IPVanish VPN Review 2018
IPVanish offers a fast and easy-to-use VPN option for users looking to protect their internet connection and personal data from being monitored, as well as those users looking to reliably access websites and web services that may be blocked in their area.
The service offers a fast and secure connection at a reasonable price. Users looking for a plethora of options and features will want to consider other options.
Ease of use
The internet is a dangerous place, and really always has been. Plus, governments around the world are continually looking for ways to restrict their citizens’ freedom on the internet. What can we do?
As an IT professional, I know the internet - and the world in general - is a dangerous place. Internet users with a family, like myself, are fearful of bad actors on the web harming their children.
In search of easy-to-use, yet comprehensive protection, I have subscribed to a number of VPN services to get a closer look at what protections they offer and what type of hoops the average user may have to jump through in order to gain competent protection for their internet connection.
Today’s review takes a close look at the IPVanish VPN service. This VPN provider has been around since early 2012 and provides VPN services for users of almost any desktop or mobile platform.
What is IPVanish?
IPVanish offers users the ability to hide their real IP address from prying eyes, while also allowing them to access websites and other online services that might normally be blocked by their local government or geo-restricted by the service provider. The service offers P2P and BitTorrent connections.
IPVanish is based in the United States, and so it is subject to the surveillance laws and rulings in that country. A definite point in IPVanish’s favor is that the company keeps no user or activity logs.
IPVanish uses the OpenVPN protocol on most of their apps. Also available to IPVanish users are PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) and L2TP v/IPSEC. iOS users can make use of IPSec and IKEv2 connections.
All of the above is techie jargon for “yes, you are protected - and protected quite well.” IPVanish uses secure 256-bit encryption, the same encryption standard used by the U.S. government, its agencies, the military and other security advocates around the world.
At the time of this review, the VPN service offered 40,000+ shared IPs and 700+ VPN servers in 60+ countries.
How IPVanish Works
IPVanish offers its users the ability to cloak their true IP address while browsing the internet. The service accomplishes this by routing your traffic through one of their own servers, located in numerous locations around the globe.
Any website, web service, bad guy or government looking at your connection will see one of IPVanish’s IP address, in place of your true IP address.
By cloaking your IP address, the service provides the ability to connect to websites and services that might not usually be available, due to geo-restrictions by the content provider or your own government.
Cloaking allows for a genuinely open internet, offering access to news and information that oppressive governments may do their best to keep from its citizens. (And, let’s be honest, it also allows you to watch new episodes of your favorite TV show that may not be available in your country.)
IPVanish encrypts the connection it provides, protecting the information you’re sending and receiving over the internet. The cloaked connection also allows you to access torrent servers and other P2P file sharing services, with no worries that your real location or internet provider can be discovered by any monitoring groups.
P2P File Sharing (Torrents)
IPVanish allows usage of P2P and BitTorrent connections over their network. The service warns users will experience slower speeds than they would on a non-VPN connection, due to the traffic being routed through the VPN, which can slow the connection down.
IPVanish reserves the right to terminate the accounts of subscribers who infringe the copyrights of others. Users may not distribute or receive files that are protected by copyright or other proprietary right or derivative works, without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner or other right holders.
The provider also warns that users may not use IPVanish’s services, software or system to post or transmit any illegal material, including materials that would constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any local, state, national or international law, or regulation. Your mileage may vary.
The IPVanish Website
The IPVanish website is fairly typical for the industry. The main page contains the usual promotional boilerplate and graphics, all explaining why IPVanish is the best VPN service for you.
The front page offers the usual subscription options and feature sets. However, a pleasant surprise for me was a rather lengthy feature listing that covered the main features and protections of their VPN service.
The website includes an informative “Why IPVanish?” section that offers information on how a VPN works, how to stop geotargeting, the advantages of using IPVanish for Voice over IP, how the service helps users get around blocks thrown up by censors and much more.
Subscription Options and Pricing
While IPVanish does not offer a free trial as some of its competitors do, it does provide a 7-day money-back guarantee. You will have to sign up for at least a 1-month service plan before trying out what this provider has to offer.
While I generally prefer services that offer a free trial before requiring a user to submit his payment information, IPVanish’s 7-day money-back guarantee does take some of the risks out of signing up for the service. However, prospective users will have to decide for themselves if the possible hassle of contacting IPVanish customer service for a refund is worth it or not.
IPVanish subscription options include a 1-month plan, 3-month plan and an annual plan. As might be expected, the annual plan provides the best value for bargain seekers. However, I would advise trying the 1-month plan at first, just to make sure the service meets the user’s needs.
