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IPVanish review 2021: A fast and secure VPN for lag-free gaming

Stay anonymous while you browse the web and watch US Netflix from the UK

Steve Hogarty
Tuesday 15 June 2021 12:23
<p>We found this service to be speedy, but what about it’s other features?</p>

We found this service to be speedy, but what about it’s other features?

Once the domain of techies and spooks, VPNs have become mainstream in recent years. They allow you to browse the web anonymously, connect to public wifi securely, and to spoof your location to bypass internet filters and access geo-restricted content on streaming services.

IPVanish is one of the more popular VPNs available, but how does it compare to the best VPNs out there? Founded in 2012, the service is a veteran of the industry and has more than 1,600 servers in 75 countries, placing it somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to server location choices.

The service is particularly useful for internet users who want to appear to be connecting from the US, as the majority of servers are concentrated in North America. A glut of configuration options will appeal to more advanced users who want to tweak things.

On paper, it’s also one of the more secure VPNs we’ve tested. IPVanish says it keeps no logs of user activity and owns 90 per cent of its own servers and data centres, further protecting your information from prying eyes.

A single subscription allows you to use the VPN on as many devices as you like, with apps that work on Windows, macOS, Fire TV, Android, iOS, Chrome OS and Linux. BitTorrent and other P2P services are supported. Bandwidth is unlimited and speeds aren’t capped, and in tests we found IPVanish to be fast and reliable.

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To review IPVanish we tested it on a variety of platforms, measuring speed and checking compatibility with streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. We dug into its privacy policy and its record on data security, and compared the cost of a subscription to similarly featured VPNs.

Read on to find out more about what makes this VPN stand out.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

IPVanish: From £1.86 per month, Ipvanish.com

  • Number of servers: More than 1,600
  • Server locations: More than 75 regions
  • Devices supported: Unlimited
  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Fire TV, Android, iOS, Chrome OS and Linux
  • Pros: Fast connection speeds, highly configurable
  • Cons: Expensive after first month, ugly interface, some streaming services blocked

Price

IPVanish has two price tiers to choose from. The VPN can be paid for on a monthly basis, with the first month costing $3.49, before renewing at $9.99 per month.

The annual membership costs $34.99. That’s a 25 per cent discount on the monthly plan, working out at $2.62 per month. After your first year, the price of the annual plan almost triples to $99.99, which is at the higher end of what VPNs typically charge.

There’s no free trial and payment is upfront, though you can cancel any time within the first 30 days and receive a refund. Payments and refunds are made in US dollars, so if you’re using a different currency you might incur a conversion fee.

You can also choose to add encrypted cloud storage to your plan. IPVanish offers 500GB of online storage by partnering with SugarSync. This bumps the price of the monthly plan up to $3.84 for the first month, renewing at $10.99 per month. IPVanish’s annual membership plan throws in the SugarSync storage for free.

Servers can be sorted by location or by latency

The same 500GB of storage costs £18.95 per month when purchased directly from SugarSync, so IPVanish’s pricing effectively saves you money if you were already planning on using their online storage service.

That said, there are much cheaper cloud storage options out there, and some free alternatives if you don’t need that much space. Dropbox and Google Drive offer 2GB and 15GB of free online storage respectively. Dropbox Plus offers 2TB (2,000GB) of storage for £9.99 per month, while Google One offers 2TB of storage for £7.99 per month.

While SugarSync’s online storage is a nice bonus when bought with IPVanish, unless you have very specific feature requirements, it doesn’t add much value compared to rivals. ExpressVPN also offers one year of free unlimited online storage with its 15-month plan, by partnering with the Backblaze backup service.

Privacy

Your IP address and DNS are two identifying markers that can sometimes still be picked up even when you’re using a VPN, allowing websites and other services to see your true location and other details. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify actively try to uncover this leaked information from VPNs to block users accessing geo-restricted content.

IPVanish passes IP and DNS leak tests, meaning it doesn’t leave traces of your identity or location while you browse.

To test this, we used rival NordVPN’s series of VPN tests, as well as IPleak.net and DNSLeakTest, which confirmed that IPVanish was successfully obscuring our identity as we browsed. IPVanish was also WebRTC secure and prevented IPv6 traffic leaks in our tests.

An exhaustive diagnostics file helps advanced users dig into the details

IPVanish uses AES-256 encryption. Often called “military-grade” encryption by enthusiastic VPN marketers, it’s the most secure standard for transferring and storing data. AES-256 is commonly used by almost all VPNs, and is strong enough for most purposes.

A kill switch shuts down internet access when the VPN is not connected, so that your real identity is not suddenly exposed if your connection drops out halfway through loading a page.

By default, IPVanish uses the IKEv2 protocol, but it also supports OpenVPN, a popular and trusted open-source protocol used by many leading VPNs. IPVanish is highly configurable and advanced users have a lot of buttons to play with here, including changing OpenVPN ports and scrambling server traffic to bamboozle some anti-VPN measures.

Logging

Trust is the cornerstone of online privacy. When you use a VPN you’re choosing to trust a private company rather than your internet service provider, and taking the VPN at its word that it will handle your personal information properly. It’s important to keep this in mind when comparing the privacy policies of different VPNs.

IPVanish has a clear zero logs policy, which states “we do not keep a record of any connection, traffic, or activity data in regards to our services”. A VPN can be compelled by a court to hand over information about its users to the authorities. A zero logs policy is one way to avoid this. By keeping no information about its users, a VPN has no information to share.

