Like some other antivirus makers, Avast has added a VPN service to its list of computer-security products, hoping to get existing customers to buy an additional service. But while Avast SecureLine performs reasonably well as a VPN, its features are limited and its pricing scheme is confusing when compared to full-featured VPN providers such as Private Internet Access.
Costs and What's Covered
SecureLine VPN does the basics well, with compatibility for Windows PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices. It integrates well with Avast's antivirus software, but there's no way to make SecureLine VPN work with Linux, Chromebook computers or open-source routers.
SecureLine's weeklong free trial might be enough to cover your next trip, and it's a great way to try out a VPN. There's no limit on how much data you can use, either during the trial period or in general. However, the rival Avira Phantom VPN lets you use up to 1GB of data for free every month, and the Opera VPN mobile apps are both unlimited and free.
After your trial week with SecureLine is up, you'll need to navigate Avast's somewhat confusing pricing structure. You can pay $59.99 per year, or $7.99 per month, for a single PC or Mac license. Three PCs cost $69.99 per year; five are $79.99, and 10 cost $99.99. Oddly, there's no volume discount for Macs, although if you buy one or more PC licenses, you can get a single Mac license for half off.
To use SecureLine with iOS or Android devices, you'll need to get a separate license that costs $19.99 per year, per platform, or $2.99 per month. (Either is half off with the purchase of a yearly Mac or Windows license.) Because the mobile licenses aren't tied to a single device, they are handy for individuals (or families) who own both smartphones and tablets.
As you can imagine, these licenses could add up quickly. A family with two Windows PCs, a Mac, and various iOS and Android devices would pay at least $120 per year for SecureLine VPN.
This is how antivirus subscriptions are sold, but it makes no sense to do this with VPN services. The stand-alone VPN services we tested charge between $40 and $110 per year for an unlimited number of devices, and those services offer many more features than SecureLine currently does. (Avast told us it is working on offering an unlimited-device, cross-platform license.)
You can pay with a credit card or PayPal. Sorry, but there's no Bitcoin option.
Features and Interface
With a couple of dozen servers in 19 countries, SecureLine has far fewer connection points than full-featured VPN services, which have hundreds or even thousands of servers scattered across the globe. Still, this limited number of access points should be fine for most travelers.
The SecureLine interface is pretty much the same between mobile and desktop devices, and it's clean, bright and easy to navigate. One downside of basing everything on the mobile interface is that the SecureLine desktop interface stuffs everything into a tiny window that can't be enlarged.
Credit: AvastSecureLine also has fewer configuration options than other VPN providers. You can't switch among VPN protocols, which are fixed to OpenVPN for Windows and Android, and IPSec for Mac and iOS. Nor can you set the VPN service to connect automatically upon system startup or when a device connects to an unsafe Wi-Fi network.
There's a helpful VPN configuration page in the app for iPads and iPhones. Unlike some VPN providers, SecureLine lacks ad blocking on any platform.
Like most VPN providers, SecureLine VPN uses the AES-256 protocol to encrypt data transmissions. Because Avast doesn't accept payment in Bitcoin, gift cards or other virtual currencies, you'll need to use your real name when registering for the service. Avast says it does log your connection information when you use SecureLine VPN. There's no "kill switch" option to cut off all internet activity if the connection to the VPN server is lost.
Avast SecureLine VPN is owned and operated by Avast Software, a Czech company. That may seem obvious, but some other VPN operators are hidden behind shell companies registered in offshore tax havens. The Czech Republic generally operates using European Union privacy laws.
Among the VPN services we tested, Avast SecureLine's performance was generally in the middle of the pack. It had a slow connection time of 12.3 seconds and a network latency — how long data takes to get to its destination — of 37 milliseconds, more than double the latency without the VPN running.
While connected to SecureLine VPN, our Lenovo X1 Yoga test system downloaded data at an average rate of 37 megabits per second (Mbps), representing a respectable 30 percent drop from the non-VPN rate of 53.1 Mbps.
SecureLine uploaded data at an average rate of 16.5 Mbps, representing a 14 percent drop from the non-VPN rate of 19.3 Mbps. It required no reconnections during testing.
However, when we downloaded a 428MB video file while connected to SecureLine VPN, it took a slow 14 minutes and 21 seconds — a 376 percent slowdown from the non-VPN time of 3:01. Only Avira Phantom VPN and PureVPN took longer. Private Internet Access downloaded the same file in 4 and a half minutes.
Setup and Customer Support
It takes about 4 minutes to download and set up the SecureLine software on a PC or Mac. Installing the iOS or Android app takes about a minute, the same as most other apps.
Because Avast SecureLine is a paid service, its customers get email support during European business hours, which is better than the forums and FAQs available to users of Avast's free antivirus software. But to get Avast's premium, 24/7 telephone tech support, you'll have to pay a fee ranging from $79 to $299.
If you already use Avast security products, adding SecureLine might be a no-brainer. But until Avast revamps its confusing pricing structure, you'll get more for your money if you opt for a full-featured VPN provider such as Private Internet Access or CyberGhost.
Client software platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Native support platforms: None
Supported protocols: IPSec (Mac/iOS), OpenVPN (Windows/Android)
No. of servers: 27
No. of countries: 19
Country of registration: Czech Republic
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal
Real name necessary? Yes
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no, of simultaneously connected devices: n/a
Customer support: 24/7 telephone