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Bitdefender VPN review

Bitdefender Premium VPN is an affordable VPN service using Hotspot Shield servers

Bitdefender VPN review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Bitdefender Premium VPN is a simple, fast and cheap VPN service that will keep your online data and identity secure, but it’s not great when it comes to unblocking content. However, if you're looking for a fast, simple VPN to help keep you secure online, it's a good option to consider.

For

  • Easy to use
  • Unblocks US Netflix
  • Very fast
  • Effective kill switch

Against

  • Minimal features
  • Couldn't unblock iPlayer, Amazon, Disney+
  • Minor Windows app issues

If you use any of Bitdefender’s security packages, you’ll get a free version of its VPN service, which is a great bonus until you’ve surpassed your meagre 200MB daily data transfer limit. However, if you’re willing to spend money on a Bitdefender Premium VPN license, you’ll be able to access more than 1,300 servers in over 30 countries – all without any data caps.

It's worth noting that while Bitdefender Premium VPN uses Hotspot Shield tech in the form of the Catapult Hydra protocol, the apps themselves are wholly designed in-house by Bitdefender. What's more, Bitdefender has confirmed to us that user data is not shared with Hotspot Shield or its parent companies, which is certainly good to hear.

However, although it's a full fledged service in its own right, can Bitdefender Premium VPN really match up to the best VPN services on the market today? Keep reading our Bitdefender VPN review to find out.

Bitdefender VPN review

(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.

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 incredibly fast. The Catapult Hydra protocol delivers incredible speeds the world over, and in our testing it topped out at an incredible 420Mbps.

Streaming was a bit of a let-down. Bitdefender's able to access US Netflix, but iPlayer, 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:
30+
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

Bitdefender 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 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.

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. In this review, 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, and 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.

How fast is Bitdefender VPN?

The latest version of Bitdefender Premium VPN has swapped the OpenVPN protocol for Hotspot Shield’s incredibly 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 from a UK data center to Bitdefender’s VPN’s nearest location peaked at 170-190Mbps, which beat HMA (100-130Mbps) and ExpressVPN (160-170Mbps), as well as a lot of other competitors. However, it couldn’t catch up to the fastest providers, such as Speedify (260-320Mbps) and NordVPN (330-350Mbps).

Performance in the US was even faster. The lowest median speed across four sessions was 266Mbps, while the other three reached 380-420Mbps. To put that into perspective, such speeds are similar to what we saw when we last tested Hotspot Shield (330-415Mbps) and confirms that this repackaged VPN gives the same performance you’d get with Hotspot Shield.

Bitdefender 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.’

In light of this, we were disappointed to find that it wasn’t the case when it came to BBC iPlayer. We even tried to stream content whilst connected to a UK server but still received that dreaded error message: ‘This content is not available in your location.’ The service also failed to stream Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

As disappointing as this is, we were able to stream US Netflix without any difficulty, so whilst it makes for a good Netflix VPN, it’s not a good all-around streaming VPN.

How good are the Bitdefender VPN desktop apps?

Bitdefender Premium VPN provides a familiar interface, 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. This feature continued to function despite the tricks we used to close the VPN connection.

It’s a good client, but not without its imperfections. For example, there isn’t a Favorites or Recent list to swiftly connect to your most-used servers, there’s no connection status information (other than to say it’s active), and it doesn’t display your IP address.

Bitdefender VPN review

(Image credit: Bitdefender VPN)

How good are the Bitdefender VPN mobile apps?

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.’

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.

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.

With limited features, poor content unblocking performance, and a smaller network, it isn’t the greatest VPN out there. For example, ExpressVPN provides a better service than Bitdefender Premium VPN, and is higher-rated than even Hotspot Shield.

That being said, if you’re simply looking for something ‘fast and cheap', it's definitely worth a try.