The world of VPNs is cutthroat and competitive, with services existing for a wide variety of users, technical skill levels, secrecy needs, and so on.
IPVanish claims to offer high-speed connectivity, advanced security, and ways past geolocated blocks to the likes of popular streaming services – all for a reasonably budget price.
But any VPN you care to name will promise you cookies and candy. Whether they deliver or not on the promises they make is a whole other ball game. So let’s put the IPVanish VPN through its paces and see what gives.
IPVanish At A Glance
IPVanish costs you just $3.20 per month. That’s cheap for a VPN, which has two connotations. On the one hand, great, it’s not going to burn a hole in your bank account, but on the other hand, it raises immediate suspicions that it can deliver all it promises for such a small price.
Number Of Servers
IPVanish reports having 1900 servers to switch between at any time. Again, that’s a decent enough number on paper, but it will be worth looking at their geographical spread to determine the usefulness of many of them.
Number Of Machines Per License
You can reportedly use an unlimited number of computers, tablets, smartphones, etc with a single license at IPVanish. If it delivers what it promises, that’s exceptional value for money. That means it’s important to discover exactly what it does deliver for the price.
Country Of Origin
IPVanish is based in the United States. While there are positives to that, it comes with some caveats too, especially if you want to be sure your usage is never in any risk of being discovered, as we’ll cover in a little while.
One of the big things people use VPNs for, besides getting round geolocation barriers to entertainment content, is torrenting. IPVanish claims to be able to give you torrenting performance around the world.
IPVanish says it keeps no outright logs of VPN activity.
There’s 24/7 live chat support for IPVanish, so whatever time of day you’re using the VPN, you should be able to chat to someone if it starts to fail you.
Breaking IPVanish Down In More Detail
The headlines and the fact-bites are all very well, but let’s take a deeper, more detailed look at what IPVanish can – and can’t do.
Streaming Past Geo-Locked Doors
Beyond the realms of fiction, where almost everyone who uses a VPN is hacking the international banking system or some such thing, the first and foremost thing people use their VPN for is to get access to entertainment content that’s geographically locked or blocked – or that’s locked by memberships and VPN blocks.
If it can’t get you past these sorts of restrictions, you have to ask whether your VPN is the right choice for you.
Sadly then, streaming past geo-locks and blocks is hit and miss with IPVanish.
It will help you unlock quite a bit of domestic US content – US Netflix? No problem for most of its servers (especially given that many of them are US-based).
You can pretty much get into Vudu, ESPN, and HBO too. But there’s little by way of consistency as you test it out with more and more geo-locked services. It unblocks Fox US for those outside the country with no trouble at all, but ABC on the other hand? No luck.
Likewise, if you’re trying to get all that high culture, comedy, or natural history from the UK on BBC iPlayer – absolutely nothing doing there.
That means you’re either making a list of places you want to get into and holding your breath in anticipation each time you try it, seeing whether IPVanish has any luck getting in to the content you want, or you’re paying out for another VPN that can access the content you want.
At which point, you have to ask yourself whether IPVanish is worth the admittedly small fee you’re paying for it.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a VPN to get around geo-locks and blocks, IPVanish is a dementedly frustrating proposition.
On the one hand, there’s no guarantee it will get you in to where you want. But there’s also no guarantee it won’t – where it works, it works well. So the end result feels like paying money to spin the Wheel of Fortune, rather than paying money for a certainty.
Honestly, there are better VPNs out there that give you regular access to geoblocked entertainment. Try something like ExpressVPN as a first option.
Speed drops and buffering are another plague of the VPNer. Often a simple fact of physics – when your data is traveling further to reach a remote server, it takes more time to cover more distance because we don’t live in an episode of Star Trek – speed drops and buffering can make you think you’re living in the 90s, and apart from a certain nostalgic chic, nobody wants that. Ever.
But VPNs should be able to work around that to some degree, and in the event of data congestion or ISP throttling, they may even be able to gain you some speed.
More speed equals more slickness, so the results of using a VPN on speed drops, buggering and overcoming ISP throttle are often a key deciding factor in whether a VPN is right for you.
You can actually measure your connection speed in a handful of ways – by ping, by download speed, and by upload speed. Ping speed, as it sounds, is how long it takes you to get a response to a website request or link. The fewer milliseconds it takes to get a response, the faster your connection will be.
Download speed is exactly what it sounds like – the speed at which you can download information from a server to your computer, tablet, phone or other device. That’s not a straightforward ‘speed’ like ping speed. It’s measured in quantity per second – in this case, megabits (of downloaded data) per second.
Similarly, upload speed is the measurement of megabits of data per second you can upload to a site or server. If you’re uploading your latest Youtube or TikTok video, for instance, it will upload faster if your upload speed has a higher number of megabits per second.
So how does IPVanish shape up in terms of speed drops and buffering?
