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StrongVPN review: A fair VPN that’s strong on streaming and easy to use

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2.78
per month (first annual subscription, then £5.17/month)

StrongVPN isn’t our first choice for speed or security, but for most people it’ll do just fine

Pros 
Good value for the first year
Clear, simple, interface
Unblocks most streaming sites
Cons 
Mediocre transatlantic performance
Inconsistent features across platforms
US jurisdiction raises privacy concerns
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If you want to keep your online activity private – or if you want to disguise your location – then you need to use a virtual private network such as StrongVPN. Its lightweight software client lets you securely encrypt your internet traffic and route it through server locations in more than 30 countries around the world. This means you can access video streaming services that aren’t available in your locale, and use file-sharing applications without your ISP being able to spy on your traffic.

Pricing is simple: you can pay £8.33 per month, or sign up for a full year at £33.32, which comes to £2.78 per month. That’s a good price, but be aware that after your first twelve months the annual plan goes up to £62 per year, equivalent to a much less competitive £5.17 per month.

Subscribers can connect from up to 12 separate devices at once, with native client software offered for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Amazon’s Fire OS. Alternatively, if your router supports outbound VPN connections using PPTP or OpenVPN then you can configure it to protect all traffic from all the devices on your network. All accounts come with the bonus of 250GB of online storage from SugarSync, for the duration of your subscription.

If you need support, you can get it via email or 24/7 Live Chat; StrongVPN also offers phone support, but you have to call a US number, which might be on the pricey side for British customers. And if you’re dissatisfied for any reason, annual plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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

The StrongVPN Windows app has a pretty clean front-end. A map of the world instantly shows your current virtual location (or your real one if the VPN is off); below it there’s a location button that you can click to pick a server, and the coloured button below that connects and disconnects the VPN. It couldn’t really be much simpler.

In truth, we think it’s a little too simple. It would have been nice to see a few shortcuts to recent or preferred servers, but StrongVPN doesn’t support that, so each time you want to switch servers you have to bring up the server list and search or scroll for your desired location. The Settings page is quite short on options, too, although it does offer a choice of five different VPN protocols, which will please techies.

The system tray icon could use a little more sophistication, too. You can right-click it to bring up a quick connection menu, but this only lets you connect to whichever server is already selected in the main interface; at the very least it would be helpful to show a reminder of which server that is.

On the plus side, the Android app maintains an admirably consistent look and feel, with a nearly identical layout. For some reason, the connection details and location button have been swapped around, but overall it’s an interface that will take you seconds rather than minutes to get to grips with.

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StrongVPN VPN review: How fast is it?

Tunnelling your internet connection through a remote VPN server inevitably has an impact on performance. To see how fast StrongVPN is, we used the Google Speed Test service on a Windows laptop and an Android tablet, both connected to a 200Mbits/sec domestic fibre line over a Wi-Fi 6 connection.

The results were acceptable but not outstanding. With the laptop connected to a StrongVPN server in London (the same city we’re located in), we saw an average download speed of 171Mbits/sec. For comparison, PIA VPN achieved 187Mbits/sec in the same test, while Hide.me hit 191Mbits/sec.

When we tried a server in New York, speeds fell much further, to 80Mbits/sec. This isn’t unusual for a connection over this distance – we’ve seen similar speeds from CyberGhost and ExpressVPN – but it’s a long way behind NordVPN’s 182Mbits/sec, or the 178Mbits/sec achieved by IPVanish.

Testing on Android yielded much the same results. The London server gave us an excellent 195Mbits/sec, but switching to New York slashed that to 83Mbits/sec.

These speeds are fine for most things you’d want to do online, but it’s frustrating that you don’t get the full benefit of an expensive high-speed fibre connection. And since the server selection page doesn’t show any indication of relative speed, the only way to see if there’s a faster server that might suit your needs is through tiresome trial and error. What’s more, as we’ve mentioned, when you do find a good server, there’s no way to save it for quick access next time.

To be fair, StrongVPN does have a split tunnelling feature that lets nominated apps bypass the VPN and run at full speed, but this is currently only available in the Android app – if you’re using any other platform, you miss out.

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StrongVPN VPN review: Is it good for video streaming?

The speeds above indicate that there’s more than enough bandwidth here for 4K video streaming, even from the US. And it’s no problem to stream from multiple devices at once, as each device gets its own server connection – although this doesn’t apply if you’ve set up the VPN at your router. In that scenario, all your traffic goes over a single connection, and bandwidth could get tight.

StrongVPN also does a good job of unblocking the streaming services you’re most likely to want to use. Connecting to the New York server gave us instant access to the US libraries of Netflix and Disney+, using both Chrome for Windows and the native Android apps. And when using a UK-based server we had no problem watching BBC iPlayer, meaning this is a VPN you can use to keep up with British content from outside of the country.

We did hit a few hiccups, though. BritBox and Now TV worked perfectly through their respective Android apps, but we couldn’t get these sites to play in a laptop browser. It’s also not possible to access US-only content in Amazon Prime Video, but that’s not the fault of the VPN – it’s because Amazon uses your billing address to determine what you’re allowed to watch.

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StrongVPN VPN review: Is it secure?

To help avoid accidental exposure, StrongVPN can optionally enable the VPN as soon as the system starts up. The Windows and Mac clients also include a kill switch function, which freezes all internet access if the VPN connection drops, ensuring that nothing sensitive gets accidentally sent to your ISP.

Disappointingly, though, the kill switch feature isn’t included in the Android app. There’s also no option to engage the VPN selectively depending on which network you’re connected to or which apps are running, nor to use complex multi-hop routing to conceal your location.

Note, too, that StrongVPN is headquartered in the USA, which is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. This means that any information that the company’s holding about you could be obtained by the US authorities and passed back to the UK.

That isn’t necessarily cause for alarm: StrongVPN proudly declares that it keeps no logs of your online activity or connection history – only an email address and a payment method. However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be compelled to collect information in the future. And since StrongVPN doesn’t accept payment via anonymous gift cards or cryptocurrencies, the stored payment method is effectively a confirmation of your identity.

StrongVPN VPN review: Should you buy it?

StrongVPN is a serviceable VPN that’s good value for the first year – especially if you have a use for the bundled cloud storage. It’s very easy to use, and it got us into most geo-restricted streaming sites with zero fuss.

It’s not the fastest VPN on the block, however, and the price hike after your first year is hard to swallow. There are some disappointing gaps in the feature set, too, with no way to save your preferred servers, no split tunnelling on Windows, and no kill switch on Android.

That’s before you consider the fact that the service is based in the USA. Realistically speaking, unless you’re a wanted criminal it’s very unlikely that the FBI is going to spy on your internet connection – but when there are numerous alternatives based in more neutral, privacy-friendly jurisdictions, why take the risk?

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StrongVPN VPN review: Quick facts

Based in:USA
Cheapest price:£2.78/month (first annual subscription, then £5.17/month)
Money-back guarantee:30 days
Devices; Simultaneous12
Servers:950+
Speed:Medium
24/7 customer support:Y
Netflix and Disney+:Y
BBC iPlayer:Y
Torrenting allowed:Y
Killswitch:Windows and macOS only
Multihop:N
DNS leaks:N
Activity logging:N

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