Psiphon VPN Review

May 25, 2018

8:00 am

Rating

55%
  • Ease of Use: 5 stars
  • Features: 2 stars
  • Privacy: 1 stars
  • Speed: 3 stars
  • Help & Support: 3 stars
  • Value for Money: 5 stars
Pros
  • Free
  • Surprisingly fast
  • Unobtrusive ads
  • Clear policies
Cons
  • Not the best all-rounder
  • Collects some information

Free, but with some limitations

Psiphon is a decent, though not perfect, choice for a free VPN. It styles itself as a “circumvention tool”, though you can also use it like a standard VPN. The idea is that it takes your Internet connection ‘beyond borders’, setting up a secure, encrypted VPN link to websites and services that might normally be blocked by your region, employer or internet supplier.

However, it can also be used to give you a more secure connection when you’re browsing the Internet through a public WiFi network. It’s not as feature-rich as a proper VPN service, and doesn’t guarantee the same degree of privacy protection, but Psiphon still has much to recommend it.

Best of all, it’s absolutely free.  

Why use Psiphon?

Psiphon-Why use Psiphon VPN?

Apart from the fact that it’s free? Well, for a zero-cost tool it’s surprisingly slick and actually quite speedy.

Psiphon functions, in principle, like any other VPN. It creates a connection between your computer and Psiphon’s servers, then using that link to give you an anonymous, snooper-free connection.

It’s funded by adverts that pop up in your browser when you connect – fortunately, these are fairly unobtrusive. These aren’t targeted ads and the service doesn’t collect personal data, though there is some (anonymised) data logging, including by advertising partners.

Getting started with Psiphon

There’s no need to sign up for an account or hand over credit card details, which is always reassuring when you’re after online privacy.

Using Psiphon is as easy as downloading the Windows or macOS apps from the Psiphon website, or the Android or iOS apps from their respective app stores.

Once the app is installed, you shouldn’t have any problem using it, either. Just click the button to connect to the nearest, fastest server, or select one of the 20 countries to connect to from the list.

Psiphon: The Good

Psiphon VPN Split Tunnel

A lot of free VPN services can leave much to be desired. Psiphon, however, has plenty to recommend it. Despite being free, Psiphon did well in leak tests, keeping our true IP address well hidden.

It also has some advanced features you might expected from freebie software.

Privacy vs Performance

For example, it gives you a choice of protocols that allow you to prioritise privacy or performance. So, if a masked, but still speedy, connection is your priority, opt for the latter. Want stronger privacy assurances? Go for the former.

Split Tunnel

There’s also a split tunnel feature that enables services based in the same country to connect through a normal internet connection. The logic being that these won’t be censored anyway (for example, accessing US Netflix within the US), and you can enjoy normal speeds when using those services.

Decent Speeds

Psiphon is fairly speedy when in use. No, you won’t enjoy the same internet speeds you’d get without a VPN – we measured a drop-off of around 50% with Psiphon enabled. Still, this is actually faster on both long-distance and local VPN links than many paid-for VPN apps.

Psiphon: The Not-So-Good

Psiphon Review Tech.co Good and Bad

Psiphon doesn’t claim to be an all-singing, all-dancing VPN. Given there’s no fee for the service, it’s only fair to expect some limitations, but it’s worth being aware of these.

Feature Limitations

If you’re after a VPN for certain specific purposes, Psiphon may not be for you. For instance, you can’t share files across Peer to Peer networks, or unblock Netflix using this app. That said, in our tests, some of the bigger paid-for VPN names that claim to unblock Netflix failed to successfully do so.

Ad and Data Concerns

When using Psiphon, it can be a bit annoying to see the same ads pop up time and time again as you connect. Psiphon admits that its advertising partners may use cookies, and that it collects and shares some information – anonymised, it must be stressed – about how people use the service.

This doesn’t include individual IP addresses. Other VPNs log and retain less information, but then, those services usually come at a cost.

No Guarantees

Crucially, the developers warn that while Psiphon can give you uncensored access to the internet, it’s not really designed to guarantee your privacy or anonymity, at least with the sites that you connect to. The site even recommends tools that can do that job better.

Psiphon Prices

Psiphon is free – there’s no option to buy a premium, ad-free service. Provided you’re OK with the privacy policy and ad-supported model, it’s a deal that’s hard to beat.

The Verdict

Free VPNs usually come with intrusive ads or a massive catch – and often both. But, Psiphon is an exception. It’s not the right VPN for everyone, but it’s good for adding a layer of security and anonymity when you’re connecting to a public network, and does a useful job in helping those with censored internet to access websites that they might not otherwise see.

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Stuart Andrews has been writing about IT and consumer technology for over twenty years, working across many of the UK's biggest specialist titles. While specializing in PCs and related technology, software and cloud-based services, he also writes about IT in education, video games and internet security

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