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Astrill VPN review

With tons of expert features, Astrill is powerful – but it's expensive and awkward

Astrill VPN on a range of devices
(Image: © Astrill VPN)

Our Verdict

For those who will make use of them, Astrill VPN's expert features and high customizability make for an appealing choice. However, the apps have a few issues, it's not the best for streaming, and it's incredibly expensive compared to the competition.

For

  • Tons of low-level features and customization
  • Decent free option
  • US Netflix access
  • Stealth VPN to evade censorship in China

Against

  • Very expensive
  • Can't unblock BBC iPlayer, Prime, Disney+
  • Mobile offerings are limited
  • Kill switch isn't wholly reliable

Tom's Guide Verdict

For those who will make use of them, Astrill VPN's expert features and high customizability make for an appealing choice. However, the apps have a few issues, it's not the best for streaming, and it's incredibly expensive compared to the competition.

Pros

  • + Tons of low-level features and customization
  • + Decent free option
  • + US Netflix access
  • + Stealth VPN to evade censorship in China

Cons

  • - Very expensive
  • - Can't unblock BBC iPlayer, Prime, Disney+
  • - Mobile offerings are limited
  • - Kill switch isn't wholly reliable

Astrill VPN is highly regarded in online communities, widely recommended on tech forums and Reddit, and this is often thanks to its remarkable customization and access to the otherwise censored Internet in China.

Based in the Seychelles, Astrill VPN runs a small network of around 300 servers in 57 countries. That's not a lot compared to some of the best VPN services out there, but it's not a reason to totally discount the provider. Plus, these servers are dedicated servers, can handle P2P traffic, and even offer Onion over VPN.

You'll be able to use Astrill VPN on just about any device you own with apps for tons of platforms, and the desktop versions are powerful and offer a lot to those who are willing to get stuck into the settings.

In our full Astrill VPN review below, we'll run down all the essential features of the service, so you can make the decision on whether it's the right VPN for you. You can jump to a certain section using the navigation bar up top, or simply scroll to read everything about the provider.

Astrill VPN review - pricing range

(Image credit: Astrill VPN )

How much does Astrill VPN cost?

If you're looking for a cheap VPN, Astrill VPN certainly won't be for you. At $20 a month on the monthly plan, it's just about the most expensive service we've tested. 

You can drop that to $15 a month if you commit for six months, and $10 a month on the annual plan, but it's still eye-wateringly pricy.

What's more, those basic rates don't even get you everything Astrill has to offer. If you want maxed out speeds, reduced latency for gaming, 'prioritized traffic' and the multi-hop feature, you'll have to drop an extra $10 a month on the VIP Addon. You won't get any discount on that price for signing up to a long-term plan, either. Want a private IP? That'll be another $5 a month – but in truth that's a pretty standard price.

So, to get the VIP version of Astrill VPN, you'll pay $240 all-in for one year of service. Compared to ExpressVPN which charges $99.95 for a year – one of the most premium-priced of all the big names – it puts into perspective quite how expensive Astrill VPN is. Other providers like Ivacy offer real bargain plans of up to five years for less than $100, often with freebies like cloud storage thrown in as a sweetener.

However, Astrill does offer a free Android VPN, which allows one device and delivers limited speeds. It's not the best free VPN in the world, but it's worth checking out to make sure you like the product.

Another nice bonus is the fact you can test out the full-fat version on a 7-day VPN free trial without handing over your payment details. That's a great way of checking out if it's going to be worth the fortune you're handing over – but be aware there's no money-back guarantee after you've paid up. And, finally, you'll be able to pay in a number of ways, including PayPal, card, Bitcoin, AliPay, Web Money, and a bunch more.

Astrill VPN review - privacy policy screen shot

(Image credit: Astrill VPN )

How private is Astrill VPN, and does it keep logs?

Unlike many smaller VPNs, Astrill offers a clear and well-written privacy policy that not only lays out what information it doesn't collect, but also what it does – and that transparency goes a long way in terms of credibility.

In terms of logging, Astrill plainly states: 'Our system keeps track of active sessions – connection time, IP address, device type and Astrill VPN application version during the duration of your VPN session. Once you disconnect from VPN this information is removed permanently from our system.'

So, a small amount of collection, but no logs are stored after the fact. Good stuff.

Astrill also collects the 'last 20 connection records which include: connection time, connection duration, country, device type and Astrill client application version number'. These, however, can't be tied back to activity thanks to the fact the provider doesn't store users' IP addresses anywhere in the chain.

One thing we weren't hugely impressed with, though, was the fact that to sign up you may be asked for your mobile phone number and address as well as your email and name. When paying with PayPal, we had to provide both, which seems to go against the ethos of privacy.

Apart from that, all of this is excellent, but unfortunately Astrill VPN hasn't undergone any sort of independent audit so we have to take this on trust. But, Astrill does much better than a lot of the competition in this area.

What protocols does Astrill VPN use?

There's a decent range of protocols on offer, with WireGuard, OpenVPN, OpenWeb, and StealthVPN – the latter two being Astrill VPN creations.

OpenWeb is designed to deliver better browsing speeds, and by default only affects traffic from common web browsers. Beware Edge users – you'll have to add that in yourself, since Astrill seems to prefer Internet Explorer over Microsoft's current browser.

