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IPVanish Review 2018: Scored Great in Every Test We Performed

Although tough to maintain the right balance between speed and privacy, IPVanish puts a high priority on both of these features, guaranteeing a solid VPN experience for just about everyone. Perfect for torrenters and Kodi users, but won't unblock Netflix unfortunately.

Rating

Rating

Price

$11.99

Pros

  • Zero logs
  • Strong encryption
  • Allows BitTorrenting
  • Automatic IP address cycling. Kill Switch.
  • Intuitive use fore Kodi and Fire Stick
  • Configurable software

Cons

  • Doesn't currently offer a live chat feature for customer support
  • Won't unblock Netflix, Hulu
  • Requires manual configuration to use the apps in China

Having trouble finding the top VPN around? The best way to get reliable information is to see how well the VPN stacks up in a real world performance! We took IPVanish for a thorough test drive to try out all of its features, including everything from the server speeds to the encryption options and mobile apps. Keep reading for our in-depth IPVanish review, complete with detailed video streaming and speed test results.

IPVanish Overview

IPVanish keeps a razor-sharp focus on two key areas: privacy and speed. It does this by deploying strong encryption and a massive network of servers spread across the globe. From the moment you connect you’ll be hidden from the world, with your real location and your private information scrambled and obscured from prying eyes. It’s an easy and affordable way to dive into the world of VPNs, and the overall experience is seamless no matter which platform you use.

A few of IPVanish’s best features:

  • Excellent balance between ease of use and customizability, making it the perfect VPN for power users and newbies alike.
  • Custom software for a wide variety of platforms, including desktop PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
  • No restrictions on Kodi video streams, P2P network downloads, or torrents.
  • Unlimited bandwidth, no speed caps, and no speed throttling.

Installing IPVanish – Fast and Easy

Once you’ve signed up with IPVanish, the fun can begin. The service offers software and apps for an incredible variety of devices, including everything from desktop computers to tablets, smartphones, and TV streaming box sets. There’s also a collection of manual setup guides for non-standard platforms, ensuring that no matter what hardware you own, IPVanish has got you covered.

Platforms supported by IPVanish:

  • Windows, Mac OS X, Linux (custom desktop software)
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Android (smartphones and tablets)
  • Fire TV (Fire Stick and box sets)
  • Windows Phone (manual configuration)
  • Chromebook (manual configuration)
  • Routers (DD-WRT, Tomato)

All of the download links you need are available from your account page within IPVanish. iPhone and iPad users can grab their apps from the app store, and Android users can install from Google Play or direct download an .apk file. Amazon Fire TV owners even have a dedicated link to install IPVanish from the app store, which is an incredibly convenient feature most VPNs fail to offer.

Once you’re installed, configured, and logged in, IPVanish is ready to go! You can connect right away to enjoy private and secure internet access, or dive into the software to check out all the things you can customize.

Using IPVanish

The IPVanish software has two main layouts you can switch between: standard and simple. It defaults to standard (where most of the options discussed below reside), but if you just want to connect and disconnect to the fastest VPN servers, simple mode shrinks things down to a minimalist interface and does the job nicely. You can toggle back and forth between the two modes with ease, so there’s no need to choose just one.

The first section you see on the IPVanish desktop software is a quick connect screen. This displays your physical broadcast location at the top with rudimentary server connection options at the bottom. You can choose the country, city, and individual server from the dropdown menu, but your best bet is usually setting the options to “best”. This picks the fastest and often the closest server to your physical location and connects to it right away. Once you’ve made your selection, click the green “connect” button in the lower right corner.

Once you’re online a comforting green icon switches to “on” and your visible location changes to the VPN’s information. A data wave scrolls through the middle of the screen to show how fast you’re currently uploading and downloading, and you can even check detailed information such as time connected, current protocol, and the server’s actual name. It’s an attractive and surprisingly useful screen!

