses Smart DNS to unblock streaming sites, which offers much less protection. We found no leaks or viruses (except one false positive). It’s based in Hong Kong, which is pro-privacy and outside 14 eyes but some may be concerned with its ties to China. It’s got a strict though brief no-logs policy.

Usability

This section looks at the following aspects:

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

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

Many VPNs struggle to unblock streaming sites since their crackdown on VPNs in recent years. This is a huge shame as its one of the main reasons people purchase a VPN.

We tested VPN.ht against all major streaming services in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

  • Netflix: Partially Undetected. Netflix works on every server except South America.
  • Hulu: Undetected. Hulu also worked on every US server.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi worked fine with VPN.ht

This is an incredible result. However, it’s worth mentioning VPN.ht seems to use SmartDNS, which is a proxy and not a full VPN, in order to do this.

Compatibility

What devices does VPN.ht work with?

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 VPN.ht for extra anonymity.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. VPN.ht has a fully-functional iOS app.
  • Android: Supported. VPN.ht also has an Android app.
  • Smart TV’s: Not Supported. VPN.ht offers no support for Smart TVs.
  • Amazon Firestick: Not Supported. There’s no support for Firesticks either.
  • Windows: Supported. There’s a Windows app, but it’s under Alpha testing and may be unstable. Even more worrying, this Alpha version was released 3 years ago and doesn’t seem to have been updated much since then.
  • Mac: Supported. Again there’s an app, but it’s under Alpha testing.
  • Routers: Partially Supported. VPN.ht supports the OpenVPN protocol only and has setup guides for DD-WRT, Tomato and Asus models.

Overall UX/UI

First we tested the Windows app, which is still under alpha testing.

VPN.ht has a large, friendly-looking interface with pastel color scheme.

This screen seems cluttered; the connection status and server dropdown are useful, but the login details and connection report seems superfluous. The interface could be a lot smaller without these.

The default option is to connect to the nearest server. Clicking the dropdown displays the server list.

The server list appears squashed into a tiny area; usually server names take up most of the interface.

The server names are clear at the start, showing location, but are a bit long-winded overall.

They are listed in distance order, which is unusual, and there’s no other sorting options. This makes it very hard to find a specific country. VPNs usually stick to alphabetical order as the default.

There’s also no search bar, or favorites either, making the list very fiddly to navigate.

When connected, the connection status changes and the text turns green. However there’s no sound effect or notification outside the interface, which means you have to stay on the interface until you’re sure you’re connected.

Connection stats include time connected and IP address.

The server list disappears once connected, so you have to disconnect to browse or change servers.

Unfortunately connections weren’t at all reliable. Sometimes servers connected quickly, but a lot of the time they just never connected.

It also got stuck sometimes. For example, it was taking forever to connect to a server, so we clicked to cancel.

But nothing happened, and it stayed stuck on the above screen. We had to force a close via Task Manager. Far from ideal.

Settings are under the ‘Preferences’ tab and are very minimal.

You can choose your encryption level (128 or 256 bit), which is nice, and to auto-connect on startup and launch, but that’s about it.

This would probably be OK for beginners who just want a simple VPN, aside from the lack of kill switch.

You can also disable SmartDNS. SmartDNS is a proxy service that allows VPN.ht to unblock streaming sites like Netflix and watch them at high speed, but it only offers a fraction of the protection of a VPN.

However, turning this off had no effect on streaming access, which makes it seem like this button doesn’t work.

It did however consistently come up with a error prior every time we turned this setting off and restarted the app.

Overall the desktop app is cluttered, buggy, unreliable and the server list is hard to use. There’s not many settings, not even a kill switch.

The mobile interface (we tested Android) looks completely different. This isn’t under testing, so should be more stable.

The initial screen asks you to login.

The main interface is a lot cleaner-looking, with no login details or connection report.

Your initial IP address and location are shown, as well as a supposed map, but this always remained blank for us.

The server list is again a dropdown, with the nearest server being the default.

However, the servers are listed in alphabetical order country, which is a lot easier to navigate.

But since the name only shows their country, there are several servers just named ‘United States’ for example, without showing the specific area they’re located in.

There’s either a lot less servers on offer or servers are grouped together. Every country is accounted for, but there’s only 1 of most. There’s 2 for Canada and 4 for the US.

There’s also an ‘I am behind a firewall’ option, though it’s not clear what this does exactly.

Once connected, a green ‘you are connected’ bar appears at the top, and the button at the bottom changes to orange. Click this to disconnect.

Again the server list disappears so you have to disconnect to change servers.

To our great disappointment, connections again proved unreliable. Sometimes it said it was connected, but the IP address and location weren’t updated. In these instances, we couldn’t connect to the internet.

