This Hong Kong-based VPN has 31 servers in 18 countries.
If you’re not a tech nerd like me, then the prospect of choosing a VPN could seem daunting. What qualities do you look for in a VPN, and how do you know if one meets those qualities before you buy it? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Today I’m taking a look at BlackVPN, a VPN inspired by the torrenting site Pirate Bay and founded in 2009. Of course, I’m looking for security in a VPN, but I’m also looking for speed, among other factors. I’ll be reviewing BlackVPN’s pros and cons, its company background, features, subscription options, and app. I’ll also be putting BlackVPN through multiple tests to measure its speed and security because when it comes to my data, I’m not taking any chances. Let’s take a closer look and see if BlackVPN is a good option for you.
Pros and Cons of BlackVPN
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to tell you an overview of my favorite and least favorite things about BlackVPN. I’m feeling good today, so let’s start with the positive:
What We Like
- Not part of any international surveillance alliances: With headquarters in China, you won’t be forced to hand over your data to another country.
- Does not log files: Only essential account and payment information will be saved.
- Kill-switch: You’re protected if the VPN fails for whatever reason.
- Good customer support ratings: People said customer support responded quickly and with know-how.
- Speed on Windows: BlackVPN performed pretty well on my Windows Vivobook in terms of download speed, upload speed, and latency.
And the not-so-positive?
What We Don’t Like
- Located in Hong Kong where VPNs are illegal: If you get caught using a VPN in China, you could be apprehended up to a few thousand dollars.
- Can’t download commercial content on U.S or U.K servers: If you’re looking to torrent movies or TV shows, BlackVPN may not be the best option for you.
- No split-tunneling: You won’t be able to access public and private networks simultaneously while using BlackVPN.
- No access to Netflix: Bingers beware: Netflix will not work with BlackVPN.
- Speed on Mac: I wasn’t impressed with BlackVPN’s speed on my Macbook Air.
If that’s all okay with you, then let’s learn a little bit more about BlackVPN as a company itself.
BlackVPN was founded in 2009, a thought child of things like Pirate Bay and Edward Snowden. Based in Hong Kong, BlackVPN’s founders believe strongly in internet freedom and net neutrality, so much so that they’re willing to risk being fined thousands for creating and using their VPN. Plus, they’ve had the exact same founders since their launch in 2009, and in their words, “we are IT geeks who are passionate about Privacy and Digital Rights.” Sounds good to me!
The good news? China isn’t in any international security alliances, so there’s no legal way for another country to demand your data. Hong Kong itself has no mandatory data retention policy, which is a good sign. Basically, BlackVPN is super secure, but if you’re using it in China or any other country where VPNs are illegal, just know that you’re taking a risk.
Now let’s download BlackVPN and see how it actually works.
Will BlackVPN Log My Data?
BlackVPN will not log your traffic, connection, DNS, or IP address. The only information that they keep is your account info, like your username and password, your email, and your payment info. These are all standard things for a VPN company to keep, as you have to log into your account.
Does BlackVPN Have A Kill Switch?
BlackVPN includes a kill switch or network lock feature. That means that if your VPN fails for any reason, it’ll take your websites and applications with it so you’ll stay protected. Not only will your applications quit, but your Internet will be disconnected completely so you’re never on the public network. This is a standard feature of VPNs, so I’m happy BlackVPN is following suit.
What Kind of Tunneling does Offer?
Split tunneling allows you to access private and public servers at the exact same time. It’s great if you need both at once, or if you just want to reduce bandwidth. Unfortunately, BlackVPN does not offer split tunneling, so if you’re using a VPN, you will automatically be off the public server.
Can I Use Netflix with BlackVPN?
Another womp womp moment: you won’t be able to access Netflix with BlackVPN. On the same note, you won’t be able to torrent commercial content on U.S and U.K servers.
That doesn’t completely discount BlackVPN, although it’s fair to say that it probably isn’t the best VPN if you’re trying to download or stream media. It might be better for someone who is more focused on security rather than entertainment.
Encryption basically turns your written data into inscrutable code so it can’t be understood by a third party. Let’s see how BlackVPN encrypts your data.
IPSec, short for Internet Protocol Security, either encrypts the data packet message itself or the entire data packet. It works in tandem with Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, which makes the encrypted tunnel that the data will travel through. Together, the two create a super-secure VPN client.
