(Editors’ Note: IPVanish is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
What Is a VPN?
When you connect to the internet via a VPN, all your web traffic is routed to a VPN server through a secure, encrypted tunnel. This means that someone spying on your local network, say at a coffee shop, won’t be able to see your online activities. A VPN also hides your real IP address, making it harder to track you across the web. Even your ISP will have a hard time gathering and selling your data when you use a VPN.
While VPNs go a long way toward improving your privacy on the web, they won’t protect you from every ill. I strongly recommend installing antivirus on all your devices, enabling two-factor authentication on all your accounts, and using a password manager to create a unique and complex password for every site and service.
Pricing and Features
IPVanish has a simple pricing scheme with just three options, all of which have the same features. The service costs $10.00 per month, or $77.99 billed annually. You can alternatively opt to pay $26.99 every three months. As is the case with most VPN services, it offers a variety of special deals and discounts.
That’s slightly below the average monthly price of $10.10 for a VPN and just a hair over the average annual rate. Many services will charge much more than the average, but if they back up that price with a lot of features, then it’s still a good value. IPVanish has little to offer besides basic VPN protection, making it a decidedly average offering, feature-wisem, so the price makes sense. Some VPNs go far below the average. Mullvad (an Editors’ Choice winner) notably, sticks to its single pricing tier of €5 per month ($5.63, as of writing).
If price is a major concern, consider looking at a free VPN, instead. TunnelBear offers a free subscription, but limits users to just 500MB per month. ProtonVPN has the best free option, placing no data limits on free subscribers. It also has a very flexible pricing, making it extremely accessible.
You can pay for IPVanish with any major credit card or PayPal. If you’re looking to use Bitcoin, prepaid gift cards, or some other anonymous method of payment, you’re out of luck with IPVanish. TorGuard, on the other hand, allows many anonymous payment options. If you ever wanted to use a Subway gift card to buy a VPN subscription, for example, TorGuard is a good option.
Not long ago, IPVanish allowed you to connect up to ten devices simultaneously, which is double the five offered by most VPN services. Just recently, the company has moved to lift all restrictions on simultaneous connections. It joins a handful of VPNs that have chosen to do so. This not only makes IPVanish a good value (you can literally do more for less), the resources need to police these limits often come at the cost of customer privacy.
Nearly all VPNs allow the use of BitTorrent and P2P file sharing on their networks, although some do restrict the activity to specific servers. If you’re a heavy downloader, you’re sure to appreciate the freedom and flexibility of IPVanish, which doesn’t restrict BitTorrent at all.
Some VPNs say they will block ads at the network level, but IPVanish makes no such claim. With mutlihop connections, a VPN can bounce your connection through a second server to make it even harder to track and intercept, but IPVanish does not offer multihop connections, nor does it provide access to the Tor anonymization network.
There are many ways to create a VPN connection, but I prefer the OpenVPN protocol. It has a reputation for speed and reliability and is open-source, meaning that its code has been picked over for potential vulnerabilities. IPVanish supports OpenVPN (TCP or UDP), as well as IKEv2—another good choice. The service also has legacy support for L2TP and SSTP, but I don’t recommend using either unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The heir apparent to OpenVPN is WireGuard, another open-source VPN protocol. This technology is new enough that it is just starting to see the start of widespread adoption. IPVanish does not support WireGuard currently, which isn’t a problem now but likely will be in coming years if it doesn’t add the protocol.
Note that many developers opt to not include OpenVPN in their iOS apps because Apple treats such apps with exceptional scrutiny. IPVanish is one example of a developer that has not included OpenVPN, opting instead for IKEv2 on iOS devices.
Servers and Server Locations
When it comes to evaluating a VPN company’s server fleet, I value geographic diversity because it means lots of options for location spoofing and assurance that there should be a nearby server for faster, more reliable connections.
IPVanish boasts servers spread across 55 countries, which is slightly more than last year. While ExpressVPN leads the pack with 94 countries, IPVanish has excellent geographic diversity. The company offers servers in Africa and South America—two continents that are often completely ignored by VPN companies. IPVanish does not, however, offer servers in regions with more oppressive internet restrictions, such as Turkey or Russia. It does offer servers in Hong Kong.
