When choosing a VPN, very few people immediately think “I know – let’s check out Romania!”
That may be a mistake, as VPN.ac, based in Romania, is a well-kept secret. It delivers some impressive features and never charges you the earth. But is it right for you?
Let’s take the offering apart and see what we have.
Capsule review: In the words of Darth Vader, “Impressive. Most impressive.”
Strong encryption meets impressive performance and secure apps. It’s a network composed entirely of dedicated bare-metal servers that give you self-hosted GNS and gigabit bandwidth channels.
Add on unique encryption, double-hop server configurations and secure proxy browser extensions and you get a proposition that feels impressively secure – without the price that usually comes with that feeling.
That said, there are a couple of significant downsides to using VPN.ac. Most importantly, if you’re getting a VPN for streaming, this is not the VPN you need, because it doesn’t work with most streaming sites.
It’s also not exactly as feature-packed as some on the market, so be aware and strip back your expectations going in.
Who is VPN.ac?
VPN.ac was initially built in 2012 by a team of professionals in the network security game. Each of the main creative team has over a decade of experience, so you’re in pretty good hands in terms of the infrastructure and the build of the VPN.
Let’s talk jurisdiction turkey – Romania is the home and judicial base for VPN.ac. Want to know the good bit? Romania’s not a member of the 14 Eyes alliance, and nor is it an especially close ally to any regime that might want to check out your data.
That means that while it’s functionally useless as a streaming VPN, if torrenting is your thing, you can do a lot worse than VPN.ac.
Under Romanian jurisdiction, by the way, VPN.ac can act like an old person at Christmas dinner and pretend to be deaf when it comes to DMCA complaints or copyright issues.
Want a little sugar on top of the good news? Data retention was ruled unconstitutional in the Romanian Constitutional Court in 2014.
That means unlike some of the more major players in the VPN market, it’s on your side as a VPN user, and it’s technically illegal to keep data logs of where you go and what data you access.
Sure, you can use it to feed your torrent-frenzy, but how user-friendly is it?
Mmmm, pretty friendly all told. If you use Windows, Mac OS, iOS, or Android, you’re good to go with VPN.ac.
If you’re a Ubuntu-fan, the news is less great – there’s a VPN.ac client in beta for you, but it’s been there now long enough that if it were a movie, you’d say it’s in development hell.
Number of Connections
Sure, there are some VPNs that allow you unlimited connections per subscription. VPN.ac is not one of them, but it does give you a healthy 6 connections per sub. Most of the time, that’ll be enough for any individual user or family of users.
VPN.ac gives you a number of encryption options. That means you can choose the level of encryption that works best for you, balancing your need for privacy and performance and finding the perfect sweet spot.
By default, you’ll be set to OpenVPN ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography), which is a good balancing point to start from. It also opens you up to options like L2TP/IPSec 256-bit, OpenVPN 128-bit (BF or AES), and more, so you can fine-tune your options.
You can also use the WireGuard VPN protocol, but it’s not built into VPN.ac clients at source, so that will take some setting up if you want to go with it.
Finding the right performance and security balance for your needs will probably take some experimentation with VPN.ac, but the fact that it gives you a good balancing point to start from, and a range of relatively easy options to go with means it’s pretty user-friendly when it comes to finding the right mix for you.
Defeating Network Restrictions
OK, so far, so mostly good. What’s it like at getting through network restrictions?
If anywhere, this is an area in which VPN.ac really excels. It carries a whole host of obfuscation features to get you past network security. Sure, there’s a small performance trade-off – but you knew there would be when you went into this, right?
For the power to get past security, both in countries with heavy security like China and Saudi Arabia, and in organizational terms, like work or school.
Anywhere that says it blocks VPS traffic is where you need to bust out your obfuscation tools. Using a variety of VPN protocols and port selection options lets VPN.ac slip through the fingers of many systems that traditionally try to block you.
For instance, selecting the XOR protocol + TCP port 443 will break you through most network restrictions.
Add to that a bunch of servers configured for China and you’re strolling past some usually highly effective restrictions on the Chinese web.
Secure Proxies for Browsers
VPN.ac is able to deliver secure proxy extensions for a whole range of browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. That means you can get strong encryption for all your browsing on all those browsers, and protection even against firewalls that try to keep you out.
As an extra bonus, you don’t need to push all your PC browsing specifically through the VPN.
The browser can tunnel your searches through the VPN, while everything else is done through your normal ISP connection, for extra security and a kind of whistling innocence for most of your PC’s operations.
If you don’t want to waste the connectivity encrypting every move you make on the internet, but want your private business kept private, this is a particularly impressive feature of VPN.ac.
Death to Unwanted Ads
You know how it can be. Using a CPN can sometimes be like opening the floodgates to ads, trackers, malware and phishing.
The very fact of opening up a hole in your own security so you can roam the untamed internet means every bot on the planet can conceivably pour in through your exit hole and leave your machine or your network swamped with malware, repeating ads and the like.
In order to counter that problem, VPN.ac uses DNS filtering.
Granted, it’s not set to kick in immediately when you fire up the VPN, but it’s relatively easy to find in the app’s settings – just look for “SecureDNS” and switch it on.
After that, you should be able to surf anonymously without too much unwanted garbage streaming through the hole you leave.
We mentioned multi-hop VPN configurations as a particular benefit of VPN.ac. What multi-topping does is act like an airlock or two-stage filter – it puts two encrypted servers between your activity and the wildly unencrypted mass of the internet.
It’s more than a cloaking device – in a real sense, it’s VIP private searching, protected not simply by the single-stage solution of a purity buffer in one server, but protected essentially by the second server so no-one and nothing really looks at your activity, let alone looks twice.
With the VPN.ac double-hop, you get 22 server configurations to choose from.
Naturally, you’d expect a big increase in time latency when using such an intricate protection system, but actually, depending on the servers you choose, you can cut the latency down quite some way and still get over 80 Mbps of speed, which should be enough for most purposes.
We’re not about to tell you VPN.ac beats all comers in speed under double-protection – you’d know we’re lying more or less on first principles, and testing out something like NordVPN would give you the proof of our falsehood if we tried.
But one of the joys about VPN.ac is that the multi-hop configurations can be done by hand.
That means that even though there’s no real way to fight them if they’re machine-generated, you can plan your own protection, adding a random variable into the whole thing that keeps you safer still
What About the Cost?
OK, it’s true that VPN.ac is not the cheapest VPN on the market – but it’s also significantly far from being the most expensive. If you’ve been looking at investing in NordVPN, it’s worth taking a look at VPN.ac too, just for the comparison.
For a similar price, VPN.ac has a couple of neat bonuses – the legal system in Romania being unashamedly one. The hand-configurable multi-hop potential is another impressive reason to look at the Romanian offering.
Would you seriously be better off going Romanian in this case? It very much depends what you’re using your VPN for.
Obviously, if you’re looking to crack into silo content and stream your ever-loving face off, then no, the VPN.ac offering is not for you.
If you’re torrenting like a maniac though, or if you want the extra security of a configurable multi-hop with the benefit of being outside 14 Eyes, in a jurisdiction where data logging is officially unconstitutional, you might see the benefit of eschewing the bigger names and reputations and going Romanian.