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Betternet VPN Review – Betternet VPN Free Download

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You get what you pay for when it comes to Betternet’s serviceBetternet VPN Free Download

Canadian-based VPN service provider Betternet is one of the lesser known names in the field. Established in 2015, Betternet VPN Free Download is the strongest selling point is that the basic service is entirely free, albeit ad-supported and with a Betternet VPN Free Download subscription plan also available.

Canadian-based Betternet(opens in new tab) is one of several VPNs owned by Pango (formerly known as AnchorFree), along with Hotspot Shield, Touch VPN, VPN In Touch and VPN360.

The service is best known for its largely unrestricted free plan. This has no limits on bandwidth, no need to register or hand over your email address, you can just download a client – Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Firefox or Chrome extension – and start right away.

Too good to be true? Well, maybe. The free version provides US servers only. The clients have no significant features beyond the Connect button, and there’s very little support to help out if you run into problems.

The free plan inserts ads into websites, too, perhaps allowing advertisers to find out more you.

What We Like

  • It’s entirely free to use
  • There’s no sign-up process
  • Free version has large data allowance
  • Simple user interface for newcomers
  • Decent security and privacy policy
  • Support for most operating systems

What We Don’t Like

  • Slow service at times
  • No Netflix support
  • Not great for torrenting
  • Limited options for advanced users
  • No kill-switch feature

We tested Betternet VPN Free Download extensively to see what it offers, how well it performs with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as how fast it was to browse through, and how secure it is. It’s clear that you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some benefits to using Betternet VPN Free Download.

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What Is Betternet?

Betternet VPN Free Download

Unlike many other better-known VPN options available, Betternet has been around for a relatively short period. It was established in 2015 by what seemed to be an independent company founded in Canada.

Nowadays, it forms part of the Pango group, which you may have known by its former name, AnchorFree. Pango owns several other VPN services, like Hexatech VPN, Hotspot Shield, and TouchVPN, so they’re no strangers to the VPN world.

Betternet has been plagued by severe allegations throughout its short lifetime, both when it was owned by the Canadian company and now in the Pango group.

How Transparent Is Betternet?

Just what are these allegations?

Anyone who decides to use Betternet’s plans, whether free or paid, should know that the company was revealed for embedding malware and tracking libraries in their VPN apps. An academic report brought these troubling findings to light, and to make matters worse, the Betternet extension for Chrome was also hacked in 2017 and used to spread malware.

But despite all the controversy, Betternet has never publicly commented on any of these issues. We find this lack of commentary troubling, and we feel that it doesn’t speak highly of their transparency as a company.

Is Betternet Safe?

Before we talk about any other features of this VPN, we want to address the elephant in the room: given the allegations we’ve mentioned against them, is Betternet safe? You want your VPN to protect your privacy and keep from leaking your data. If it doesn’t do this properly, why use it?

The academic researchers that published accusations against them compared Betternet to other VPN apps in the Google Play Store. They noted that Betternet was the most malware-infested of all. Additionally, they mentioned that thirteen separate antivirus programs detected malware, in addition to the third-party tracking libraries. All of these issues are concerning on their own, but there are other problems concerning safety with this VPN.

The company claims to keep your internet connection safe via a secure AES 256-bit encryption. It also uses the Catapult Hydra protocol, one that’s gained popularity thanks to its speed and performance. Then there’s the perfect forward secrecy, which regularly changes your encryption keys to keep most of your data safe in the event your encryption was compromised.

In theory, all of these safety measures sound okay, but Betternet has one primary issue: it lacks an automatic kill switch. If the VPN connection dropped without warning, your data would be in danger of a leak. The missing automatic kill switch is quite concerning, especially given that the server network is less than steady, and it would lead us to conclude that Betternet is not safe.

Betternet Free VPN Plan

Okay, now that you’re up to date on all the controversy surrounding this VPN, it’s time to talk more about its services, starting with the free plan.

The free plan is by far Betternet’s most popular plan, though they will try their hardest to get you to upgrade to the premium plan. Be prepared to be continuously bombarded by popups asking you to register for paid plans. Another thing to be aware of is that ads power the free version, so you will see lots of different advertising content while using the VPN.

