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Buffered VPN for Android review: An easy-to-use, speedy VPN

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
9.45
per month, or £71.99 for 12 months

It's fast, effective and easy to use, but lacks the high-end features and polish of the leading brands

Pros 
Simple interface
Fantastic server speeds
Netflix US and Comedy Central access
Cons 
Expensive compared to similar VPNs
Annoying upgrade ads
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Buffered has established itself as a simple, effective VPN, but until recently it’s been missing one thing: an easily accessible mobile app. True, users have been able to sideload an Android APK for over a year, but this isn’t something many users feel comfortable doing, particularly when the risks of sideloading an unknown app can be so high. Now you can hop to the Google Play store and get Buffered running on your phone or tablet in the tried-and-trusted, Google-approved way.

Here Buffered isn’t playing the same game as some VPN providers. There’s no free option to get you to try the service on for size and no Android-only plan at a knockdown discount. Instead, Buffered VPN for Android works on the same multi-device plan as the desktop VPN, with prices starting at fairly hefty $12.99 per month, paid monthly, but dropping to $7.62 if you pay $99 for a year upfront, as Buffered throws in an extra month gratis. That’s not particularly cheap in a world where some providers are now charging less than $80 for a two-year plan, but it’s still far from expensive.

Buy now from Buffered

Setup and basic use

Simplicity is one of Buffered’s big selling points on desktop, and the same applies on Android too. The main interface consists of little more than a long list of server locations, and all you need to do is tap and connect. This means you don’t get the guided experience you get in some VPN apps, where you’re asked what you want to do and let the app make the right choice for you, but it’s very quick and easy.

There’s a tab for recent connections and you can also favourite your most useful servers for easy access. Our biggest grumble? Pay monthly and the bottom of the screen is taken up by a nagging note to upgrade to an annual plan; a bit annoying when you’re already a paying customer.

Once you’ve launched a VPN, the screen changes to give you info about the connection, including bandwidth used on uploads and downloads and real-time upload and download speeds. Tap the Tools button and there’s an integrated speed test, which gives you average and maximum download speeds. Cynically, I expected the figures to be boosted, but the app gave me a lower average speed than the Ookla Speedtest app, though a much higher maximum speed. The real-time upload and download speeds don’t seem quite so accurate, occasionally reading zero even though I was actively streaming music. All the same, they’re still useful if only as a rough idea of speeds.

Server locations

With servers in 41 countries, Buffered VPN doesn’t have the largest network, but you get solid coverage across Europe, the Americas, India, Asia and Australasia. Coverage isn’t so great in Africa or the Middle East; only South Africa has servers, but for general streaming, security and unblocking requirements there should be a high-speed server within reach. Arguably the most important thing is ample servers in the US for streaming purposes or in countries that prioritise Internet freedom, like the Netherlands, Norway or Switzerland. Here Buffered VPN does well, with no queuing for servers or poor connection speeds.

Performance

Here Buffered VPN comes up trumps, with excellent speeds for an Android VPN. We’ve seen faster UK to UK VPN connections, with speeds dropping by around 22%, but a connection to the Netherlands was actually faster, giving us 96% of our VPN-less downstream speeds. Even with a UK to US VPN, we still had speeds of nearly 60% of the regular download speed, where most VPNs hit in the 35% to 50% range.

Buffered also does well for security and anonymity. DoILeak.com’s tests picked up no IP or DNS leaks bar the WebRTC leak that’s part and parcel of the Android Chrome browser, and which few VPNs manage to patch. What’s more, both Comedy Central and Netflix US were happy to stream through a US VPN; a test that many bigger name VPNs fall short on.

Buy now from Buffered

All the same, we have a couple of quibbles. On our main test device – a Moto G4 Plus that’s worked with dozens of VPNs, trouble-free – Buffered VPN often hung while attempting to disconnect, requiring a manual shutdown of the VPN and app. This wasn’t the case with a second device, but it still left us with a few concerns.

Extra features

Bar the built-in speed test, Buffered isn’t exactly big on tools and features. There’s no killswitch, killing all connections on a VPN disconnection, and no split tunnelling, where some apps run through the VPN and some not. If these are must-haves for you, look elsewhere.

Privacy and Security

Buffered VPN is based in Hungary, out of reach of the main Five Eyes and Nine Eyes intelligence alliances. The company claims a strict no-logging policy but is affected by Hungary’s EU data-retention laws. That makes it a pretty safe bet for privacy, though not quite as safe a bet as VPNs based in territories without any logging and retention legislation.

Verdict

Buffered VPN has a lot going for it. It’s fast, effective and easy to use, and we like the built-in speed tests and speed meters. However, we’d like to see a few more advanced features, some more attractive pricing for Android-only users, not to mention teething troubles like the hang on disconnection fixed. Right now, it’s an Android VPN with potential, but not quite up there with the best.

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