If you frequent the unsecured Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops, your information is probably less secure than you think. With a virtual private network (or VPN), such as VPN Unlimited from KeepSolid, however, you can rest assured that your browsing is encrypted and private. This service offers inexpensive, flexible subscriptions, as well as many of the advanced security features I usually see in far more expensive products. Throw in solid speed scores and lightweight browser extensions, and VPN Unlimited looks like a very attractive deal. It's an Editors' Choice winner for VPN services.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on your VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN server, which can foil hackers or even government snoops trying to eavesdrop on your activities. From the server, your web traffic travels off into the public internet, but your actual IP address remains hidden. Data-hungry website advertisers see the IP address of the VPN server instead of your own. A VPN can even help protect against your ISP harvesting your data—something new for us all to worry about.
We recommend using a VPN as often as you can, but especially when your PC is connected to a public Wi-Fi network. When you hop on an unsecured network at the airport or coffee shop, you have no way of knowing whether the network is what it claims to be. Instead of a convenience offered to thirsty customers and weary travelers, the network could have been created by a hacker looking to intercept your data.
VPNs can also be used to disguise your actual location, which is why these services are used by journalists and political activists operating in countries with restrictive internet controls. This has a fringe benefit for the average user: You can use a VPN to unlock region-locked streaming media content, such as the latest TV shows from the BBC. Note, however, that some streaming services, including Netflix and others, have gotten wise and begun blocking VPN users.
Pricing and Features
VPN Unlimited offers six pricing plans, giving you lots of choice over how much you pay and how often you're billed. The cheapest plan, Vacation, is intended for those quick jaunts away from home, and costs $2.99 for seven days. The Economy plan ups this to a month-long subscription for only $6.99 per month, $13.99 for three months, and $39.99 for a whole year. A three-year plan is also available for $79.99. Note that all prices are charged in full at time of billing, and a seven-day money back guarantee is included.
Careful readers will notice that this is a slight upward shift in KeepSolid pricing. But even so, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited remains one of the most affordable VPN services. Among premium services I've reviewed, only Spotflux Premium VPN costs less, at $4.99 per month.
If you're really happy with VPN Unlimited and want to hedge your bets about internet access in the afterlife, you can opt for the Infinity Plan, which is a 100-year subscription for $149 (currently on sale for $99.99). KeepSolid, the developer behind VPN Unlimited, kindly notes that the company will "gladly extend this period by your request." You can buy these, or any of VPN Unlimited's other plans, with PayPal, credit cards, Amazon Pay, Bitcoin, and Payment Wall.
Note, however, that KeepSolid only lists the monthly, yearly, and Infinity plans on its website. For the other options, you'll have to download the free client and make your purchase there. It's a bit tedious, but the flexibility of these plans makes it well worth the trouble.
Although VPN Unlimited is inexpensive, it has more features and options than most of its higher-priced competition. For example, VPN Unlimited sports 1,273 servers across a very geographically diverse 80 locations. These include many often-overlooked regions, such as Africa, China, the Isle of Man, Mexico, Russia, South America, and Turkey, to name a few. Private Internet Access, which also holds an Editors' Choice award, has well over 3,000 servers. By the numbers, it's the most robust VPN service I've tested.
Want to go cheaper? There are numerous free VPNs available. Of particular note is TunnelBear, which is extremely easy to setup and use. The free version is capped at 500MB of traffic per month, however.
Unlike TorGuard VPN, which is designed for BitTorrent and P2P services, VPN Unlimited only allows file sharing on five servers (California, France, Luxembourg, Ontario, and Romania). That's still more than most other VPN services such as Spotflux, which simply ban the practice outright. VPN Unlimited also has a special Streaming server, available specifically for high-speed video streaming. Co-Editors' Choice NordVPN also offers a video streaming server, but goes further with a VPN server that also connects to the Tor anonymization network, as well as a double-encrypted server.
Power users looking for a personal VPN server in the country of their choice or a static IP address that is (allegedly) not associated with proxy services will be pleased to know that VPN Unlimited offers these rare options. Personal IP addresses are available in Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. An IP address in any of these locations costs $14.99. A Personal Server offers users improved speeds since you won't be sharing it with other VPN users. These cost $21.99 per month, and have a bandwidth limit of 1TB per month. Purchasing a personal server will also let you configure your router to provide VPN protection to every device in your home. The advantage is that a "clean" IP address is less likely to be blocked by other services (such as Netflix). TorGuard also offers static IP addresses, and includes other add-ons such as access to a high-speed 10-gigabit network. So far, VPN Unlimited is the only service that offers server rental.
Also in the category of rare features is something called KeepSolid Wise, which disguises VPN traffic as HTTPS traffic. This is designed for use in countries where access to the free internet isn't available, and where the use of VPNs is blocked. TunnelBear has a similar feature. For Android, Windows, and Linux systems, VPN Unlimited uses the OpenVPN protocol, and uses IPsec IKEv1 on macOS and iOS. I'd really like to see VPN Unlimited add OpenVPN support for Macs. KeepSolid currently does not support the IKEv2 protocol, but says it will be adding support soon.
Not long ago, some VPN companies chose to make some extra dough by injecting ads into user's web traffic. A company representative confirmed to me that KeepSolid VPN Unlimited does not do this.
Beyond VPN Protection
Recently, KeepSolid introduced the Censorship Test feature. This scans your internet connection and looks for services and websites that may be blocked in your particular geographic region. For example, my US-based scan looked at 45 websites and found them all available. You can opt to send KeepSolid an anonymized version of your scan, which the company says will be available in aggregate at www.censor-check.com. Sending your data will also earn you a free day of VPN access, but you can only submit one scan per week.
