US-based IPVanish is an appealing VPN provider with a long list of features, including several that you won’t often see elsewhere.
IPVanish has a decent-sized network with 40,000+ shared IPs, and 1,900+ servers (300 more since the last review) in 75+ locations.
Some VPNs give you more, but, the website explains, IPVanish is ‘the world’s only Top Tier VPN service provider’. The company owns and manages its servers rather than renting other people’s hardware, giving it far more control over how the network and servers are set up and run. This also demonstrates a level of resources and expertise which you won’t often see with other VPNs.
IPVanish says all servers are P2P-friendly, and sure enough, we were able to download torrents from all five of our test locations.
A wide range of apps covers Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, even Amazon Fire TV, as well as providing a host of setup guides for routers, Linux, Chromebooks and other platforms.
Feel free to install, configure and set up as many devices as you like – IPVanish has no fixed limits on the number of simultaneous connections you can use. We guess the company might get in touch if you reach 20 and are still going, but that’s still a major improvement on the typical 5 device limit you’ll get with many providers.
The big news since our last review is IPVanish now supports the turbocharged WireGuard protocol. Though if you prefer something else, don’t worry, IPVanish likes choice, too: there’s support for OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, SSTP, and PPTP.
24/7 live chat support is available if you need it, but even here, IPVanish delivers a little more than we expected. There’s phone support, with numbers in the US, UK, Australia, Mexico, Spain, Germany and Brazil.
IPVanish pricing for its VPN service starts with monthly billing at $10.99.
The annual plan looks good value at $4.50 a month, but beware, that’s a special introductory deal. It jumps to $7.50 on renewal.
IPVanish also offers a VPN + Backup plan with 500GB of cloud storage space from SugarSync. It’s only fractionally more expensive, too, at $12 billed monthly, or $5.50 a month for the first year of the annual plan, $9.17 on renewal.
If you make regular use of SugarSync, this looks like an excellent deal. Buy SugarSync direct from the SugarSync site and you’ll pay $18.95 a month for 500GB, so opting for the IPVanish plan saves a pile of cash and gets you the VPN effectively for free.
If you’ve no real need for web storage, though, opting for another VPN provider could cut your costs significantly. Private Internet Access has a 3-year plan that costs just $2.19 a month, for instance – an upfront payment of $79. IPVanish’s VPN-only plan is $53.99 for year one, $89.99 for years two and three; a total of $234.
There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, but be sure to check the small print: it’s for yearly plans only. Monthly-billed plans aren’t eligible.
If you decide to sign up, IPVanish accepts payments via card and PayPal, but there’s no Bitcoin support.
A VPN’s privacy starts with the protocols and encryption it uses to protect your data. IPVanish still supports the old PPTP standard, which is so insecure many providers dropped it years ago. But by default IPVanish also supports the far more capable OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, with WireGuard now available too.
The IPVanish apps go further by giving you an unusual level of control over their OpenVPN setup. The ability to choose your OpenVPN port (1194 or 443) may help you connect, while a ‘Scramble OpenVPN Traffic’ option reduces the chance of your VPN tunnel being detected or blocked in anti-VPN countries such as China or Iran.
The Windows client offers a kill switch, DNS and even IPv6 leak protection to reduce the chance that your traffic or identity might be exposed online.
Privacy pluses elsewhere include the iOS app’s ability to automatically connect when you access public Wi-Fi networks, but ignore others which you feel are safe (home, work, whatever they might be). You can then mostly leave the VPN to turn itself on and off as required, preserving your privacy at all times.
To confirm that the service really does preserve your anonymity, we checked for leaks at sites including IPLeak, DNS leak test and the leak test pages of several competing providers (Astrill’s is a good example, though beware, it’ll say you’re vulnerable even if it doesn’t detect any leaks). None of the tests revealed any issues, with the apps shielding our identity and traffic at all times.
The document goes on to explain how the company collects some data via the website, its registration and payment procedures, but there’s nothing you wouldn’t expect: cookies, website analytics, email address and so on.
There is one not-so-clear exception. The policy says IPVanish uses Google’s Firebase to collect crash information, ‘to understand the source and cause of app crashes, and to develop & improve our Services.’ What might this information include, and what happens to it? The policy doesn’t say, beyond explaining that ‘this data does not link back to any personal identifiable information on our VPN.’
Many apps and services use app crash systems – you’ve probably seen them yourself – but most ask during installation if you’re willing to allow them to operate. The IPVanish Windows app doesn’t do that, and has no setting we could find to tell you if the system is active, or to opt out.
This isn’t necessarily a VPN logging issue, but it could be a privacy problem, as crash data can include plenty of system information: device name or ID, account name, running processes, installed apps, memory dumps and more. It’s not inherently bad – all developers can benefit from app crash information – but we’d like to see more clarity from IPVanish on how Firebase is used, and for the system to be made opt-in (meaning it doesn’t send data unless you specifically give permission for that to happen).
And although the company scores better with its no-logging pledge, customers shouldn’t have to blindly trust any provider’s website promises. VPN providers such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN and TunnelBear have allowed external companies to audit their systems and find out what’s really going on. Hopefully IPVanish – and the rest of the industry – will follow suit.
