Avast! SecureLine VPN review

I have been using SecureLine VPN as part of Avast! Internet Security suite, it comes integrated with the software and you get the first 7 days for free. For those who don’t know, Avast is a Czech company that sells security software, their free Antivirus is one of the most downloaded in the world. Avast business model consists in giving away software and getting customers to upgrade to a paid version later on, free users can also be monetized gathering usage data to improve their products.

Avast SecureLine is available as stand alone Windows program, Android or iPhone/iPad app, my review is based on the integration with the Avast Internet Security suite.

SecureLine choice of servers is practical, you will not find the staggering number of VPN nodes that other massive VPN companies offer, Avast SecureLine VPN spreads over all continents but with far less nodes. Unless you run a bot in need of thousands of computer IPs for when one of them is banned, Avast SecureLine VPN should appropriately accommodate an average user, they have servers in the USA, Canada, UK, South Korea, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and few others.

SecretLine Avast! VPN
SecretLine Avast! VPN

The main purpose for me to use a VPN is to bypass geographical blocks placed in USA online TV websites, Avast SecureLine does not mention anywhere that it can be used for this, but it is no secret that the only reason why many people pay for a VPN is to watch TV from abroad. I suspect that by not mentioning it Avast has legal cover from lawsuits, the VPN is only being marketed as a security product.

Although servers are spread worlwide, except by the USA, Avast SecureLine VPN does not allow you to switch server node. During my usage, I detected that the Salt Lake and Miami USA servers were being blocked and flagged as anonymous proxy by Hulu, getting around was not difficult, I just had to switch to the Seattle server, however, not such luck with the Canadian and UK servers to watch online TV in CBC.ca and the BBC iPlayer, the Canadian server prompted Google to show me advertisements meant for Brazilians surfers and CBC.ca blocked me from watching online TV on their site believing I was outside Canada.

The Avast SecureLine UK server worked with the BBC one day, the second time I found the VPN blocked, this makes me believe that Avast SecureLine is using load balancing to automatically switch you to the fastest server, which makes it impossible for a user to manually change IP and hampers the ability to watch online TV when blocked.

Speed wise, with a home Internet connection of 10Mbps, every single time I tested multiple SecureLine VPN servers speed I did not notice any important decrease, my connection was a consistent 8Mbps.

BBC iPlayer VPN block
BBC iPlayer VPN block

Something I did not like was the VPN interface, you get warned with a pop up window when connecting and disconnecting from the VPN but the assigned IP is not visible and to change VPN country you have to use a drop down menu that has no configuration options, no server load information and not even a country flag next to the server name.

I also tried to find out information about what logs and how long for they are kept, I was unable to see anything, a bad indication. If Avast was able to boast about logs they would do so, the fact that they prefer not to mention the information tells you that the company rather not to disclose it.

As for payment, Bitcoins are not accepted, only a credit card or Paypal account tied to your real identity is accepted by a third party payment processor called Digital River.

A subscription to Avast SecureLine VPN can help you encrypt a public WiFi Internet access point, secure voice over IP calls (skype), stop search engine tracking, and hide your real IP from websites but do not count on it to protect you from government spying.

I certainly would not buy this VPN to be anonymous on the Internet or watch online TV, except for the USA where multiple VPN servers are available, the Canadian and UK servers are useless for TV.

Due to Avast not having information about log keeping, their VPN not working to watch Canadian and UK online TV, the average price and the lousy VPN interface, not a snowball’s chance in hell  you will see me buying a subscription to their product when there are cheaper and better services.

Visit Avast Secret Line homepage

Review Invisible Browsing VPN – ibVPN

I have been with Invisible Browsing VPN, ibVPN, for three months now, I subscribed to their Total VPN package, slightly more expensive than the low end US IP only VPN package but it included many more locations from all over the world and ibDNS to configure your router and be able to watch georestricted online TV or play games without having to start the VPN, ibDNS detects when you visit Hulu or Pandora radio and allows you to stream the music without having to change your device settings, something you can’t do in the Xbox or my Logitech Squeezebox radio streaming device.

ibVPN is owned by Amplusnet, a Romanian based business that has been providing VPN services for more than ten years, they have server locations in all continents and over 30 countries, during my time with them they added Belgium as new location, there are thousands of available IPs and many US servers, Regrettably nearly all of ibVPN US servers were blocked by Hulu, save yourself time by looking for the word “Hulu” written next to the US server location, e.g. Miami (Hulu), this indicates that the server will not be blacklisted and ibVPN lets you know this way, I was only able to see a single server with this label but I had no speed issues.

Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel
Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel

Another solution around the Hulu block is setting up ibDNS, this can be done using ibVPN Windows client choosing “Country streaming preferences” (US, UK, Canada, Panama, Netherlands, Finland) and clicking on “Start ibDNS“, extremely easy, you will not have to manually change any Windows setting for this to work.

You can use ibVPN in Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices, with L2TP, PPTP, SSTP or OpenVPN protocols, the first two are meant to be used in mobile phones, with OpenVPN and SSTP targeted at desktop computers, if your concern is privacy, use OpenVPN whenever possible, encryption is harder to crack, and if you are behind a restrictive firewall, for example in China or at work, change the UDP protocol to TCP.

For most people the default settings will be good enough, in case of problems, ibVPN 24/7 support via ticket or live chat will guide you through the process of making the VPN work. You should not have to spend time playing with settings, the ibVPN Windows client is very light and easy to use, within a couple of clicks and a drop down menu you can change VPN server as many times as you like.

