Windscribe VPN Review (2019): Pros & Cons + One Big Gripe

Windscribe seems pretty average at first glance, with 537 servers at a median price point, but it actually has some high-end offerings, such as 256-bit AES encryption and OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, torrenting and great device compatibility.

It also has some unique features, including unlimited devices, a free plan and special ‘Windflix’ servers for Netflix.

So is Windscribe actually a bit of a steal? Let’s find out.

PROS

  • Unlimited connections
  • Special ‘Windflix’ servers for Netflix and Hulu in UK and US
  • Compatible with lots of devices including Amazon Firestick
  • Clean and intuitive interface
  • Strong security and encryption standards
  • Non-intrusive logging policy
  • Allows torrenting
  • Has a firewall ‘kill switch’ feature
  • Reasonably priced
  • Has an excellent free version

CONS

  • Netflix and Hulu streaming doesn’t work outside the US and UK
  • Has a medium number of total servers available
  • Under 5 eyes jurisdiction
  • No live chat support and slow response time
  • Speed was average, not stand-out

Speed & Expectations

Speed is one of the main factors people look at when picking a VPN, because VPNs usually slow down your connection.

This is due to the extra ‘VPN tunnel’ your connection has to go through to become encrypted, as well as how far the server location is from you; for example, if you are in America and select an Asian server location, that’s a fair few miles to travel.

The big question is, how much slower is your VPN going to make your connection?

To test this, we looked the three standard speed metrics:

  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.

We first tested these metrics on our usual connection without a VPN, to set a baseline. For this we used a 100mbps cable internet connection in Chicago, IL.

We then tested these metrics with the Windscribe VPN in various server locations across the globe.

We ran 5 different speed tests each time to make our results as reliable as possible.

Speed results

Here’s the results of our baseline tests:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 85.37Mbps
  • Upload: 12.05Mbps
  • Ping: 10ms

Now let’s start testing with Windscribe. The US scores were as follows:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 47.85mbps (43.9% slower)
  • Upload: 11.336mbps (5.9% slower)
  • Ping: 41ms (310% longer)

(You would expect these scores to be the closest compared to the non-VPN baseline, as we were conducting our tests from the US, making this server location the closest.)

Here’s Europe:

Europe’s averages were:

  • Download: 36.786mbps (56.9% slower)
  • Upload: 9.996mbps (17% slower)
  • Ping: 111.8ms (1018% longer)

Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 16.532mbps (80.6% slower)
  • Upload: 5.77mbps (52.1% slower)
  • Ping: 200.4ms (1904% longer)

South America:

South America’s average was:

  • Download: 1.912mbps (97.8% slower)
  • Upload: 0.342mbps (97.2% slower)
  • Ping: 214.2ms (2042% longer)

And finally Africa:

Africa’s average was:

  • Download: 23.162mbps (72.9% slower)
  • Upload: 5.702mbps (52.7% slower)
  • Ping: 288.2ms (2782% longer)

These numbers are all well and good, but how do you know if they are fast or slow compared to other VPNs?

Let’s see these results against some of its competitors.

First up, how did download speeds compare?

USEuropeAsiaSouth AmericaAfrica
Windscribe-44%-57%-80%-98%-73%
ExpressVPN-71%-58%-64%-95%-67%
NordVPN-40%-99%-69%-58%-75%
IP Vanish-35%-53%-72%-75%n/a
Average-48%-67%-71%-82%-72%

Download speeds are above average for the US and Europe, and about average for Africa. However Asia and South America are below average, at 80% slower for Asia and a woeful 98% slower in South America.

Surprisingly for the US and Europe, Windscribe is faster than ExpressVPN, which is often touted as as having very high speeds to justify it’s high price.

Now upload speeds:

USEuropeAsiaSouth AmericaAfrica
Windscribe-6%-17%-52%-97%-53%
ExpressVPN-9%-24%-34%-72%-42%
NordVPN-13%-46%-26%-16%-70%
IP Vanish-5%-19%-84%-22%n/a
Average-8.25%-26.5%-49%-51.75%-55%

Upload speeds are above average for the US and Europe, about average for Asia and Africa, but still painfully slow for South America.