All subscription signup is done via a secure HTTPS connection. VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, JCB, Delta, PayPal, iDEAL, Bancontact, Giropay, Boleto and Bitcoin. (No recurring subscriptions for the last 4.) iOS and Android users can sign up inside the mobile apps through an in-app purchase via the iTunes Store and Google Play, respectively.
The Bitcoin payment option will be a welcome option for many users. It should be stressed that IPVanish does not offer auto-renewing subscriptions with Bitcoin. Any account using Bitcoin will automatically close at the end of the billing cycle.
Users should consider that Bitcoin payments are a truly anonymous form of payment when paired with a temporary “throwaway” email address. That may outweigh the renewal inconvenience downside. Keep in mind that Bitcoin is one of the few truly anonymous methods of payment available on the net.
The charge for IPVanish shows up as “IPVanish.com” on your credit card statement, with a line item of “IPVanish Subscription” in the charge-line details.
Subscription Terms and costs are as follows:
Allow me to take a moment and tell you about a discount option I stumbled upon completely by accident when preparing to sign up for my subscription.
Before committing to my subscription, I opened another tab in my browser to check on an unrelated situation. When I returned to the IPVanish browser tab, a pop-up offered me a 20% discount on my subscription and the next 3 renewals.
I received my first month of service for only $8.00. There is no guarantee this will happen for you, but it’s worth a shot to keep the tab open for a little while as you’re working in other tabs and to take a peek once in awhile.
If the website doesn’t present you with a pop-up offering a “3-renewal discount” as it did for me, you can still knock a few bucks off the price of your first month by visiting iPVanish’s “Coupons” page. The page is currently offering a code good for 20% off your first billing cycle.
If the service turns out to be a fit for your needs, I would definitely suggest signing up for the 1-year plan. However, the 3-month and 1-month options also have their charms, particularly for users who may be planning for an out-of-country vacation, or extended business trip of a few weeks to a few months.
All subscription levels feature the same services, data speeds and options. The main difference between them is the length of the subscriptions and the discounts offered to entice you into subscribing for a longer period of time.
Being that my main reason for signing up with IPVanish was to run them through the wringer and see how well they performed in order to report my experiences back to the readers of this site, I signed up for the 1-month plan.
I used PayPal to pay for my subscription via my MacBook, simply to ensure the option worked smoothly. As is the case for most PayPal-enabled transactions, I was taken to the PayPal website to make the payment, and then returned smoothly to the IPVanish website to complete the signup.
iOS and Android users can sign up on their devices via in-app purchases, which are maintained by Apple’s iTunes and Google Play respectively, and will be charged against the user’s method of payment on file.
At $77.99 for an annual subscription, IPVanish is one of the most expensive VPN providers I have reviewed. While they aren’t the highest-priced provider I’ve ever tried, they rank in the top 3
Installing the App on Your Computer
IPVanish features apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices. Windows Phone, Ubuntu and Chromebook users can manually set up their devices to access the service. Users with routers supporting DD-WRT and Tomato firmware are also supported via manual setup.
The service offers helpful tutorials that walk the user through the manual setup for Windows Phone, Ubuntu, Chromebook and supported routers.
Windows and Mac apps are available via direct download from the IPVanish website. iOS and Android apps are available from their respective app stores. An Android APK install file is also available as a direct download from the IPVanish website, for those that prefer to go the sideloading route.
Streaming box users and video game players will be glad to hear that their Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox and PS4 boxes will work just fine with the service.
However, no apps are available for direct installation on those devices, so an IPVanish-enabled router or a shared internet connection via an IPVanish-enabled computer is required.
As usual, my weapon of choice is my MacBook, so the installation described here will be for the Mac. (Installation for Windows looks to be equally as simple.) I also installed and tested the app on my iPhone - but more about that later.
I visited the IPVanish Mac Download page and clicked the “Download Software” button. The app installation file quickly downloaded in just a few moments to my “Downloads” folder. The installation file is in the form of a Mac .dmg file, which is a disk image the macOS operating system mounts as a disk when double-clicked.
Once the download was complete, I opened my Downloads folder and double-clicked the IPVanish disk image. The image mounted, as previously described, and opened a window as seen below.
Installation was completed by dragging the IPVanish app icon to the Applications folder. This is a common method of installing applications on the Mac. The file copied to the Applications folder in a few seconds, and the app was ready to be run for the first time.
Windows users need not fret over a complicated installation process, as the IPVanish installation file is supplied in the form of an .exe file. With a quick download and a double-click of the .exe, you’re off to the installation races.