StealthVPN is what makes Astrill a good pick as a China VPN. While we couldn't check this ourselves, StealthVPN is 'even more secure and hard to identify and block by firewalls', and from reports we've seen online, it seems to do the job.

In terms of encryption, you'll get AES-128-CBC by default with OpenVPN, although you can crank that up to AES-256 if you want to feel really secure. Encryption is also bypassable, which means sacrificing any privacy benefit for better speeds – useful perhaps for streaming, or spoofing your location for games.

Astrill VPN review - DNS options

(Image credit: Astrill VPN )

What settings and customizations does Astrill VPN offer?

Astrill VPN's customization is where it starts to justify its high price (a bit). Head into some menus in-app and you'll have a plethora of options to fiddle with.

You'll be able to customize encryption, change ports, adjust MTU settings, and plenty more. Plus, the split tunneling feature mentioned above is powerful and effective, which is available alongside both kill switches.

Like most good VPNs, Astrill runs its own DNS network to keep your traffic out of the hands of third parties. Unusually, though, you can choose not to use this network and instead go through Cloudflare, Google DNS, OpenDNS, and a few more too. 

All this simply scratches the surface of Astrill's incredible range of features, and if you're keen on really digging into your software to customize it exactly how you want – and have the nouse to do so – it should offer plenty to keep you occupied. For the uninitiated, though, it might just be too much to take in.

How fast is Astrill VPN?

In our speed tests (undertaken using a number of apps and sites, morning and evening, on a 1Gbps connection in the US and UK) Astrill VPN fared pretty well.

When using OpenVPN, we got speeds of up to 300Mbps, which is a great performance with the tried-and-true protocol. In fact, it's comparable with some of the biggest on the market like ExpressVPN (250-300Mbps) and ProtonVPN (460Mbps).

When using WireGuard, speeds increased modestly to around 390Mbps, but in the grand scheme that's a little disappointing. Some of the fastest VPNs like NordVPN and IPVanish top out at over 800Mbps – more than double what Astrill can manage.

How good is Astrill VPN for streaming?

Astrill VPN doesn't market itself as a streaming VPN, which doesn't bode well – but in a time where we see a huge amount of bogus claims about VPNs unblocking every streaming site under the sun, it's quite refreshing to see a provider be honest.

What's more, Astrill is perfectly capable of unblocking exclusive US Netflix content from outside the country. Since Netflix cracked down on VPN use in mid-2021, we've seen a ton of reliable Netflix VPN services run into trouble, so this is a great result for Astrill.

However, in our testing we couldn't access Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer or Disney+, but even so, many users will only be interested in US Netflix. 

We wouldn't recommend Astrill VPN if your main reason for getting a VPN is to access more content, but Netflix unblocking is definitely a nice extra to have in your back pocket.

Astrill VPN review - desktop app

(Image credit: Astrill VPN )

How good are Astrill VPN's apps?

Astrill VPN's apps offer tons of extra features, but on the surface they look quite dated. However, that's mostly an aesthetic issue, and installation is a breeze.

On first open, the client is very small and simple, displaying an on/off button, a network activity graph, and your current server location. Don't be fooled, though, that's not all you get.

Click on the server drop-down and you'll be able to scroll or type to find a server. We're glad that there's a search box here, because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to Astrill's ordering of its servers. And, while you can find explanations in the annals of Astrill's site, the names of servers themselves offer very little usable information.

The Recommended tab sounds great on paper, but from our UK test base, we were offered Seattle, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong. Hardly on our doorstep, then. The Favorites tab is a useful addition, however.

You'll also get split tunneling, which can protect certain apps or sites – perhaps your torrenting client or a particular game – and leave others to use an unprotected connection. 

Astrill offers two kill switches – one app-specific, and one global. Both are effective in regular use, although when we stress-tested it, the global switch came a little undone. 

Simply ending the OpenVPN process triggered it, protecting us until the app reconnected. However, when we force-closed the app when using WireGuard, it didn't activate. When we undertook the same attack when using OpenVPN, the VPN stayed active, but when we reopened the app it lost connection, and the kill switch didn't kick in.

The mobile offerings are a little less impressive, with very few features. The iOS VPN is pretty much just an on/off button with server selection and a choice of UDP or TCP protocols. It does, however, have a Favorites tab that we'd love to see in the desktop version, alongside a Recents tab.

The Android app is a little better with split tunneling, OpenWeb, Stealth VPN and WireGuard, plus port information. So, it's a little more powerful, but, for some reason, lacks the useful Favorites and Recents tab. 

Astrill VPN review - device support

(Image credit: Astrill VPN )

Astrill VPN: Final verdict

As far as consumer VPNs go, Astrill VPN offers just about as much configuration as we've seen – and for those who'll make the most of it, that will be a big plus. And, the fact it's put the effort into unblocking the web in China is excellent to see.

However, the issues with the kill switch, dated app design, weak streaming support and sky-high prices mean that except for a very niche group of users, there are a fair few providers out there that we'd recommend over Astrill – ExpressVPN for all-round usage, Surfshark for rock-bottom prices, and NordVPN for ultimate speeds.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.