And like the desktop, the mobile app got stuck sometimes whilst trying to connect, forcing a reboot.

Settings are similar apart from the much appreciated addition of a kill switch.

Instead of disabling Smart DNS, you have to enable it. However, again turning this on and off made no difference to unblocking streaming sites.

You can also view the connection log if you want to, thankfully on a separate screen.

Overall the mobile app was more minimalistic and easier to navigate, with the bonus of a kill switch, but was still buggy with unreliable connections.

Usability (Summary)

VPN.ht has full Netflix access except South America, and Hulu access. However, it may be using SmartDNS for this. It has mobile apps and some router support, but Windows and Mac apps have been in alpha testing for 3 years. The desktop is cluttered and hard to navigate, whilst the mobile app is easier. However, both are very buggy with very unreliable connections.

VPN.ht Pricing & Refunds

VPN.ht keeps things simple with its pricing. There’s only 2 options, 1 month or 1 year.

The 1 month option is $4.99 a month, whilst the 1 year price is $3.33 a month. The 1 month price is one of the cheapest available, whilst the 1 year price is still very cheap.

There’s no free trial, but the 1 month option is only $1 for the first month. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee. Combined, this is very generous.

The money-back guarantee is, in their words, ‘100%’, however they only refund in US dollars, something to note if you pay in crypto or another currency. Refunds are a fast 7 days.

Payment options are wide including card, Paypal, a variety of cryptocurrencies, and even gift cards. No Alipay though.

The payment process in’t as smooth as some. For one, each page in the

payment process took a while to load.

They then send you a username and password to login to the VPN with, which are long strings of numbers and letters.

Also, instead of taking the payment automatically they invoice you, and send you emails telling you to pay them. You then have to login and pay manually. Odd.

Finally, this basic VPN doesn’t offer any extra purchases, like dedicated IPs.

Pricing (Summary)

VPN.ht has 1 month or 1 year pricing options, which are very cheap. There’s no free trial, but the first month for the 1 year option is just $1, and there’s a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. There’s a variety of payment options including Paypal a lot of cryptocurrencies, but no Alipay. But instead of automatic subscription payments, you have to make each payment manually.

Support

VPN.ht doesn’t have live chat support, which is a massive shame. There’s either a ticketing system, email, or Facebook support. Support isn’t 24/7 either.

Facebook support was the fastest. It was usually a few hours, but once we had a response within a few minutes, and were able to have a (rather slow) conversation with them.

The ticketing system was much slower, around 36 hours.

Unfortunately the quality of support was incredibly poor.

There were many just blatantly incorrect answers, such as them telling us there were no kill switches, even though there’s one on Android.

When asking about support hours, one said it was 7/7 UTC time, whereas another said it was ‘UTC time morning till 3pm’. So who knows.

When I asked about their Smart DNS feature, they didn’t seem to have much of a clue, and even said they weren’t providing it at the moment, even though it’s available on the interface.

Their own status page also confirms they still use SmartDNS.

The ticketing system staff were no better.

They incorrectly said they allowed 5 simultaneous connections, when it clearly says 3 on their website.

When asked if they support routers they replied “ Yes, we support routers, smart tvs or firesticks as the devices support VPN.”

In fact they don’t have any Smart TV or Firestick support, and offer partial router support.

They ignored my question about a transparency report.

Basically, you can’t really rely on them to give you any correct information, which makes them pretty useless.

In terms of the knowledgebase, it’s not the most modern-looking.

There’s 14 Setup guides, which are pretty good, with manual setup guides for Linux, routers, and other protocols for Windows.

However, apart from this there’s just 7 FAQ articles and that’s it…the entire knowledgebase.

The FAQ articles really aren’t helpful. 3 of them are very general, along the lines of ‘what is a VPN’, and give extremely brief and vague answers. One is about changing your VPN username and password, but the screenshots are out of date and the client area has since changed, so it’s no longer relevant.

There’s a search bar, but with so few articles you really won’t need to use it.

They do also have a Network Status page, which is supposed to show any network issues.

There’s also an Announcements area.

But this doesn’t show any previous announcements, suggesting they’ve never actually used the page.

There’s also a blog, but this is only updated very occasionally. This includes important service announcements.

Support (Summary)

VPN.ht doesn’t have live chat. It has a ticketing system, email and Facebook support. Facebook times were sometimes within a few minutes, whilst ticket responses were around 36 hours. Responses were incredibly poor, with many incorrect responses given. The knowledgebase has some good manual setup guides, but that’s about it. The whole website seems a bit forgotten with a lack of updates.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Our thorough testing of VPN.ht is complete, but what did other reviewers think of the service?

