ZenVPN

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ZenVPN is a Commonwealth of Dominica-based VPN which claims to offer a good mix of features for a very reasonable price.

The company has servers in 34 locations, covering all the places you’d expect and a few you probably wouldn’t: Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Australia, Russia, Indonesia, Chile, Brazil, Israel, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan and more.

Torrents are fully supported, with no throttling or restrictions on the servers you can choose.

There’s also what seems to be a clear ‘no logging’ statement: “We don’t inspect your online activities and don’t maintain any record of them.”

ZenVPN’s standard plans cost $5.95 a month (£4.75, AU$7.90), $4.16 (£3.30, AU$5.50) if you pay for a year. These have limited bandwidth, but the unusually generous 5GB daily allowance means that might not be a problem.

If unlimited is a must-have then it’ll cost you $9.95 a month (£7.90, AU$13.20), $7.96 (£6.30, AU$10.50) on the annual plan.

A free 250MB/day account gives you a quick idea how the service might work, and there’s a 30-day ‘no questions asked’ money-back guarantee as well.

Privacy

ZenVPN states that it doesn’t log what you’re doing online, but as usual, there are some potential gotchas in the small-print. Like this, for instance: “We don’t collect and store the logs of your internet activity but still collect certain information about you, your devices, computers and use of the service.”

What information might this be, and how long is it kept? It doesn’t say, but as the company has many limited bandwidth accounts we expect it records session data: date and time of connection, some kind of device ID, bandwidth used and so on. This isn’t necessarily unusual, but we’d like to know more.

ZenVPN is also distinctly short on detail about how and why it might share your data with others, though this doesn’t necessarily signify a problem. There’s absolutely nothing in the small-print to suggest ZenVPN is doing anything dubious, it just doesn’t have quite as many ‘we would never do this’ clauses as some other providers.

We did spot one detail you might not like: the 30-day money-back guarantee only applies if you’ve used less than 5GB of bandwidth. Even on the limited plans, that could be just one day of traffic.

Performance

When signing up for ZenVPN, first off you have to provide and confirm your email address. The website then offers you downloads for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, as well as an OpenVPN configuration file you can use almost anywhere.

Installation is quick and easy. That’s partly because the client has no settings, options or extra features, but it does get you connected in a hurry. And unusually you’re able to check your connection, performance, and whether it’s unblocked a site, before you buy.

If you do decide to part with your cash, Zen asks for a ridiculous amount of information, even if you’re paying by PayPal: first name, last name, email address, physical address, your phone number. Why? We’ve no idea, and the privacy policy doesn’t explain how this might (or might not) be used or shared.

In day-to-day use ZenVPN is very straightforward. You can connect or disconnect from the system tray, or choose a country from the client to connect immediately. There’s zero extra functionality – not even a pop-up to say you’re connected, or a display of your new IP address – but if you like to keep things simple that may be okay.

In our tests*, performance levels were more disappointing. UK latency was up by around 50% to 27ms, and download speeds were more than halved compared to our normal rates, reduced to a lethargic 15Mbps. One of our test US connections seemed much better with downloads around 30Mbps, but typical rates were around 10-15Mbps: usable, and not a total disaster, but below average.

Final verdict

ZenVPN’s performance was below average, and we’ve no idea why the firm needs so much personal data. Still, if simplicity is a top priority or you like its locations, give the service a quick look anyway – there’s some free time to test it out before you buy.

*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.

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