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IVPN review: Fast, powerful and hot on privacy

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
4.11
/mth (annual subscription)

Streaming fans should look elsewhere, but when it comes to privacy IVPN has you well covered

Pros 
Impressive download speeds
Powerful, user-friendly app
Excellent privacy credentials
Cons 
Comparatively pricey
Limited ability to unblock streaming sites
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You might not have heard of IVPN, but there’s a reason for that: the company largely eschews commercial promotions and adverts, seeing them as incompatible with a VPN’s obligations to transparency and accountability.

That’s a rarity in this competitive market, and the subscription model is novel too, with a two-tier approach to suit different use cases. The standard package covers basic VPN connections for two devices, while IVPN Pro supports up to seven devices and adds port-forwarding and multi-hop features.

This gives you a lot of pricing options, including an unusual single-week option that’s ideal for short trips. You’ll pay just $2 (around £1.70) for seven days of standard access, while longer terms get progressively cheaper until a three-year contract works out to roughly £3.25 a month. Pro services start at £3.40 for a week, rising to £6.11 per month over a three-year commitment.

No matter which deal you go for, it’s not a low-cost option: we could reel off ten VPNs with cheaper annual offerings, and if you’re up for a three-year contract then Atlas VPN gives you unlimited connections for less than half the price. Still, we appreciate IVPN’s flexibility, and there are also business plans for teams of different sizes, plus a significant discount for non-profit organisations.

As for coverage, IVPN offers servers in 31 countries, including a good spread of locations in Europe and North America. Those should serve most people’s needs, but if you want to virtually roam further afield your options are limited: the only servers in Asia are located in Hong Kong, Israel and Japan, while South America is represented solely by Brazil – and IVPN has no presence in Africa at all.

IVPN offers native apps for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS that use the speedy WireGuard protocol, and also supports OpenVPN, meaning you can set it up on a wide range of smart TV devices and even some NAS platforms. You can also get around the two-device limit – with IVPN’s blessing – by configuring the VPN on a compatible router.

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IVPN review: What’s it like to use?

The IVPN Windows app is quite clean and clear. It opens with a blocky, stylised map view showing your detected location, along with your visible IP address and ISP. You can free up some desktop space by clicking the Shrink icon to hide the map and reduce the interface to a single vertical panel.

Click the Connect button and by default IVPN will connect to the fastest available server – or, if you have specific needs, you can browse the full server list. This works very slickly, with an instantly responsive type-to-filter field, colour-coded ping times next to each location and a simple star icon for adding servers to your list of favourites. You can sort servers by name, proximity or speed, and a neat feature we haven’t seen in any other VPN is the ability to customise the list of candidates for fastest server – so, for example, you could connect with a click to the fastest server that isn’t in Europe or North America. If you’ve signed up for a Pro subscription you’ll also see a multi-hop option that lets you pick individual entry and exit servers.

Back at the main window, there are also switches to enable the firewall, which stands in for a kill switch by routing all traffic through the VPN, and the optional anti-tracker module that blocks tracking cookies and other privacy-compromising technologies.

Behind the Settings icon you’ll also discover an extensive set of protocol and connection options, firewall rules, split tunnelling and a highly configurable auto-connect feature, which lets you set the VPN to automatically engage when you connect to specific networks, or to untrusted ones.

The experience is very similar on Android, though differently laid out. Here, the map view takes up almost all of the main page, with the server list a tap away. The Settings are combined into a single scrolling page, rather than multiple panes as with the desktop app, but a lot of the same features are here, including auto-connect, anti-tracking DNS, split tunnelling and protocol settings. The firewall is replaced by a simple kill switch, but that’s not a big problem.

In all, whether you’re using it on desktop or mobile, IVPN is one of the most feature-packed VPNs we’ve tested, yet it still feels clean and easy to navigate. We’ve just a few minor gripes: there’s no browser extension for easy server-hopping, but you can connect to any of your favourite servers directly from the IVPN system tray icon. And while most VPNs offer 24/7 live support, IVPN only offers assistance by email, so if you come up with a question you could be waiting hours or even days for a response.

READ NEXT: Our full guide to choosing the best VPN for you

IVPN review: How fast is it?

We tested IVPN’s performance on a Windows 11 laptop connected to a domestic Virgin Media fibre broadband line. With the VPN disabled, the Google Speed Test tool reported an average download speed of 216Mbits/sec via the ISP; when we then connected to a UK IVPN server, download speeds fell only slightly to 200Mbits/sec – a small drop that will realistically have no noticeable impact on a home user.