Choosing a Server

IPVanish has a server selection tab that will make you smile. The default display is a simple list sorted by country, response time, server load, and favorites. Response time functions almost like a ping or a speed test and lets you quickly locate the fastest servers relative to your location. A quick search bar lets you look for servers by typing their country or city, which is incredibly useful given the massive size of the IPVanish network. You can’t search by U.S. state, unfortunately, but it doesn’t really matter given the other display options at your disposal.

If you need a little more power behind your server search quest, a filter tab gives you all the tools you need. Two dropdown menus let you narrow the list by country and latency along with a search bar above to filter by keyword. Ever wanted to find the fastest IPVanish server in Mexico? It’ll take you all of three seconds to do that with the handy filter tab.

The IPVanish server map is a shockingly useful (and fun) piece of technology. Next to the text list you can open up a map of the world with circle nodes showing servers around the world. Why type in “India” when you can scroll to the country, use the mouse wheel to zoom in, and pick your city from there? The map offers an overview of the network and makes you feel like the VPN is yours to command. You might even find yourself connecting to nodes in random countries simply because you can. Good thing IPVanish has unlimited server switching!

IPVanish – Custom Software Settings

A lot of users just want to fire up their VPN and let it run in the background. That’s perfectly fine, and IPVanish fully supports that with a bounty of automatic and “best” options toggled on out of the box. If you want to get your hands dirty with detailed customizations, however, you can dive into the settings tab and start hacking away.

IPVanish lives up to its name by offering an entire tab dedicated to IP settings. You can automatically change your IP address every 45 minutes (or longer, if you like), which does wonderful things for online anonymity. You can also verify your IP address using first or third-party tools, or plug in custom DNS details in case you don’t want to use the IPVanish servers.

Software settings in the IPVanish custom desktop app start with the usual options like automatically connecting to servers on startup and booting the software when your computer restarts. The kill switch isn’t activated by default, so you’ll want to tick that box as soon as you fire up the VPN. Protocols and ports can be shifted around if you disconnect from the servers first. For a full overview of these options, check the security section below.

IPVanish has check boxes for DNS leak protection as well as IPv6 leak protection, both useful anonymity features not every VPN supports. There’s also a setting to block all local area network traffic for extreme security, and an option to obfuscate OpenVPN traffic to help bust through censorship filters and defeat stubborn ISP throttling. It’ll cost you a little bit of speed, but it’s worth it if you’re having issues with your local service provider.

The IPVanish software does a clever balancing act between ease of use and configuration options for power users. Somehow it manages to cater to both groups without dumbing things down or becoming too awkward or confusing. You can run it out of the box and never think twice about your security, or you can dig in and tweak the experience for an incredible amount of privacy. The choice is yours, but it’s great that IPVanish offers the options right up front.

Mobile VPN Apps

Instead of pushing out a hastily built, watered-down app for smartphones, the IPVanish mobile app comes with most of the features found in the desktop versions of the software. There are some subtle differences between the iOS and Android releases, but both are lightweight, easy to use, and come with a number of security and connection options you won’t find in most smartphone VPNs.

The default screen is the quick connect menu, which is probably where you were heading anyway. Here you can see your current IP address and location along with the friendly green “connect” button. Tap it to automatically join the fastest server, which brings up a scrolling data graph just like in the desktop software.

The server selection screen is straightforward but does leave out a few potentially useful features. You can search for a city or country by name, or set filters to help narrow down the list by region or latency. You can’t run any kind of ping tests or rank the servers by speed, which is a bit of a letdown. Quick connect works well in this feature’s stead, but we would have loved a more detailed server tab with a sharper focus on speed.

Outside of the main features, the IPVanish app lets you dig in with some great privacy and security options. Set the software to automatically connect at reboot and startup for complete VPN protection. Then dive into connection options and set things like OpenVPN protocols, ports, IP address shuffle timers, and even extra obfuscation for your traffic. This creates an incredibly strong privacy barrier to keep your smartphone safe and is perfect for anyone who travels or accesses public Wi-Fi on a regular basis.

