Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are increasing in popularity due to the ever-eroding nature of online privacy. A VPN can be best described as an encrypted tunnel that protects your data as it moves between your device and the open internet. Not only that, it also helps keep you anonymous while you go about your business.
There are many VPNs on offer, but that doesn't mean they're all equal. IPVanish is a leading VPN provider, thanks to a lack of log keeping, a long list of servers, and snappy performance. Read on for more information about IPVanish and whether or not it's right for you.
IPVanish plans and pricing
One of the first things to look for when shopping for a VPN service is the price. IPVanish has three plans to choose from:
A one-year plan to IPVanish is the cheapest deal you can get, costing $6.49 per month but billed annually at $77.99. If you don't need a year's worth of VPN — like if you're taking a trip and need it for hostels and cafes — you can grab a three-month deal at $8.99 per month that's billed once for $26.99.
Just want to give IPVanish a try? Anyone using the iOS app can take advantage of a free trial. There is, unfortunately, no lifetime plan available, something many of us look for when shopping a VPN.
Compared to other VPN services, IPVanish has an average price. For example, you can grab a yearly subscription to Private Internet Access VPN for $3.33 per month, billed yearly at $39.95. That's about half of what IPVanish costs. On the other hand, IPVanish is significantly cheaper than a yearly plan to ExpressVPN, which costs about $100.
IPVanish has a decent amount of payment options, including credit card, Bitcoin, PayPal, and more, but most gift cards are not accepted, which is somewhat of a downer if you value anonymity throughout the entire process. If you're looking for a completely anonymous transaction, be sure to go with Bitcoin.
IPVanish security protocols
IPVanish, like any good VPN service, takes security seriously, and they offer the full gamut of connection protocols, including OpenVPN — both UDP and TCP — L2TP, or IPSec. If you're using an iOS device, you're limited to using IPSec and IKEv2 protocols.
IPVanish treats their OpenVPN protocol properly, offering 256-bit AES encryption, authentication by means of SHA-256, and a handshake with RSA-2048. This is rock-solid protection and you should feel comfortable using it.
On top of having a secure OpenVPN protocol, IPVanish provides users with a few extra options. You can choose which port to use for OpenVPN, and there's a scramble option that effectively hides the fact that your traffic is encrypted. That's a welcome option and not something you see every day. Note that these options aren't available on iOS because of the lack of OpenVPN.
The only downside that we can write about when it comes to IPVanish's security is that they're based in the United States. This might turn a lot of users away in favor of a VPN service located somewhere that doesn't have such aggressive intelligence agencies.
IPVanish has an impressive set of features that users can take advantage of. You can have five devices connected simultaneously to VPN servers, and you don't have to worry about running out of bandwidth; you can use their service all you want without hitting a cap. Considering you can also configure a router with IPVanish, you're effectively locking down a ton of other devices in your home.
There are more than 850 servers you can connect to in more than 60 countries, with more than 40,000 shared IP addresses. No matter where you are, you're likely going to get a speedy connection. There's also no limit on how many times you can switch servers in a set amount of time, so you can click around until you find a good speed.
Some of the features that you'll see settings for in the macOS client include automatic IPv6 leak protection, automatic DNS leak protection, a kill switch that stops all traffic if the VPN goes down, and an automatic IP address changer that can be set to change at a timed interval of your choosing.
Rounding out the features is a SOCKS5 web proxy for VoIP, as well as the ability to torrent over the IPVanish network, something I'm sure many of you will love. Even if you're using a P2P network for legal purposes, many outside entities have a hard time distinguishing between legal and illegal. It would be a shame to have your name on a list somewhere.
Update: I was able to get Netflix working with IPVanish in order to unlock content in other countries.
IPVanish's stance on user activity logs
Because IPVanish is situated in the U.S., it's hard to tell whether they'll ever be pressured by an outside agency to cough up information. It seems that everything is currently running smoothly, but that could change without us knowing, and by that point, it would be too late.
Setting up and using the IPVanish app
Getting everything set up on MacOS is pretty much painless. Assuming you've already chosen a subscription plan and have created an account, all you have to do is navigate to their website, download a 6.7MB file, and install the app. Once it's running, you can immediately click a large Connect button that hooks you up with a VPN server.
