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Malwarebytes Privacy VPN review: Meh, that don’t impress me much

The internet security company’s virtual private network still has a way to go

Alex Lee
Monday 06 September 2021 11:13
<p>It’s lightning fast, but there isn’t much substance  </p>

It’s lightning fast, but there isn’t much substance

It seems like every company and its dog is making a VPN these days, from Google and its One VPN to Apple and its VPN-lite iCloud Privacy Relay feature. It was only a matter of time before the long-established antivirus company Malwarebytes decided to get in on the action. 

Of course, Malwarebytes’s Privacy VPN isn’t technically a “new” VPN, having first launched in April 2020 on Windows, but it’s since expanded to Mac and most recently to Android and iOS devices. 

Interestingly, Malwarebytes Privacy VPN launched with next-generation WireGuard support – one of the fastest and most secure VPN protocols out right now. At the time, NordVPN had only just rolled out WireGuard to its customers, making Malwarebytes one of the first to use the protocol.

But as a new player in the field, can Malwarebytes stand up to the current best VPNs around? We’ve put it to the test to find out. 

How we tested

To review Malwarebytes Privacy VPN, we tested it on a variety of devices, measuring the speed of the servers and checking compatibility with streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu. We looked into the VPN’s security credentials and compared the cost of a subscription to similarly featured VPNs.

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Malwarebytes Privacy VPN: From £2.92 per month, Malwarebytes.com

  • Number of servers: 420
  • Server locations: 34 countries     
  • Devices supported: 3 (or 5 on the higher tier) 
  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Android and iOS 
  • Pros: Extremely fast, very secure, not too expensive   
  • Cons: Can’t unblock any geo-restricted content on streaming services, limited features   
  • Rating: 5/10

Price

Malwarebytes’s pricing is a little bit confusing. There are two different subscription tiers. Unlike some other VPN providers, you can only pay annually or biennially – there are no monthly subscriptions.

The one-year tier has two pricing options. The cheapest costs £34.99, which works out to about £2.92 per month. That’s actually pretty cheap for a VPN, putting it in line with providers like Surfshark and CyberGhost.

But there is a catch. With the cheaper tier, you’ll only be able to use Malwarebytes Privacy VPN on three devices. That pales in comparison to Surfshark’s unlimited devices and CyberGhost’s seven. Want to use five devices? You’ll have to pay £39.99 per year.

The other difference? We’ll go into this more below, but Surfshark and CyberGhost are just more rich in features than Malwarebytes.

The even more expensive premium tier costs £69.99 per year, which works out to about £5.38 per month. With this you can use Malwarebytes Privacy VPN on a maximum of five devices, but it also bundles in Malwarebytes Premium – the traditional antivirus portion of the company that you know and love. And that may be worth the mileage.

Although the most expensive premium tier is actually cheaper than NordVPN and ExpressVPN, again, as you’ll find out below, if you’re just signing up to use the VPN, we’d still recommend choosing the other two over Malwarebytes.

You do get a seven-day free trial, though, so you can always take it for a spin. If you cancel your subscription before your seven days are up, you won’t be charged. There’s no option to pay by cryptocurrency on the Malwarebytes website if that’s something you’d like – just good ol’ PayPal and credit card.   

Privacy

Privacy is one of the areas where Malwarebytes’s Privacy VPN shines – it’s in the name, after all. As we mentioned above, it was one of the first VPN providers to use the WireGuard protocol, delivering next-generation speeds and security. It also has now-industry-standard 256-bit encryption, often dubbed “military-grade”.

There’s also a nifty killswitch feature, which isn’t activated by default. The Windows application is a little bit better than the Mac version, featuring a double VPN-like feature called “connection mode”, which tunnels your connection through two servers instead of one. The Windows application has a split-tunnelling-like feature in the “connection rules” settings, which allows you to turn off the VPN for specific apps and IP addresses. 

