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Proton VPN review: An impressive VPN that goes the extra mile to protect your privacy

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £4.31
/mth, 24-month subscription

It’s pricier than other VPNs, but Proton VPN’s privacy credentials are hard to beat


  • Superb privacy and security features
  • Great connection speeds
  • Unblocked all the streaming services we tried


  • No live support at weekends
  • Interface may be daunting to less technical users
  • Comparatively pricey

If you’re looking for a country with a strong tradition of individual privacy, you can’t do much better than Switzerland, where Proton is based. The company offers a range of privacy-first services, including the encrypted Proton Mail messaging platform, secure calendar and cloud-storage offerings, and this comprehensive VPN service.

Proton VPN doesn’t rely solely on Swiss law for its privacy protections. It includes numerous technical features designed to conceal your identity and activity, including multi-hop “Secure Core” connections and an option to route traffic through Tor – this is a service that’s serious about privacy.

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Proton VPN review: Price and competition

Proton VPN can be used on a single device completely free of charge. There are no data caps or annoying ads, and you can choose between server locations in Japan, the Netherlands and the US. It’s a fantastic option for covering your online tracks, but note that free users are blocked from streaming video over the VPN, or sharing files via BitTorrent.

Moving up to a paid-for subscription unlocks these services, and gives you access to the full range of servers in 65 countries. Up to ten simultaneous connections are supported, with clients available for all the major desktop and mobile platforms, plus Amazon Fire TV devices and router configurations. A monthly subscription costs €9.99, or just over £8.50 at current exchange rates, while annual and two-year packages work out to the equivalent of £5.19 and £4.32/mth.

Those are quite high prices by VPN standards. CyberGhost and PIA both offer two-year deals for under £50, while Atlas VPN offers a whopping 39 months of service for just under £60. However, Proton VPN’s outstanding security credentials might justify the extra cost.


Proton VPN review: What’s it like to use?

The Proton VPN Windows app opens with a sci-fi-style dashboard, centred on a scrollable, zoomable map view that calls to mind the movie WarGames. In the side panel, a Quick Connect button lets you instantly connect to the fastest available server; below it, there’s a scrolling list showing the full range of servers, with icons indicating which ones are preferred for file sharing, video streaming and so on, and a ring icon showing each one’s current load level. Once you’ve connected to a VPN server, the graph below the map shows connection statistics.

While the layout is straightforward enough, getting started can feel a bit clunky. If you want to select a specific server, you can filter the list by typing into the Search field, but the response is extremely laggy. There’s also no way to sort servers by load, so if you want to find the fastest connection in a given country or city you can end up tediously hunting up and down the list, squinting at all the little rings to find the least-filled ones.

Thankfully there is a better way: clicking the Profiles tab opens a page where you can set up one-click shortcuts to the fastest server in a given country, or create profiles that connect to random servers to throw off would-be snoops. Once you’ve defined a few profiles you can launch them from the main window with a click, or activate them directly from the Proton VPN system tray icon – a welcome convenience since the software doesn’t offer any browser integrations.

Above the main server list, you’ll see a button to activate Proton VPN’s Secure Core mode, which replaces the regular location browser with a selection of more than 40 double-hop routes. These cover countries all around the world, but they all pass through at least one privacy-friendly country, creating a legal obstacle for anyone trying to trace your real location. Other buttons control the NetShield filter that attempts to block adverts and malware, plus the kill switch and port forwarding features.

With all these controls, the Proton VPN interface can feel a bit overwhelming, but if you’re looking for advanced features then you’ll appreciate the way it puts everything at your fingertips, with only a few technical options hidden away in the Settings view. You can also simplify the front-end by clicking the little arrow icon that shrinks the app down into a compact view.

We tried out the Proton VPN Android app too – this looks similar to the Windows one but, perhaps wisely, it doesn’t attempt to cram all the same information onto the smaller screen of a smartphone or tablet. Rather, it opens with a plain-looking server list, offering links at the top to switch to the map view or browse your custom profiles. You can also browse Secure Core routes from the main server list, while the kill switch and NetShield features can be configured from the Settings menu. It’s a more bitty experience than the Windows client, but all the same key features are here.

READ NEXT: How does a VPN work?

Proton VPN review: Privacy and security

Proton VPN’s geographic location is a definite plus point for privacy. If agencies outside of Switzerland – such as the UK or US authorities – want to access subscriber details, they first need to prove to a Swiss court that there’s a specific case to be answered. That means you shouldn’t need to worry about casual surveillance.

Even if the court does order Proton VPN to hand over information, it’s unlikely to be holding anything that could expose you. The privacy policy prohibits it from storing any logs of user identities or activity, and independent auditor Securitum has recently confirmed that the company is as good as its word.