And finally Latency:

USEuropeAsiaSouth AmericaAfrica
Windscribe310%1018%1904%2042%2782%
ExpressVPN98%965%2122%1545%2461%
NordVPN34%1278%2328%1560%2696%
IP Vanish240%1038%4144%1424%n/a
Average170.5%1074.5%2624.5%1642.75%2646%

Latency speeds are above average for Europe and Asia, and below average for South America and (surprisingly) the US.

Speed (Summary)

Windscribe’s speed was pretty average overall; not stand-out, but not poor either.

Performance & Features

Now we’ve got the big question of speed out of the way, let’s take a look at the main features VPNs offer and see how Windspire matches up:

1.Number of servers: 537 servers (21 in the free version). How many active servers are available to connect to across all countries, regardless of their physical location.

This is a respectable amount, although it doesn’t compare to several VPNs that offer 1,000+ servers (NordVPN tops the board at 5,082).

2. Number of countries: 55+ countries (10 in the free version). How many countries the total number of servers cover, regardless of how many are located in a single country.

This is in the fairly high range and should be enough for most users. Here’s a full list of the countries available.

Several VPNs offer 60+ countries (and PureVPN offers a whopping 140+ countries if you want the full range.)

3. Number of connections allowed: Unlimited. How many devices can be connected to a server (or number of servers) based on a single VPN account or subscription.

You probably have several devices that you connect to the internet, and you don’t have to worry about this with Windscribe. Offering unlimited connections is rare, so hats off to them.

Most VPNs limit the number of connections, usually 3-5, so if you have more devices than that (or for example you want to protect your whole family), this could be the deciding factor.

4. Torrenting allowed: Yes (almost all servers). Whether you can download and share files on a peer-to-peer or P2P network as opposed to a single server.

Torrentors rejoice: Windspire allows torrenting on almost all servers except three: India, Russia and South Africa.

Some VPNs do not allow torrenting at all, whilst only allow it on a few servers.

They also seem very torrent-friendly on their website:

However, if the three forbidden countries are necessary to you, there are quite a few alternatives that allow torrenting across the board.

5. Kill switch available: No but there’s a firewall. 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.

Windscribe doesn’t have a kill switch, but it does have something better: a firewall, which has the same purpose as a kill switch but is actually more secure. So all good on that front.

Although you’d think this was a given, some VPNs don’t include kill switches.

Performance and Features (Summary)

To sum up, Windscribe has a respectable, but certainly not high-end, amount of servers in a high number of countries; a super-secure firewall kill switch alternative, and torrenting is allowed on almost all servers. Pretty good so far.

Privacy & Security

Unfortunately just downloading any VPN doesn’t guarantee you 100% privacy online. VPNs are subject to potential vulnerabilities, technical and legal, so we’ve gone ahead and analysed all these for you.

Protocols/Encryption: OpenVPN, IKEv2 and SOCKS protocols with AES-256 encryption

You probably know VPN encrypts your online data, but how exactly? Various encryption methods and protocols are used, and some combinations are safer than others.

For the non-technical among us, the ones Windscribe uses are the best available and just means it’s really, really secure.

Leaks

We also checked for DNS, IP, WebRTC and Chrome extensions leaks, as well as viruses:

  • DNS leaks: None found.

  • IP leaks: None found.
  • WebRTC leaks: None found.

  • Chrome extension leaks: None found.
  • Viruses/Malware: None found.

We weren’t able to find any leaks or viruses/malware in our tests.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: 5 eyes jurisdiction. VPN companies are subject to the laws of the country they are located in. Windspire is located in Canada, which is under the 5 eyes jurisdiction. This basically means they share their data with the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand governments in certain situations.

A lot of VPNs try to avoid being based in countries with agreements like this because it is one more step to making your online data a teensy bit more at risk of being shared.

The risk is small, however, and for a lot of people it comes down to the nature of their online activities as to how much they worry about this.