Depending on how you’re logged in, you may have to okay a few prompts asking if it’s okay to make changes to your computer. However, the installation process should take a few minutes tops. The install app even offers to launch the VPN app when it’s installed.
Installing the App on a Mobile Device
I also installed the IPVanish iOS app on my iPhone. Installation of the app followed the usual Apple App Store-centric manner, which consists of downloading and installing the app from the iOS App Store. The download takes a few moments, and then a tap of the newly installed app’s icon runs the app.
When the iOS app is first run, it will ask for permission to install a certificate on your device, which allows iOS to trust the app’s connection to the VPN servers. A quick entry of your device’s passcode or a fingerprint authorization via Touch ID and the certificate is quickly completed.
Android users will experience a similar installation experience, with a quick download and automatic installation to their device via the Google Play store. Amazon Fire tablet users will find the installation is a bit more involved. However, IPVanish has provided a handy walkthrough on their website, which explains how to install the app on an Amazon Fire device.
Features & Ease of Use
Once the installation was completed on my Mac, I ran the app and entered the login and password combination I created when I signed up for the service. After I successfully logged in, I was met with a short collection of screens offering a quick tour of the app’s features. These can be skipped if desired. However, they do supply a few valuable tips on how the app works.
Once I had clicked through the tutorial, I was met with a prompt to allow IPVanish to install a “helper app” on my Mac. I allowed the installation. Helper apps are tiny apps that live in the Mac’s Menu Bar, as seen below. These allow users to access features of the app without it appearing in full-size form on the Desktop. This is quite helpful in multitasking situations.
Users can allow the app to decide which server to use, or they can select a country or specific server. These options allow users to either quickly connect to get an encrypted connection or select a specific location in order to access geo-protected content.
The app offers a number of great options for additional connection protections, including the ability to toggle kill switch protection, which encryption protocol to use, IP address settings and much more - all of which are located in the Preferences section.
The Preferences controls are accessible only from the app’s pull-down menu, making them inconspicuous - especially to new users. It would be great if they would include a “Prefs” button in the app’s window, making it more obvious.
The provider allows users to access the VPN service from 5 simultaneous connections per username - but only one connection can use PPTP or L2TP at any time.
Alternatively, the service suggests home or business users make use of their DD-WRT or Tomato router, setting it up for use with IPVanish, thus allowing as many connections as the router allows.
This is an attractive bit of information for users, such as myself, with a family where multiple users will need to access the service. Small business owners will also find this attractive, as a good-sized group of road warriors will all be able to access the service at the same time.
The app provides the usual features expected from a VPN app. It offers a quick way for users to connect to the internet while protecting their connection, including the option to automatically reconnect upon VPN disconnect. The kill switch feature is also very handy.
Ease of Use:
The IPVanish app is easy to install and use. Users can protect their connection with just a few clicks, making it easy to get up and running. However, it does bury some of its best features in an easy-to-miss “Preferences” menu, making it possible for new users to miss some valuable features.
Connection Quality and Speed
As may have become familiar to regular readers, I did the following while testing the quality of the connections offered by IPVanish: I tested ping times, as well as download and upload speeds.
I ran all of the tests while using my normal internet connection, a VPN connection routed to a server in the United States and another connection routed to a server in the United Kingdom. I performed all speed and ping measurements using the Speedtest website.
All VPN connections were made by selecting the desired country and allowing the IPVanish app to automatically find the best available city and connection in that country, as recommended by the VPN service.
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
Let’s take a quick look at the factors that can affect a VPN connection. While faster is always better, a number of factors come into play while using a VPN, and some of those are due to the extra protection a VPN connection offers to users.
As the results above show, as a rule of thumb, the farther away a VPN server is located from your home base, the higher the ping numbers, and the lower the upload and download stats will be.
While there are always exceptions to every rule, we can generally accept this to be a fact of online life.
Ping numbers are higher due to the distance the data packets must travel to and from each location. Higher ping numbers mean your connection won’t be as responsive as it may usually be.
Not super important when checking football scores or answering an email (except in severe situations), but much more noticeable when playing the latest high-intensity video game online.
Download and upload speeds are also affected by distance. Since my testing is done from the United States, most VPN providers’ servers offer speed testing results similar to my usual, unprotected results. However, when the connection travels overseas to the U.K., my speed test results suffer. Again, for everyday web surfing, you might not notice a huge difference.
VPN protocols can affect the speed of a VPN connection. A 256-bit encrypted OpenVPN connection will slow down your connection a little bit more than a less-protected 128-bit PPTP encrypted connection would.
However, the encryption of the OpenVPN connection is going to protect your personal data much better than the lesser level ever could. Always lean toward better protection versus faster speeds.
