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Bitdefender VPN review

Bitdefender Premium VPN offers security at a decent price

Bitdefender VPN review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

If there's one thing Bitdefender VPN isn't, it's complex – and for power users this will be severely limiting. However, if you just want basic online protection with good speeds and moderate content unblocking performance on the cheap, it may well prove to be a tempting service.

For

  • Easy to use
  • Unblocks BBC iPlayer
  • Effective kill switch

Against

  • Minimal features
  • Can't unblock US Netflix, Amazon, Disney+
  • Minor Windows app issues

Tom's Guide Verdict

If there's one thing Bitdefender VPN isn't, it's complex – and for power users this will be severely limiting. However, if you just want basic online protection with good speeds and moderate content unblocking performance on the cheap, it may well prove to be a tempting service.

Pros

  • + Easy to use
  • + Unblocks BBC iPlayer
  • + Effective kill switch

Cons

  • - Minimal features
  • - Can't unblock US Netflix, Amazon, Disney+
  • - Minor Windows app issues

Bitdefender Premium VPN is a super simple to use, no-nonsense option for anyone that wants a no-frills way to keep their privacy secure online. That will mean it's lacking in some features power-users might expect, but for most this will do the job while offering decent speeds too.

To be clear, this is the Bitdefender Premium VPN review, which is the unlimited version as opposed to the free version that comes with the Bitdefender security suite and only offers a meagre 200MB data limit. This Premium full version covers 48 countries with more than 1,300 servers and offers unlimited data.

Bitdefender Premium VPN uses VPN provider Hotspot Shield's tech for its protocol, which is the purpose built and impressive Catapult Hydra protocol. It's just the apps you work through which are Bitdefender designed. From a privacy perspective, it's just the tech being used, and no data is shared with Hotspot Shield.

Does all that make Bitdefender Premium VPN worthy of being on the best VPN services list right now? Read on to find out and decide if this is the right VPN provider for your needs.

Bitdefender Premium VPN

(Image credit: Bitdefender VPN)

Bitdefender Premium VPN 1-minute review

In terms of pricing, Bitdefender is pretty reasonable all-round. If you only want to sign up for a month at a time, you won't have to pay through the nose – it's just $6.99 a month. Signing up for longer will save you even more cash, though, with the best option currently coming in at just $2.49 a month for an annual plan.

Bitdefender uses Hotspot Shield's superfast Catapult Hydra protocol which is widely thought of as secure, and we've received clarification from Bitdefender that no user data is shared with Hotspot Shield or its parent companies.

However, thanks to that link with Hotspot Shield, Bitdefender VPN is pretty fast. The Catapult Hydra protocol delivers great speeds the world over, and in our testing it topped out at around 410Mbps – although the historic advantage it had over OpenVPN has now been eclipsed by the wide adoption of WireGuard.

Streaming was something of a let-down, though. Bitdefender VPN is able to access BBC iPlayer, but US Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime are all off the table. 

In use, the desktop apps are simple and effective, and while they don't offer anything ground-breaking, it's stable and useful. The kill switch worked well, and while it's missing some features like a Favorites system, it's by no means underpowered. The same goes for the mobile apps, which also have a kill switch, and deliver good usability.

Finally, Bitdefender VPN offers live chat, email, and phone support – but this is a general support service that covers Bitdefender's primary business of antivirus, too. You should get decent service, but be aware it's not as robust as the support you'll get from the leading dedicated VPN providers.

Bitdefender VPN on paper

Number of servers: 1,300+
Number of countries:
48+
Platforms supported:
Windows, macOS, Android, iOS,
Simultaneous connections: 10
Split tunneling: No
Kill switch: Yes
Supported protocols:
Catapult Hydra
Country of registration:
USA
Support: Articles, email, live chat

Latest updates

There have been a couple of minor developments from Bitdefender since our last review. First off, we've got a host of new server locations, jumping up to 48 countries covered in total, as opposed to 30 previously.

