VPN Unlimited: Not the Swiftest

VPN services are essential for frequent travelers who need to connect to unsecured Wi-FI networks in hotels and airport lounges. But these services are also good for keeping your internet service provider from seeing your online activities, as well as for watching foreign video streams.

VPN Unlimited inexpensively and securely links you to a wide variety of locations, and the company's excellent client software covers the major operating systems. But the service suffers from poor data throughput and long wait times when getting connected.

You can register for VPN Unlimited anonymously, but while the service is primarily based in Ukraine, it does have a U.S. address and might be subject to U.S. government jurisdiction. If that doesn't bother you, then we recommend the faster and cheaper Private Internet Access; if you'd rather avoid Uncle Sam, then try Canada's Windscribe.

Costs and What's Covered

VPN Unlimited offers several tiers of usages. There's a free seven-day trial, and the $4 seven-day VPN pass could be handy for occasional travelers. The monthly subscription is a bit costly, at $10; it's much cheaper to get a $50 annual subscription, which breaks down to $4.17 a month.

VPN Unlimited's client software is among the best I tried.

That's much less than what some VPN services charge for a yearly plan, but it's still more than Private Internet Access' $40 annual cost. To nix periodic fees altogether, get a lifetime subscription plan, which costs a one-time fee of $150.

All the above plans let you connect up to five devices at once. But if you add $50 to the regular lifetime plan, it doubles the number of simultaneous users to 10. You'll have to assume that the company will still be around after your break-even point.

For most families and small businesses, five connections should be more than enough; anyone needing more should set up an open-source router (Tomato, DD-WRT, pfSense and more) with a VPN Unlimited connection.

MORE: 12 Computer Security Mistakes You’re Probably Making

As with most paid VPN services, the amount of data you can use with VPN Unlimited is, well, unlimited. To increase the number of simultaneous sessions, you can pay an extra buck per user per month.

Privacy buffs will like that you don't need to use your real name to register with VPN Unlimited; a live email account will suffice. You can pay with credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, bitcoin or unused retail-store gift cards.

Compatibility

VPN Unlimited has a client program for Windows Vista to Windows 10, and an older version for Windows XP SP3. There's also client software for OS X 10.10 Yosemite and later, and 32- and 64-bit Linux clients for Debian GNU/Linux 8.0 and Ubuntu 14.04 or newer. (Other Linux distributions can be set up with VPN Unlimited connections manually, discussed below.)

Mobile apps support iOS 9 or higher, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or later, and, unusually, Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 1. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox get desktop browser extensions.

VPN Unlimited works with most major VPN protocols, including PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, IKEv1/IPSec and IKEv2/IPSec. The Windows, Android and Linux clients default to OpenVPN; the iOS and macOS ones default to IKEv2, and Windows Phone users must settle for the older, less-secure L2TP/IPSec.

There's also a stealth protocol based on OpenVPN called KeepSolid Wise that disguises VPN connections and provides "extended online freedom." (KeepSolid is the parent company of VPN Unlimited.) This protocol is available for Windows, iOS, Android and Linux.

Android, iOS, macOS and Windows can connect to VPN Unlimited servers using third-party OpenVPN clients; Linux doesn't need a client application to do so. You can also set up Windows, iOS and macOS manually with IKEv2/IPSec.

For either type of procedure, you'll need to log in to your VPN Unlimited online account and generate an appropriate configuration script. You can do the same with a Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV device.

VPN Unlimited has connection servers in about 50 countries and territories, ranging from Australia to Ukraine. As with most VPN services, that list doesn't include Russia or China. On the downside, it says it has only 400 servers available. Many VPN services claim to have more than 1,000 servers, and Private Internet Access says it has nearly 3,200.

VPN Unlimited's clients don't include ad-blocking software. But there is a kill switch to cut off all internet connections if the VPN Unlimited connection is lost while in use.

Features and Interface

VPN Unlimited's client software is among the best I tried, with an uncluttered main screen for both PCs and Macs. A world map on this screen shows where you are, where you can connect to and your current IP address. The Servers section leads to a list of available connection points; each displays its workload to show if it's overloaded.

VPN Unlimited's KeepSolid Wise protocol lets you choose between UDP and TCP data-transmission protocols. The Information section has social media links and a link to tech support.

The iOS and Android apps retain the world map. They also list connection points and allow some modification of settings.

Privacy Protections

VPN Unlimited's service uses the heavy-duty Diffie-Hellman encryption method with a 4,096-bit key and the Diffie-Hellman elliptic curve technique with a 256-bit key for authentication and handshake. Every bit of actual data sent or received is coded with AES-256 symmetric encryption.

The website says the company is based at a residential address in the Bronx.

Determining where exactly VPN Unlimited is located took some sleuthing. The website says the company is based at a residential address in the Bronx borough of New York City, and no contact information is provided.

But if you jump to the website of the parent company, KeepSolid, you'll see that the executives are Ukrainian (and share their LinkedIn pages) and the company is based in Odessa, Ukraine. The VPNUnlimitedApp.com domain name is registered to KeepSolid's chief financial officer, with an Odessa street address for a spot across the street from an IKEA store.