Proton VPN also scores strongly on technical privacy measures. We’ve mentioned the Secure Core feature, and some servers connect to the Tor network for secure access to hidden “dark web” sites. Fresh encryption keys are used for every session, so even if a key is compromised, it can’t be used to spy on future activity. The one thing that’s notably missing is an option to automatically engage the VPN whenever you connect to an insecure network – presumably the idea is that you should just have it enabled all the time.

Even the physical locations of the firm’s core data centres have been selected to prioritise security: the one in Switzerland is located in a fallout shelter 1km underground, while its Iceland servers are situated in a former military base.

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Proton VPN review: Performance

Using a VPN always has an impact on performance, but Proton’s “VPN accelerator” claims to give a big boost to download speeds. We tested this on a Windows 11 laptop connected to a 350Mbits/sec Virgin Media fibre broadband line and, we have to say, it’s no slouch.

With the VPN disconnected, Google’s Speed Test tool reported an average download speed of 364Mbits/sec. After we connected to a Proton VPN server in London, the download speed barely changed at all, with Google reporting a rate of 352Mbits/sec. That’s a first-class result, putting Proton VPN effectively on par with IPVanish, IVPN, Malwarebytes Privacy VPN, Mullvad and Surfshark at the top of the performance table.

Proton VPN also achieved excellent connection speeds to the US: after switching to a server based in New York, we got 334Mbits/sec downstream. That really is an exceptional result. Whether you’re browsing at home or away, you should be happy with the bandwidth provided by Proton VPN.

We also tested Proton VPN on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 tablet running Android 13. Again, we were very pleased with its performance: this time the UK server gave us download speeds of 338Mbits/sec, while the New York connection averaged 122Mbits/sec. That last score isn’t quite so impressive, but it’s still fast enough for most things you’d want to do over a US VPN connection.

If you enable the Secure Core feature then a warning pops up that this will have an impact on performance, but we found this wasn’t bad at all: connecting to a server in London via Switzerland still gave us an average download speed of 329Mbits/sec. Even connecting to the US via Iceland gave us a very usable 117Mbits/sec.

The Windows and Android clients also both support split tunnelling, so any apps that don’t need privacy protection can use your regular ISP connection at full speed, while more sensitive connections go via the VPN.

READ NEXT: How to use a VPN

Proton VPN review: Torrenting and streaming

Swiss law permits the downloading of copyrighted movies and music for personal use, and Proton VPN is more than happy for you to use its network for this purpose. It offers servers specifically optimised for file sharing in 18 countries, including high-speed connections to the Netherlands and the US, and options in more remote jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Nigeria.

The Proton VPN website also includes guides to accessing popular video streaming services too. However, we found these weren’t necessary since as soon as we’d connected our Windows laptop to the New York server, we were able to log into Netflix and Disney+ and enjoy their full libraries of US-only content. Even Hulu let us sign in without any quibbling.

Nor did we encounter any hitches when watching BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4 or Now TV via one of Proton VPN’s UK-based servers. That’s great news for travellers wanting to keep up with their favourite shows.

Even better, when we repeated the test using Proton VPN’s Android client, we found that every one of those services – both UK and US-based – worked equally well via their native Android apps. That means you have near-perfect freedom to watch what you want, where you want.

There was just one service where we couldn’t spoof our location: Amazon Prime serves up content based on your registered home address rather than your IP address, so no VPN can unblock its region-restricted titles.

READ NEXT: Best VPN for Android

Proton VPN review: Customer support

Should you hit a problem while using Proton VPN, the website includes an online knowledge base, and there’s also an active a Reddit forum.

However, if you’re looking for interactive help, your options may be limited: there is a live chat service, but it’s only available on weekdays, between 8am and 11pm UK time. Alternatively, you can fill out an email form, but the site warns that you could be waiting one or two days for a response. It’s an acceptable level of support, but look elsewhere and you’ll find there’s no shortage of VPNs offering 24/7 live chat – something worth bearing in mind if you’re not a technical expert.

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Proton VPN review: Verdict

If you’re looking for a VPN to unblock streaming services and share files safely, then Proton VPN works brilliantly. However, we could say the same about several other VPNs: rivals such as Hotspot Shield, Surfshark, and Windscribe will give you a very similar streaming and torrenting experience for a much lower price.

If you’re serious about protecting your privacy though, Proton VPN stands apart from the crowd. It provides a whole stack of protections and advanced features that very few other VPNs can match, yet it remains easy to use and fast enough that you can leave it switched on at all times for complete peace of mind.

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