The mobile apps have also been improved, and will now auto-connect of Wi-Fi if you choose so, and your VPN IP is now displayed in-app.

There is now more support on the company's website with a great number of VPN articles which are now easier to find too.

Bitdefender Premium VPN review

(Image credit: Bitdefender VPN)

Bitdefender VPN price: how much is it and is there a Bitdefender free trial?

At $6.99 per month on a rolling plan, Bitdefender Premium VPN is a surprisingly cheap VPN, especially considering that the market leaders often charge over $12 a month on similar plans.

However, there are more savings to be had for anyone willing to pay for a year’s subscription in advance. This is billed as a one-off payment of $29.99 (equal to $2.49 per month) for the first year and $49.99 (equal to $4.15 per month) in subsequent years.

That’s much less expensive than VPN providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN, and comparable to the best bargain provider Surfshark. Payment options include credit card, PayPal, bank transfer, check, and even cash (if you’re a US resident with a 7/11 nearby).

If you’re looking to try before you buy then you’ll be glad to know that a seven-day free trial is available to anyone that signs up for a Bitdefender Central account. You’ll also benefit from a 30-day money-back guarantee if you do sign up for the service but later decide it’s not for you.

  • More: Need something for your employees ? See today's best business VPN

How private is Bitdefender VPN and does it keep logs?

Although Bitdefender Premium VPN may be packaged as a Bitdefender product, it actually works by connecting through Hotspot Shield's Catapult Hydra protocol. servers. When we first reviewed the VPN, we initially wrote that we were concerned that Bitdefender was simply a white-label Hotspot Shield, which would mean users were subject to similar logging.

However, we've had clarification that the service does not share user data with Hotspot Shield or its parents, meaning any logging – or lack of it – is wholly down to Bitdefender. The only shared technology is the Catapult Hydra protocol.

Despite this, Bitdefender’s privacy policy is fairly basic, to say the least, but it does outline what data it uses and how:

‘We collect for this service only randomly generated or hashed user and device IDs, IP addresses, and randomly generated tokens to establish a VPN connection for the sole purpose of providing the VPN service. For this service, we use AnchorFree as data processor who processes data on behalf of Bitdefender in accordance with Bitdefender's instructions and for the sole purpose of providing VPN services to users.'

Although neither Bitdefender nor Hotspot Shield can see what you're doing online, and claim that what they log cannot be linked back to you, this level of logging is higher than most of its competitors.

There is a strong encryption to keep your data secure with AES-128/256 GCM, which is pretty standard for VPNs these days. We carried out some privacy checks and found no DNS, WebRTC or other leaks in our testing.

How fast is Bitdefender VPN?

The latest version of Bitdefender Premium VPN has swapped the OpenVPN protocol for Hotspot Shield’s fast Catapult Hydra protocol. To say this has made a big difference would be an understatement, so if you’re looking for a fast VPN, you won’t be disappointed.

Download speeds on a 1Gbps US data center to Bitdefender’s VPN’s nearest location peaked at 350-410Mbps, which is good and, unsurprisingly, very similar to Hotspot Shield's performance.  

However, since WireGuard has been introduced and widely taken up by just about every VPN, Catapult Hydra has lost its edge. So, Bitdefender VPN isn't as speedy as providers like NordVPN (880Mbps), but on the whole Bitdefender is swift and should keep up with any task.

Bitdefender Premium VPN review

(Image credit: Bitdefender VPN)

How good is Bitdefender VPN for streaming?

Bitdefender Premium VPN is sold mostly for the sake of encrypting your data and allowing you to browse the internet anonymously, but the website does say that users can ‘unlock media, videos and messaging from all over the world.’

First up, we tried to access US Netflix and UK Netflix, and Bitdefender was unable to get us in to either, even after trying several servers. This is a shame as it did work in our last review.

BBC iPlayer can often be problematic, and last time Bitdefender struggled. However, this time round it passed the iPlayer test flying colours, which is an improvement we're very pleased to see. This worked on several different UK servers in our testing.