IPVanish offers the OpenVPN protocol on most of their apps. Also available are the PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) and L2TP v/IPSEC protocols. iOS users can make use of IPSec and IKEv2 connections.
Another challenge for speed is the fact that an internet connection is only as fast as the slowest point along the way allows it to be. It’s possible that there is a congested point along the way between your ISP and the VPN server that is causing a slow connection. In this case, disconnect and retry the connection, or select a different server.
Last but not least, VPN server loads will affect your connection speed and quality. The more users who are connected to a particular VPN server, the longer it will take to complete its tasks. It’s like 30 people trying to fit through a single door at the same time - there’s going to be a traffic jam.
Look for a server with low usage numbers. Some providers also feature a “best connection” option or button in their apps; use that if all you need is a protected connection. IPVanish calls their option “QuickConnect,” and the app defaults to this option when it is opened, and a connection can be made with a single click of the mouse.
While trying out the IPVanish service, I performed the following online activities. The results of my testing are noted for each test below.
YouTube performed well, with no visible issues. Video played with no buffering, freezing or stuttering. 1080p HD video played beautifully, with no long load times or pixelization.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Youtube.
I visited the Netflix website while connected to the internet via an IPVanish server on my Mac and attempted to view a video. As has become standard operating procedure when connected with this VPN and most others, the moment I pressed play, Netflix threw up a message warning me that I was using an unblocker or proxy, and advised me to turn off the services and try it again.
Such an error message from Netflix and other video streaming providers is to be expected in the heat of the constant battle of wits that has been going on between VPN services and Netflix over the past few years.
VPNs are continually adding new IP addresses for use with their service, while Netflix scans for those new addresses in order to block them. This means that while you may occasionally get lucky and be able to access Netflix, the very next time you try, you may be blocked. Such is the nature of the beast at this point in time.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Netflix.
Hulu, which has much the same policy about VPN connections that Netflix does, complained that I “appeared to be using an anonymous proxy tool, you’ll need to disable it to access Hulu.”
Click here to see the best VPNs for Hulu.
Skype and FaceTime
I performed my usual Skype video and voice call test, and the service handled them quite well on both the U.S. and U.K. VPN connections. The video was smooth, and the audio sounded great.
As a Mac and iPhone user, I actually find myself using FaceTime as much as Skype, as many of my contacts use Apple products. With that in mind, I always make sure to give FaceTime a try when reviewing a new VPN service. Apple’s video chat solution performed well over both VPN connections I tested.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Skype.
My hard-core gaming days are long behind me, but I do enjoy a quick casual game or two when relaxing. In the interest of a complete review, I played a casual game over the VPN connections, via both the U.K. and U.S. servers, and both performed well.
While I didn’t try any first-person shooters or other connection-intensive type games, there was no evidence that IPVanish’s connections wouldn’t be able to keep up.
As usual, your mileage may vary, and I highly suggest gamers try playing their favorite online game via the service before the 7-day refund period expires.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Gaming.
General Internet Usage
I used the IPVanish VPN service as my main Internet connection during a normal workday. During my workday, I usually browse the web, check email. I also spend a lot of times in Google Docs creating and editing spreadsheets, text documents, and presentations.
I also stay in touch with business associates and customers via the Mac Messages app, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites. During my workday, I never felt like I was being hindered by the IPVanish VPN connection. It easily kept up with me and seemed to perform as well as my usual unfettered connection.
I found the iOS app provided a speedy connection via both a U.S. server and a server located in the U.K. While the U.S. VPN offered download speeds only a few Mbps less than my normal Wi-Fi internet connection, the U.K. connection came in almost 10 Mbps slower on downloads. Both VPN connections performed almost as well to my usual connection when it came to upload speeds.
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
While I didn’t do as extensive testing of IPVanish on my iOS device as I did on my Mac, I did use the service while checking email, messages and social networks on my iPhone. The service was more than up to it and even performed well on an impromptu video call from my wife.
IPVanish is in the top tier of providers when it comes to connection speed. The difference between a protected IPVanish connection and your normal ISP connection should be negligible in everyday usage.
Global Server Coverage
IPVanish has 850+ VPN servers located in 60+ countries located in Europe, North America, Central America, South America, Oceania, Asia and Africa. As you can see in the map below, this adds up to fairly decent global server coverage.
While IPVanish might not have the highest raw server numbers, they have done an excellent job of stationing them strategically around the world, with the majority of them stationed in western countries.
Global Server Coverage:
IPVanish, while not a leader in raw server numbers, does a great job of covering the globe with the servers they do make available.
