Betternet is a Canadian-based VPN service. It is a little-known VPN as it was established in 2015, but one of the unique features about it is that its basic service is completely free. There is also a premium subscription plan for interested users.
In this 2020 review, we are going to take a closer look at Betternet VPN after extensively testing it.
The goal was to see:
- The features it offers
- How it works with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime
- Its being user-friendly
- How secure it is
Without wasting more time, let’s drive into it.
|Logs||Overlay Ads can collect your personal details|
|Price||Basic service Free, Premium service at $11.99/month|
|Encryption method||AES 256-bit key|
- 100% free to use
- You don’t have to register
- Free version offers an extensive data allowance
- User-friendly interface for beginners
- Works with most operating systems
- Does not support Netflix
- Sometimes, the service is slow
- Not the best option for torrenting
- Options are limited for experienced users
- Does not have the kill-switch.
Betternet is a free, convenient VPN service. However, it is not the best option for enthusiastic streamers and downloaders.
Read on to learn more about Betternet VPN.
Ease of Setting Up
You don’t have to register or set up an account with Betternet to start using the VPN service. You only need to download the software on your device and that’s it!
This is a lot convenient for new users to get started with VPN as they don’t have to worry about submitting their personal details while setting up an account.
It is also the perfect option for anyone who only needs a VPN for a short period of time. The unique selling point of Betternet is that it doesn’t require users to sign up.
When it comes to design, Betternet is not the most convenient app to use. They tend to over-promote their paid service by placing an overlay ad of the plan on its free app.
With the advertisement overlay, users may think Betternet is not a free VPN. But there is an X at the top-right corner of the window that allows you to hide the advertisement and start using your free VPN.
Once you’ve closed the ad, it becomes easier to use Betternet. Simply click on the “Connect” button, and a smiley emoji will change color, indicating your device has connected to a VPN server.
Unfortunately, the basic (free) version does not give you the option to choose your location. However, the VPN provider promises to find the best location for users.
Additional Design Features
There is also an option on the app that allows you to view all the servers that are available for users who choose the paid plan, but there are no stats to look into.
Linux and other web browsers such as Firefox and Opera mini are not supported. The router is not supported as well. Considering it is a free VPN, all these seem to be a reasonable deal.
As mentioned above, the free version of Betternet doesn’t allow you to choose the server you wish to connect to, and you’re only limited to servers in the United States. Ultimately, this affects the speed of the connection.
This is actually common with nearly all free VPNs, and bandwidth limits are actually decent. However, if you are looking for download speeds of top VPN services like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, then you will certainly be disappointed.
Test Results for Performance
When conducting our tests, we noticed a pause while loading a website, although it’s not hugely annoying as you continue using the VPN.
It also takes longer to download files when compared to using your regular ISP. The average download speed for Betternet VPN was about half our ISP speeds.
They also report that the VPN doesn’t work in China, although this is yet to be confirmed. Once you switch to the premium version, you will notice a slight picture change.
Betternet has transformed from a slow VPN into one of the fastest on the market, with a top download speed of 321.68 Mbps, no packet loss, and minimal jitter. These numbers speak a lot about how good Betternet VPN is, especially when it comes to gaming.
Looking for a VPN service that won’t be detected by Netflix? Unfortunately, Betternet is not one of them. You can’t stream anything on Netflix via any Betternet servers in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and other locations.
The VPN was also detected by BBC iPlayer and Hulu, while Amazon Prime only allows you to access some content from around the world but without U.S. movies and shows.
When it comes to streaming, Betternet offers a lot of speed. You can actually access content on sites such as CNN and YouTube. But when it comes to watching streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, you’ll have to switch off this VPN service.
The main advantage of Betternet is that it doesn’t require users to sign up. You don’t have to submit your email address or any other personal details to use this VPN service. Simply download the VPN app, install it, and you are good to go.
What This Means
This means you will encounter it while surfing the web. While these are said to be generic, if you are extra conscious about your privacy, then you will find this disturbing.