Unfortunately, the fun stops there – Bitdefender can't access Amazon Prime Video or Disney+. However, we're glad to see some improvement, and we hope it carries on in the same direction.

So, if you're looking for the best Netflix VPN, Bitdefender probably won't be on your shortlist, but while it's not the best all-around streaming VPN, depending on what you want to watch it may well do the job.

How good are the Bitdefender VPN apps?

Bitdefender Premium VPN provides a familiar interface for its Windows app, one which is very similar to ExpressVPN, and it covers the essentials of what is needed from the software. This includes a big blue Connect button and the name of the country where your current server is located, which when clicked on will present you with a list of other server locations (but without details such as load figures or ping times). 

On the whole, it worked as expected, with connection times between 3 to 4 seconds. We particularly like that you can change the server location you’re connected to without having to disconnect from your current one. There are also desktop notifications to tell you when you are and aren’t protected, and there’s a Dark Mode.

The client also sports an efficient kill switch, which does a good job of blocking internet traffic and alerting the user should your VPN connection drop. This feature continued to function despite the tricks we used to close the VPN connection.

Bitdefender VPN review

(Image credit: Bitdefender VPN)

A form of split tunnelling is also included, although this only whitelists certain websites, not apps. This could potentially be useful in some cases, but considering that Bitdefender VPN is actually quite capable as a torrenting VPN, with P2P allowed on all servers, a per-app split tunnelling system would be most welcome.

However, you can set the app to autoconnect, and the way it works is quite impressive. Enter the menu, and you'll be able to tell the app to connect when it detects a P2P app being opened (or any other app, for that matter). You can also tell it to do this when you head to a particular website, and the app even has certain categories you can set this to (Financial, Online Payments, Health, File Sharing, Online Dating, Mature Content). This feature is seriously impressive, genuinely useful, and outdoes pretty much all of the competition.

The only issue with autoconnect is that it will do so without notifying you which country you are connected to. Take a look at it will simply say "Automatic" – not ideal if you want to access a certain server location, say for local shopping. Or you may want a local country for potentially faster speeds than one far away.

So, it’s a good client, but not without its imperfections. We're missing a Favorites or Recent list to swiftly connect to your most-used servers, and there’s no real connection status information. However, the recent addition of an IP display and the powerful autoconnect feature certainly elevate the apps from basic to very usable – and if it has all the features you want, it's a pleasure to use.

Regarding its usefulness as a mobile VPN, the apps for both Android and iOS are pretty similar in terms of both the interface and the functionality. We were pleasantly surprised that the kill switch is available on both platforms (as this isn’t typical for an iPhone VPN) and there’s a setting to ‘automatically connect on public Wi-Fi.’

Another nice touch is the ability to access devices on your local network when you're using the VPN, which can be very convenient for those that use this feature.

What customer support does Bitdefender VPN offer?

Bitdefender’s support team can be reached via live chat, email, and phone, but it’s worth noting that this is the general support team and will cover issues for all of Bitdefender’s products and services, not just Premium VPN. 

Whilst it might be easy to get the support you need, in our experience, the antivirus companies selling VPNs as extras don’t provide the same level of support that you’d find with specialist providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

As well as the support teams, users can find information in Bitdefender’s knowledge base, which is stocked with articles, how-to-videos, and FAQs. The number of articles has grown since our last review and the way they're organized is better, making them more useful than before.

Bitdefender Premium VPN: Final verdict

Bitdefender Premium VPN does a good job of delivering great speeds for a good price, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re getting a full-on Hotspot Shield-beating experience for less.

Bitdefender VPN is basic compared to the competition, and for power users there simply won't be enough on offer to sate the appetite for customization – and for those we'd recommend ExpressVPN  or NordVPN. However, with some decent connection speeds and genuinely useful features in-app, we're not writing off the antivirus giant's foray into VPN just yet. Well worth a try.

Bitdefender Premium VPN

Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.