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As a native Floridian, I just had to look into IPVanish – a VPN that came out of a company headquartered in Orlando, a stone’s throw from my hometown. Is my hometown VPN ready to take the world by storm? To answer that question, I took IPVanish for a spin. I hope you join me while I demonstrate all of IPVanish’s features, investigate its security, and figure out whether it is really worth your hard-earned dollar. It’s Florida man vs. Florida VPN! No matter what happens, you’ll be the winner.
There are some solid IPVanish pricing options, but — like many VPNs — IPVanish doesn’t have a free trial. The lack of a free trial meant that I had to create an account to try out the app on any device. IPVanish does have a 30-day money-back guarantee, which made the lack of a free trial slightly easier to swallow.
I started off with the service’s macOS app. My initial reaction was that it looked less like a commercial VPN and more like an analytics dashboard. The scrolling view of upload and download data usage is mesmerizing, but it isn’t something I could see myself using for any practical purpose.
The installation process was not complicated on any of the devices that I tried – my macOS laptop, My Windows laptop, my iPhone, and my Fire TV stick. The one annoyance was that all the devices, including the Fire TV stick, required me to enter my account information manually. Compared to other apps that let you verify with a code from your laptop, this was an inconvenience, although not a crucial one.
If there’s one battle more fierce than Florida man vs. Florida VPN, it’s that of VPNs vs. streaming services. As cord cutters, we want to stream content from our favorite streaming services. The fact that VPNs allow us to appear to be in a different region even offers the potential for access to content that is restricted in our region. However, this doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, streaming services manage to limit you to your own region’s content even if you’re using a VPN. Other times, they prevent you from streaming altogether if you are using a VPN. Some VPN services are better than others at getting past these restrictions.
I have three favorite services for testing this out: Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix. If these three all work, I generally find that most anything will. So how did IPVanish manage against this trio of challenges? I got different results with different servers. Initially, I tried the default “best available” server from IPVanish. Disney+ worked with no problems. Netflix wouldn’t let me log in, so I had to flip the VPN off long enough to do so — but once I was logged in, I had access to content via the VPN. Amazon Prime Video completely blocked my streaming access when using the default IPVanish server.
I then tried servers in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video were both entirely blocked for every server I tried in those countries, and while Netflix worked, it did not give me access to region-specific content.
IPVanish has a mediocre number of geographic and server options. They are available in 55 countries, which is not terrible, but far from impressive. What really worried me, though, was that there were only 1,700+ servers total. Other VPN services, such as CyberGhost, often boast several thousand servers. This number from IPVanish puts them at a severe disadvantage. For cord cutters, this is important: the more servers a VPN service has, the harder it is for streaming providers to just block them all.
If you are looking to torrent or use P2P file sharing, there is good news: IPVanish does allow these on all of their servers. Some VPN services completely ban these functions. Others limit them to specific servers. IPVanish chooses to introduce no restrictions on their usage.
Some VPNs offer security and privacy extras like ad blockers and automatic HTTPS redirecting. I was surprised to find none of that with IPVanish. I don’t buy a VPN for these extras, so it wasn’t really a problem — it was just surprising. Even simple options like a “kill switch” (a feature that cuts off your connection immediately if your VPN service stops working so that you aren’t left exposed on a suddenly insecure connection) were only available for select protocols.
Hours into my testing, I’d come to expect that IPVanish would offer only the basics — which is why I was caught off-guard when I opened the IPVanish settings on my Fire TV stick. While the options were still limited, I quickly found the split tunneling option, a feature that lets you selectively run some apps through the VPN while others run over your normal internet connection. Given that some services on my Fire TV Stick were not working with the VPN, the presence of this feature was a big deal. I just wish it was available in all of their apps.
I am always curious to see what security protocols are available on any particular VPN service. Some no-frills providers don’t even give you options. Others limit you to only select high-quality options. IPVanish went a different route. They have at least two protocols available on all of their apps and up to five on their desktop apps.
The default option generally seemed to be IKEv2, a choice that I can’t fault them for, as it is very secure. However, the secondary options were concerning. The alternate option on iOS, for example, was IPSec, which is much less secure than IKEv2. I would have much rather seen WireGuard or a comparably secure option. The moral of the story seems to be that IPVanish has secure defaults, but novice users should probably not venture too far into the app settings.
Privacy is also a mixed bag with IPVanish. In the pro column, they have a strict no-logging policy for user data. However, they have not submitted to any third-party audits. This is not standard practice in the industry yet, but companies like TunnelBear voluntarily submit to annual audits. Also — as I mentioned earlier — IPVanish is based in the United States. The U.S. is a member of the Five Eyes alliance, a group of countries that can force companies to share certain user data upon request. This concern is offset by IPVanish’s no-logging policy, but it is still worth keeping in mind.
We all have a need for speed, don’t we? I don’t ever want to go back to the days of a dial-up connection, and I don’t like VPNs that make me relive those days, either. That’s why I used Ookla’s Speedtest to see how much IPVanish was slowing down my cyber life. For this test, I used a few different servers, including the best local option and a couple of randomly chosen servers across Europe and Asia.
Without the VPN, I was getting download and upload speeds of about 55 Mbps and 65 Mbps, respectively. The supposedly fastest VPN option dropped my download speed to 35 Mbps with minimal effect on my upload speeds. That change is not tragic, but it was certainly noticeable. The random server that I tried in the Netherlands had a similar impact on my download speed while also dropping my upload speed to 50 Mbps. I did manage to find servers that had no noticeable effect on my download or upload speeds, but it took about three tries.
IPVanish supports common mobile platforms (iOS and Android) as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops and laptops. Although they do support Android TV and Fire TV stick devices, they have no apps for Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, video game consoles (PS4, Xbox One), or most smart TVs. You can potentially protect these devices by putting the IPVanish app on your router, but device-specific apps would be much more convenient.
IPVanish’s monthly plan will cost you $10 per month. This puts them at about an average rate for a VPN plan. The ability to cover an unlimited number of devices does seem to increase their value, but the limited device availability makes it hard to see that as a huge advantage. You can opt for a 3-month plan for $26.99 ($8.99 per month) or an annual plan for $77.99 per year ($6.49 per month). These discounts are hardly impressive when compared with annual plans from other leading VPN providers.
I wanted to like IPVanish for their unlimited devices, but it’s hard to find anything else truly impressive about their service or their apps. Their defaults are fine, but novice users and power users alike will find their server options and device availability to be limiting. Cord cutters will have a hard time using IPVanish for their streaming needs, although the split tunneling feature does help on devices with apps that offer it.
If you have a large number of devices mobile, desktop, or laptop devices that you need to secure, IPVanish might be for you. You may also like it if you primarily use a Fire TV device to stream. For the typical user, though, I’d suggest looking into other options first.