It's fun, fast and flexible. We recommend IPVanish as a configurable choice for users who are new to VPNs.
Editors' note, April 2022: CNET now has a fully updated review of IPVanish that supersedes this earlier opinion. Please check it out along with our list of Best VPNs for our latest advice.
IPVanish is becoming a popular virtual private network choice for people interested in improving their online browsing privacy, offering unlimited simultaneous connections across a wide variety of platforms, and competitive speeds despite only laying claim to 1,600 servers.
Compared to its peers, IPVanish has one of the best user interfaces, encouraging you to get under the hood and learn the mechanics powering the technology.
We recommend IPVanish as a flexible, configurable choice for users who are new to VPNs.
Read more: How we review VPNs
Editors' note, Feb. 9, 2022: The VPN industry has undergone significant change in the past few months, with all three of our top VPN choices announcing major changes in corporate ownership. In December, ExpressVPN announced that it had officially joined Kape Technologies, a company that already owns several other VPNs and has raised privacy concerns in the past. In February, NordVPN and Surfshark announced the two companies were merging, though they'll continue to operate autonomously. We're in the process of reevaluating all of our top picks in light of these changes. We will update our reviews and, if necessary, our rankings to account for this new competitive landscape.
We ran our IPVanish speed tests over the course of three days, in two locations, using both wireless and Ethernet connections -- one location offered slower broadband speeds, and the other offered higher speeds via fiber-optic internet. Internet speeds in the US vary widely by state and provider. And with any speed test, results are going to rely on your local infrastructure, with hyperfast internet service yielding higher test speed results.
That's one reason we're more interested in testing the amount of speed lost (which for most VPNs is typically half or more) across both high-speed and slower connection types, and in using tools like speedtest.net to even out the playing field. IPVanish performed similarly to other VPNs, achieving only about 20% of the average 222Mbps speed achieved on a 1Gbps-capable fiber connection during testing, while still maintaining a respectable speed average of around 41Mbps globally.
We hit a peak speed of 76Mbps connecting to Singapore servers, where we found the highest number of results above 65Mbps among all the servers tested, but also the most uneven experience, with a country average of around 35Mbps. Australian speeds were more even, but maintained the lowest average, about 28Mbps.
New York speeds led the results with a 53Mbps average, followed by European servers in Paris and Berlin with 45Mbps averaged for both. UK servers were strong overall, but came in third place for speed averages with 40Mbps after a couple of tests at peak traffic hours came back at less than 10 Mbps.
Compared to high-profile speed players like ExpressVPN, it's tempting to paint IPVanish's speeds as sluggish. But IPVanish regularly gives NordVPN a run for its money in the thrice-daily tests conducted by ProPrivacy, and was outpacing NordVPN in that race at the time of this writing. And IPVanish is reaching those speeds with about a third of Nord's server count. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Read more: NordVPN review: Still the best value for security and speed
One clue as to why IPVanish may be inching past NordVPN in speed tests may lie in its amassed 40,000-plus IP addresses, a factor of contention among the privacy-minded. While a greater number of IP addresses can contribute to faster speeds, some aficionados argue it's safer to use fewer IP addresses. More people sharing IP addresses, they reason, dilutes the likelihood that any individual IP address' activity will be linked to any individual person.
The core of that question relies on whether a VPN can be trusted not to log usage data. IPVanish vows that it keeps no logs. As with any VPN, it's nearly impossible to verify that claim. One way is to determine what a VPN provider is legally required to do based on where it is headquartered (its jurisdiction), and whether it has ever been caught keeping logs.
Ideally, the VPN you choose should have undergone -- and published the results of -- an independent third-party audit of its operations, including its use of activity logs. IPVanish is a US-based company. For maximum privacy, we look for VPN providers with a jurisdiction outside of Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements -- that is, one headquartered out of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Back in 2016, IPVanish went through a VPN rite of passage: Federal law enforcement came knocking with a warrant (or, more precisely, a Department of Homeland Security records summons), and the VPN's "zero logs" policy was put to the test. IPVanish provided authorities information that led to the identification and arrest of a child predator.
To be clear here, my beef isn't with a VPN company helping cops catch a child abuser via usage logs; it's with a VPN company lying to its customers about doing so. VPNs are international operations. The lie that helps law enforcement in the US catch a child abuser is the same lie that helps law enforcement in China arrest a person for using a VPN at all.
Things may have changed for IPVanish when the company was bought by StackPath in 2017. With new ownership came renewed promises of "no logs" policy and a purported StackPath audit.
IPVanish does offer a kill switch, which appears to function without a hitch -- preventing network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during our testing. Even so, we recommend some caution here. In 2019, reviewers at CNET's sister publication ZDNet detected a partial IPVanish DNS leak during testing.
"While they didn't reveal my home DNS server, they did reveal that I was using an IPVanish host. That means that organizations that want to block VPN traffic can easily do so," wrote reviewer David Gewirtz. "Far worse is the implication that if you're trying to hide the fact that you're using a VPN from government authorities, IPVanish doesn't do so. This could be catastrophic, for example, if you use the service from the UAE, which sentences jail time and excessive fines for VPN usage."
We had no issues accessing Netflix or other video streaming sites, and no issues using torrenting clients while running IPVanish.
In terms of interface, my only complaint is that IPVanish's desktop clients have been known to get stuck in a loop. This occurs in both Windows and Mac apps. Otherwise, this has become one of my favorite user experiences with a VPN client.
The settings menus and features remind me of the experience of learning Windows 95, in that they are perfect for learning about the fundamentals of this type of application. Their configurability is organized neatly and without excessive animation. The client seems to encourage user experimentation and a sense of playfulness without being childish or cartoonlike. This makes IPVanish an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood.
Although it changed its policy this year to offer a full 30-day money back guarantee, at $10 per month and $80 for a year IPVanish's pricing has become less competitive. On the bright side, however, offering unlimited simultaneous connections does up the value for users looking to use the service across a wide array of compatible devices.
First published Feb. 4.