The total number of servers a VPN company provides is obviously linked to how many subscribers it serves—more subscribers, more servers. It’s not necessarily a marker of quality service. Still, IPVanish currently offers a respectable 1,300 servers. ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, and TorGuard VPN can boast over 3,000 servers apiece, while CyberGhost and NordVPN offer over 5,000 servers.
A virtual server runs on physical server hardware, but it is software-defined, meaning that several virtual servers can exist on a single physical server. Sometimes, virtual servers are configured to appear as if they are operating in a different country than the hardware on which they operate. This can be an issue if you’re concerned about the specific locations through which your data travels, but it has its upsides. Virtual servers mean companies can quickly adapt to meet demand and can use physical hardware in safe locations to serve regions that aren’t as secure.
My feeling is that virtual servers are fine, as long as they’re used transparently. That’s a nonissue with IPVanish. A company representative tells me that IPVanish simply doesn’t use virtual servers.
Your Privacy With IPVanish
When you use a VPN, it has as much insight into your internet activity as your ISP. That’s why it’s important to understand the information any VPN service may collect and how they use it. In general, the best VPN services collect as little as possible, and share even less.
IPVanish operates under Mudhook Marketing, LLC, which is part of NetProtect company, which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of J2 Global, Inc. As previously noted, J2 Global owns PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Media. IPVanish is based in the US. A company representative tells me that while it does respond to valid requests from law enforcement, it has no user data to supply. Some VPN companies use a foreign base of operations to add another layer between them and law enforcement requests. In general, I don’t feel qualified to make a judgment about the security implications of a VPN being based in a particular country. Instead, I encourage readers to educate themselves on the issues and go with a product with which they feel comfortable.
The company tells me it owns the majority of its server hardware, but does lease servers in some locations. IPVanish has also made efforts to prevent unauthorized access to its infrastructure, such as deploying two-factor authentication internally and requiring approval from multiple individuals for code changes. That’s good, but it’s worth noting that other companies have taken great efforts to secure their infrastructure and harden their services against potential attacks. This is an increasingly important issue in the VPN industry, and has led several companies like ExpressVPN and NordVPN to transition to RAM-only servers, which are resistant to tampering.
In an effort to establish their trustworthiness, some VPN companies have begun releasing the results of commissioned audits. NordVPN had its no-log policy audited, and TunnelBear has committed to releasing annual audits of its service. IPVanish has not undergone a third-party audit, although a company representative tells me it carries out its own internal audits regularly. The company also does not issue a transparency report, outlining its interactions with law enforcement, nor does it have a warrant canary. Audits and reports are not a guarantee of quality, however, and may be creating more problems than they solve. But undertaking them in a meaningful way is still valuable.
Hands On With IPVanish
The IPVanish application installed quickly and easily on my Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH test PC running the latest version of Windows 10.
The IPVanish app has kept its hacker-chic black-and-green color scheme from older versions, but it’s not obnoxious. The service was snappy and responsive in my testing, although I think many people will find its numerous pulldowns and menus intimidating. TunnelBear offers an excellent, whimsical app in bright yellow that makes the task of getting online quickly a breeze.
IPVanish is centered around a chart that shows your online traffic, which isn’t particularly useful. A green Connect button in the upper right corner will get you online immediately. I appreciate the simplicity, but I wonder if first-time users will understand that the app is ready work immediately.
Pull-down menus at the bottom let you select the country, city, and specific server of your choosing. All of these are set to the Best Available option by default. I do like that you can drill down to country, city, and even individual server right from the main screen.
Tabs down the side of IPVanish’s Windows app let you access account information, advanced settings, and a full server list. I especially like that the server list is searchable, and that it can be filtered by available protocol, country, and latency time. The number at the right shows the number of servers in a given country, and a five-dot symbol that approximates latency—you can hover your mouse to see the precise mb/s measurement. With a click, each section expands to show the specific servers, ping time, and load percentage. While most people probably won’t need this level of detail, it’s useful if you’re looking for servers in a particular location. If you find a server that works well for you, you can click the star to add it to your favorites.
