When compared with some of the best VPNs in the business, Zenmate has made some curious decisions. They offer free and paid plans. With the free plan, you get decent encryption with protocols like L2TP, IKEv2 and IPSec. If you want to have OpenVPN tunneling protocol, which is widely considered the best, then you have to pay for it. However, that’s not the strange thing. The strange thing is that they only offer 128-bit encryption while most of the large competitors offer AES 256-bit encryption.
Another factor that is a detriment for Zenmate is that they are headquartered in Germany. For those of you in the know, Germany is a member of the 14 Eyes network, an agreement through which the government and spy agencies of the various member nations are permitted to snoop on the citizens of the other nations and then freely share whatever data they gather.
Generally, it’s preferable to go with some of the best VPN providers that are headquartered outside of the Five Eyes and 14 Eyes networks. This puts you beyond the reach of the most insidious spy networks and means that record-retention laws are either lax or non-existent. Once again, that’s the kind of protection you want from a VPN.
Security and Encryption
A tunneling protocol is what provides safe, encrypted passage between your computer and all of the Internet. There are many ways to create such a tunnel, with some methods being better and more secure than others. Protocols like PPTP and SSTP have had their day. Although some VPN providers still make these available to users, they generally are nowhere near as secure as the best tunneling protocols.
By far the most highly recommended and widely used tunneling protocol is OpenVPN. It’s an open source software, which means that cybersecurity professionals the world over have examined it for problems and vulnerabilities. Usually, it relies on AES 256-bit encryption, which is the same encryption that many military and government agencies use for their top-secret data. The upshot is that if you’re using OpenVPN protocol, you’ll probably be safe and anonymous regardless of what you do online.
Most of the top-rated VPNs make OpenVPN their default protocol, and for good reason. That choice isn’t so clear cut with Zenmate. Those who opt for their free service and have a Mac will have to use IPSec or IKEv2. These are perfectly acceptable protocols, but with Zenmate there are concerns over firewall vulnerability and limited support on the platform.
People using Windows systems may choose from the same protocols with the addition of L2TP.
It’s only with a paid subscription that customers gain access to OpenVPN protocol, which is the preferred tunneling software by techno-geeks the world over. In other words, Zenmate really wants you to pay for their service.
Even if you pay, you won’t get the same 256-bit encryption that is common with most other reputable VPN providers. Zenmate argues on their website that 256-bit encryption is overkill for the average user. It slows down connection speeds and contributes to higher costs.
However, if you’re really concerned about security and privacy, then you want the strongest encryption you can get. Why take chances?
On a positive note, Zenmate does have a built-in kill switch. This is the mechanism that ends your browsing session if something goes wrong with your VPN. It’s an important measure of protection that no respectable VPN should be without.
How Many Servers Does Zenmate Have?
Zenmate is a relatively new and consequently growing VPN service. It wasn’t long ago that they boasted a network of just 40 servers. Today, that number is close to 300, and these servers are found in more than 30 countries.
Most of Zenmate’s servers are located in Europe. Countries such as the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, and others are represented.
Coverage gets sparse in other regions. North America has 18 servers in the western U.S. and 56 servers in the eastern U.S. Canada has just five. No servers are found in Central America, and there are just two servers available in Brazil. Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia all have servers, and the African continent boasts two servers in South Africa.
This network is a bit more expansive than some of the really small ones out there, but it cannot compete with larger players that have thousands of servers located in every corner of the globe.
Can You Use BitTorrent or P2P with Zenmate?
Not so long ago, Zenmate expressly forbids users from any kind of torrenting or P2P activity on their servers. They recently changed their tune so that paying customers may enjoy unlimited torrents. However, it is best to proceed with caution. Hidden within Zenmate’s terms of service is a warning against participating in any activities that sound quite similar to torrenting.
If you decide to torrent or file share on Zenmate, consider yourself warned.
In Zenmate’s favor, you should be able to view Netflix without difficulty while still being connected to the Internet via a VPN. Netflix has become incredibly good at detecting users who have an active VPN. They don’t like this practice because it may enable people to view content that should be blocked in their region. At this time, it seems that Netflix hasn’t caught on to Zenmate, so you can stream to your heart’s content.
How Fast Is Zenmate?
While certainly not the fastest when it comes to VPN speed test results, Zenmate made a fairly respectable showing. Perhaps this is an endorsement of their plan to stick with 128-bit encryption. Most security experts would still prefer the stronger encryption and faster speeds that an even more capable VPN can provide.
The first test was run using one of the Zenmate’s servers in Europe. With a download speed of 63.44 Mbps, it was a pretty good result. The upload rate was more disappointing at 12.81 Mbps.
Testing on a server in the U.S. yielded similar results for downloads, which clocked in at 57.03 Mbps. Uploads dipped well past acceptable limits, dropping to just 2.98 Mbps. That was a full 94 percent slower than the benchmark speed of 53 Mbps.
As far as speed is concerned, Zenmate is sort of middle of the pack. There are far slower providers out there, but there are far faster ones as well, and many of these offer better functionality and privacy.
What Is Zenmate’s Logging Policy?
On the surface, Zenmate’s logging policy seems acceptable. They freely share that they have a “no logging” policy and that Germany has strict privacy laws to which their company practices adhere.
However, when it comes to logging policy, it nearly always pays to read the fine print. Zenmate admits to collecting data concerning what browser and operating system their customers use. This isn’t a direct privacy violation.
Essentially, this says that they are logging your original IP address, the one that your ISP assigns to you. That is a glaring red flag since one of the primary reasons for using a VPN is to hide your IP address. Ideally, you should be able to have all of your interactions with your VPN be absolutely anonymous. With a VPN that makes a record of your IP address, this is impossible.
This is why VPNs that are based outside of the Five Eyes and the 14 Eyes networks will always be superior. It’s possible for them to guarantee a truly anonymous experience.
How Much Does Zenmate Cost?
Zenmate has a limited free option that provides access to only a handful of servers in Romania, Germany, Hong Kong and the U.S. The free package comes with firewall services, TLS encryption, and browser extensions. This means that the free version is much more like a proxy than a VPN.
If you want true VPN protection, then you have three pricing plans from which to choose. The month-by-month plan will cost $11.99 each month. That’s pretty expensive, especially when compared with cheaper VPNs that offer better service.
The one-year plan gives you a break on the price for $3.99 per month, billed one time for $47.88. A more affordable alternative is the two-year plan, which costs just $2.99 per month and is billed one time as $49.20.
These prices are on par with superior VPNs that provide much more bang for your buck.
Is Zenmate Recommended as a VPN?
With their headquarters in Germany and a logging policy that is questionable at best, it is not possible to recommend Zenmate. Far better options with better protection are readily available.