We tested the Android version of the IPVanish mobile app and were pleasantly surprised by everything we saw. The iOS and iPad releases are missing a few of the power user features present in the Android version, but they do come with a few extras like sortable server favorites. Overall the smartphone apps are easy to use and just as easy to customize, even on a tiny touch screen.

Performance

In the modern age, higher connection speeds generally equate to a more pleasant user experience. An unfortunate reality of using a VPN is that you sacrifice some speed for the security features it offers. However, the best providers make a significant effort to mitigate this tradeoff, offering a still-seamless online experience.  So how does IPVanish stack up? Read on!

IPVanish’s Server Network

The size of a VPN’s server network can have a direct impact on your internet experience. More locations means more options when you need to bypass geo-restrictions on videos and websites. It also means better server availability to help you avoid crowded nodes and laggy connections. IPVanish has an incredibly large and diverse network of over 850 servers in 60 different countries with a shared 40,000 IP addresses between them. It’s one of the largest in the business, and IPVanish isn’t afraid to flaunt it.

A couple of especially strong points in the network are 150+ servers on the U.S. west coast, broad coverage over of all of Europe, additional servers in the central U.S., and a lot of options in southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong, and Japan. A clear advantage with all of these cities is that IPVanish has tons of servers at almost every location. Joining a Los Angeles node, for example, will automatically connect you to the fastest of 77 servers in the area.

Testing IPVanish’s Speed – Our Methodology

An unfortunate drawback to using any VPN service is that you’ll likely experience speeds between 10 and 25% slower than what you’re used to. Encryption overhead plays a big role in this, as does physical distance between you and the VPN’s network. The quality of the service itself can go a long way to curbing this drawback, however, which is why it’s important to go with reliable VPNs that put a high priority on fast downloads.

When testing an internet connection for speed there are dozens of variables that can get in the way. Local hardware limitations are always a factor, as is server load, ISP issues, and so on. You can run the exact same tests at the same time on different days and receive completely different results. For this reason, it’s nearly impossible to use speed test numbers as the final say in any VPN test.

To make our results as reliable as possible we deployed four unique tests three times each throughout the day. Each one used a different method for recording and gauging speed. We always tested our raw ISP speed immediately before the VPN’s speed, and when connecting to the VPN we chose the closest server and used the fastest protocols available. For IPVanish this meant OpenVPN UDP on port 1143, as configured through the desktop software.

Below is an overview of the tests we used to measure the IPVanish network:

  • VPN Speed Test #1 – We downloaded a series of 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 MB files in quick succession, all of which were served by a content delivery network that automatically detects and adjusts location.
  • VPN Speed Test #2 – A ten-minute test where we downloaded a 100 MB file from the same server once every 60 seconds.
  • VPN Speed Test #3 – A basic speed test that connects to a single server to record the best upload and download speeds.
  • VPN Speed Test #4 – We streamed three different 4K-quality videos while comparing overall bandwidth speeds, buffer sizes, and dropped frames.

IPVanish Speed Test – Results

IPVanish bills itself as a fast and secure VPN well suited for torrents and movie streams. We followed the methodology above and used the software’s fastest port and protocol options to see how close the actual speed reaches those claims. The results were varied throughout the day, with large spikes and sagging lows but an overall good experience. IPVanish stayed between 40-88% of our ISP’s speed, leaning towards the high end when accessing content from servers closer to our testing location.

The results of our speed tests are below. Keep in mind these results will vary from person to person and day to day, so think of them only as a rough guide.