Let’s take a quick look at how the free version differs from the premium one. The free plan ….

  • 23 US servers, 1 UK server, 1 FR server
  • Shows ads
  • Does not provide 24/7 email support team access
  • Implements a one device per account limit
  • Has a 500 MB daily bandwidth limit
  • Does not allow access to streaming content while connected to the free VPN

As you can see, the free plan would only be suitable for someone with very basic VPN needs.

Setup Process: Incredibly fast

Betternet VPN Free Download doesn’t require any form of registration or account setup. Simply download the app and you’re good to go with a free account. That makes it ideal for newcomers or people who are new to VPN services, as you don’t have to worry about handing over your personal details in exchange for an account. It’s also ideal if you simply need a VPN for a brief amount of time rather than as a long term commitment.

Betternet’s biggest selling point is that it doesn’t require you to complete a sign-up process.

Design: A little confusing

At first, Betternet’s client isn’t the easiest of apps to use. It pushes you heavily toward a premium subscription by placing an overlay advertising the service over the free part of the app.

Far from intuitive or user-friendly, the advertisement overlay may fool some users into thinking that Betternet isn’t actually free, but you can click the X in the top right corner to hide the sales pitch and get started with the free VPN.

Once you dispense with the advertisement, Betternet VPN Free Download is very simple to use. Simply click the Connect button, and a smiley face emoji changes color to indicate that you’re connected to a virtual server somewhere in the world.

The free version doesn’t allow you to choose your location, although there is an assurance that the app will automatically find the optimal location for you. Elsewhere in the app, you can browse which servers are available for premium subscribers, but there aren’t any extensive options or statistics to dig into.

Betternet VPN Free Download works with quite a number of different devices. There are separate apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, as well as an extension for Google Chrome.

There’s no support for Linux or other browsers like Firefox or Opera. Also, there’s no router support at this time. All that seems like a reasonable trade-off for a free VPN service, however, as rarely do free products offer the same options as a paid subscription.

Performance: Patchy service unless you pay

The free version of Betternet prevents you from choosing which server you connect to, and your service is limited to US servers only. This immediately makes speed a bit of an issue. It isn’t out of line with other free VPNs, and the bandwidth caps are generous, but if you expect the download speeds of premium services like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, you’ll be disappointed.

We found when browsing websites that there’s a noticeable pause as websites load, although it’s not hugely irritating in the long term. Similarly, downloading files can take a while compared to your usual ISP speeds with our average download speeds working out at about half their usual rate.

The free version of Betternet VPN Free Download prevents you from choosing which server you connect to, and your service is limited to US servers only.

There are also reports that the service doesn’t work in China, although we haven’t been able to confirm this for ourselves.

If you subscribe to the premium version of the service, the picture changes quite a bit. Betternet transformed from a sluggish VPN into one of the speediest that we have tested, with a maximum tested download speed of 321.68 Mbps, no observed packet loss, and very little jitter. With numbers like those, the premium version of Betternet is even suitable for most types of gaming.

Streaming: Limited options

If you’re looking for a VPN proxy that Netflix doesn’t detect, Betternet isn’t it. We were unable to stream anything on Netflix via any of the servers we tested in the US, United Kingdom, Japan, or elsewhere. Hulu and BBC iPlayer also detected the presence of a VPN, and Amazon Prime allowed us to watch some worldwide content without any US-based shows and movies.

Betternet provides plenty of speed to stream video, and we were able to watch video content on sites like YouTube and CNN, but you’ll have to switch this VPN off if you want to watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

Privacy Policy: Theoretically strict

Betternet’s biggest selling point is that it doesn’t require you to complete a sign-up process. You don’t need to register an e-mail address or provide any other details about yourself to use the service. Download the software, install it, and you’re ready to start surfing from behind a VPN.

In Betternet’s privacy policy, the company states that they don’t store or log your IP address, or keep any logs on your online activities.

The issue is that Betternet’s free service is ad-supported, which means you may see extra ads while browsing online. These are purported to be generic but if you’re extra privacy-conscious, this is definitely a point of concern.

