CactusVPN review: The Moldovan based CactusVPN is a small VPN provider with a small network but a surprisingly large set of functions. For example, the company’s 35 servers in 22 countries do not win coverage prices but look closely, and you will find enough compensation. There is SmartDNS to help you unblock a claimed 310 websites, for example; support for all major protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, SSTP, SoftEther, PPTP); P2P is allowed on ten servers; there are apps for everything (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Android TV, Fire TV), and setup support for routers, Boxee and various other platforms.
CactusVPN review: Privacy and logging
CactusVPN has a short but relatively clear policy on logging, which it summarizes in this paragraph (we leave it unprocessed): “CactusVPN has a guaranteed no-logs policy for our services. This means that we will not store any data related to your activities while using our privacy solutions. We will not record, monitor, log, or store your information. CactusVPN also guarantees that your data will not be passed on to third parties. We do not store IP addresses, traffic logs, connection time stamps, bandwidth used, or session duration information traceable to a single person.
That’s just 82 words, but we still manage most of our traffic and session logging, which many competitors struggle to do in 1000 words or more.
We do have a small problem, however, because although the policy ‘guarantees that none of your data will be passed on to a third party,’ there is a clause further down the page entitled ‘Sharing Your Personal Data,’ which lists several situations in which the company could share data with others (subpoenas, court orders, legal processes, ‘when necessary to protect our rights in court’).
If the ‘no-logs policy’ is correct, CactusVPN has no important data to share, so on balance, the slightly contradictory language does not matter. However, CactusVPN has not subjected itself to any privacy or security audit, unlike some of its top competitors (NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TunnelBear), so CactusVPN’s policy has not been verified.
CactusVPN review: Performance
CactusVPN did not perform on our unblocking tests well on the VPN side, giving us access to US Netflix, but failed with the BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. Fortunately, the company claims that it’s Smart DNS can unblock these and 300+ other platforms (full list here). We can’t guarantee that, but it did enable streaming from Amazon and Disney+, where the VPN failed.
In our performance tests, CactusVPN was disappointing with 30-40Mbps (top VPNs manage 66-68Mbps on that site). When switching to a fast data center connection in Europe, we found inconsistent but generally much better speeds with 35-140Mbps. That’s not going to break any records, but CactusVPN was always very usable, and we could browse, stream and download without any problems.
CactusVPN review: Pricing and plans
All this can be yours for an excellent $6.99 per month, which is billed monthly and drops to $4.58 if you pay a year in advance, or $3.96 on the two-year plan. (The company used to offer minimal accounts with lower prices, but these were of lesser value, and we are happy to see that they have been dropped). This looks like a fair price for what you get, although you can still get significantly better deals elsewhere. For example, CactusVPN charges an up-front $54.99 for a year of protection; Private Internet access only charges $39.95 and gives you an extra two months free for your first term; Surfshark offers two years of coverage for just $47.76.
There is no more 24-hour free trial, but signup is quick and easy, and you can pay with PayPal, credit cards, Bitcoin, and more.
CactusVPN is a much better VPN than most of the services on the market. It is suitable for unblocking censored or geo-restricted websites and services. Torrenting via P2P is allowed on a choice of 12 servers, which should be sufficient for most people. And the service is secure thanks to the no-logs policy, strong encryption, and the kill-switch function. CactusVPN has its limitations, including the concise list of servers in the US/Europe, but its Smart DNS aims to unblock more websites than the average VPN, and the service is good value for money.
This VPN's list of servers is a short list, but its Smart DNS unblocks a much longer list of websites, and generally, it is decent value for money.
- Decent value
- P2P supported
- Smart DNS unblocks many streaming sites
- Bitcoin support
- Small choice of servers
- AES-128-CBC encryption
- Underpowered apps
- Below-average UK speeds