Some VPN-service companies are extremely secretive, but if you prefer to know who's handling your private communications, you may like that the KeepSolid staff seems easy to find.

This raises some interesting questions. If VPN Unlimited is officially in the U.S, but the offices and staffers are in Ukraine, is the company under U.S. jurisdiction? Can the FBI show up at the Bronx residential address with a search warrant and get anything? We don't have the answer.

MORE: Best VPN Services for Staying Anonymous Online

KeepSolid told Tom's Guide that it doesn't keep logs of user activity, but there didn't seem to be any privacy policy on the VPN Unlimited website.

That One Privacy Site, a wellspring of slightly paranoid information on VPN security, gives VPN Unlimited generally negative marks. That's because the company allegedly keeps logs of some user activity and because it has a titular connection to the United States.

Performance

In early 2018, I tested and used seven VPN services — CyberGhost, Hotspot Shield, Mullvad, Private Internet Access, TunnelBear, VPN Unlimited and Windscribe — while traveling from New York City to the Netherlands, Germany and the Caucasian country of Azerbaijan.

VPN Unlimited was slow to connect and was a poor performer overall.

I used VPN Unlimited on my journeys, at my office, in hotels, and in a few coffee shops here and there. During my six weeks with the service, it was slow to connect and was a poor performer overall.

On average, it took 36 seconds to connect with VPN Unlimited's servers. That's 10 times as long as Private Internet Access took and the longest connection time of any of the seven services.

VPN Unlimited required four reconnections while I traveled, but it stayed online without trouble when I kept it going for 12 hours straight. The service supported three devices at once and streamed music and videos on my iPad and Android phone without a problem, regardless of whether I was in the Frankfurt airport or at a Starbucks in Manhattan.

Like most services, VPN Unlimited had no local connection point in Baku, Azerbaijan. I connected to a server in Minsk, Belarus, located 1,400 miles away.

MORE: What to Do After a Data Breach

When you do connect, you face the highest network latency among the seven VPN services I looked at. (Network latency measures how long it takes data to travel from one end point to the other. In our ping test, the data had to return as well.)

VPN Unlimited's average ping time of 122.6 milliseconds was up ninefold from a pretest level of 13.4 ms. In practical terms, every request for data will take longer with this service compared to the likes of Private Internet Access and Windscribe, which had ping times, respectively, of 33.5 and 35 ms.

VPN Unlimited's average download speed of 21 megabits per second (Mbps) was off 68 percent from the pretest level of 65.9 Mbps. Only Mullvad performed worse, at 80 percent off its pretest levels. Private Internet Access, by contrast, dipped only 7 percent.

VPN Unlimited doesn't care who you are and doesn't ask you for your name when you register.

To simulate real use cases, I downloaded a 780MB video file from Archive.org. VPN Unlimited did honorably well in this test, losing only 49 percent of its bandwidth and tying with Windscribe for fourth place out of seven.

Despite all this ugliness, VPN Unlimited's average upload speed of 17.7 Mbps was pretty good, only 19 percent less than the pretest level and second best after Private Internet Access' tiny 7 percent dip. This high upload bandwidth could help if you are updating a website or doing a lot of work with an online database.

Setup and Customer Support

VPN Unlimited doesn't care who you are and doesn't ask you for your name when you register. All you need is a working email address. After I downloaded and ran the 35MB VPN Unlimited installer program, the company had me click a verification link in an email message.

You can choose your own username and password. This might seem like a given, but Private Internet Access and Mullvad both assign you random numerical usernames that can be hard to remember.

Finally, you'll need to load a TAP VPN driver, required for most Windows VPN usage. Once you tell the company how you're going to pay and which plan you want, you're all set.

The service connected on my first try. All told, it took me about 9 minutes to get VPN Unlimited set up and running.

You can send email messages to support staff from each client app, and VPN Unlimited's website has excellent resources for troubleshooting problems. The company promises to reply to emails within the hour, and I got a response in 40 minutes.

Bottom Line

VPN Unlimited's $50 annual cost is quite cheap, you can sign up and pay anonymously, the client software is easy to use, and the service offers many connection options.

But despite having connection points around the world, VPN Unlimited can't match some other services in the sheer number of servers available. More significantly, its network performance is not very good, and it has at least a small U.S. presence that might put off customers worried about the FBI.

Anyone comfortable using a U.S. VPN provider should go for Private Internet Access, which is the cheapest and fastest by far. Those wishing to avoid Uncle Sam should hop across the Canadian border to Windscribe.

Specs

Client platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, open-source routers
Supported protocols:
IKEv2, OpenVPN, IKEv1, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, KeepSolid Wise
No. of servers:
About 400
No. of countries:
About 50
Country of registration:
U.S./Ukraine
Payment options:
Credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, Apple Pay, gift cards
Real name necessary?
No
Encryption protocol:
AES-256
Data usage:
Unlimited
Bandwidth usage:
Unlimited
Max. no. of simultaneously connected devices:
Five
Customer support:
Email
Privacy policy:
No logging

Credit: Tom's Guide