There are 450+ servers spread across more than 100 locations, for instance. There are apps for Windows, Android, iOS, Mac and Kodi, as well as Chrome and Firefox extensions. It’s torrent-friendly, there’s no logging, the service supports up to five simultaneous connections, plus it has a kill switch to protect your privacy if the connection drops. Technical pluses include support for PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, split tunneling support enables choosing which traffic you route through the tunnel, and the feature list goes on.
We noticed a few catches, too. Ivacy’s servers don’t all support every protocol, for instance. If you prefer to use OpenVPN, you have only 21 locations and 17 countries to choose from (check the full server list here.)
Prices are low at $9.95 billed monthly, a low $3.33 when you pay for a year up-front, falling to a spectacular $2.25 on the two-year plan. That even beats Private Internet Access, which charges $2.91 for its own two-year option.
Unusual optional extras include a dedicated IP for $1.99 a month, and port forwarding support for $1 a month.
There’s wide support for multiple payment methods, include card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, and Bitcoin via BitPay.
Ivacy doesn’t offer a free plan or trial, but you are protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee (or seven days for monthly-billed accounts.) This used to include some sneaky catches – you weren’t covered if you’d used more than 7GB of data, or connected more than 30 times – but these have fortunately disappeared since our last review.
We did spot another potential issue, though, in that you won’t qualify for a refund if you use ‘Bitcoin, BitPay, Coin Payments (Cryptocurrency) & Payment Wall as your payment method.’ Keep that in mind before you sign up.
Privacy and logging
‘We strictly do not log or monitor, online browsing activities, connection logs, VPN IPs assigned, original IP addresses, browsing history, outgoing traffic, connection times, data you have accessed and/or DNS queries generated by your end. We have no information that could associate specific activities to specific users.’
The policy goes on to explain the personal data it does collect (name, email address, payment methods) and other collection methods (app crash reports and diagnostics, Google Analytics on the website). This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than many competitors, and it was good to see that Ivacy also allows you to request the deletion of your personal information via its website Members Area.
Signing up with Ivacy worked much like any other VPN we’ve ever used. We chose a plan and payment method, handed over our cash, Ivacy sent us a Welcome email with a link to set up our password, and the website offered links to Ivacy’s many clients.
We downloaded, installed and launched the Windows client without difficulty, but then ran into a problem. It required us to log in. Not with a VPN-specific login, but the same one as the website. Worse, it wouldn’t remember our credentials, either, so we were forced to re-enter them, every time we launched the client.
There’s an argument that this prevents anyone with access to the system from using your VPN, but we’re not sure how big of an issue that will be. We think the real issue here is that users will be tempted to choose a short and insecure password, just so they can remember and enter it quickly. As those credentials are also used on the website, that makes their account more likely to be hacked, and for others to be able to use their account.
The client interface looks similar to many other VPN apps. The opening screen has a large Connect button which will automatically connect you to the nearest server, for instance, or you can choose your location from a list. This list can be displayed as countries or cities, but there’s no search box or other filters, and no Favorites system to save commonly-used servers.
A left-hand toolbar helps you choose servers for particular tasks. Click Streaming, for instance, and you’re able to choose streaming services you’d like to unblock and view (Amazon Prime, BBC, Hulu, Netflix and many more.)
Other options include ‘Unblocking’ to help you access geoblocked sites, and ‘Secure Download’, where apparently the service ‘scans for any viruses or malware in the data being downloaded and removes it at server level.’ The website page on this feature says it ‘scans and removes such viruses and malicious files before they even make their way to your devices.’ That makes it sound like it’s checking the contents of the files you’re downloading, but our tests suggest it’s probably using a simple DNS blacklist to block dangerous URLs.
Settings enable choosing your preferred startup mode, for example opening with the Streaming page. There’s an option to switch protocol (OpenVPN UDP or TCP, L2TP or IKEV), a kill switch and split tunneling support.
Put it all together and the client has some interesting features, but there are issues, too. The location list is too basic (no Favorites, no ping or server load times), it’s missing some small options we’d expect to see (a Connect menu when we right-click the system tray icon), there are lags and delays with some actions, we’ve seen it hang for a while and use a lot of CPU time for no apparent reason.