Even before you connect to the VPN, you will see a policy that 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.“
If you are on the hunt for a tested VPN that guarantees total privacy, the message above can get you worried. It seems like there is a trade-off between your privacy and price, and paid services will always be more secure.
When it comes to security, Betternet uses some of the most widely used secure encryption methods to keep their users’ data safe. However, their proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol is opaque. Although they claim it is as secure as OpenVPN, there is no way to confirm this.
Another major source of concern is that Betternet does not have the kill switch feature. This means you could be exposed to trackers if your connection to VPN drops.
Security Features of Betternet
128-bit encryption over IPSec – Although IPsec is an old suite of internet protocol, it is still reliable and secure. It is decent enough for the average user.
256-bit AES encryption over Catapult Hydra – This is military-grade level encryption that is popular with most VPNs. The fact that this has been included in a free VPN gives you confidence; however, the VPN service has not said when they use this.
Auto-connect – The premium version of Betternet has an option that automatically turns on the VPN when you connect to an insecure wireless hotspot. Most users would actually do this manually every time they are in this situation.
Betternet works perfectly when it comes to P2P file sharing and torrenting. However, it is a bit slow when compared to torrenting over the usual internet connection.
If you are looking for a free VPN that allows you to download files once in a while, then the speed is decent enough. However, if you will be downloading huge files, you will be disappointed by the limits that have been put in place.
The fact that the VPN does not have a kill switch is another major issue, and that’s why you should avoid Betternet if you are looking for the best VPN for torrenting. When you lose connection while torrenting, your IP address will be exposed to any seed you are connected to at that time.
Adblocking is a common feature in most VPN services, which provides an extra layer of security when the blocker is activated at the DNS level.
Unfortunately, Betternet does not have a built-in ad blocker, so you may have to deal with invasive ad trackers trying to collect some information about your system and network.
Betternet has a ticket system through which it offers customer support. Unluckily, there is no option that allows you to speak to an agent via live chat or phone. You can only submit your query through the ticket system and wait for a response from the team.
For us, it took a bit longer for the company to respond and offer a solution. In our interaction with them, it took three to four hours to get a response.
The strongest selling point of Betternet is its price because it is actually free. The free VPN suits you if your expectations are not too high. If you go for the premium version, you will have to part with $11.99 per month after a free trial period of 7 days.
With the premium service, you get a range of servers to choose from. This means improved speed, but still, you cannot access streaming services like Netflix, even though you are paying for the VPN service.
Free VPNs vary significantly when it comes to connection speed, data caps, and server availability. However, Hotspot Shield Free is Betternet’s closest competitor in terms of usability and features. It is no surprise that the two VPNs have these similarities as they are both owned by AnchorFree.
Both Betternet and Hotspot Shield Free are companies located in Five Eyes nations, with the former in Canada and the latter in the United States. In addition, they both offer 500 MB of data every day to people using the free version.
The level of encryption is the same for the two, and they both use the proprietary Catapult Hydra technology.
Difference Between Betternet and Hotspot Shield Free
The difference between the two arises in streaming, with Hotspot Shield free offering better protection against tracking from Netflix and other streaming services. You can actually access Netflix and BBC iPlayer using Hotspot Shield.
Another major difference is that Hotspot Shield requires you to sign up for its trial of the premium service to get started. On the other hand, Betternet allows you to get started right away without providing your personal details of billing info.
It might seem like a small hassle (in the case of Hotspot Shield), but the fact that you have to provide your financial details to access the services make all the difference.
If you are looking to enjoy better privacy, then Betternet is the better option; however, neither VPN is really exceptional.
Betternet is the perfect definition of “you get what you pay for.” Once you are done with initial setup issues, using it is a breeze. However, it has a limited number of features, and it won’t be of much help other than simple web browsing.
It is, however, worth it for anyone who is looking for a basic VPN for using on public Wi-Fi or when banking online. This is because it does not require you to register.