Astrill VPN has been one of the leading VPN services, offering both personal and business VPN services since 2009. Astrill runs their own global gigabit networks with over 250 servers. They also offer a single plan which has access to all servers and all protocols possible, so let’s take a look at what Astrill offers not only us, but more importantly you!
Pricing and Packages
Astrill have a unique way of doing business when it comes to the pricing and packages they offer. Rather, I should say, they only offer one package, meaning all customers have access to all servers, all protocols and have unlimited usage. The difference in the ‘plans’ is how long you want to pay for upfront. There’s no monthly option here folks, the least you can do is a three-month plan (for $29.95 – which equates to about $9.95 a month), up to an annual-plan (at $69.95 – which is roughly $5.83 a month), meaning you can make quite a hefty saving if you’re willing to commit to a year of service. They also have a six-months plan which costs $39.95 (around $6.66 per month). All the plans also have a 7-day money-back guarantee, so there is no risk if you wish to try before you buy, but still want to grab the outstanding discount you get from the annual plan.
What sets Astrill apart from many other providers is that many of the options that one may want in their VPN service are purchasable as add-ons. While this is good in theory as it means you only pay for what you need, there are some add-ons that we feel should be included as standard. Before we carry on, let’s talk about these addons to get it out of the way.
- The NAT Firewall feature gives you firewall protection similar to what your router offers (which is usually bypassed when using most VPN connections as the VPN connection tends to tunnel through the NAT Firewall on your rotuer), will cost you an extra $5 a month. This is one we feel should be included as standard but sadly isn’t.
- The Home Plan increases the maximum number of simultaneous connections from 1 to 5. (Note: You are allowed up to two connections however they are very specific that it must be one PC/Laptop and one Mobile Device only). This addon costs $5 a month.
- The StealthVPN Addon which costs $2 a month adds better security with 2-layer encryption and works similar to something like VyprVPN’s Chameleon, thwarting deep-packet inspection and allowing you to use the VPN service in countries like China. This addon is almost required if you wish to use the service in China, and again we feel this is something that should be standard, considering VyprVPN offers it for free on all but their Basic plan. StealthVPN only works on computers running Windows, Mac and Linux, and doesn’t work on mobile devices.
- The ProAddon includes StealthVPN but also adds RouterPro VPN which is similar to StealthVPN but works on the router level, as well as supporting something called ‘Fast Mode’ which claims to double the VPN connection’s speed from 8-10 Mbit to 20+ Mbit due to the slow CPU of the router. We cannot test this due to not having a supported router. This addon costs $5 a month also.
- The VPN Sharing addon allows you to share the OpenVPN or StealthVPN connection from your PC to other devices withotu speial hardware. This costs $1 a month.
- CryptoPlus adds more encryption methods for the VPN connection, supporting more secure encryption algorithms with encryption up to a whopping 512-bit (more than most providers offer). CryptoPlus however can only be used with OpenVPN, so if your hardware doesn’t support this method of VPN connections, it should be avoided. This addon costs $2 a month also.
- The VIP Addon includes extra servers which are connected directly to providers in China, allowing for better speeds and latency for customers residing in China, it also includes StealthVPN. This addon costs $10 a month.
- You can also choose to have a private, dedicated IP on a subset of their servers, for $5 per IP per month.
As you can see, with all these addons, you can really drive the price of your VPN subscription up, so we recommend you to go through the list of addons and judge what you really need. On a 1-year subscription, selecting all the addons except the StealthVPN addon (which is included for free, as of 13th November 2015) brings the price from $69.95 to an eye-watering $405.95 for the year (without any dedicated IP addresses). We certainly don’t think Astrill VPN is the best value for money in this case.
Astrill VPN’s network is quite vast, having 258 VPN servers in 55 countries with over 90,000 IP addresses at their disposal, as stated above, all the servers support all the protocols with the exception of one server in Portugal. None of the servers have any data usage limits either, which is a nice touch.
|55||~78||258||90,000+||OpenWeb, OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, Cisco IPSec, StealthVPN™, SSTP and IKEv2|
Security & Privacy
A welcome feature of Astrill is that there is a wide array of protocols supported, and as they only have one package, they are all available to all customers (with the exception of their version of VyprVPN‘s Chameleon technology, which is called StealthVPN which requires the aforementioned addon to be purchased). These are:
- OpenWeb: A simple and fast protocol that is suitable for web surfing and video streaming sites (like YouTube and Netflix). It works with all major browsers, meaning that only your browser is protected by the VPN connection, allowing other programs to run without the VPN.
- OpenVPN: An extremely popular protocol that tunnels all the applications running on the computer. The OpenVPN protocol is also used by their RouterPro VPN for routers with the correct kind of firmware (DD-WRT and Tomato)
- PPTP: This is a very basic protocol that is fast and suitable for tunnelling traffic off a mobile device, however the security of this protocol is questionable so it is not advisable to use it.