We measure VPN performance by running several benchmarking services – SpeedTest’s website and command line app, SpeedOf.me, nPerf – from both a UK data center and a US residential location. Both have 1Gbps connections. We run each benchmark five times with OpenVPN, five times using WireGuard, and we do it all over again several hours later (that’s a minimum of 120 tests), then analyze the data to see what’s going on.
UK OpenVPN speeds were disappointing at 140-150Mbps, and the US results were only marginally better at 140-180Mbps. Most of the top VPNs managed somewhere in the 150-300Mbps range in recent reviews, and Hide.me (390Mbps) and ProtonVPN (400-460Mbps) were even faster.
IPVanish turned it all around when we switched to WireGuard, though, with download speeds soaring to 720Mbps from our UK location, 750-900Mbps in the US. Only NordVPN (760-880Mbps) and Mozilla (750-850Mbps) managed anything comparable in recent testing.
Netflix and streaming
IPVanish claims to offer “secure access to all of your favorite streaming sites … uninterrupted from video buffering and lag times.” That’s not always been our experience in previous reviews, but we were keen to see how the service performed this time.
It got us off to a great start, bypassing BBC iPlayer’s VPN defenses and allowing us to stream whatever we liked.
We didn’t have any success with Disney Plus, though it’s not clear why. We tried five US IPVanish locations and weren’t able to log in using any of them. Switching to the app didn’t help: it just told us ‘sorry, something went wrong, please try again later.’ Both errors disappeared when we closed our IPVanish connection, so our best guess is the site had a problem with our IP address.
The story didn’t pick up with US Netflix, where IPVanish failed to get us access with all five test locations. And the bad news continued right up to the end, when Amazon Prime Video detected the VPN and refused to stream anything.
IPVanish directly supports a wide range of platforms, with clients available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Fire TV. There are no browser extensions, but the support pages have setup guides for Chrome and Firefox, as well as tutorials covering routers, Chromebooks, Linux and more.
The app download links are easy to find on the website, and, conveniently, you don’t have to log in to your IPVanish account to access them.
There are no big surprises during the client setup process (or indeed small surprises, for that matter). The Windows and Mac clients install like any other, iOS and Android apps may be installed from their respective app stores, and there’s a bonus direct download of the Android APK file for experts who need more control of the setup process.
If you’re not interested in the official apps, IPVanish has manual setup tutorials for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and others. These aren’t as numerous or detailed as we’ve seen at ExpressVPN, but there’s still plenty of information here. The website has 15 manual setup tutorials just covering Windows, for example, with separate guides for OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IKeV2 setup on Windows 7, 8 and 10, and even a SOCKS5 setup guide for qBittorrent.
If you’ve used several VPNs, you’ll know they’re mostly very similar. There’s a list of locations, a Connect/Disconnect button, a page of settings, and generally nothing much else.
Once again, IPVanish does things differently. Its apps can look more complex than the competition, but that’s mostly because they have so much more functionality.
The opening Quick Connect panel is cluttered, for instance, but there are welcome touches, too. Tap Connect and a status panel displays the protocol, time connected, server name, and data uploaded and downloaded, a level of detail you’ll rarely see elsewhere. The client even displays a good-looking real-time graph of your upload and download speeds. (Essential? Probably not, but you have to applaud the developer’s efforts.)
If you don’t like this interface, one click is all it takes and you’re viewing a more conventional country list. This looks more like other clients, but again, IPVanish has added extra features. A search box enables filtering the list by keyword. You can sort the list by country, load or response time. You’re able to add servers to a Favorites list with a click, and these can be sensibly displayed at the top of the country list, rather than hiding them away on a separate tab.
The app has a truly excellent map interface – probably the best we’ve seen from any VPN provider.
The map isn’t some fixed graphic, for instance – it’s dynamic, and works exactly as you’d expect. You can click and drag to move around, and clicking the zoom buttons or spinning the mouse wheel zooms you in and out, and changes the detail level.
The map also includes genuinely useful information. The default zoomed-out view displays a marker showing 155 servers in the approximate area of California, for instance – double-click this and you’ll be connected to your nearest location. If you’re in the area, though, zoom right in and you’ll see servers in Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix and Las Vegas, and you can double-click on any of these to get connected.
Oh, and if you’re tired of Windows VPN apps with cramped fixed-size map interfaces, no problem – IPVanish’s can be freely resized, or even maximized, allowing you to take full advantage of your display. (That’s not just a benefit for the map, though – it gives you more space in the other panels, too.)
The Settings box has a decent bunch of options. You can switch protocols between WireGuard, IKEv2, SSTP, PPTP and L2TP, as well as OpenVPN TCP and UDP. You’re able to choose an OpenVPN port (1194 or 443). There’s both DNS and IPv6 leak protection. You can define which server IPVanish uses when the client starts, repair the IPVanish OpenVPN driver if it’s affected by another VPN, and view the OpenVPN logs within the interface to troubleshoot problems.
