So we set out to do this IVPN review and see whether the provider warrants its most common comparison – to Express VPN. We started off wondering if this comparison was purely due to how similar their logos are, especially when viewed in search engine results pages:
(IVPN on the left, ExpressVPN on the right.)
As to our findings – well, this review covers it all. Let’s dive in.
IVPN Review Overview
- State of the art Kill Switch
- Unblocks Netflix US
- Strict No Logs policy
- Limited Pricing Plans
- 12 month plan - $8.33 per month ($100.00 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $6.00 per month ($6.00 total cost)
Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers!
How IVPN Compares to the Competition
Not a Great Location
Many VPN review sites make the mistake of thinking Gibraltar is a good location for a VPN provider. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
They tend to make the argument that even though Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, it isn’t subordinate to UK rule. This is the same defense used by IVPN itself (as well as Buffered VPN, another Gibraltar-based provider).
However, despite these claims, the UK still has enough political influence over Gibraltar for there to be at least some level of concern.
To the credit of some VPN review sites, it is sometimes acknowledged that whether or not Gibraltar is a 5 Eyes jurisdiction, it is still part of the European Union.
At the end of the day, this constitutes a risk you either are or aren’t willing to take. And we prefer to err on the side of caution.
Proven Strict No-Logs Policy
“You’re free to use any email address, disposable or permanent. Your email address will be associated with an IVPN ID, an internal ID used to manage your account.”
Furthermore, if you pay using cash or cryptocurrency, no other identifiable information will be collected. PayPal subscriptions and credit card payments, on the other hand, do have the transaction details recorded, “to be able to properly process our 7-day money-back guarantee and resolve other payment issues, as well as to enable auto-renewal resubscription.”
So far so good, a sentiment further encouraged by the following:
IVPN isn’t recording anything that can be used to personally identify users or their online activities, which is great news. Total simultaneous connections are monitored using your IVPN ID, which is sent to a central authentication server that holds temporary records of connected customers. These records are limited to IVPN IDs, which cannot be linked to users personally by anyone who manages to gain access to these records.
And that’s a sentiment supported by an independent privacy audit performed March of 2019.
It is almost a year ago now, so we do hope IVPN will be repeating the audit process soon, but it’s a reassuring sign nevertheless.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
IVPN doesn’t make a big splash about the encryption standard it uses. Instead, a few scattered information blocks across the website promise 256-bit AES with a 4096-bit RSA encryption:
While we would prefer for the provider to go into more detail, we are satisfied it’s using the best possible encryption standard.
When it comes to the VPN protocols available, IVPN goes into much more detail – even providing a direct comparison between the 4 protocols used. These are:
- PPTP (not ever recommended)
- IKEv2 (a good option to use)
- OpenVPN (the best VPN protocol available and IVPN’s default protocol)
- WireGuard (a new, experimental protocol that hasn’t been fully tested yet)
However, oddly enough, on the IVPN Facts page, it’s suggests PPTP isn’t an available option at all – and that you’re actually getting IPSec/IKEv2 rather than merely IKEv2:
We’re not complaining if the provider isn’t giving users the dangerous possibility of using PPTP. And we’re certainly glad to see OpenVPN is the default VPN protocol.
IVPN Firewall and Leak Protections
There are a couple other security features every VPN needs to have: a kill switch and leak protection.
IVPN offers an “integrated firewall that offers the most advanced ‘kill switch’ solution on the market,” according to their FAQ. While this isn’t an actual kill switch, we’re satisfied with IVPN’s explanation that it can be better than one:
“A traditional kill switch solution needs to react to [events that interrupt the VPN connection] and do so fast enough that not a single [data] packet is leaked before the connection is blocked/disconnected. The IVPN Firewall completely eliminates these threats by only allowing traffic through the VPN tunnel. Everything else is blocked.”
What we’re not so much a fan of is the “always-on” firewall isn’t enabled by default. Users are left with the option of manually configuring it to switch on automatically when a VPN connection is established, to manually enable it as you require, or to use the “always-on” setting.
We strongly prefer it to be “always-on” by default, with the option of changing it to automatically enabling when a VPN connection is established.
With that said, IVPN does do a great job with leak protection. There isn’t much information available anywhere on the site, other than the following:
Still, this is robust enough to satisfy us.
We also performed several tests to verify the claim and found no DNS, IPv4, IPv6, or WebRTC leaks in the process. IVPN actually blocks IPv6 connectivity, though the provider is exploring options, primarily through OpenVPN.
TOR Capability and IVPN Multihop
IVPN offers an Obfsproxy feature as its variation of the Stealth VPN feature, though – as with using OpenVPN – this requires some manual installation on your part.
It simply doesn’t make sense for the provider not to incorporate the Obfsproxy feature in their apps. As it stands, the feature is also only available for Windows and Mac users.
Instead, if you’re looking for a proxy service that can help you obfuscate your location, we recommend using The Onion Router (TOR).
