AirVPN review: Some VPN companies market themselves based on features, others on price; however, AirVPN heads its website with a request for your trust, claiming that it is “operated by activists and hacktivists in defense of internet neutrality, privacy and against censorship. Anyone can say they’re different, but AirVPN also shows it. An About Us section explains the company’s background.
At the same time, the Mission page lists other privacy projects AirVPN has developed or funded (IPLeak.net, an online encryption tool, a net neutrality monitor, more), and other projects it has invested in the past (Tor, Electronic Frontier Foundation, WikiLeaks).
The AirVPN network is modest, with 245 P2P friendly servers in 22 countries. However, the company is unusually transparent about these servers, with a status page indicating their current load and low-level details such as the top 10 speeds and session traffic.
AirVPN review: Privacy and logging
AirVPN is aware of its no-logging policy and clearly states that it does not monitor or track any of your online activities. The company also certifies that it complies with European Union privacy guidelines. Any servers outside the EU will treat your data with the same or higher privacy and data protection levels.
All of this sounds good to us, and in general, we see no cause for concern. However, we would still like to see AirVPN TunnelBear, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, and others follow to allow a public audit of its service to verify what it does. However, the company is reassuringly transparent in many other areas, from its open-source customers to a busy community forum where you can see what current users are talking about before you sign up.
We also have no complaints about the technology. AirVPN users AES-256-GCM encryption, 4096-bit RSA keys, HMAC SHA384 on the control channel, with the OpenVPN protocol complemented by OpenVPN over SSH, SSL, or Tor to help you get online in VPN-blocking countries.
AirVPN review: Performance
AirVPN’s Windows client connects a little faster than we saw in our last review, at a good 10 seconds to our nearest servers. It also does a much better job of monitoring the connection. Last time, when we closed the OpenVPN connection, the client didn’t seem to notice it. This time it recognized the problem immediately, alerted us with a desktop notification, and reconnected within seconds, while the kill switch prevented data leakage properly.
There was more positive privacy news from our leak tests, as multiple test sites showed that AirVPN’s Windows client did not have a DNS leak. Unblocking results were more disappointing. AirVPN enabled streaming US Netflix from all three of our test sites, but we did not have access to BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+.
Our speed tests ended the review with a more positive note, with UK downloads averaging 65-66Mbps, while US servers reached 85-95Mbps. The best providers maybe 2x to 4x faster, but unless you have a few terabytes of torrents to download, AirVPN is probably fast enough.
Pricing and plans
Even the pricing scheme looks better and more flexible than most, with plans for three days ($2.20), one month ($7.70), three months ($5.50), six months ($5.31), and one, two, or three years ($4.49, $3.62, $3.03), accepting payment via cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and many more.
AirVPN review: Final words
Describing what the numerous features of AirVPN can do serves to demonstrate the strengths of this service, but also why many users may struggle with it. In terms of dedication to privacy, cool features, and technical knowledge, AirVPN is impressive. However, it is also clear that a wider audience is not appreciated because of its impenetrable technological focus.
So while it may seem rude to criticize a service for its meticulous attention to detail and to offer a host of features rarely available elsewhere, this VPN is undoubtedly less suitable for beginners looking for something accessible.
With this in mind, it seems fair to say that AirVPN should probably be considered a niche service aimed at tech-heads and privacy junkies rather than one suitable for a mainstream VPN audience.
A smart VPN choice for anyone who wants to make use of the expert-level settings, or who just wants to sign up to an open and transparent VPN for a change.
- Expert-level options and features
- Good value
- Unblocks US Netflix
- 3-day plan
- Relatively small network
- Couldn't unblock BBC iPlayer, Amazon, Disney+