KeepSolid also offers what it calls a DNS Firewall. This is a bundle of features, aimed at preventing websites from tracking your movements, protecting you against malware, and blocking ads. It's offered free with any subscription, but note that it is not enabled by default. Once you switch it on, you select from various levels of protection. That's smart, since ad blocking can sometimes break the sites you visit. Letting you choose the level of protection means you can try to balance security with ease of use. KeepSolid includes a White and Black List for blocking, giving you even more customization.
It's great that KeepSolid is offering these features, but it's important to understand their limitations. The ad-blocking and tracker-blocking features use global blacklists maintained by KeepSolid. Similarly, the anti-malware feature simply blocks known malicious URLs. This is approach is partly taken to respect your privacy and offer additional protection without decrypting your web traffic, which would be required to inspect the data moving to and from your computer. These tools complement your existing antivirus solution or privacy tools, rather than replacing them.
Hands-On With VPN Unlimited
Regardless of your platform, VPN Unlimited has you covered with native clients for Linux, macOS, and Windows. It also offers mobile VPN clients for Android and iOS. As with most leading VPN services, VPN Unlimited lets you connect up to five devices simultaneously. You can add an additional device for 99 cents per month, five devices for $2.99 per month, or 10 devices for $5.99 per month. If you've got a big family or a lot of devices, it's a great option.
In my testing, I used a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running Windows 10. I had no trouble installing VPN Unlimited, which uses a typical installer and setup tool. The only wrinkle is that it needed to reboot my machine.
I'm impressed with the VPN Unlimited client, which is very well designed. All of the features are easily explained with an overlay that points out each element and what it does. A toggle at the top of the screen turns the VPN connection on and off. Buttons down the left show your account information and give you quick access to available servers. All that can be a bit overwhelming to a first time user. If a kinder, friendlier VPN is what you're looking for, definitely consider TunnelBear or Hide My Ass.
The right panel lists all VPN Unlimited's available servers, with a handy search box at the top. Each server lists its country of origin, how crowded the server currently is, and whether or not torrenting is allowed on that server. VPN Unlimited also has a high-speed server dedicated to video streaming and an Optimal option that connects you to what it believes is the best server available. I really like that the client offers up this much information.
Unfortunately, I found that Netflix blocked access while I using VPN Unlimited. That's not unusual, however. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any VPN service that will play nice with Netflix.
If you'd rather not deal with a stand-alone client, KeepSolid also offers browser extensions for both Chrome and Firefox for the VPN Unlimited service. Just install, log in, and click to have all traffic to that browser secured.
The browser extension offers all the features and servers of the desktop version, as well as the ability to turn off some WebRTC functions. Websites use WebRTC to communicate with your webcam or mic, but security-minded readers might know that WebRTC can potentially leak your IP address. In my testing, I used the official WebRTC troubleshooting test, which reported that most of the network capabilities were disabled.
Having VPN in your browser has some advantages over using a VPN machine-wide. For one thing, you get VPN protection in any computer on which you've logged into Chrome or Firefox. For another, you can minimize your impact on computer performance by only encrypting your web browser traffic. That said, the whole point of using a VPN is to secure all your web traffic and the browser extension won't do that.
Regardless of the VPN service you choose, you're certain to see some kind of impact on your web browsing experience. Usually, more latency and decreased upload and download speeds. This is especially true when connecting to a far-flung VPN server—but not always. In my testing, I found that PureVPN actually improved web performance.
To get a sense of the impact using a particular VPN will have on internet speeds, I perform a series of tests with Ookla's speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag's publisher, Ziff Davis.) I average these results and then find a percent change between when the VPN is in use and when it is not.
I actually perform these tests twice. The first round is done while connected to a local VPN server, which puts an emphasis on speed and reliability. It's also how most people will probably interact with their VPN service. For the second round of tests, I connect to an Ookla test server in Anchorage, Alaska and a VPN server in Australia. The vast distances involved are a stress test on the VPN service, and show how it will function when connecting to international locales.
In the domestic VPN test, I found that KeepSolid increased latency by 167 percent. Hide My Ass did far better in this test, increasing latency by 5.6 percent. I also found that KeepSolid only reduced download speeds by 1.65 percent. That becomes a bit of a mixed result, since KeepSolid slowed upload speeds by 8.5 percent. Editors' Choice winner PureVPN, on the other hand, is the fastest VPN I've yet tested. It actually improved download speeds by 346.4 percent.
When connected to a far-flung VPN server, KeepSolid increased latency by 384.7 percent. That's on the higher end for this test. AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite only increased latency by 155.4 percent. In testing, I found that KeepSolid reduced download speeds by only 11.8 percent, and upload speeds by 4.2 percent. PureVPN leads in these tests as well, improving download speeds by 403.8 percent. For the upload test, Hotspot Shield Elite ekes out the lead, improving upload speeds by 1.4 percent.
When I test VPN services, I'm looking for speed, flexibility, and balance between excellent performance and advanced features. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited does well in all these categories. Its pricing scheme is inexpensive at the usual monthly subscription cycle, and with subscription periods as short as one week, VPN Unlimited can be available whenever you need it. Add to that BitTorrent support, a well-designed client, specific streaming servers, browser clients, and advanced security features, and you're looking at an all-around winner. For all of this, VPN Unlimited earns our Editors' Choice award for VPN services, an honor it shares with NordVPN, PureVPN, and Private Internet Access.