Some reviewers mentioned the limited number of servers, however a few praised the server selection. A few mentioned that it had good distribution in North America, Europe and Asia.

Opinions on technical security varied massively. A lot concluded it was very secure, with good encryption and protocols and no leaks. However, a few found several leaks and weren’t impressed. But one more recent review said these were recently fixed, so perhaps these reviews were out-of-date. Many cited the lack of kill switch as a huge disadvantage.

One said the lack of obfuscation technology means they wouldn’t recommend VPN.ht be used in China or any other country with strict censorship laws.

Like us almost all reviewers reported pretty decent to excellent speeds, which is extremely rare – speed reports are usually mixed across reviews. However one said latencies varied a lot, so they wouldn’t recommend it for gamers.

And all reviewers said they could access Netflix on all servers, which again is very unusual and points to consistent streaming unblocking from VPN.ht. However, a couple mentioned they couldn’t access BBC iPlayer.

They unanimously liked VPN.ht’s lack of torrenting restrictions and torrent-friendly policy.

Most were impressed by the device compatibility, including routers, however one called it limited due to the lack of smart device support.

Only one review mentioned that the privacy policy was very short, with one shady-sounding clause about sending data to a third-party analytics provider. Everyone else lauded the strict no-logs policy and had zero concerns.

Some thought the Hong Kong jurisdiction was relatively good, but quite a few were slightly worried about how much snooping China does into Hong Kong’s activities. They all liked the warrant canary though, and said the strict no logs policy meant there was nothing to worry about.

Unlike us most had good customer support experiences, but seemed to have lower expectations, praising the ‘quick’ responses they received, which were between 8 and 24 hours. Most also said the answers were very thorough. However, one wasn’t impressed with a 24 hour response time and not very helpful response.

All agreed the knowledgebase was basic, with OK setup guides but not enough depth or detail overall.

One said the website was badly organised, and another mentioned the seemingly worrying lack of updates since 2015, including social media and the ‘alpha’ Windows/Mac apps.

A big difference was most liked the app itself, calling it user-friendly, intuitive and attractive. However, one vehemently disliked the interface, calling it squashed, with hardly any settings, and a few glitches, such as as the scrolling feature, several servers not connecting, and long connection times.

In terms of the price, all agreed it was either affordable to one of the cheapest available. They particularly liked the $1 price for the first month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Generally the reviewers that found leaks didn’t recommend it, whereas those that didn’t rated it as excellent due to it being cheap, secure, with great Netflix and torrenting. However they thought it could do with more servers and a kill switch.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Reviewers generally liked the fast speeds, torrenting, and cheap price. Most also liked the interface, customer service and no logs policy. However, they didn’t like the basic knowledgebase and lack of kill switch, and some didn’t like the low server selection. Overall those that didn’t find leaks rated it as excellent, and those that did rated it lower.

Our Verdict: How Good Is VPN.ht?

VPN.ht is a fast and secure VPN, with above average speeds, the OpenVPN protocol and no leaks. It’s got a strict (albeit brief) no logs policy, and is based in Hong Kong, which is outside 14-eyes.

It’s great for torrentors, with absolutely no restrictions and access on all servers.

It also has amazing streaming access, including Hulu in the US and Netflix on all servers except South America. However, this is probably because it uses Smart DNS, which you should be aware offers a fraction of the protection of a full VPN.

It’s also incredibly cheap, with a nice 30-day money-back guarantee.

However, it’s got a small server selection, just 128 servers in 24 countries, which really can’t compare with the top VPNs.

It’s also incredibly basic, with hardly any settings, and one big disappointment in particular: no kill switch, except for Android users. Unfortunately this loses it a few points for security.

Support is also very poor, with many incorrect responses, giving the impression of incompetent staff. The knowledgebase has some good manual setup guides but really nothing else. Overall the website doesn’t seem to be being updated.

Device support is OK, with OpenVPN router support, though no Linux app, or smart device support. There’s 3 connections, which is below average.

But there’s no denying that the existing apps have issues. Big ones. The Windows and Mac are both in alpha testing, and have been since 2015.

The Windows apps we tested was hard to use and very buggy and even the Android app, which isn’t under testing, was the same. We couldn’t connect to half the servers and it kept freezing. Using the apps was a very frustrating experience that we wouldn’t wish on anybody.

Overall, it seems as if VPN.ht gave up on it’s product a while ago. None of its media seem to being updated much at all and the staff don’t seem to know anything.

A company that can offer both its desktop apps in alpha testing for 3 years isn’t really one you want to put your trust in where a VPN is concerned. There are so many better options out there where the apps are reliable and constantly updated.

This is a shame as it does have a lot of potential, if only the company could get it together.

We therefore give it a rating of 2 out of 5 and we wouldn’t recommend it.


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