Well, a note of caution is advisable here. You find the speed drop by comparing your pre-VPN speeds to your post-VPN speeds, and you’d expect to get bigger speed drops if you’re connecting to servers that are far distant in geography.
Your mileage in this case may literally vary, but also, the differential before your speeds pre-IPVanish and after it may well differ from ours, depending on the level of connectivity you pay for.
When we tested out the IPVanish VPN for speed drops, we started out with a download speed of 11.83 Mbps download, with 0.65 Mbps upload and a ping of 25 ms.
Going to our closest local IPVanish server, the download speed dropped significantly, to 6.81 Mbps. Our ping time more than doubled, going up to 53 ms. But curiously, there was very little difference in our upload speed, at 0.63 Mbps.
Using more distant servers, the results were pretty much replicated – the further away the server, the more the download speed dropped, while upload speed went down in much smaller increments. Interestingly, the ping speed didn’t redouble by going to more distance servers.
It increased, but rarely by anything like as much as the initial difference we got from switching to the VPN.
So all in all, while IPVanish is not ideal as a braker of geo-locks, it performs reasonably well in terms of speed drops and buffering. We found the use of distant servers had very little practical impact on the quality of or speed of our browsing or link response.
Unlike some VPNs, IPVanish allows you to have and use unlimited P2P connections. You know what that means – torrent-fest! With lots of connections, you can torrent with little hassle – and with little risk to your safety.
You might find your download speeds dip marginally while you’re torrenting (as we did), but it’s hardly enough to say so, and certainly nothing to use as a mark against IPVanish.
You also get 250 GB of secure cloud storage space for your subscription money, so you can torrent and save your chosen content for easy access in future.
All told, torrenting is one of the areas where IPVanish comes distinctly into its own. Where it’s a very hit and miss VPN for unlocking geoblocked entertainment content from stable providers, torrenting may well give you a way around the problem, restoring both some faith in IPVanish as a viable proposition and some reason to consider it as a primary option for your VPN.
Security And Logs
This… this is a tricky one for IPVanish.
This came to something of a head in 2016. The Department of Homeland Security made a request for user information, and IPVanish complied with that request and handed over some logs. Which shouldn’t have existed.
Now, it’s important to state for the record that Homeland Security was investigating a child abuse and child pornography case, and in those circumstances, it’s absolutely right that IPVanish handed over the information requested.
But the fact that it had the logs to hand over is a concern.
Ultimately, the fact that IPVanish is based in the US might be a security concern in any case. While it’s unlikely to bother you if you’re just involved in getting around geoblocked content or torrenting your face off, the US is a member of the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances.
That means the US government has the right to summon IPVanish to turn over any and all records it does hold on any individual user.
But – it doesn’t hold logs now, right?
It says not. In fact, in the wake of the 2016 case, IPVanish was acquired by new owners – a firm called StackPath – in 2017. Stackpath guarantees it doesn’t store any logs on your activity.
Quite how much that guarantee would be worth to you if the government suddenly decided you were a person of interest… remains to be seen.
In an effort to keep costs to a minimum – and also, arguably, to keep developmental complexity down, IPVanish bucks the trend of more expensive VPNs by not including an in-built ad blocker.
That’s not an enormously big deal – you can use third-party ad blockers while you’re connected to IPVanish servers. It just means if you’re expecting ad blocking slickness, you’re going to be slightly disappointed by the potential hassle of having to download or activate extra ad blockers to stay free of pop-ups, content-delayers and other adverts along the way to the content you want.
While this is not by any means the same thing, you should also note that if you’re looking to peek behind Chinese web security, you’re going to need a bigger, better, and significantly more expensive tool than IPVanish to do it with. Right now, IPVanish can’t get you into Chinese content sites.
Value For Money
Whether IPVanish represents good value for money to you depends rather on what you want it to be able to do, and the amount of hassle you’re prepared to put up with to do things on a budget.
In the first place, you can try IPVanish for 7 days for free before you commit to subscribing to it, so you can test out its possibilities and limitations for yourself before it costs you anything. To do that, you will need to sign up to its IOS app – potentially a hassle in its own right, but maybe worth it to check out the functionalities of the VPN.
After that, its value for money proposition may depend whether you’re a hardcore “Gimme the content” kind of VPN user who just wants to sail serenely in to every content silo, turn a digital key and watch what you want to watch without a breath of complaint. If so, you may be in for a frustrating time with IPVanish.
If on the other hand, you’re willing to think outside the silo and go the torrent route, given that IPVanish is pretty darned cheap, you may well get yourself a VPN bargain.
Quite apart from the 7-day free trial, you conveniently have a 30-day money-back guarantee period too, which should give you more than enough time to decide whether the IPVanish proposal is going to work for you longer term.
All these potential pluses and minuses are pretty meaningless if it turns out IPVanish won’t work on your devices. So, what will it work on?
Fortunately, the list is pretty long. You can use it on all the major platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Linux, Fire TV, and even, if you really must, Chromebook.