Multi-file download (Test #1):

Highest recorded ISP speed: 14.59 mb/s

Highest recorded IPVanish speed: 12.91 mb/s

100 MB repeated download (Test #2):

Local ISP – 6.61 mb/s (low) – 6.86 mb/s (high) – 6.77 mb/s average

IPVanish – 2.82 mb/s (low) – 5.61 mb/s (high) – 4.15 mb/s average

Single burst test (Test #3):

Best ISP speed (single server): 56.23 mb/s download, 6.01 mb/s upload

Best IPVanish speed (single server): 23.16 mb/s download, 5.37 mb/s upload

Video streaming (Test #4):

ISP best results: 12.10 mb/s / 2.27 s max buffer / 40% dropped frames

IPVanish best results: 5.44 mb/s / 1.20 s max buffer / 22% dropped frames

Switching to non-ideal servers produced widely variable results, as one would expect. Our speeds dropped in half when connected to the next furthest server, which was more than twice the distance than the nearest node. The lowest network speed was just over 500 Kb/s. That was literally on the other side of the globe, of course, so the result isn’t that surprising.

All in all, IPVanish managed to deliver some great download and streaming speeds, you just need to make sure you’re connected to a strong, nearby server to achieve those top-quality numbers.

They have great servers in Switzerland, no?

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Security

The core offering of any VPN should be enhanced security and privacy while you browse the internet. Features differ from provider to provider, as do the needs of end users, but there are a few core provisions that we feel absolutely must be intact in order for us to make a recommendation of the service. Below we will take a look at IPVanish’s standard and unique features in depth.

Logging Policy

A huge privacy concern with VPNs is the company’s policy on keeping logs. User activity stored in logs can be used to measure efficiency so the service can make network improvements, but it can also be used to track users and match their activity with their real identity. The fewer logs a VPN keeps the better, and a strict zero-logging policy on traffic is an absolute must-have.

Of the five main areas of logging, IPVanish has a firm policy against the most critical information: traffic. This alone is usually enough to keep your activity safe, as it prevents data associated your downloads and streams from getting matched with your account. The areas marked as unknown are not specifically stated by IPVanish in their privacy policy, though even if those logs are collected they’re not much use without traffic information to pair with it.

  • Traffic logs – No
  • DNS request logs – Unknown
  • IP address logs – Unknown
  • Timestamp logs – Unknown
  • Bandwidth logs – Unknown

IPVanish’s Jurisdiction

One of the frequently overlooked features of a VPN service is where the company is legally registered. An entity is bound by the laws of the country where it resides, so if the VPN is in a region with poor privacy regulations, your own privacy could be under threat. One of the key aspects of jurisdiction is whether or not the VPN is required to maintain data logs and keep them hidden from customers. Believe it or not, some governments have laws in place that force VPNs to watch users and share information with various agencies, all without informing customers.

IPVanish is based in Florida and falls under the jurisdiction of the United States. The U.S. doesn’t enforce keeping mandatory data retention logs, which allows IPVanish to craft its own policies for keeping data. The company states that requests for user activity and related information are ignored unless they come from an official, legal, and verifiable source. If the request is to identify a particular subscriber, IPVanish informs the agency that they do not keep logs and are not legally required to do so.

DNS Leak Tests

DNS servers are sets of computers that contain a database of public IP addresses and associated hostnames. When you type a URL into your browser a DNS server translates it into a string of numbers. It’s easier for us to remember word-based addresses like google.com or addictivetips.com, but to find a remote site you need its IP address. DNS servers provide a convenient middle ground so we don’t have to memorize dozens of random numbers just to check our social media accounts.

Connecting to your local internet service provider means using their DNS servers to perform these IP lookups. When you connect through a VPN you use their servers instead of the ISP’s, otherwise it would be easy to match DNS locations to find out where you live. Problems can arise if a device defaults to your local ISP’s DNS servers instead of the VPN’s. DNS leak features in a VPN’s custom software can immediately put a stop to this.

IPVanish features two types of DNS leak protection you can toggle on and off in the options screen: standard and IPv6. The former is found in most VPN software and keeps the classic style of IP address safe and secure. IPv6 is the next generation of IP addresses and will start becoming more common as old IPs are used up. Having IPv6 protection is essentially future proofing your online security.

We tested both types of IPVanish leak protection on several different third-party services using desktop and mobile apps. Each time the results were perfect: no leaks, no problems. IPVanish held true to its name and kept us completely hidden online.

