VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have grown in popularity over the last decade or so, and there is no sign of this trend reversing.
Increasingly, consumers are taking an interest in their online security and VPNs have emerged as one of the most common and effective methods of making sure that companies, governments, and online criminals are unable to get access to sensitive information about your online activities.
VPNs can hide your IP address and online presence from any prying eyes that might be watching what you’re doing.
This growth in popularity has meant that countless different VPNs have been developed, but VPNs are not all made equal – some are better or worse than others in various ways. In this article, we’ll be taking you through the pros and cons of Urban VPN so that you can decide whether it suits your needs.
Urban VPN is a free VPN with several features to recommend it, including its surprising lack of restrictions on speed and bandwidth. However, it ultimately can’t hold up in comparison to most paid VPN services, particularly on issues of security.
Being able to provide you with reliable security should always be a VPN’s bread and butter. Unfortunately, however, this is probably Urban VPN’s weakest area.
To start with, the company isn’t very clear or transparent about what encryption protocols it uses and how they work. This is not ideal, since it means you just have to take on trust that the company uses robust and correct methods of keeping your information safe.
Submitting to an independent audit might help Urban VPN come across as more trustworthy, but the company doesn’t seem to have undertaken one, and nor do they seem to have any plans to.
Okay, so this is a bad start, but does Urban VPN possess any extra features that make up for it?
Unfortunately not really – Urban VPN doesn’t feature extra safety measures like a kill switch (to disconnect you from the internet if the VPN connection fails) nor the ability to do split tunneling (so that you can put some of your traffic through the VPN while the rest is left unencrypted).
It’s only a free VPN, so this isn’t a huge surprise, but it certainly doesn’t count in its favor.
But next comes the real issue. Have you ever heard of the saying that ‘if you’re getting something for free, then you’re likely the product‘?
That’s exactly what’s going on here: Urban VPN is providing you a competent VPN for free, but make no mistake, you’re certainly giving them something in return, even if you don’t immediately realize it.
What is a P2P VPN?
The Urban VPN is a P2P VPN, meaning that its users function as the servers. A portion of your internet traffic goes via other Urban users’ devices and, in turn, some of their traffic goes through your devices. P2P stands for peer-to-peer.
This is where that lack of transparency we mentioned rears its ugly head again – how much traffic is being diverted to your devices and what this traffic contains isn’t known, meaning that your device could be being used for just about anything.
There is clearly the potential for major security and privacy concerns here, though the extent of this is impossible to know for sure, given the lack of transparency.
All of this means that we’re going to have to give Urban VPN a very low score when it comes to security and privacy.
One big reason that people like to use VPNs, aside from the security benefits, is to circumvent region locking. This is a technique that a lot of streaming services, such as Netflix, use to comply with licensing requirements.
Essentially, it means that you can only watch certain content from certain locations. For instance, the UK and US Netflix libraries contain different content and if you want to access one library’s content from the other country, then you’re out of luck.
Out of luck unless you have a VPN, that is, since they can make you appear to be in a different place, allowing you to bypass the restriction.
Urban VPN does surprisingly well on this score. Many free VPNs aren’t much good at bypassing region locking – the streaming services are regularly finding new ways to stop them, and free VPN services often struggle to keep up – but we did have some success in our tests.
We were able to access both Netflix and Amazon Prime without the VPN being detected, though we were unsuccessful when it came to BBC iPlayer and Disney+.
Some VPNs – even including some paid ones – don’t do as well as this, so kudos to Urban VPN here.
This is one other area where you might be pleasantly surprised, given that Urban is a free VPN.
The first thing to say is that, unlike with a lot of other free VPNs, there are no artificial limits placed on your speed. That’s a big plus to start with, but what kind of speeds can you expect from Urban?
Well, one thing we noticed in our tests is that the speeds you can achieve with Urban VPN are somewhat unstable, meaning that they vary a lot and aren’t all that consistent.
To be fair, this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Urban VPN – plenty of other VPNs have it too, including some that are paid services.
That said, its speeds were often pretty good in our tests, particularly for a service that you’re getting for free.
This is particularly true of upload speeds, which barely dropped at all during our tests. Naturally, this is ideal if you plan to upload a lot of material, but what about downloading?
Download speeds seemed to vary more than the others in our tests, but were in general satisfactory. At the least, they should be good enough most of the time to allow streaming, though lots of streaming in 4K might prove challenging.
Another positive mention should go to its effect on latency (also often known as ping).
This is the measurement of the time taken between inputting a command on your device and this being recognized by the server.
It’s mainly used in the context of online games, when the time lag between, for example, clicking your mouse to fire a shot and that action being registered in game can be crucial.
Online gamers needn’t worry, because Urban VPN’s impact on latency actually seemed to be minimal in our tests, with little difference in the latency we experienced whether the VPN was on or off.
Overall, then, the speeds you’ll get are, if a little unreliable, definitely adequate for a free VPN, and can even hold up to some paid ones.
However, please note the solid speeds that we achieved could be mainly due to the nearby servers. You’ll likely find a different story should you try to use a server located much further away from you (on another continent, say).
Again, this isn’t exactly uncommon with VPNs in general, but the stark contrast in speeds is more apparent with Urban VPN than with many of its competitors.
If you’re expecting to use servers located far away from you, you’d probably do better to look at a different VPN.
Urban VPN boasts servers in a wide variety of places, with numerous European countries in particular playing host to at least one such server. In all, more than 80 different locations are included.
The reason that we haven’t mentioned the number of servers overall is that Urban doesn’t have a fixed number of servers – instead, as we mentioned earlier, it’s a P2P VPN, meaning that it uses its own users as servers.
We talked about the implications this has for security earlier on, but how does it work for you functionally? Well, this peer-to-peer facility could be part of the reason that Urban VPN has a decent amount of success in getting past region blocks, which free VPNs often fail to do.
On the other hand, it might also account for the unstable and varying speeds. Overall, it’s more of a concern than a bonus.
Subscription Plans And Pricing
This is the main draw of the Urban VPN – it’s free. This means that there aren’t different subscription plans, since no subscription is required.
As it stands, Urban VPN is available for Windows, Android, macOS and iOS. This is a pretty standard range of platforms to be available for, and most other VPNs are available for all of these four as standard.
This means that you won’t be able to use it on other platforms, like video games consoles or things like Amazon Fire Stick Of course, if you’re only intending to use it on the big four systems, this won’t be a problem but if not, this lack of compatibility is a big issue.
Unfortunately, Urban VPN does not offer any customer service to speak of. You can consult some information on their website, but there’s no live chat function to report issues, get advice or consult on technical issues.
Perhaps this isn’t too much of a disappointment given that this Urban is a free VPN, but it is another area where the Urban can’t compete with a paid service.
Overall, despite some advantages, it’s hard to recommend this VPN to anyone who’s serious about maintaining their online security. There are far too many unknowns regarding its encryption protocols, and the way that the P2P aspect of the servers work for it to be worth trusting them with your security.
That said, if you’re not bothered about the security aspects and simply require a free VPN that has some consistent success in unlocking streaming services, then Urban might be worth a try, so long as you can get some good speeds out of it.