We couldn’t find a split-tunnelling feature or a multi-hop feature on the Mac app, but to be fair on Malwarebytes, the Windows application was released first, so it’s had more time to blossom into what it is now.

It did manage to secure our internet traffic and mask our IP address when browsing the web while connected to one of its servers. To sense check the company’s privacy claims, we ran a series of privacy tests while connected to differing Malwarebytes Privacy VPN servers. Using IPleak.net and DNSLeakTest, we were able to confirm that Malwarebytes Privacy VPN was indeed obscuring our IP address to prying eyes. So at least we know it is successful in its core function. 

Malwarebytes has over 420 servers in 34 countries

Logging

Whenever you use a VPN, you want to be safe in the knowledge that your data isn’t being tracked and catalogued and then sold on to the highest bidder. Malwarebytes has a no-logs policy, with the company stating that it doesn’t record bandwidth usage, only the “key” that you use to access the VPN (this just shows that you used the VPN for a session, not what you did while it was turned on).

The company says that it doesn’t log any data related to web traffic, DNS requests or network connections. It’s a relatively new VPN, so a third-party audit hasn’t yet been conducted, but hopefully it will get round to organising one in the near future. For now, all we’ve got to go on is Malwarebytes’s word. 

Buy now

Performance and user experience

You’d expect this VPN to be nice and nippy due to the WireGuard protocol, so we were extremely pleased to see that when connecting to the London server (the one closest to us), our download speeds only dropped by 4 per cent. That’s pretty remarkable, putting it up there with some of the speediest VPNs.

Connecting to a server farther afield, like Los Angeles, again, had no noticeable impact on our connection speeds. Just like the London server, it only dropped by 4 per cent. Something we should mention though is that speeds can be impacted by the number of people connecting to that specific server. We don’t know how popular Malwarebytes Privacy VPN really is, or how many people were connecting to the server we were on. As a newbie to the market, we reckon that Malwarebytes’s server bandwidth isn’t being strangled by a horde of people trying to watch American Netflix.          

Now, we’ve alluded to this a few times, but Malwarebytes Privacy VPN is a pretty basic service. You’ll get a few servers, you can use a kill switch, and it’s got the privacy credentials and the speeds, plus the Windows application has a few neat features like a multi-hop and a split-tunnelling mode. But if you want to go further than that, look elsewhere.

It’s one of the simplest VPNs you’ll ever use... because there isn’t much to it. You can’t do much – if any – customisation, but you could see this as a positive because it means there isn’t any learning curve when using the application. Just pick a server and off you go. 

Streaming Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu

Your favourite streaming services won’t get unblocked

On to the main reason why a lot of people download VPNs in this day and age: to bypass geographic restrictions and access streaming libraries from other countries. How does Privacy VPN perform in this department? Dreadfully.

If you’re looking for a VPN to unblock Netflix or Prime Video or BBC iPlayer, this is not the one.

We tried a bunch of different servers to get the US and Australian Netflix catalogues to show up, but we just kept getting served the UK catalogue. The same thing happened with Disney+ – it just knew we were connecting from the UK, and once it even thought we were connecting from Sweden, despite being connected to the New York server. Hulu didn’t work either, and it was able to detect that we were using a VPN.   

Android and iOS

The app doesn’t contain many extra features

The iOS and Android apps are even more minimal than the desktop applications. There’s no real customisation at all. You can change servers, quickly connect with one tap and toggle on the auto-connect function, but that’s pretty much it. It looks clean, but maybe that’s just because there isn’t much to do on it.

The verdict: Malwarebytes Privacy VPN

This Malwarebytes Privacy VPN is a nice addition if you’re a Malwarebytes Premium subscriber because it throws in the security. But if you’re looking to stream geo-restricted content or have a feature-rich experience with Onion support or split-tunnelling on the Mac, then this isn’t the VPN for you.

It is secure, however, and it is fast. The VPN is also still very new, so we’re sure more features will be released in time. The foundations are there – now we just need the house built.

Buy now

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on VPNs 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 to 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.