What I liked the most of their client is the “kill switch“, found by going to “Settings“>”Advanced” you can tick a checkbox and add apps, like a web browser or Usenet software that will automatically close when the VPN connection drops, and it will happen, there were one or two disconnections during my time with them, if you use torrents you better use that feature or you will risk your home IP being left out in the clear and one time is already too many when privacy is at risk.

I am on a 10Mbps Internet home connection and speed was not an issue, ibVPN servers matched my own ISP speed most times, bandwidth is unmetered. The diverse number of VPN locations in the Total package should satisfy everybody, from the expected Germany, UK, France and US, to the usually more expensive locations in Australia, Panama and Hong Kong. If you are a Pandora radio listener, here goes a free tip, Pandora works with an Australian or New Zealand VPN IP and they broadcast half the advertisements than they do with a US location.

Privacy wise, ibVPN keeps no traffic logs but connection logs are kept for one week,  you will not get away with major crime, this is not what the VPN is for, you are protected from privacy invasion reducing logs to a minimum with a considerably much shorter lifespan than the 6 months logs email providers normally keep but you are not totally invisible like you would be in Tor.

ibVPN Windows client VPN provider
ibVPN Windows client VPN provider

Payments can be made anonymously with Bitcoin, there are discounts for businesses and family VPN accounts that allow simultaneous VPN connections from multiple devices and a special Torrent only package to be exclusively used in torrents with certain servers in countries where copyright is not strictly enforced.

ibVPN US&Canada VPN yearly package is unquestionably cheap, if your main reason for a VPN is to be able to watch online US TV I would buy this package or the ibDNS. They both cost the same, by choosing ibVPN over ibDNS you will not only be able to stream restricted video content but also protect your online privacy when surfing the Internet or downloading files. Their Total VPN package is competitively priced in comparison with similar services, the main reason why I would recommend ibVPN over other VPN companies is because the DNS streaming services are included in the Total VPN price and other companies charge for this separately.

Privacy paranoid types might want to look for a different VPN provider with zero logs like iVPN due to Invisible Browsing VPN one week connection logs retention, other than that this is a good service.

Visit ibVPN homepage

Review cheap VPN provider SMOZ VPN

SMOZ VPN is a new budget vpn provider with servers in Canada, USA, UK, Spain, Italy, Russia and a four other European countries. I have been using SMOZ VPN for one month, I got the account for free in their opening give away but they did not know I was about to review it, this is an impartial review and they don´t have any affiliate program that pays me for writting this.

I had high expectations from SMOZ VPN because, although the brand is new, their parent company, VPNSecure, has been around for quiet a few years and having used them in the past I was upbeat with VPNSecure quality of services and support. SMOZ VPN is a cheap version of VPNSecure with less servers than their parent company but the same support and the same 24 hours log retention privacy policy. I also spotted the staff names of the people that provided me support in VPNSecure answering SMOZ VPN questions.

SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider
SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider

I give SMOZ VPN Windows client a satisfactory rating, but not amazing. I liked the simplicity of being able to select any server with just a click and the clear layout informing you of the vpn server IP you are utilizing. As a downside, I did not like that you are not informed of the city where the vpn is located, you are only told the country, and in the USA you only know if the server is in the East or West coast.

The VPN client settings allows you to configure it to stop DNS leaks and to stop all Internet activity when your VPN connection drops by simply ticking a checkbox. These are two very common privacy threats and I was delighted to be able to secure myself with little effort.

You can use the VPN in Linux, Mac, Windows, Android and iPhone but not the Chromebook, the ultra secure SMOZ SSL VPN protocol is not supported by Chrome OS, Google, Chrome OS developer, is to blame for this.

Strong points of SMOZ VPN are that there is no bandwidth cap, you can use it for P2P and the subscription includes a firewall and malware protection at VPN level. Another extra point should be added to SMOZ VPN for allowing Bitcoin payments as well as Paypal, and for automatic activation of your account within minutes. Server speed was awesome, matching my home ISP 10Mbps most times, but bear in mind that they just opened for business, and I can’t tell if lack of customers was the reason for the great VPN speed.

A couple of bad points I would give to this VPN are that they don’t have any server in Asia and that a few of their USA VPN nodes were blocked by Hulu when I tried them. In the end I managed to find a US server that worked in Hulu and I don´t wish to be too hard on SMOZ VPN for having a few of their servers blocked, this is common with all vpn providers, as long one of the server works that is all I need.

Android OpenVPN client
Android OpenVPN client

You can connect as many devices as you like with a single VPN account, mobile, laptop or desktop computers, but all of them will have to be on the same network/home Internet connection. SMOZ VPN monthly prices are not competitive having into account that this is a cut out version with less than a dozen servers.

To get a cheap deal you will have to pay for SMOZ VPN yearly. A 7 day money back guarantee that covers all payment methods, including Bitcoins, will allow you try out SMOZ VPN with peace of mind.

As long as you don’t need a server in Asia and you don’t mind not knowing in what cities the server is located in, I don’t see anything wrong with SMOZ VPN. Their excellent privacy policy deleting logs in 24 hours is what makes this company to stand out of the competition, together with an impressive support team that includes live chat, I totally recommend them.

Visit SMOZ VPN homepage