Logging policy: Bare-minimum logs. Despite the term ‘no-logging’ policy being bandied about, VPNs invariably keep a record of some of your data. The million dollar question is, how much?

Obviously, the less the better. It’s no use a VPN encrypting all your data only to keep track of everything you do in its own records.

Windscribe does very well on this front, storing the bare minimum of data: the time when you last used Windscribe, and the amount of bandwidth you use every 30 days.

Their privacy policy is crystal clear:

This means they don’t record your source IP, browsing history or even your session history. Basically, the best you could hope for.

Privacy and Security Summary

Windscribe gets a big thumbs up for security, with high-end encryption and protocols, bare-minimum logging, and no technical leaks or viruses found. The only downside is it’s under the 5 eyes jurisdiction.

Usability

As well as the main features, you also want to know whether your VPN is going to be really ‘usable’, for example can you watch Netflix, can you connect different devices, and is it user friendly overall?

This section covers:

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

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

One main reason people use VPNs is simply to watch their favourite content on Netflix or Hulu.

Say for example you’re in Japan, without a VPN a lot of US shows won’t appear, whilst a lot of Japanese content will.

It’s all do with licensing agreements.

But if you choose a US server on your VPN, you appear to be in that country, so all the US Netflix content should automatically appear no problem.

Or will it? Netflix is of course savvy to all this and is trying it’s damnedest to put a stop to it. VPNs have to work increasingly hard to outwit it and a lot of them are losing the battle.

So to see whether Windscribe actually works, we tested the software against Netflix and all major streaming services using servers from the US, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

  • Netflix: Partially undetected. We got a “Streaming Error” with every server location except the US and UK ‘Windflix’ servers, which are specifically designed to access Netflix.

However, considering that Netflix keeps getting ahead of the game, I think this is quite impressive. Even giants like ExpressVPN aren’t currently working anywhere for Netflix or Hulu.

  • Hulu: Partially undetected. Exactly the same as Netflix, we got a “Streaming Error” with every server location except the two US and UK ‘Windflix’ servers.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked from all server locations. This is not surprising, as YouTube is usually performs the least VPN checks.
  • Kodi: Undetected. We successfully streamed video in Kodi from all server locations.
  • Skype:
  • Facetime:

Compatibility

There’s no point having unlimited connections if you can’t connect all your different devices, and sadly this is far from a given on VPNs.

To see how well Windscribe performs here, we tested the software with Tor, iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TV’s, Amazon Firestick, Mac, Windows, and routers.

The results are as follows:

  • Tor browser: Supported. You can easily use Tor on Windscribe for maximum protection (but very slow speeds).

  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. As expected, Windscribe works smoothly on Apple devices running iOS, including the latest versions of iPad and iPhone.

  • Android: Supported. Windscribe also works with Google’s Android operating system which covers everything from smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even TV media sticks.

  • Smart TV’s: Supported. Not so expected, Windscribe ran fine on Smart TV’s as well, with apps available for Nvidia Shield and Kodi.
  • Amazon Firestick: Supported Windscribe even has an app for Amazon Firestick, even though Amazon uses its own OS, which presents issues for a lot of other VPNs. So if you’re dependent on your FireTV, this may be the VPN for you.

  • Windows: Supported. No surprises there.
  • Mac: Supported.
  • Routers: Supported. If you want to go all out and protect your devices at the source, Windscribe has guides for installing on your router (DD-WRT and Tomato) or even the option to buy a preconfigured router for the non tech-savvy. Not all VPNs have this option, but we’re not surprised at this point as Windscribe seems to be compatible with just about everything.

Overall UX/UI

And finally, are you actually going to enjoy using Windscribe? After all, a bad user experience ruins everything.

Windscribe has an ultra-minimalistic interface, showing your server location, IP address and kill switch, plus data left if you’re on the free version.

The firewall (essentially kill switch) is set to off by default.

Clicking on the dropdown displays a list of countries, which further expand to show the list of available servers.

This is much easier and quicker to use than other map-based interfaces in my opinion.