Desktop clients normally contain the most features, but Ivacy’s Android app was surprisingly capable, with the same connection modes (streaming, downloading, unblocking), a connection list displayed by country or city, a kill switch and split tunneling. It even had a bonus extra in a Multi-Port option to find the best port for your system.
We were still unsure about some elements of the Android app. For instance, its protocol choice seems to imply that it’s using OpenVPN, but looking at our test connection, we’re not sure that’s true. But there’s no doubt Ivacy apps have more features than most, and if you’re looking for power above all else, that will be interesting.
Assessing the performance of any VPN starts by looking at the connection time, and Ivacy was worse than most. The Windows client would often spend approaching a minute telling us it was ‘fetching location’ (waiting to be allocated an IP address, we think).
We noticed it was using one full CPU core for all this wait time, too, apparently because it’s querying the OpenVPN service, which suggests to us that there’s some horribly inefficient code underneath.
When we did get connected, the VPN would occasionally drop unexpectedly. You can turn on a kill switch to block internet access if this happens, and have the client redial automatically, but neither option is enabled by default.
Another occasional problem saw the client tell us we were connected, but leave us unable to access the internet. We don’t know whether this was some local issue (the client hadn’t set up the connection properly), a remote one (the server was somehow broken) or something in between, but it’s still a concern.
Speeds were inconsistent, too. Our nearest UK servers ranged from 30-65Mbps on our 75Mbps test line; Europe managed anything from 20-60Mbps; the US gave us 10-40Mbps; and long-distance servers finally managed some consistency, but only because they were uniformly poor, with Australia and New Zealand barely reaching 10Mbps and a few (Taiwan) so slow as to be unusable.
The Ivacy website boasts that it allows you to ‘stream anything, anywhere’, which sounds good to us. And this isn’t just vague marketing waffle – the apps include streaming functions where are specifically designed to unblock Netflix and many other streaming platforms.
To try this, we launched the Windows client, clicked Streaming > Select Channel > Netflix, and watched as the client told us we were connecting to ‘Netflix US’. Once we were online, the client asked if we wanted to watch US Netflix. We clicked Yes, our default browser opened at the Netflix site, and it worked – we were able to stream Netflix content as usual.
We moved on to US YouTube, expecting success, because YouTube hardly blocks anything, but – no. It didn’t let us in. We solved the problem by manually logging in to a new US server, which did allow us to stream content, but that’s not exactly convenient.
We finished our checks by trying to stream the BBC, but the client took an age before we were connected, and not only didn’t give us access to the BBC player, but left us unable to access the internet at all. Trying to close the connection left the client using a full CPU core again until eventually normal internet access was restored. (A possibly related issue with Ivacy’s dubious coding is that Cancel and other buttons often refuse to work while the client is hung up doing something else.)
Switching to plan B, we closed the client, restarted, and allowed it to access our nearest UK server. Unfortunately, that didn’t help very much: we were able to get online, this time, but the BBC refused to stream content, displaying its usual warning that ‘this content is not available in your location.’
The Ivacy support site is always available if you run into problems, with an assortment of installation, troubleshooting and other guides. There’s some useful content, but not as much detail as we would like, a few of the articles are outdated (for example using screenshots from old versions of the client), and it can’t begin to match the professional articles from major VPN providers such as ExpressVPN.
Fortunately, the website also offers 24/7 live chat support. We had a useful response in around a minute when we posed a test question, much better than we’ve seen with most of the competition.
The replies we saw were relatively short and to the point, leaving us a little unsure whether the agent was clear about what we wanted to know. That’s perhaps to be expected if the agent isn’t a native English speaker, though, as seems likely. But the content of the responses is what matters most, and here Ivacy scored well, with accurate answers which quickly pointed us to the best solutions for our problems.
Ivacy offers a pile of advanced features for a seriously low price, but we also noticed significant issues with connection reliability, speed and the Windows client. Demanding users might want to check it out anyway (there’s a minimum 7-day money-back guarantee), but do some intensive testing before you buy.
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