- L2TP/IPSec: This protocol is quite secure and very fast. In Astrill’s case, the L2TP payload is encrypted using the normal IPSec protocol, using either Triple DES (3DES) or AES encryption.
- Cisco IPSec: This protocol is similar to L2TP/IPSec but rather than encrypting the payload via the normal IPSec protocol, it is encrypted via Cisco’s own protocol.
- IKEv2: This protocol is used to set up a security association (SA) in the IPSec Protocol Suite. It is a tunneling protocol over UDP Port 500, and it allows the client to move between various connections without losing the VPN connection and having to re-establish a new session.
- SSTP: SSTP is a fast protocol that is about equal in terms of security with the popular OpenVPN client. It allows the client to transport PPTP or L2TP traffic through an SSL 3.0 channel.
- StealthVPN / RouterPro VPN: These are Astrill’s proprietary protocols that are based on the OpenVPN protocol but are resillient to deep packet inspection (DPI).
The popular OpenVPN protocol is supported which is good news for the security conscious customers that want to make sure they are getting the most out of their VPN service in terms of security and anonymity. We couldn’t find anything on their support site about the logs they kept, so we decided to ask them directly with their 24/7 Live Chat support and they issued this response:
Astrill is privately owned and it’s incorporated in The Republic of Seychelles. We don’t store or maintain any information or keep logs because the Astrill VPN Server Network is operated off-shore and there are no laws that obligate us to keep logs on our customers. In this jurisdiction a court order would not be enforceable and since we don’t log any information there is nothing to be had from our servers to provide.
Astrill also allows you to purchase their VPN service with anonymous currencies such as Bitcoin, which is very good, as it allows you to essentially be almost 100% anonymous in their eyes, however if you wish to do this, you might want to do the initial signing up at an internet cafe or at a public hotspot.
Signing up was very easy, with the wealth of payment options available to us. Astrill currently supports the following payment methods:
- Credit Cards/Debit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB, Maestro, Switch and Solo, Dankort, CartaSi, PostePay, Carte Bleue, Euro 6000, UnionPay.
- eWallets: PayPal, Click and Buy, Web Money, CashU, POLi, Instadebit, eWire, Abaqoos, Moneta.
- Other payments options: Bank Wire Transfer, AliPay, Perfect Money and BitCoin.
Once you sign up, you are brought to the control panel, where you can find a large download link at the top, which will bring you to a page which attempts to automatically detect the operating system and provide the correct link for you. From the main control panel you can also administrate all your addons.
Astrill Windows VPN Client
Unfortunately, in our testing, the Windows VPN client crashed upon logging in, meaning we couldn’t test the performance on our usual desktop bench machine, as well as fresh Windows 7 virtual machine, therefore we had to test the client on our Mac laptop. We’re not sure if this is due to a software bug, however we can see that the client looks very similar to the Mac OS X Client.
Astrill Mac OS X VPN Client
This client didn’t crash upon login meaning we could run our tests on this client, what was strange was that the protocol selection didn’t seem to have many options, despite the wealth of protocols supported, we could only select three of them, OpenWeb, OpenVPN and StealthVPN, while L2TP, PPTP and Cisco IPSec were not found.
Using Astrill VPN on your Android Device
The Android version of the app seems to be further limited than the desktop applications, providing only two protocols, OpenWeb and StealthVPN, not even the popular OpenVPN is selectable it seems which is extremely disappointing. The options available are also very limited. We are definitely not happy with the Android offering of this VPN service, considering you could be paying up to $37 a month for this service.
Using Astrill VPN on your iPhone/iPad
From what we can see on the screenshots, it appears to be even further limited, with no protocol options at all, only a server selection and telling you when your service will expire, as well as a big ‘Invite Friend’ viral marketting button. Again, we are not too pleased with this offering from Astrill’s side.
Astrill VPN for your Router
Like some other VPN providers, Astrill provides support for routers. However this will require their ProAddon so that you may use your VPN connection at the router level. Their control panel provides helpful links and even an automatic firmware flashing tool for installing Astrill VPN onto your Tomato or DD-WRT powered router. They even sell routers that will support their firmware.
Astrill VPN on other platforms
Astrill VPN seems to only support Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS and Routers directly, however their Wiki includes details on how to connect your Apple TV and Boxee Set Top Box to the VPN service using the VPN Sharing option available on the desktop applications, however this likely needs their VPN Sharing addon to be purchased.
Astrill VPN Help and Support
From my brief experience with their help and support, their Live Chat operatives seemed quick enough to respond, taking just over a minute to respond to my question about what sort of logs they kept (as this information didn’t seem to be visible on their web page).
Their English wasn’t perfect, as you will also see if you browse their site, but it was easy enough to understand and the support operative conveyed their message well enough that I didn’t need to spend any time trying to best-guess what they really meant. All round, their support was good.