If you have a router, you can even install it on there and instantly VPN-protect your whole network. And yes, this is the 21st century, so it supports both light and dark modes, to fit in with your devices and the comfort of your eyeballs.
This all matters because as we mentioned, you can connect an unlimited number of devices using a single account. The VPN is in no sense tied to a single central computer.
That means you can use it for the whole family and earn techie bonus points. If this feels like it should be a standard thing – you’re right, it probably should be – but it isn’t in any sense commonplace just yet.
Most higher-priced VPN packages allow you somewhere between 3-6 users on the account, so while it may be slightly clunky and raggedy and haphazard when it comes to ad blocking and geoblocked content-cracking, it gains popularity and points from its open house approach to access per account.
Also, while we’re talking about access, it’s worth knowing that IPVanish uses a military-grade 256-bit AES encryption which is supposed to be virtually unbreakable.
It undoubtedly isn’t technically unbreakable, but for a huge number of users it will be effectively impenetrable, because even if the traffic from your device is intercepted, turning the knowledge of traffic into usable, readable data is on the whole a lot more hard work than the data would be worth.
DNS Leak Prevention
We know what you’re saying – we said it ourselves. That’s all very well, but what about DNS leak prevention, right?
You know the deal, probably – sometimes your DNS requests can get accidentally bounced to your ISP’s DNS servers, leaving your real IP location caught like a deer in the headlights, allowing your ISP to track what you do online. That’s a DNS leak.
Fortunately, for all it skimps on things like ad blockers, IPVanish stumps up to keep you safe, using DNS leak prevention technology to stop such accidental leakage from happening.
We can’t, obviously, categorically say it would never happen. All we can tell you is that in a couple of weeks of fairly relentless testing, it never happened to us. For that kind of assurance, we’ll use the third-party ad blockers.
Oh, likewise, by the way – sometimes if you get a dropped connection with a VPN server, it will take a data snapshot of your real IP address while your VPN is around your ankles. Because it’s just helpful that way.
Fortunately, IPVanish comes with an automatic kill switch, so that if your VPN connection goes down, you’re not left exposed to any tracking. At least, it will on MacOS and Windows. If you’re using any other version of IPVanish, beware – there has yet to be a roll-out of the AKS for your devices.
IPVanish is not the cutting-edge, be-all and end-all of VPNs. Far from it, in fact, with its irritating hit and miss approach to unlocking geoblocked entertainment content.
It’s extremely useful for those with torrent fever though – and that could well give you a way around its geoblocked shortcomings, on a ridiculously small budget, and with unlimited devices open to protection on a single account.
While it neglects slightly more polished elements like an in-built ad blocker, where investment really counts – in keeping your data and your actions safe and secret – it spends the money to give you things like an automatic kill switch (at least on two major versions), and some hot stuff encryption.
As an experience, it’s friendly and straightforward enough to get absolute newcomers to the world of VPNs pinging off to far away servers in a handful of heartbeats, but if you’re more advanced and know your way around the networked world a little more, it won’t leave you feeling over-prepared.
It’s easy to download and install, and you don’t need to configure it within an inch of its digital life. But if you have particular needs, it will let you configure it so you can match its performance to your intentions.
The price is what is known in the technology business as a freakin’ steal, and while you can pretty much see where things have either been left out or left in the lap of the gods, there are often ways around the problems that it encounters.
Yes, it’s more of a pain in the butt to have to go the torrent route than it is to just unlock geoblocked content.
The VPNs that will get you into everywhere you want to go will do so at an increased cost – again, it comes down to whether you are prepared to put a little more effort in and endure a little more hassle to go around the problems.
If you are, then for the price, IPVanish is a serious contender – especially when you factor in those unlimited devices on a single account.
With 24/7 chat support and a range of subscription options (including both a 1-year and a 2-year option that has you paying just $3.20 per month, rather than the ad hoc $10.99, you’re looking at a VPN that has some holes and some flaws – but which a little effort can work around.
If you’re specifically looking for an easy, consistent, all-access pass to geoblocked content, we’re not going to lie to you, there are better options out there for you than the IPVanish. We’ve suggested ExpressVPN as a first option if that’s what you’re particularly looking for.
But if you’re a fan of torrenting who doesn’t want particularly large speed drops, and appreciates efforts made to protect both your identity and your data from the potential of accidental exposure, and who wants to be able to contact some support services 24/7, there are many worse options on the market than IPVanish.
If you want a reasonably strong VPN that maintains acceptable speeds but costs ridiculously little on a per-month breakdown (and, come to that, that accepts payment in all kinds of ways, including bitcoin), the IPVanish VPN may well have enough of the important parts of what you want and need from a VPN to make you click on its “Subscribe button.”
And of course, the best thing is that you have 30 days of using it once you’ve pressed the “go” button to decide whether it’s really up to the needs you have from your VPN. If not, you’re still able to get your money back and go elsewhere – so what do you have to lose?
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