OneVPN is a young VPN firm run by Unravel Technologies, a Hong Kong-based IT security consultancy firm.
Visit the OneVPN website and you’ll find a long list of impressive features. It offers 68 locations, “ad-free streaming with a built-in ad-blocker”, zero logging, malware protection, NAT firewall, wide protocol support (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, OpenConnect) and 24/7 technical support by email, and remote assistance if required.
There are Windows, Mac and Android clients, with an iOS app allegedly coming soon, and the service supports simultaneous connections from up to three devices.
OneVPN seems to refer to site-unblocking abilities with a One-Stream feature, which “offers ease of access to hundreds of online streaming channels and other content from all around the world.” Oh, and it tells us it’s the ‘world’s fastest VPN’, too.
Some of these claims are hard to believe, and the occasionally strange descriptions don’t help. OneVPN says it can offer great value because “all of our servers have bigger capacities and are bandwidth and kernel-packet-handling-optimised”, for instance. The site also states the servers are “running on OpenSource to offer fastest VPN service.”
It’s like the writer is throwing in jargon at random to try and impress non-technical users, rather than explain key points to everyone else.
Pricing is fairly standard at $8 (£6.20) for a one-off month, $5 (£3.85) a month on the six-month plan, $4 (£3.10) a month for the annual plan. The company also seems to offer regular deals where you get lifetime service for around $50 – that’s £39 (Google ‘onevpn lifetime’). This seems like a bargain, but we’d question how sustainable it is.
There are at least more payment options than usual, including credit and debit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, gift cards and more.
OneVPN also offers a basic money-back guarantee, although with several limits. You have to request a refund in the first seven days, and you must not have transferred more than 3GB of data – plus you have to ‘state a reason’ for your claim. That should provide cover if you have problems connecting, or performance is poor, but other services might give you 30 days to claim with no conditions at all.
Many VPN users are understandably concerned about logging, but OneVPN’s website doesn’t try to hide the issue. The company operates a ‘zero logging policy’, it says, stating: “We do not monitor or keep any logs of our users.” That seems clear, but it’s also a standard line for most VPN providers, so we headed off to the small print to dig into the detail.
On data collection, for instance, the page says “we collect minimal data, which is basically your name and e-mail address. That is about all that we keep.” ‘Basically’? ‘About all’? We’re looking for precise information, not vague guesswork.
On logging, we’re told OneVPN “does not track physical addresses and locations, numbers, or any other personal information. We do not store or keep records of your IP and details of your payment process.”
Does this make sense? The company says it restricts you to three simultaneous logons, so somewhere, at some time, there’s a record of login sessions. We’re told you can’t get a refund if you’ve used more than 3GB of traffic, which means there’s a persistent record of bandwidth used. And OneVPN automatically renews your service unless you cancel, so at a minimum there’s a link between your email address and some kind of payment reference.
None of that means OneVPN is doing anything dubious, of course, but the reality is they’re not providing the kind of detailed privacy information you’ll get with many other VPNs. Not only is that not good enough, it also plays into the impression given by the main site: the content isn’t up to the professional standards we would expect.
Signing up with OneVPN is straightforward. Choose a plan, a payment method, then enter your details, much like any other web service you’ve ever bought. The website displays a thanks message, and an email arrives seconds later with your login details.
We accessed the Client Area and browsed to the Your Details section. Despite OneVPN’s claim that it only collects your name and email address, we found it also knew our country and had assigned us a city. This wasn’t completely correct, but it was the location associated with our IP address. At a minimum that means they’re also collecting those location details, maybe with the IP address and other information.
Our welcome email pointed us to a Downloads page. OneVPN offers multiple clients for Windows, Android and Mac, so we grabbed the Windows 10 version. The software licence was about as professional as the rest of OneVPN’s content – “conducting an ethical act is strictly prohibited”, it warned us, sternly – but we accepted it anyway and installed the program.
OneVPN’s client opened with a glossy map-based interface, and a marker on our UK location. We clicked Connect, thinking it would connect us to the nearest server, and it chose Singapore. Uh, thanks.
The server list is hidden behind a menu button top-left. We clicked it and immediately noticed a couple of issues. Despite Mexico and China being listed on the server locations section of the website, the client didn’t show any servers in those countries. And the default protocol is PPTP, not the more secure OpenVPN.
The app has an array of usability problems, too. The server list opens saying it’s ‘sorted by nearest’, but it’s actually sorted alphabetically, with some errors (Czech Republic, Spain, France). Clicking an arrow to the right does sort the list by order of speed, but this isn’t preserved between sessions. Close and restart the app and it’s back to the not-quite-alphabetical-order.
The main map interface is for display only. You can’t zoom in and out, click and drag it around, or use it to select a country. To connect to a location you must find and double-click it in the list.
The app doesn’t make it easy to reconnect to a specific server. We chose Spain, clicked Disconnect, then Connect again immediately afterwards. It would use the last server, right? Nope – it connected to the Netherlands. The only way to use Spain was to find and double-click it again in the list.
There are few signs of the more advanced features listed on the website, either. No ad blocker. No antimalware. The site mentioned using fast DNS servers, and we wondered if these might be blocking some ad-serving or malicious sites, but apparently not. Checks showed we were still using our regular DNS servers when connected, and the only way OneVPN offers to fix this is a tedious manual tutorial (check it out here).
Were we missing something? We used the support site’s search box with terms like ‘malware’, but found nothing at all. We searched on ‘firewall’ and found instructions on setting up a kill switch on Windows 7. This turned out to be a manual process requiring us to turn off any third-party firewall, then set up rules in the Windows firewall instead – a hugely inconvenient approach.
Maybe we had to do something to enable them? We emailed OneVPN asking the question, and an answer arrived minutes later: “Ad-blocker and antimalware are built-in features and automatically enabled. There is no option at customer’s end to enable/disable them.”
OneVPN at least gained some credit at the start of our performance tests*, with local UK to UK and near European connections giving us 20 to 40Mbps download speeds. But it tailed off over longer distances, with US connections struggling to reach 10Mbps, and Singapore barely managing 5Mbps. That’s just about usable for email and basic browsing, but not even close to matching the claim of being the ‘world’s fastest’ VPN.
The default settings meant OneVPN’s Windows client didn’t pass our privacy tests, either, with both DNS and WebRTC leaks. You can fix these manually by following instructions on the website, but the methods are inconvenient and novice users might never realise they’re required.
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we’ve reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.