Even when we switched to IVPN’s New York server, performance held up very well, with average download speeds of 187Mbits/sec. That’s one of the best transatlantic speeds we’ve seen: Hotspot Shield, NordVPN and ProtonVPN were all a touch faster, but in real-world use you wouldn’t notice a difference between any of these services.

We also tested the VPN’s performance on our Android tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 running Android 12. Once again we got an excellent 200Mbits/sec downstream when connected to one of IVPN’s UK servers. US connections are always slower on Android, so it was no surprise to see download rates fall to 117Mbits/sec via the New York server, but in context this is still one of the best performances we’ve seen in this test, the front-runner being ExpressVPN with 124Mbits/sec.

You can also use the split tunnelling feature to make individual apps bypass the VPN for maximum performance, although based on the speeds we’ve seen it might not be worth bothering.

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IVPN review: What’s it like for BitTorrent and streaming?

IVPN fully supports BitTorrent on all of its servers, with no technical restrictions and not even any of the usual disclaimers about copyright infringement. However, users are requested to avoid using US-based servers for torrenting – not because there’s a realistic legal threat, but to save on the administrative burden of processing complaints from copyright holders in that territory.

Things aren’t quite so breezy when it comes to streaming services. We found that connecting to a US server on our Windows 11 laptop enabled us to access the US Netflix library and to log into Hulu. However, we couldn’t get into Disney+ with the VPN active, and none of the major UK streaming services would play while connected to a UK server, making IVPN useless for travellers wanting to keep up with British programmes.

We also had limited success using the VPN to unblock streaming sites on our Android tablet. The native Netflix and Disney+ apps continued to show their UK libraries even when connected to a US server, while Hulu wouldn’t let us log in at all. Tucked away in the settings you’ll find a guide to enabling developer mode and giving IVPN permission to spoof your GPS location to match that of your virtual location, but sadly even this didn’t fool the streaming apps.

There was better news for British services, though: we were able to watch both BBC iPlayer and Now TV through the VPN, although BritBox remained stubbornly unavailable.

READ NEXT: The best VPNs with a free trial

IVPN review: Is it secure?

IVPN is based in Gibraltar – which, the company is at pains to point out, is not the same as being located in the UK. The territory has its own government and laws, isn’t covered by UK surveillance regulations and doesn’t participate in intelligence-sharing alliances. You might still be happier with a VPN based in Switzerland (such as ProtonVPN) or Malaysia (such as Hide.me), but your privacy is likely to be better protected than if you were to use one of the numerous services based in the UK or US.

At any rate, IVPN strives to store as little information about you as possible. On top of the customary zero-logging policy, the VPN doesn’t even store your email address or any details of the IP address you connect from. If you wish, you can choose to pay for the service with Bitcoin or the Monero cryptocurrency, so the company never sees your banking or PayPal details.

As we’ve mentioned, the software comes with numerous technical protections, too. You can configure the VPN to automatically kick in when you connect to an untrusted network, the desktop app offers not just a killswitch but a complete firewall, and Pro users can configure multi-hop routes for extra obfuscation.

What’s more, the IVPN apps are open-source, so if you’re technically minded you can inspect or compile them yourself, and they’re audited annually by independent security specialist Cure53. It’s a little unnerving to note that the most recent tests unearthed a total of eight vulnerabilities, but we appreciate the transparency of the process and the speed with which those issues have been addressed.

IVPN review: Should you buy it?

IVPN is comparatively pricey, especially if you want to access it from more than two devices at once. It also didn’t consistently unblock the various streaming services we tried. That means it won’t suit everyone: if you’re looking for an affordable way to access foreign streaming sites, we’d recommend ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, ProtonVPN or NordVPN instead.

Yet IVPN has some definite strengths. The client apps are powerful yet user-friendly, speeds are close to the best we’ve seen, the operator has a liberal policy on BitTorrent, and you won’t find many VPNs offering such a wide range of subscription options.

IVPN impresses most of all when it comes to privacy and transparency. The operator goes to unusual lengths to ensure your activity can’t be exposed, and the annual app audits provide an extra degree of reassurance. While it’s not the most rounded VPN, IVPN is a very attractive option for those who want to safely share files and sensitive information.

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IVPN review: Quick facts

Based in:Gibraltar
Cheapest price:£3.25/month (36-month subscription)
Money-back guarantee:30 days
Devices (simultaneous)2 (7 with Pro plans)
Servers:Not stated
Speed:Fast
24/7 customer support:N
US Netflix and Disney+:Y/N
BBC iPlayer:Android only
Torrenting allowed:Y
Killswitch:Y
Multihop:Y
DNS leaks:N
Activity logging:N

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