It’s a free-to-use proxy browser that performs the same basic function as Obfsproxy, but also makes that functionality available to mobile users, as TOR has native apps for Android and iOS.
TOR also provides a basic alternative to the Double VPN feature. However, IVPN does offer a Multihop VPN feature (Multihop, or Multi-Hop, is just another term for Double VPN).
The Multihop feature allows you to connect to more than one VPN server. This makes it even harder for trackers (which IVPN blocks in any case) to establish your location.
However, using the IVPN Multihop is more complicated than it needs to be. Ultimately, there are easier versions made available to users of other reliable VPN providers (see our NordVPN Review, for example).
Tiny Server Network
One of the areas IVPN falls short is in having such a tiny server network. There are only between 135 and 225 IP addresses available (3 to 5 per server) on 45 servers in 45 cities in 32 countries.
Considering IVPN has been in business since 2009, that’s an unacceptably low number. ExpressVPN, who is the provider IVPN is most often compared to online, was launched in the same year and has 3,000+ servers. NordVPN, which was only launched in 2012, has 5,578 servers.
Why is a small server network an issue?
It all comes down to VPN speed.
We strongly recommend taking a look at our guide What Is The Fastest VPN? to better understand all the different factors affecting VPN speed and how we account for them when testing a VPN during our review process.
However, as it’s most relevant to this review especially, we should talk about network congestion.
Also known as server overload, network congestion occurs when too many users are forced to share too few servers. Each server (especially in popular locations) is forced to operate at a level approaching, equalling, or even exceeding its maximum optimal capacity. When this happens, server performance declines, resulting in slower server speeds.
With only approximately 45 servers available (most of them in the US and Europe), we’re naturally concerned network congestion is a big issue with IVPN.
Here’s what we discovered:
Somehow, with so few servers, IVPN still slides into the competition with above average speeds!
Device Compatibility and Connections
Where IVPN redeems itself somewhat is in its device compatibility:
- Mac OS
Users are given the option of manually configuring an existing router or purchasing a router that’s already integrated with IVPN.
Having a router VPN includes great benefits, such as the ability to protect your gaming consoles and Smart TVs, as well as potentially getting extra VPN connections when you simply connect the devices to the router instead of directly to the VPN.
Speaking of simultaneous connections, IVPN only allows for 2 with the Standard plan, but 7 with the Pro plan. However, the provider doesn’t want users to share their account (and simultaneous connections) even with other household members:
The Terms of Service also reveal IVPN “reserve[s] the right to terminate your service without any advance warning or notification” if you don’t adhere to this restriction.
This doesn’t sit right with us. We can understand not wanting users to share their accounts in general, but that restriction should not be applied to protecting your household members unless you use a VPN router.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
IVPN offers its service on two subscription levels, both of which benefit from the option to pay monthly or annually:
All subscription plans also include a free 3-day trial and a 7-day “unconditional” money-back guarantee. The Refund Policy confirms this, as well as offering a 30-day refund period under “exceptional circumstances.”
As for payment options, IVPN accepts “all major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and cash.” Cash payments are only available for annual subscriptions.
The free trial is also only available for customers paying via credit card or PayPal.
Not Great for Streaming
Netflix and BBC iPlayer are two of the most common streaming services VPN users want to access. Unfortunately, IVPN failed to work with BBC iPlayer and only just passed our Netflix tests by giving us access to Netflix USA via the California Server.
Others reported being able to access Netflix USA via the New York server as well, but we had no success with the server ourselves.
This is where things get a little hazy…
In this FAQ, IVPN says users are allowed to use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing connections via BitTorrent and other torrenting clients. The only restriction they place on this functionality is they prefer users not do so while connected to any US servers due to the high level of DMCA notices received.
However, torrenting is most commonly used for illegal downloads of pirated content. And this is strictly forbidden in IVPN’s Terms of Service – which, to repeat an earlier point, also say the provider reserves the right to terminate user accounts if the user is suspected of violating those terms.
All told, you might find a better option in our guide on the Best Torrenting VPNs.
Usability and Support
Installation was a breeze, to say the least.
Once you have everything set up, the apps are very easy to use and appear to be stable and reliable.
We didn’t have much success with IVPN’s support team. Despite claiming to offer 24-hour support, we were asked to send an email when we tried to use the live chat option:
Acknowledgment of our support ticket told us we could expect a response within 24 hours, though they hope to get back to us in 8:
When we did get a response, it was short, to the point, and friendly, so our only complaint is in the delay.
How to Cancel IVPN and Get Your Money Back
We would absolutely recommenced IVPN, but if you’re not happy with IVPN’s service, here’s what you need to do:
- Log into your IVPN Client Area
- Click “Cancel Account”
- A refund request is automatically sent on your behalf if you’re canceling within 7 days of purchase
- Navigate to the “Delete Account” tab after receiving your refund
- Click “Delete My Account” and confirm
Steps 4 and 5 aren’t technically necessary, but are strongly recommended if you want IVPN to delete all records of your account.