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Your virtual private network (VPN) is a trusted partner in your internet experience. You need to know that you can rely on it for privacy, security, and speed. That’s why I am always looking for new VPNs that can deliver these things — which brings me to the reason I’m here today, which is to review StrongVPN.
StrongVPN has been in the VPN business since 2005, so they’ve had a lot of time to refine their apps and servers. With their recent takeover of one of our old CordCutting.com favorites, Encrypt.me, it seemed like a good time to give them a chance to prove just how strong StrongVPN really is.
StrongVPN is one of the cleanest and easiest-to-use VPNs I’ve seen, and it has most of the customizations and security features a novice VPN user needs. However, its low server count could spell trouble for internet speeds and streaming in the future, and privacy hawks won’t like the fact that the company is headquartered in the U.S.
Our take: StrongVPN’s apps are secure, but you won’t get international streaming content.
Installing StrongVPN’s apps was as simple as can be. The service has dedicated apps for most platforms, and those apps can easily be found on the StrongVPN website or your device’s app store. The iOS installation did require that I approve the creation of a VPN profile, but that’s true of any VPN on that platform.
Once installed, all of the StrongVPN apps look the same. They have a clean interface, with two main buttons, a map, a few lines of status information, and a settings menu in the menu bar (or the system bar on some operating systems). I hate when VPNs fill their home screen with lots of features, buttons, and extra info, so StrongVPN’s simple interface made me smile.
I never turn on a VPN without checking out the default VPN protocol, encryption, and other settings. Every StrongVPN app I tried (Fire TV, iPhone, Mac, PC) used IKEv2 or WireGuard — both highly secure options — as its default protocol. I switched my Mac app to OpenVPN because it offers a couple of security features that the default (IKEv2) doesn’t, but you can safely keep the defaults on any of these systems, and that’s good news for casual and novice VPN users.
As with most VPN apps, StrongVPN defaults to using the “Best Available” VPN server. Typically, that means it will pick the closest server since that will be the fastest. Changing servers is easy enough, though. Clicking the button showing the current server selection brings up a list of all your server options. You can sort by either city or country or search the list.
Unlike some other VPN providers, StrongVPN doesn’t have dedicated streaming or torrenting servers. There’s also no information provided about the current load or status of the servers. I went with the “Best Available” server for most of my testing, but I also tried out the speed on some international servers, as I’ll discuss later.
This probably sounds pretty rosy so far, but I do have one complaint, so let me vent for a minute. StrongVPN has absolutely no free trials or free service tiers! Other VPNs have spoiled me with these options, so I’ve become accustomed to approaching VPNs with a try-before-I-buy attitude. The only way to try out StrongVPN for “free” is to buy an annual plan and cancel before the 30-day money-back-guarantee period ends. Otherwise, you have to pay for a month of service to see whether you like the product.
Ease of use and good default options will get you only so far. With those initial checks out of the way, I started testing how well StrongVPN worked for common cord-cutting activities.
For my first test, I tried streaming some of my favorite TV shows while running the VPN. Every country has its own streaming catalog on Netflix and other streaming apps because of licensing agreements and local demand. If you want to access these other catalogs, your only options are to travel there or use a VPN server located in that country. Obviously, the second option is easier, which is one of the reasons cord-cutters love VPNs so much.
I tried StrongVPN with Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Netflix. Each of these streaming services uses state-of-the-art methods for detecting and blocking VPNs, but they don’t all use the same methods. Together, they make a great test for the quality of a VPN. Any VPN app that works with all three of them should work fine with any streaming service.
VPN providers that pass this test usually share one trait: They have a lot of VPN servers in their arsenal. When a VPN has only a few servers, streaming services can just blacklist those servers individually, an incredibly easy tactic. Since Strong VPN has just under 1,000 servers in more than 40 countries, I wasn’t sure how well it would work. That’s not a bad server count, but it’s nothing compared to the 5,000+ servers you’ll find with competitors NordVPN and CyberGhost.
When I connected to a local U.S. server, Disney Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video all worked with no issues. That’s a good start, but it was time to watch some international content.
I tried eight different servers in six countries, and Disney Plus refused to load on any of them. Similarly, Amazon Prime Video blocked all content when I was connected outside of the U.S. The Netflix app let me stream video, but none of the international catalogs were unlocked by the VPN. If you are looking for a VPN that lets you watch international streaming content, StrongVPN is not the right pick.
Next, I tested out whether StrongVPN could handle torrenting. I’m happy to say that it passed this test with flying colors. The StrongVPN app doesn’t have specified servers for P2P file sharing, so you can use BitTorrent on any server in the list.
I mentioned the default VPN protocols in StrongVPN earlier, but there are quite a few more options in the app. Most VPN apps give you one to three VPN protocols to choose from, and it’s rare that more than two of those are actually secure. StrongVPN, on the other hand, has three to five protocols to choose from in each of its apps, at least two of which are highly secure.
I wish that the StrongVPN team had left some of the lower-security options (like L2TP) off the service’s apps, but they’ve done the next best thing. In most VPN apps, the VPN protocol list is just a dropdown with little to no information aside from the protocol names. That’s fine for advanced users, but it can be dangerous for beginners. StrongVPN provides a description of each protocol’s trade-offs in terms of security, compatibility, and speed — all right in the selection menu.