Privacy, Security & Legal
IPVanish currently offers 40,000+ shared IPs, with 700+ VPN servers in 60+ countries.
IPVanish uses the OpenVPN protocol on most of their apps. Also available to IPVanish users are PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) and L2TP v/IPSEC. iOS users can make use of IPSec and IKEv2 connections. The service uses the same 256-bit encryption standard that is used by the U.S. military, government and other high-security installations around the globe.
IPVanish’s corporate offices are based in Winter Park, Florida in the United States (under the auspices of “Mudhook Marketing”). This means that the company is subject to U.S. laws, which means they could be forced to turn over records and logs about their customers.
That being said, the service claims they only collect certain information from visitors to their site, such as IP address and pages viewed on the site. They do not track user activities outside of their website, and they do not track the browsing activities of users who are logged into their VPN service. The service also does not monitor, record or store logs for any single customer's VPN activity. They have a zero log policy for VPN connections.
The provider also accepts Bitcoin as payment for subscriptions, which is always a plus for any provider.
As for using IPVanish in other countries, the firm reports that the service will not work in the following countries, as U.S. laws forbid stateside firms from doing business with them: Burma/Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
While the company is allowed to do business in Qatar, Saudia Arabia, UAE and China, it has received reports that their domain, ipvanish.com, is blocked in those countries, so you’ll want to play it safe and sign up for the service before you go.
That said, the company does say their VPN service will work from inside the country of China, but only after configuring the VPN app to use actual IP addresses in the place of server names:
Our automated IPVanish apps will not work if you are attempting to connect to our VPN from inside of China because our domain is being blocked within the region. For our VPN to successfully operate in China, you will need to manually configure and connect to our servers' IP addresses instead of our server names.
The IPVanish website offers a configuration guide to walk users through setting up a manual configuration on an IPVanish-supported operating system.
Although they are located in the increasingly privacy-unfriendly United States, IPVanish claims they do not keep any logs related to their customers’ online activities. The provider accepts the privacy-friendly Bitcoin method of subscription payment.
As seems to be the norm for many VPN providers, as they attempt to keep costs down while still offering a decent modicum of service, IPVanish provides only web-based customer support. They provide a trouble ticket system that is responded to via email 24/7, as well as a public forum where users can post and reply to questions.
I submitted a trouble ticket on a Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. and received a reply 45 minutes later at 4 p.m. The ticket concerned my inability to access Netflix or Hulu while using the VPN service. While the reply wasn’t anything more than a “sorry to hear that, we’re working on that,” type of message, the reply turnaround time was impressive compared to the support reply times for other VPN services I have tried.
IPVanish supplies fast responses to trouble ticket submissions, but I couldn’t give them a 5/5 score due to their lack of online chat support.
Alternative VPN Options
While IPVanish hits almost all the right notes, it is unfortunately among the higher-priced providers of those I’ve reviewed. Other providers can give you comparable - or even better - service at a lower price.
VyprVPN offers excellent connection speeds, good global server coverage, great multi-platform support and comes in at only $60 per year, making it an excellent alternative to IPVanish.
NordVPN boasts connection speed and global server coverage numbers that are comparable to IPVanish, all for $69 per year.
Private Internet Access offers blazing connection speeds and good multi-platform support. While its global server coverage pales in comparison to IPVanish, their $39.95-per-year subscription fee makes it an attractive alternative for budget-minded users.
I found IPVanish to be an excellent VPN service. The service is easy to sign up for and offers a variety of subscription and payment options.
Installation of the app is a breeze on popular desktop and mobile platforms - although configurations on some of the less popular platforms, such as Windows Mobile and Ubuntu, require manual configuration by the user.
That said, the IPVanish website boasts an unusually comprehensive support library, with an impressive number of documents available to help users make any manual changes or adjustments that may be needed.
IPVanish supplies some of the speediest connections I have seen from the VPN services I have tested. As far as overall speed, the service definitely ranks in the top 3. I found the service handled anything I threw at it, easily handling day-to-day activities, video streaming via YouTube, video chat, online apps and more.
I would recommend IPVanish to anyone who is looking for an easy-to-use, yet high-quality VPN provider. The service’s pricing offers an excellent value, and the company’s support, while lacking a phone number or chat function, is responsive to inquiries.
The IPVanish customer support area also features a comprehensive support library, which offers answers to most user questions.
If IPVanish meets the needs of a user who decides to give it a try, I would definitely recommend they sign up for the 1-year subscription option, which is a much better deal than the 1-month or 3-month options. Make sure to be on the lookout for discount codes that appear on the site from time to time.
For more information about IPVanish, or to sign up for a subscription, visit the IPVanish website.