The client’s kill switch isn’t enabled by default, so we turned it on and ran a few tests. The results were excellent in every area: whatever tricks we pulled to break the connection, whatever protocol we used, the client warned us immediately with a desktop notification and reconnected if we’d enabled that option in Settings, without ever revealing our real IP.
The IPVanish Android VPN app opens with a simple Quick Connect screen which displays your current IP and location, lists a target country, city and server, and provides a Connect button to speedily get you online.
The app selects your closest server by default, but you’re also able to set your destination country, the city within that country, or choose a specific server with a couple of taps.
Just like the desktop client, once you’re online the app displays a real-time scrolling graph showing your upload and download data rates. We’re unsure whether there’s anyone who actually needs this, but there’s no doubt it looks better than the usual dull country list.
The app presents some genuinely useful status information along with the fancy visuals: your new IP address, server name, location, time connected, and so on. It’s welcome reassurance that the system is working as you would expect.
The location picker is a standard list (no map), and relatively basic. You’re able to select servers by country or city, but there are no visible ping times or server load figures to help you choose (you can filter by ping time, but this delivered inconsistent results for us). Furthermore, there’s no Favorites system or Recent Servers list to speed up reconnections. Instead, you’re forced to manually scroll to specific servers when you need them, a potential hassle on mobile devices with small screens.
The app has more settings and options than most of the competition. There’s now support for WireGuard, IKEv2 or OpenVPN connections, for instance. You can opt for OpenVPN UDP or TCP connections, optimizing for speed or reliability. There’s a wider choice of ports than you’ll see with the Windows client (443, 1194 and 8443).
A Scramble feature makes it more difficult for networks to detect and block VPN connections. A Split Tunneling feature allows you to select apps you don’t want to use IPVanish; great news if some of your apps don’t work with VPNs. And although the app doesn’t have a kill switch of its own, there is help in setting up the system-level kill switch.
There are some omissions. While many VPN apps can automatically connect whenever you access an insecure network, for instance, IPVanish displays an optional warning and leaves you to decide what to do. That will at least help you stay safe, though, and overall, the app works reasonably well.
The IPVanish iOS VPN app has all the same core elements as the Quick Connect screen in the Windows and Android clients. Browse the simple location list (the old Favorites system has been dropped, unfortunately), connect to your target country or city with a tap, and the app clearly displays your IP address, location and VPN status.
The iOS app beats its Android cousin for visual appeal, though. Its light theme stands out (though there’s also a dark theme available if you need it), we prefer its layout, and this is the only app in the range where the internet traffic graph scrolls smoothly.
The Settings pane looks sparse, at least at first glance. There’s no integrated kill switch to protect your identity, and you only get two significant VPN tweaks: an auto-connect option, and the ability to switch protocol between WireGuard, IKEv2 and IPSEC.
Check out that auto-connect feature, though, and you’ll find a stack of options and controls (essentially, all the goodies we’d like to have seen in the Android app). As well as a basic ‘connect automatically’ setting, you can have IPVanish turn itself off when you’re connected to trusted cellular networks. You’re able to build whitelists and blacklists of wireless networks, so IPVanish knows which connections to protect, and which are safe. You can even compile a list of domains which you’d like IPVanish to automatically protect, so for example you can have the VPN kick in whenever you visit Netflix’s website.
The IPVanish iOS app isn’t perfect, then, but unlike many competitors, it’s not just a basic port of the desktop or Android apps, either. There’s real power here, and we’ll be interested to see how it develops.
If the VPN isn’t working as it should be, the IPVanish Help Center aims to point you in the right direction. A System Status link warns you of any big company-wide problems, support articles are intelligently organized into key categories (Setup, Troubleshooting, Billing, more) and you can search the web knowledgebase for specific keywords.
The articles aren’t quite as polished as you’ll see with NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but they’re not bad, and there’s plenty of information to explore. You don’t just get one or two generic setup guides, for instance – there are multiple tutorials for Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and Linux, as well as guidance on using the system with Chrome OS and various routers, and related advice for Roku, Chromecast and Kodi.
There are more issues with some of the troubleshooting guides. The ‘Slow Speeds And What To Do About Them’ article, for instance, is more than 1,200 words long, but it wastes more than 800 of those on pointless analogies between VPN usage and driving a car. If you were going to the store to pick up ice cream, for instance, you would want to ‘travel via the least congested street possible’ and ‘choose a location that you can check out of quickly’, it explains, while it equates encryption to getting tinted windows to ensure no-one can see inside your vehicle (we’re not kidding).
If you can’t find an answer in the knowledgebase, live chat is available on the website.
We posted a test question, asking which of IPVanish’s supported protocols we should use. A friendly agent replied within a couple of minutes, got straight to the point (no messing around requesting account details or anything else), asked relevant questions and provided useful and accurate information very quickly. That’s a great performance, and a major improvement on the ‘send an email and wait’ approach of some other services (although if you’re happy to send an email, IPVanish supports that, too).
IPVanish review: Final verdict
IPVanish boasts turbocharged WireGuard peformance, highly configurable apps and speedy live chat support to help keep everything running smoothly. But there are some problems, too, and issues with usability and a scattering of smaller glitches are just enough to keep this VPN provider off the top spot.