Once the data is encrypted, it must be transmitted across a network. Internet protocols are the different ways that data can be transported. Let’s see what protocols BlackVPN uses.
The Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange is a way of exchanging keys that use the same “shared secret” for every connection. Since the same key is never used more than once, even if the private key of a server gets leaked, past communication is still secure.
SSL tunnels, which stands for Secure Socket layer, are used a lot by online retailers to authenticate sessions. Basically, the two systems exchange encryption keys before creating a secure connection. Think of it like a secret handshake that gets you into a club, if that existed IRL.
PPTP stands for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, and it helps create the tunnel. It’s not the most secure method around, which is why it’s used with other protocols for encryption.
UDP, otherwise known as User Datagram Protocol, is what sends the data packet itself. However, it’s not responsible for making sure it gets to its destination in one piece, so packets may be received out of order— which brings me to my next point.
Transmission Control Protocol is what’s responsible for making sure that the data packets are in order once they reach their destination. Its first task is to test the connection between the source and the destination, making sure that it’s active. Next, TCP breaks the data into smaller packets. Once it’s transmitted to its destination, TCP will check to make sure that everything is in place, sort of a housekeeper for your VPN.
Now, SSL, UDP, and TCP are all protocols that are used “on top of” the VPN itself, and most web apps run over UDP or TCP, so they should all work fine with VPN (unless the application’s server blocks the VPN, which is why things like Netflix don’t always work).
Now that I’ve told you everything you need to know about BlackVPN, I’m going to put it through several tests to measure its speed and security. I do all my tests from my apartment in Brooklyn using Internet from Optimum. To better accommodate my readers, I test everything on both a Macbook Air and a Windows Vivobook. Let’s get started with the speed tests.
The first thing I test is the speed of my Internet with and without BlackVPN. Download and upload speed have to do with everyday browsing, while latency is more relevant to real-time applications like online gaming or Skype. I performed my speed tests using Google’s speed test.
As far as download speed went, I had a difference of about 54% on my Mac and about 29% on my Windows computer— clearly, Windows performed better in this category.
For upload speed, the trend continued: my Windows computer was only slowed down by 34%, while my Mac was slowed by about 75%. So far, BlackVPN is getting good results on the Vivobook and not such good results on my Mac.
Finally, I test ping or latency. In this category, the trend was reversed.
While BlackVPN only caused a 14% increase in latency on the Mac, it caused a 33% increase on the Vivobook. Both of these are pretty impressive stats, but I’m surprised that Mac had a small difference in latency. Overall, however, BlackVPN performed better on my Windows computer rather than on my Macbook, where it had mediocre results.
DNS Leak Test
Now that I’ve seen how fast the BlackVPN is, I want to make sure it’s secure as well. If you’re using a VPN, it’s probably because you want to keep your domain name servers a secret. Basically, a domain name server is what you type in when you want to get to a website, like Security.org for example. Each DNS stands for an IP address that actually tells your computer where to go. Of course, I want to make sure that these IP addresses stay private, so I tested BlackVPN for DNS leaks. The verdict? No DNS leaks, so my web traffic is protected. Booya!
WebRTC Leak Test
The last thing I want to check for is WebRTC leaks. Rather than going through an intermediate server, WebRTC allows users to connect directly with each other, creating faster speeds for video chatting, livestreaming, and transferring files. In order to connect directly, however, the users have to know each other’s private IP addresses, clearly the information you don’t want to get out. When I tested BlackVPN, there were no WebRTC leaks whatsoever, so I feel really confident about my web security. To check out WebRTC leaks for any VPN, you can use the leak checker on the ExpressVPN website.
All in all, BlackVPN passed my tests with flying colors, although I wasn’t thrilled about it’s speed on my Macbook. Let’s move on and see what your pricing options are.
BlackVPN’s subscriptions work pretty differently than other VPN companies. Let me explain a little bit more.
BlackVPN’s subscription model looks pretty different than that of its competitors. Basically, you choose your plan based on the server you want to go on and what features you want. You can either pay for unrestricted P2P/ Bittorent, used in software piracy but not available in the U.S or U.K, pay to stream TV from the U.S and U.K, or both with the Global Package.