Kill Switch Protection

Using a VPN means allowing their software to manage your entire internet connection. It’s a necessity if you want to hide your identity, encrypt your traffic, and keep your real location a secret. Problems can arise in this process, however, especially in the case of software crashes or sudden disconnects from the VPN. Most operating systems try to immediately reconnect to the internet, which will usually bypass the VPN and go straight to your ISP. To ensure you stay completely safe, most VPNs feature kill switch protection built into their custom apps to put a stop to automatic ISP reconnects.

IPVanish has an excellent kill switch feature. It’s not turned on by default, so as soon as you open the software make sure you go to Settings > Connection and tick the box next to “kill switch”. When it’s active you’ll see a note just below the green “on” button in the corner of the screen. With the kill switch active you can manually disconnect and switch servers as normal, but in the event of a force disconnect it immediately puts a plug in your network connection so nothing gets out.

We tested the IPVanish kill switch by force closing the connection externally. The software instantly locked down the unsecured connection to prevent all internet access. With the “automatically reconnect” option enabled, it even reconnected to the fastest server moments after the disconnect.

Encryption and Security Protocols

IPVanish secures all data on all platforms with 256-bit AES encryption, an incredibly strong form of cryptography that’s practically unbreakable. It also defaults to the OpenVPN protocol for a good balance of speed and security. This combination is a great foundation for strong online privacy, but IPVanish goes a few steps further to provide more options for better security.

IPVanish sets the default protocols and ports to the optimal settings for most users. In fact, you probably won’t need to change them unless you encounter connection problems or notice a significant drop in speed. If you do, though, IPVanish gives you a nice variety of options:

  • OpenVPN TCP – The default setting that provides good speeds and good security for the vast majority of users.
  • OpenVPN UDP – Usually the fastest option and certainly the most balanced between security and speed. May not work with some networks, however.
  • L2TP/IPSec – Not as secure as OpenVPN, but it’s fast and lightweight and works with a lot of non-standard devices.
  • PPTP – Not as reliable, fast, or secure as the other options. Should only be switched on if you can’t access the internet through the above methods.

In addition to the protocols above, IPVanish lets you choose two common ports for OpenVPN traffic. If the default doesn’t work or if your ISP is throttling you, simply switch, reconnect, and see what happens.

  • Port 1194 – The default OpenVPN port that should work for most people.
  • Port 443 – A port reserved for secure traffic. Especially useful for bypassing throttling efforts or tough censorship firewalls.

Using IPVanish in China

The Great Firewall of China is the nickname given to the strict censorship and site-blocking efforts deployed by the Chinese government within the country’s borders. If you live in China or are visiting the mainland, you’ll find your internet access is severely restricted. That means no Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, and so on. There are ways to bypass these restrictions to access an open and free internet, however, the most effective of which are VPNs.

The Chinese government has an active program to block VPN services from outside the country. This makes it difficult to use most VPNs, including IPVanish. You won’t be able to access the website, download the software, or connect with the default settings enabled. The good news is IPVanish is powerful enough to offer manual configuration options for reliable internet access in China.

To use IPVanish in China you’ll need to replace parts of the server list with IP addresses instead of named URLs. It doesn’t take long, nor does it require deep technical knowledge. The IPVanish support site offers a step-by-step guide on how to access the uncensored internet in China. All the information you need is there, including instructions for major operating systems and smartphones. You’ll even find illustrated tutorials to walk you through the process.

While you won’t be able to take advantage of the full IPVanish experience in China, there are manual configuration options that can help you keep open and free access while visiting the country.

Netflix Availability

Netflix has started blocking video streaming access to nearly all proxies and VPN services. This affects users around the world and prevents them from changing virtual locations to watch movies from other regions. Nobody is happy about the situation, but VPNs are actively fighting back to provide open access for everyone.

IPVanish was one of the VPNs hit hard by the Netflix ban. Most of the service’s network locations and IP ranges are unable to access either the Netflix site or the Netflix mobile apps. In our tests, however, we did manage to find one server in the U.S. (Las Vegas) that worked without issue. That may not be the case in a month or even a few days from the time of writing of this article, but it does show that IPVanish is actively adding new IP addresses that can slip past Netflix filters before they get blocked.