Some of the security features in StrongVPN vary based on the device you’re on and the protocol you are using. Take kill switches, for example, which prevent your data from leaking outside of the encrypted VPN connection by killing your internet if the VPN goes down. This handy feature is available only in StrongVPN’s desktop apps. On macOS, kill switches work with the OpenVPN or L2TP protocols only, whereas they work with all protocols on Windows.
StrongVPN’s Android apps (including its app for Amazon’s Fire TV, a platform that is built on Android) all include one of my favorite features: split tunneling. When you activate this option, you can choose to run some of your applications through the VPN while letting other apps use your standard internet connection. I use split tunneling when I want to stream international Netflix content in the app while browsing sites in Chrome that require me to appear to be in the U.S. There are plenty of other use cases, too, so hopefully StrongVPN will add this feature to the desktop and mobile apps soon.
When it comes to privacy, location matters. Some countries’ governments require backdoors and other access to even supposedly private data. Other countries, meanwhile, have strong privacy protections for all kinds of user data. You want your VPN provider to be headquartered in one of those latter countries. Sadly, StrongVPN is located in the United States, a member of the Five Eyes Alliance. The governments of Five Eyes countries have an agreement that forces companies to hand over user data on request, making them some of the worst countries for VPN privacy.
StrongVPN has a zero-logging policy, which offsets some of my privacy concerns. Since the company doesn't keep user data, even a request from the Five Eyes Alliance wouldn’t really matter. After all, you can’t turn over data that you don’t have. That works in theory, though I couldn’t find any evidence that StrongVPN’s no-logging standards have undergone any third-party audits. These audits aren’t yet common in the industry, but some companies — such as TunnelBear — have voluntarily submitted to an independent audit to prove that their no-logging standards are more than just words.
Security and privacy are important, but a great VPN also needs to be fast. Because of how VPNs work, they always slow down your internet connection. There’s no way around it since the connection has to pass through the VPN server on its way to the destination — an extra stop that invariably takes time. I tested StrongVPN’s U.S. servers and several of their international servers using speedtest.net.
For comparison, I ran an initial test with the VPN off. Today was apparently a good internet day because I was getting 188 Mbps download speed and 172 Mbps upload with a ping of 2 ms.
All of the U.S.-based servers provided me with at least 140 Mbps download and 150 Mbps upload. The server StrongVPN chose as my best option was indeed the fastest, with speeds of 150 Mbps for download and 165 Mbps for upload, with a 3 ms ping. That’s a noticeable dip in download speed, but the upload and ping were excellent. Even the download decrease isn’t bad compared to the average VPN, though I’ve seen much faster options amongst the best VPNs.
The international servers had mixed results. In some countries, I could not find a server that provided download speeds higher than 80 Mbps, although upload speeds were generally still fine. I was able to find fast servers in several countries, including parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia. Unless you require blazing-fast speeds or a server in a specific country, StrongVPN’s server options should serve your needs.
StrongVPN has dedicated apps for all the most common desktop/laptop operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux) and mobile phones (Android, iOS). StrongVPN apps are also available for Android TV or Fire TV. However, you won’t find StrongVPN apps for other streaming devices (Roku, Chromecast, etc.); smart TVs; or video game systems (PS5, Xbox Series X, etc.).
If you want to cover all of your devices — even those without a dedicated app — there is a workaround. You can install StrongVPN directly on your router, providing security for all the traffic running through your home network. The downside is that you lose device-specific control, which can become a problem if each of your devices has its own unique VPN needs. Router VPN installations are also more involved than device VPN installations, so be sure to read our router VPN setup guide first.
StrongVPN has a very simple pricing structure. The service’s monthly plan is $10.99 per month. Its annual plan is $79.99 per year ($6.67 per month). Both of these plans cover up to 12 simultaneous device connections, far more than you can cover with most VPN plans.
Those prices aren’t the highest I’ve seen for a VPN, but the monthly plan is still on the pricey side. The annual plan is about average for a VPN. Keep in mind that most VPNs offer their best discounts for plans running for 24 months or more, but StrongVPN has decided not to offer any subscriptions that run longer than one year.
StrongVPN is secure and easy to use. It’s also fast enough for most VPN users. While it doesn’t unlock international streaming content, its U.S. servers still let you stream from every service I tried. If you have a lot of devices that need protecting, the generous 12-device limit is one of the best of any VPN provider.
My main concerns with StrongVPN have to do with privacy and the limited server count. The company’s U.S. headquarters could be problematic if you don’t trust StrongVPN’s no-logging policy to safeguard your usage data. I’d like to see at least another 2,000 servers on the server list, too, especially as streaming services crack down on more and more VPNs. Extra servers would also help ensure that their servers don’t slow down if many users are online at once.
If you’re looking for a VPN with a gradual learning curve and all the basic functionalities you need, StrongVPN is a solid option. It may not have CyberGhost’s high server count, but it is a very clean option as a torrenting VPN and as a streaming VPN for Fire TV.