The privacy policy also states: “We and our service providers collect device-specific information, such as the unique mobile ID, hardware model, operating system version, language, and network information,” and that’s before you even connect to the VPN.

If privacy is your number one concern, these mixed messages may leave you feeling a little uncertain about what to do. There is a clear trade off between privacy and cost, and premium VPN services will always provide a higher level of confidence.

Security Features: Reliable if basic security

Betternet uses a number of commonly used and secure encryption methods to keep your data safe, but their Catapult Hydra VPN protocol is entirely proprietary and opaque. They say it’s just as secure as OpenVPN, but there’s no way to verify that.

An additional concern is the inexplicable lack of a kill switch feature. That means your identity could be revealed if your connection to Betternet drops at the wrong time.

Betternet’s security features include:

  • 128-bit encryption over IPSec: IPSec is an older form of protocol but it’s still fairly strong and secure. It’s good enough for the average user.
  • 256-bit AES encryption over Catapult Hydra: A military-grade level of encryption, this is typical of many VPNs. It’s reassuring to see it in a free VPN client although there’s no indication of when Betternet uses this or when it favors IPSec.
  • Auto-Connect: For Premium users, there’s an option to automatically turn Betternet on any time you access an insecure wireless hotspot. For most users, they’ll simply remember to do this manually.

 

Torrenting: It works, but slowly

Betternet VPN Free Download doesn’t block P2P file sharing, and their logging policy is also geared toward maintaining privacy while torrenting. However, we found it to be pretty slow compared to torrenting over our regular internet connection.

For a free VPN where you simply want to download files occasionally, the speed is there, but any time you find yourself wanting to download substantial amounts of data, you’ll be frustrated by the limits in place.

The lack of a kill switch feature is also a huge issue, and we don’t recommend torrenting over any VPN that doesn’t have a kill switch. The issue here is that if you lose connection to Betternet VPN Free Download while torrenting, your real IP address will be revealed to any seeds or peers that you are connected to at the time.

The lack of a kill switch feature is also a huge issue, and we don’t recommend torrenting over any VPN that doesn’t have a kill switch.

 

Ad Blocking: No ad blocker

Some VPN services include an ad blocker, which provides a nice extra level of security if the blocker is enacted at the DNS level. Since Betternet VPN Free Download has no built-in ad blocker, you run the risk of invasive ad trackers gleaning some level of information about your system and connection.

 

Customer Service: Sluggish ticket system

Betternet VPN Free Download offers customer support through a ticket system, and there is no option to speak to a live agent over the phone or through web chat. You are able to support your request for help through the ticket system, and then you have to wait.

If your experience is anything like ours, you should expect to wait a while for any kind of resolution. In our handful of interactions with support, it typically took between three and hour hours to receive a reply.

 

Price: Too expensive for the feature set

Betternet’s greatest strength is its price tag, because it doesn’t really have one. The free service is fine if your expectations are tempered accordingly. If you opt to subscribe to the premium service, it costs $12.99 per month after a seven-day free trial. For that price, you get more servers to choose from which inevitably means greater speed, but you still shouldn’t expect streaming services like Netflix to work just because you’re paying extra.

Final Verdict

Betternet VPN Free Download is a fast VPN and very easy to use, but the lack of features, multiple privacy concerns and poor unblocking results are real problems. It might just about work for simple tasks, but if you’re doing anything serious then we’d look elsewhere.

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Betternet VPN Free Download Specs

  • Product Name: Betternet
  • Price: $0
  • Speed (Fastest Observed): 323.36 (Tested on a 1Gbps connection)
  • Operating Systems: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Devices: Six devices at a time
  • Server Locations: 11 Countries
  • Number of Servers: Unspecified
  • Streaming: No
  • Torrenting: Yes (No kill switch)
  • Encryption: AES-256, Catapult Hydra (proprietary)
  • Logging: Some data logging, no transparency reports
  • Jurisdiction: Canada (owned by AnchorFree, a US-based company)
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Simmyideas Tech Hub reviews the latest mobile phones, smart gadgets, software, Tech Tips and other related Tech Products. We aim to deliver honest reviews, from a user perspective to help you choose the best tech for your needs. Send emails to [email protected]

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