Latency speeds are shown in three bars to the left of each server, and you can also select favorites by clicking the heart icon.

The server connects as soon as you click on it, changing the interface to different shades of blue as it connects. A nice touch.

Clicking the hamburger icon in the top left accesses your Preferences and Account in a separate window, where you can choose your protocol or even set up a wireless hotspot.

For mobile (atleast Android, which is what I tested), you simply download the Play store app, login and you’re set up within seconds.

The app is less pleasing to the eye and bizarrely more cluttered than the desktop interface. However, it’s still easy to use with some added tabs.

For example it lets you specify a ‘trusted’ wifi connection (e.g. your home network) so that the VPN only kicks in when you connect to public wifi hotspots.

The extra tabs list your favorite servers and Windflix servers, and let you create Static IPs.

It also has a News Feed, which would probably be irritating if it wasn’t mildly entertaining.

Usability (Summary)

Windscribe scores top marks in this section. It works well with every bit of software and device we threw at it, with apps and browser extensions galore, even for the Amazon Firestick.

You can be sure to access Netflix and Hulu on it’s special ‘Windflix’ US and UK servers, and compared to other VPNs at the moment this is impressive. To top it off, the interface is hyper-focused and very intuitive to use.

Pricing & Refunds

Windscribe offers both a free and paid version, which is quite unusual; most paid VPNs usually offer only a free trial at most. First, let’s see if the free version is up to scratch.

Free version

The free version gives you a generous 10GB bandwidth per month (2GB until you confirm your email address).

You get access to 21 servers in 10 countries:

Here are the servers by country:

  • 8 US
  • 2 UK
  • 4 Canada
  • 1 France
  • 1 German
  • 1 Switzerland
  • 1 Amsterdam
  • 1 Norway
  • 1 Romania
  • 1 Hong Kong

Unfortunately, these don’t include the 2 special Windflix servers designed to access Netflix/Hulu. As the other servers didn’t work in our tests, this is bad news if you were hoping to get a free ride to Netflix or Hulu.

But still, this is generous as free versions go, especially the 10GB monthly bandwidth.

Paid version

The paid version includes all 537 servers, in 55+ countries, with unlimited data.

The monthly price is $9, but if you commit to a year you reduce this to $4.08, less than half price. It’s common across the board to offer these kind of reductions, and the cost itself is fairly mid-range; not expensive, but not ultra-cheap either.

But remember, this price includes unlimited connections. Most other VPNs limit you between 3 and 5.

Alternatively, you can pay per server location, at a rate of $1 per country.

It’s unusual to offer a per country deal and I like the flexibility.

For every location you add, you get an extra 10GB/month added to your bandwidth (on top of the free 10GB/month you already get on the free plan).

Alternatively, you can pay an extra dollar on top to get unlimited data.

Just to be clear, if you select a country, you get access to all the servers Windscribe has in that country. The exceptions are the two Windflix servers which have to be paid for separately.

With this pricing strategy you’ll easily go over Windscribe’s $4/month with just a few countries. But if you’re on a tight budget and only need one country or Windflix server, you could snap yourself an ultra-low deal of just $1/month with 20GB/data a month.

In terms of payment methods, you can pay by credit card, PayPal, or select Payment Wall to access to a wider variety of payment methods including Alipay.

It even includes Cryptocurrency if you want keep things really anonymous (not all VPNs offer this).

Lastly, they have a 30 day refund policy. Although this may seem like a long period, it’s pretty standard for most VPNs.

Pricing (Summary)

Windscribe offers a generous free version, whilst it’s Pro option has a fairly mid-range price point, but with the added bonus of unlimited connections. There’s also a flexible pay per country option for those on a tight budget. There’s a wide range of payment options including Alipay and Cryptocurrency.

Support

There appears to be a live chat feature in the bottom right-hand corner of Windscribe’s site, but don’t be fooled: it is manned by a bot named Garry. The bot isn’t totally dumb, but it directs you to email support as soon as it gets confused.

This is slightly disappointing, especially for paying users, as there are some VPNs out there who do offer live chat support.