Unfortunately, BlackVPN only allows you to buy a year of service at once. The lowest cost option is $56.26, or a little over four dollars a month, while the highest cost option is $113.66, a bit less than $10 a month. While I’m not thrilled that there’s no month-to-month option, BlackVPN’s prices are very reasonable.
One subscription gets you an unlimited amount of server switches, seven simultaneous connections from a maximum of seven devices. Again, this subscription is pretty generous— I’ve seen some that only let you use three devices at the same time!
You can use BlackVPN on a Windows, Apple, Android, iOS, or Linux device.
BlackVPN will work on Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome.
BlackVPN Customer Support
Need help with BlackVPN? Before you buy it, I want to make sure that BlackVPN’s customer support is actually supportive. This can really go either way with VPNs, so let’s get into more detail.
To get help, you can either check out BlackVPN’s FAQs on their website, live chat a representative or fill out a support ticket. In my experience filling out a ticket, it took BlackVPN a day to respond, and the answer satisfied me, so I’m pretty happy with their customer support.
Customer Support Ratings
Of course, I’m just one person— what did other BlackVPN customers think of the support? I checked Trustpilot, a review site where 55 customers have reviewed BlackVPN. Out of 13 reviews mentioning customer support, 10 were positive— that seems like a really good ratio to me!
“At first, when I was setting up the VPN I could not find too much information to fix some issues on Linux. So, I contacted the BlackVPN support team and they replied after a few minutes with the correct answer to fix the issues,”
wrote a user in a five-star review.
The BlackVPN App
By now, you know a lot about BlackVPN, but all of it could be irrelevant if the app doesn’t work well. BlackVPN’s app works on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and routers.
I was surprised to see that their app is not currently available on the Apple store— at the time of writing, they are still waiting for Apple to approve it. On the Google Play store, BlackVPN has a 3.6 out of five-star rating, which is pretty middle of the road. Many people complained about the app constantly popping up, or the server not connecting during their free trial. I was also surprised to see that BlackVPN was responding pretty rudely to some reviews, which certainly gives me pause.
I don’t think denying your customers’ experiences is a great strategy, but maybe that’s just me!
BlackVPN vs. FastestVPN
The last thing I want to do is compare FastestVPN to BlackVPN. On paper, the two VPNs seem pretty similar; they both have kill switches, they both allow torrenting, and they both offer anonymous IP addresses, standards of any VPN. However, when I was testing the two VPNs, the differences became a lot more clear. FastestVPN really lives up to its name; it’s much faster than BlackVPN as far as download speed, upload speed, and latency, both on my Windows and my Mac computers.
Another key difference is that, unlike BlackVPN, FastestVPN gives you the same IP address every time. I prefer rotating IP addresses, as it makes it harder to see who’s on the VPN. Finally, while BlackVPN can’t torrent commercial content on servers in the U.S and U.K, FastestVPN allows torrenting from all of its servers. Overall, I’d recommend FastestVPN over BlackVPN because I have a need for speed, along with more torrenting abilities.
Recap of BlackVPN
While I would recommend BlackVPN overall, I think it would be good for some but not all people. Let me explain.
BlackVPN would be good for someone who wants…
- No international surveillance alliances: As BlackVPN is headquartered in China, they’ll never be forced to hand over your data to another country.
- Fast speed on Windows: If you’re a Windows person, BlackVPN should work well on your computer.
- Good customer support ratings: Customers from Trustpilot had great things to say about BlackVPN’s customer support.
- Kill switch: If BlackVPN fails for whatever reason, your data will remain protected.
- Does not log data: BlackVPN will only keep your account information, but nothing about your web traffic, IP address, etc.
However, I’d avoid it if you don’t like…
- Disappointing speed on Mac: While BlackVPN didn’t perform horribly on my Mac, it wasn’t as fast as on my Vivobook.
- Limited torrenting abilities: For those looking to torrent commercial content on servers int he U.S or U.K, BlackVPN is definitely not the VPN for you.
- No split tunneling: You won’t be able to access public and private servers at the same time.
- No Netflix: BlackVPN isn’t the best app for streaming television or movies.
- Long-term contracting: You have to sign up for a year of BlackVPN.
There you have it! To explore more great options, check out the best VPNs of 2020. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions and hope this was helpful to make your buying decision.