Read more: NordVPN review 2021 – how good is the VPN for security and streaming?

A 2018 news article by TorrentFreak claimed that IPVanish had contradicted its no-logging policy in 2016, when the VPN’s parent company shared extensive user information with a federal investigation.

IPVanish has since been acquired by another company, StackPath. It carries out regular internal audits of the VPN’s systems and has found no evidence of stored logs. IPVanish strongly reiterates its zero-logs policy and commitment to user privacy, though to date no independent audit has been ordered to confirm this.

Performance

IPVanish blasts through speed tests. When connecting to servers in the UK – from our test laptop in London – our download speeds typically dropped by around 10 per cent and our upload speeds by around 25 per cent. This compares well with other VPNs we’ve tested, including top-rated services like NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

When connecting to servers further away, naturally internet speeds drop a little more. When connected to a server in the United States, our download speeds fell by around 20 per cent, and our uploads by around 40 per cent. That’s still more than enough bandwidth for streaming, torrenting and downloading.

These are rough figures. The actual speeds you get are affected by the physical distance between your true location and the location you want to appear to be connecting from, but also things like network congestion and other factors outside of your control.

You can pick your server from a world map or use a detailed list

So long as the VPN isn’t consistently slow, reliability is more important than top speed. IPVanish gives us strong connections without dropouts or much noticeable slowdown.

Because of the unusual traffic patterns coming from VPN servers, with multiple users sending simultaneous requests, Google and other big sites often flag them as suspicious. When using a VPN you’ll be asked more often than usual to prove you’re not a robot by completing a captcha (those picture puzzles where you’re asked to spot traffic lights and bicycles).

In our tests, IPVanish was particularly bad for this, sometimes locking us into an endless cycle of captchas until we switched to a new server. The flagging of suspicious IP addresses is a game of whack-a-mole between VPNs and sites like Google and Netflix, so these types of issues can clear up one day and come back the next. It’s a nuisance rather than a serious problem, however, and your mileage may vary.

IPVanish successfully unblocked US Netflix

IPVanish and Netflix

You can watch Netflix using IPVanish.

Streaming services attempt to block people in different countries from viewing certain movies and TV shows in order to protect local licensing and distribution deals. This means that the best VPN for streaming Netflix (doing so does violate the content provider’s terms) can change from month to month, as the service figures out new ways to identify and block VPN traffic.

In our tests, IPVanish successfully spoofed our location, enabling us to stream region-locked content on Netflix with no buffering, dropouts or interruptions. Video quality was consistently high and we were able to stream in 4K without any problems.

Amazon Prime Video spotted the VPN and prevented streaming

IPVanish and Prime Video

We had less luck watching Prime Video shows using IPVanish.

With the VPN turned on, Prime Video refused to stream any content and displayed a warning that our connection was being routed through a proxy server. This problem appears to be widespread for now, as Amazon’s anti-VPN efforts have seemingly managed to blacklist a large swath of IPVanish’s IP addresses.

We tested dozens of servers in cities across the United States, eventually finding one that worked. With time and patience you can stumble across an IPVanish server that Prime Video has yet to block – although doing this will violate Amazon Prime Video’s terms – but this VPN is not a reliable solution for unblocking Prime Video.

IPVanish and BBC iPlayer

You can’t watch BBC iPlayer using IPVanish. The BBC blocked every UK server we tried, displaying the message “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.”

To watch iPlayer from abroad using a VPN (again, this practice violates iPlayer’s terms), we recommend NordVPN or another service from our list of the best VPNs for streaming and entertainment.

The mobile app connects to a VPN whenever an insecure wifi network is detected

Android and iOS apps

The IPVanish app works well on both Android and iOS devices. The plain and functional user interface won’t be winning many design awards – especially on Android, where it uses flat, outdated design elements – but the app is responsive and easy to navigate.

A short but helpful tutorial walks you through the steps of choosing your server location and connecting to the VPN. While connected, the app displays a graph of download and upload speeds, the server’s name, IP address and location, and how long you’ve been connected.

The Android and iPhone apps retain most of the features of the desktop VPN, such as the option to scramble traffic over the OpenVPN protocol, and the ability to set up split tunnelling to allow certain apps to connect to the internet without using the VPN. The kill switch feature requires a bit of fiddling in your phone’s settings before it works.

We especially like how the app can identify unsecured wifi networks on the fly, and automatically connect you to a VPN without having to manually select anything.

The verdict: IPVanish

What it lacks in polish, IPVanish makes up for in speed. This is a fast VPN with latencies low enough to enable gaming, and a server-selection list that can zero in on low-ping servers.

We liked how straightforward installation was on Amazon Fire TV and Firestick, and how non-intrusive the desktop app is on Windows. Unlike most VPNs, IPVanish doesn’t automatically set itself to launch on startup and doesn’t hide out in your system tray when you’re finished using it.

We ran into trouble when trying to watch shows from Amazon Prime Video and iPlayer, but had no problems with Netflix. This could change as the VPN adds more IP addresses to outwit the streaming platforms, so it’s worth dipping your toes in with a one-month subscription before committing to a full year.

IPVanish is cheaper than rivals, but once your introductory rate expires it becomes one of the more expensive VPNs out there. If you do decide that IPVanish is for you, we’d recommend switching to a cheaper alternative at the end of your 12-month plan.

Buy now

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For the latest discounts on NordVPN and other tech offers, try the links below:

For more, why not check out our round-up of the overall best VPNs and our guide on the best free VPNs

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.