So what’s the email support like?

First they send you the usual auto-email:

But we’re most interested in the response time. According to Windspire, responses usually take 2-24 hours depending on severity.

We sent out a couple of support requests. One got back to us in 9 hours, whereas one got back us in over 36 hours.

One was helpful, regarding problems with the Android app:

And one was not so helpful, in that it contradicted itself with its bot, Garry, when I asked if AliPay was an available payment method.

So, bit of a mixed bag there in both the timing and quality of email support.

They don’t offer phone support either, although again this is hardly industry standard.

They even admit to their lacklustre support in their blog:

At least they’re upfront and honest, which seems to be the whole company ethos.

They don’t have Facebook support but they do have a Subreddit, which is actually better as it gives you a glimpse into the kind of issues customers are currently facing. It is very active and often answered by staff members.

Their Knowledge Base is also very comprehensive, and should be able to answer any standard questions.

You can either search for what you need, or browse their articles which are titled  by common issues to get you quickly to where you need to be. The tone is down-to-earth and they are very easy to understand.

They also have an amazing set of Setup Guides covering every device/software you can think of.

Support (Summary)

In a nutshell, support is not great. Although their Knowledge base and Setup Guides are extensive and should cover any standard issues, for anything else there is no phone, no live chat and slow, mixed quality email support. Windscribe let themselves down a bit here, although to be fair, a lot of other VPNs aren’t much better.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Well that’s our take on Windscribe, but what do other reviewers have to say?

A lot focus on the free version, which they consider either one of the best or the best available with it’s large 10GB data plan and generous amount of free servers.

In terms of the paid version, other reviewers are very impressed with it’s security, using IKEv2/OpenVPN support and AES-256 encryption, not to mention it’s lack of DNS leaks and clear minimal logging policy.

They are also invariably impressed with the amount of features for what they consider a fairly low price, especially compared to ExpressVPN which is double the price. This includes the various apps, unlimited connections, actual working Netflix access and torrenting.

Quite a few mention that Windscribe includes a lot of nice little extras, such as browser extensions, adblocker, and advanced options such as creating your own wireless hotspot or proxy gateway.

On the flip side, guess what they are not impressed with: the support. Most generally agree that the support is slow, and bemoan the lack of live chat, with some actively hating on Garry, the chatbot. Some say that if you do get a response from the email support staff, however, they are very helpful.

The biggest surprise was speed. Although some reviews quote the speed as average, a lot claim it is below average, and much slower than ExpressVPN, which was the opposite of our findings. They mostly discount Windscribe as a viable option based on this. However, a lot of these reviews seem out of date, so perhaps their speed tests need redoing.

Finally, a couple of other cons frequently mentioned are the 5 eyes jurisdiction as a privacy concern, and the inability to access BBC iPlayer for UK residents. However, I personally tested this and it worked on the UK servers just fine, so again, maybe this is old news.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Reviewers like Windscribe’s overall security and features. On the other hand they bemoan the poor support and quote (possibly out of date) below average speeds. They are however big fans of the free version.

Our Verdict

Windscribe’s server numbers and speeds are average, but it packs an unexpected punch with added features you might expect at a higher price point. This includes a firewall kill switch, torrenting, two working Netflix servers, and ample device connectivity.

It also spares no expense on security, with top-notch protocols and encryption, no DNS vulnerabilities we could find, and a clear bare-minimum logging policy.

The interface is clean-looking and super easy to use.

Although speeds are average, so is the price, and as an added bonus you get unlimited connections, a rarity in the VPN world.

It is also offers a very generous free version with 21 servers and 10GB data/month.

The main let down for Windscribe is it’s slow email support and lack of live chat, although there are extensive Setup Guides and Knowledge Bases.

There is also the privacy concern of Windscribe being under the 5 eyes jurisdiction.

For this reason, we give Windscribe an overall rating of 4.3 out of 5.

Are there faster options out there? Certainly, and it’s a shame the speed and server numbers can’t match the rest of their offering. But for the price, it’s a very good deal.


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