Upon your first time connecting, you'll be alerted that there's an IPVanish Helper Tool that must be installed before continuing. You must enter your Mac's password to allow it to work. Not a big deal, but a step not required on other platforms.
The user interface is, by default, set to a dark or night view — text is white or green while the background is slate. I don't mind this at all and enjoy seeing it from the start, but if you have a hard time reading the text this way, you'll be disappointed that you can't swap the colors around for a standard app view.
On the Quick Connect page, you have displayed your real location with your real IP address, a graph that shows network performance, a box with information regarding the connection you currently have going, and a few dropdown menus where you can choose which country, city, and server you'd like to connect to.
In most cases, I didn't stray far from the Quick Connect menu because it has almost everything I need. However, when you really want to tweak your connection, you can head into the Server List menu, which contains a list of servers you can sort by country, city, or number of servers. You can also search through the servers if you have one in mind, and there is a favorites list you can add to.
There is a map view that can be used to connect to servers, but I didn't find myself using it very much and didn't find it as attractive as some other services offer, like NordVPN. Finally, there is a filter tab where you can nail down a collection of servers based on connection protocol, country, and latency. This helps if you're an advanced user and really know what you want, but can be pretty much ignored by most novice VPN users.
The iOS app follows the same setup as the macOS app, albeit laid out a bit differently. The only thing missing is a map view of servers, something that really isn't missed that much. Overall, the iOS app is streamlined and easy to use, and again I didn't find myself leaving the Quick Connect menu too often.
Overall, the IPVanish client is about as easy as they come. If you're a novice user, you can stick with the Quick Connect menu and trust that your connection is secured, but there are also a bunch of settings that can be quickly changed behind the scenes, something advanced users will love.
IPVanish speed and performance
IPVanish doesn't put any limits on bandwidth, so you don't have to worry about hitting a cap and having everything slow down. IPVanish claims they deliver the best VPN speeds, so we put it to the test.
Using a wired Ethernet connection on my iMac with macOS Sierra, I used Ookla Speedtest to test with and without IPVanish enabled. I tried a domestic connection in Canada, a close international connection in the U.S., and finally a far international connection in Australia. An OpenVPN (UDP) protocol was used.
First test (Mid-morning)
|No VPN||18 ms||26.81 Mbps||2.36 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (Canada)||81 ms||21.57 Mbps||2.16 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (United States)||133 ms||23.13 Mbps||2.24 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (Australia)||440 ms||17.27 Mbps||2.06 Mbps|
Second test (Late afternoon)
|No VPN||18 ms||26.65 Mbps||2.36 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (Canada)||91 ms||22.27 Mbps||2.21 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (United States)||145 ms||19.90 Mbps||2.18 Mbps|
|IPVanish recommended server (Australia)||440 ms||10.17 Mbps||2.09 Mbps|
Connecting to or switching between servers is snappy. It takes no longer than a couple of seconds to connect, which can't be said for many other VPN providers. While in my testing it might not have the actual fastest speeds when connecting through the recommended servers, there are many factors that contribute — my location, the location of the Ookla server, and the load on the VPN server all come into account. I don't think the claim of having the best VPN speeds would hold up under heavy scrutiny, but overall I was pleased with the performance.
IPVanish customer service
When it comes to getting help with any problems, you have two options. You can search through an extensive library of guides and how-tos on the IPVanish website, or you can send an email directly to support staff. I sent a test email with a phony problem, and I received an answer faster than I was expecting.
There is no live chat option, so don't expect a quick conversation, but, in my experience, you should have someone helping you out within an hour.
IPVanish review conclusion
Not only is IPVanish's Quick Connect menu suitable for novice users, there's also a host of settings in the background that advanced users will love. There are over 850 servers in more than 60 countries, and you'll be using one of 40,000 shared IP addresses. Tack on a lack of log keeping and secure connection protocols, and you have a very strong option. The only thing that makes me wary about IPVanish is their primary U.S. location.
- Strong encryption.
- Works on plenty of devices, including Tomato routers.
- Consistent performance.
- Lots of servers in lots of countries.
- Located in the U.S.
- No live support.
We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Mobile Nations. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
By Tammy Rogers