There’s also a map view, but it’s not on by default. Other services with more emphasis on user interface design put maps at the forefront. It’s easy to dismiss this as mere window dressing, but if you’re having trouble connecting to a specific country, a map makes it simple to identify nearby alternatives.
Beyond selecting a VPN protocol, the app offers little in terms of network customization. There is a Kill Switch that blocks access to the web unless the VPN is connected, and the app can be configured to connect automatically on startup. You can also toggle access to LAN traffic on or off, letting you communicate with devices on your local network. These are useful, but anyone looking for total control over their network connection, or advanced tools like port forwarding, should look to a product like Private Internet Access to scratch that tinkering itch.
Some VPNs may leak your personal information, like your real IP address or DNS information. In my testing, I confirmed that my IP address was changed and my ISP information hidden. Using the aptly named DNS Leak Test tool, I confirmed that IPVanish doesn’t leak DNS information. Note that I tested only one server. Other servers may not be correctly configured.
IPVanish and Netflix
The location-spoofing abilities of a VPN make it a popular choice for accessing streaming content in other countries. In order to enforce these kinds of geographically sensitive deals, Netflix and other streaming services tend to block VPN users.
While using IPVanish, I found I was able to access Netflix with ease. That could change at any time, since the VPNs for watching Netflix are in a cat-and-mouse game with the streaming service.
Many VPN companies have begun including additional security features that go beyond what a VPN provides. Ad blocking and malware protection are typical additions, as are static IP addresses. IPVanish does not offer additional services. TorGuard, on the other hand, has a remarkable slate of static IP addresses of various flavors that are less likely to be blacklisted among other add-ons.
Some VPNs have greatly expanded their offerings to include password managers, like Remembear, and encrypted file lockers, like NordLocker. Hotspot Shield comes with a Pango account that grants access to other privacy-protecting services for free. IPVanish does offer 250GB of backup space and syncing through SugarSync, another J2 property.
Speed Test Results
VPN services usually cause slower download speeds, slower upload speeds, and increased latency. To get some kind of feel for what kind of impact a VPN makes on web browsing, We take a series of speed measurements using Ookla’s Speedtest tool with and without the VPN running, and find a percent change between the two. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.) How we test VPNs has all the nitty gritty details.
In our tests, we found that IPVanish performed well across the board, placing it among the top nine fastest VPNs. My results showed that IPVanish decreased download speed test scores by 66.2 percent, and decreased upload speed test scores by 52.5 percent. It increased latency by 62.4 percent.
You can see how IPVanish compares in the chart below with the other eight top performers among the approximately 40 services we tested.
For now, I consider Hotspot Shield VPN the fastest VPN because it had the smallest impact on download speeds and latency. Surfshark, however, nabbed the top upload speed test results, and is close behind in the other categories. That said, I don’t recommend choosing a VPN on speed alone. Rather, consider the features, value, and trust that a service offers.
IPVanish on Other Platforms
You can configure most any device to use IPVanish’s services, but the company also offers native apps for Android, Chromebooks, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. IPVanish does not offer browser plugins, as many competitors do. It does, however, support an app for Amazon Fire TV.
The company’s website offers specific instructions for configuring devices, as well as Windows Phones and routers, to work with IPVanish. Putting a VPN on your router might sound strange, but doing so secures all the traffic flowing through the router, including devices that can’t have VPN software installed locally. If you’re interested in having a VPN router, but you don’t want to set it up yourself, IPVanish has partnerships with retailers to provide preconfigured routers.
A Well-Balanced Offering
IPVanish offers excellent value for money. It charges an average price, offers no limit on the number of simultaneous connections, and grants access to 1,300 servers with good geographic diversity. That needs to be balanced against IPVanish’s aging app design, and—more importantly—a lack of detail in the company’s privacy stance. The company seems to be doing a good job protecting its customers’ privacy, but there’s little documentation and no audits or reports to prove it. IPVanish already has a solid core, it just needs to present itself a little better.
IPVanish VPN Specs
|Allows 5+ Simultaneous Connections||Yes|
|Geographically Diverse Servers||Yes|
|Server Locations||55 Countries|