Astrill VPN Performance
One of the most important aspects of a VPN is it’s performance, as well as their device support. So in typical DaBestVPN fashion, we are going to run our testing suite, which involves a synthetic benchmark on Speedtest.net, followed by two real world tests, video streaming and torrenting. These tests were performed on a laptop running Mac OS X El Captain connected to the internet using Ethernet.
Astrill VPN Speed Test
Naturally, the first test we will run is the synthetic benchmark to measure the raw performance of the VPN’s secure channel. To conduct this test we will be using OpenVPN, rather than the default OpenWeb, as OpenVPN is the most widely used encryption method for VPN services. We also tested this with the default ‘best ping’ server on Speedtest.net
Without the VPN, we measured 45.17 Mbps downlink and 7.74 Mbps uplink at our test location. While, when we were connected we measured an impressive 42.02 Mbps downlink and 7.42 Mbps uplink. We would certainly be extremely happy to use this VPN for permanent anonymised connection, as we get virtually the same speed both with and without the anonymous connectivity.
Clearly speed is something that Astrill have focused on, as managing this performance is something that is quite rare, especially with a fiber optic connection.
Verdict: The raw performance of Astrill VPN is exceptional, not only managing to give us 93% of our normal download bandwidth, but also keeping our ping the same, Astrill have definitely passed this test with flying colors.
IP Address Test
The next test involves the VPN’s ability to hide our real IP address from websites, therefore we visited one of the numerous ‘what is my IP’ services, while connected to the VPN, and we found that Astrill was able to successfully hide our IP on any of the websites we visited. However, one strange side effect was that on two of the top 10 most popular Google results, we found ourselves redirected to Astrill’s own website to show us our IP, however we did manage to reinforce that the IP shown on Astrill’s website was infact true by just searching for “IP” on Google, which gave us the result too. Therefore this test is also passed.
DNS Leak Test (Extended Test)
Another key problem VPN providers are having is that users can still leak their identity via the DNS Servers they use, such as users leaking the websites they wish to visit via their ISP’s DNS Servers, which is usually the default for home users. To combat this, VPN providers are providing their own DNS servers. We tested this in Astrill’s case and found questionable results, although we have the default option that is Astrill DNS, we found that the extended test revealed that the ISP of the servers was in fact, Google. Doing a quick ‘whois’ test on the first IP address shows it is infact owned by Google Inc, therefore it is questionable.
Typically non-business users will use a VPN for browsing media that is blocked in their country (such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus), or to anonymise their torrenting traffic. Therefore we felt it would be very relevant to test how the VPN “feels” to use, as opposed to just the raw performance of it.
Streaming Test (YouTube)
Our first test was to watch a 1080p60 YouTube Video. We experienced no buffering or stuttering whatsoever, just like our unencrypted connection, it felt like a breeze to use, probably helped by the fact we got almost our entire bandwidth usage through the VPN. The same can be said for the 4K option, which again suffered no buffering or stuttering at all. For watching YouTube videos and other streaming services, Astrill seems perfect.
Download Test (Torrent)
Our second test was to download a torrent file. Usually we would use the 3D Ultra-HD Big Buck Bunny clip, however it seemed their servers were unavailable to download the torrent file from, so instead we downloaded the Ubuntu 15.10 x64 ISO file instead, using the Transmission OS X Client. We had to use a server which had a * in it’s name, as those are the only ones that permit BitTorrent traffic through them, which seems a little counter intuitive for a VPN service to inspect packets and only allow them on certain servers.
The speed was also about 56% less than we get without using the VPN, therefore we can only recommend Astrill for occassional torrenting usage.
Astrill VPN Review: Closing Remarks
Personally, we find that Astrill is a good VPN service however there are better services out there. With us experiencing problems on our Windows testing computers, limited options on the mobile applications, missing protocols, questionable DNS servers, and poor torrenting support, there is definitely room for improvement here. We would recommend that you should consider Astrill VPN and make use of their 7-day money back guarantee. On the plus side, their speed on non-torrent usage is excellent, and their support staff seem very helpful.
Astrill also has great device support, as we would expect. If ever you are stuck with something you are always free to contact their support.
- Wide range of supported devices.
- Offers OpenVPN on the desktop applications
- 24/7 Live Chat Support and Knowledgebase.
- 7-day free trial
- Prices as low as $5.83 a month
- Exceptionally good speeds on their recommended servers.
- Android and iOS Apps seem very limited.
- Questionable DNS Leak Performance.
- Problems with the Windows Application (this may be on our side).
- Poor torrent performance (and only on select servers).
- Missing protocols.
- Some key features must be purchased as addons.
Like any other VPN service, you will definitely want to test Astrill VPN for yourself, and for that you can take advantage of their no-risk 7-day free trial.