The Netflix vs. VPN war is an ongoing issue with no clear resolution. New blocks are added on an ongoing basis, and servers that were formerly blocked sometimes spontaneously open up to region-free streams. IPVanish doesn’t have a reputation for being one of the more reliable VPNs for Netflix, but as our test showed, you won’t be completely out of luck.

IPVanish Customer Support

Even with well-built, easy-to-use software at your disposal, you can still run into problems while installing or using your VPN. IPVanish has several methods in place to ensure you can get things up and running as quickly as possible. It starts with a large database of help guides linked directly from their support pages. If you need a hand setting up your device or troubleshooting a common issue, chances are you’ll find a solid answer laid out in an easy-to-follow format.

Along with detailed support guides, IPVanish also features a contact form you can use to get in touch with their customer service team. Staff is available 24/7 to answer any question you might have, though depending on their workload there may be delays, usually just a few hours but sometimes as much as a full day. IPVanish doesn’t currently offer a live chat feature for customer support.

IPVanish – Pricing and Plans

All the speed and privacy features in the world suddenly fade to the background when it’s time to think about price. Fortunately, the VPN market is extremely competitive, driving costs down to increasingly attractive lows, especially for long-term subscriptions.

IPVanish has some of the best rates in the business for monthly and yearly plans. Each one offers unlimited access to all of the features discussed above, including custom apps for all devices, unlimited server switching, no restrictions on torrent downloads, and full access to the entire network of servers.

IPVanish’s plans are backed by a seven-day money back guarantee. It’s the best way to try the service out for yourself, test the speeds, tool around with the software, and make sure it’s the perfect VPN experience to meet your needs.

There’s a neat little money-saving secret you can use when signing up for IPVanish. Open the plans page in one tab, then switch over to another tab. After a few moments you’ll hear a dinging sound. Switch back to IPVanish and you’ll be presented with a special offer: 20% off your first bill on any plan! It’s a nice way to chop a little extra off the initial cost of the VPN.

Addictive Tips readers can snag an exclusive deal with IPVanish. Sign up for 12 months of service and get an incredible 60% off, just $4.87 per month! This plan is also covered by the IPVanish seven-day money back guarantee, making it even easier to get in on a no-risk trial.

IPVanish – What We Liked, What We Didn’t

During our IPVanish tests we got to know the service pretty well. We tried out all of its options, connected to dozens of different servers, used mobile apps and manual configuration, and a lot more. Below are some of our final thoughts about the service.

We liked…

  • Powerful server sort, search, and browsing features, especially in the desktop software.
  • Fantastic software design that neatly walks the line between simple and powerful.
  • Lots of custom security options for extremely reliable privacy protection.
  • Large network of servers provides plenty of locations to connect to.
  • Good burst speeds and great reliability.

We didn’t like…

  • Long waits for customer support can be frustrating, especially if you have a serious issue that needs to be resolved immediately.
  • Unreliable download and streaming speeds on some servers in the network.
  • Your physical location and make or break your speed test results.

Is IPVanish Right for You?

Not everyone needs the same thing from a VPN. Some people want privacy and are willing to sacrifice speed to get it. Others are looking for location variability, powerful software, smart mobile access, and other unique features. No matter your preferences, a few things should always be at the top of your list: privacy and speed. The good news is that IPVanish puts a high priority on both of these features, guaranteeing a solid VPN experience for just about everyone.

IPVanish scored well in every test we performed. The software was a high point of the experience, as it comes with so many useful options we almost didn’t know where to start. Some of the server locations were a little rough around the edges, and the speeds weren’t always as lightning fast as we would have liked. Outside of those bumps, however, IPVanish delivered a seamless experience on both desktop and mobile. If you need privacy and don’t want to compromise on speed, this is the VPN for you.

 

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