If you're wondering why you should trust a domain registrar to run your VPN, then so are we. No need to worry, though; it's using servers run by an arm of StackPath, the company behind major VPN brands such as IPVanish, Encrypt.me and StrongVPN.
Whoever owns the network, it's a decent size, with 1000+ servers spread across 75+ locations worldwide. Apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android; tutorials show how to set up the service on various routers, and, unusually, there are no annoying limits on the number of devices you can connect at one time.
The technology looks good, too, with OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocol support, Namecheap's own secure DNS to reduce the chance of leaks, and a kill switch to block internet access if the VPN drops.
- Want to try Namecheap VPN? Check out the website here
Pricing is generally excellent, with some big introductory discounts off your first term.
Sign up for the monthly plan, for instance, and you'll pay nothing at all for the first month, effectively a 30-day free trial, rising to a still-excellent $5.88 on renewal.
The annual plan is just $1 a month for year one, rising to $2.88 on renewal.
If you're willing to commit to a longer-term plan, Namecheap charges just $1.88 over three years.
We are normally uneasy at signing up for such a long period, but if you're also concerned, just look at the total you're paying. Namecheap asks an upfront $67.68 for its three-year plan, for instance; CyberGhost's one-year plan alone is $71.88, and ExpressVPN asks for $99.95.
Long-term contracts are always a gamble, but even if you only use the service for a year, you're still getting decent value for money. Whatever you choose, Namecheap supports payment by card and PayPal.
Privacy and logging
Unlike some of the competition, Namecheap doesn't make big 'zero log' promises in its website headlines, then confess to all kinds of data collecting activities in the small print.
Instead, the site takes a more nuanced approach, stating: 'While we do collect connection and bandwidth data to ensure your safety and satisfaction, we never track or store your data or browsing history.'
Installing the Windows client got us a little more detail, though, with a warning that it collected 'aggregated anonymous app usage data, including your device and OS version so we can troubleshoot and improve our app', but 'that's it', and there's 'no tracking of your personal identifiable information.'
We would like more information, and maybe a security audit to confirm Namecheap is living up to its promises, but that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon. The service is targeted at the average consumer who wants something easy to use which 'just works', and not the kind of user who cares about session logging or whether it uses AES-256-CBC or GCM.
Namecheap's Windows app is a polished and professional tool, several million miles from the feeble beta we saw in our last review.
A clear and simple interface opens with little more than a 'best available' location choice and a 'Connect VPN' button. The client displays the name of your current network, too, a handy way to be sure you're connecting to the official coffee shop wifi, and not some shady open network nearby.
An excellent location picker delivers on all the core features we need: city-level connection options, server load and ping time information (you can sort by those, too), simple Favorites system to easily group your most commonly used locations.
Connection times are reasonable, the client uses notifications to tell you when you're protected and if the connection fails, and then displays genuinely useful status information on its main console: new IP address, session connection time and whatever protocol you're using.
Settings are relatively limited: auto-start options, a choice of protocol (IKEv2, OpenVPN TCP/ UDP, and a Scramble option to help bypass VPN blocking), and a kill switch to block internet access if the VPN drops.
The core engine handled unexpected disconnects very well. We forcibly closed our IKEv2 connection, the client noticed, displayed a notification and reconnected immediately. So, we closed the connection again, then kept closing it, as fast we could, interrupting every reconnect attempt. That's a level of stress testing which goes way beyond what you're likely to see in real life, but the client just waited until we'd finished, then reconnected as before.
The kill switch generally worked well, too. Whatever we did to IKEv2 or OpenVPN connections, the client warned us of the dropped VPN, wasn't especially troubled by our extreme testing methods and reconnected as soon as it could, without ever leaving us unprotected.
If you like your VPN apps to look and feel the same across all platforms, Namecheap's Android offering will be a major disappointment. Map-based front end, horribly basic location picker, barely any settings beyond auto-reconnect and a choice of OpenVPN TCP or UDP, it's like a product from an entirely different provider. And although we don't normally place much weight on ratings, a very low Play Store score of 3.2/5 suggests it might have real issues underneath.
Namecheap's apps are heading in the right direction, then, but they still don't have many features, and the mobile side in particular needs work. If you're interested in the service, be sure to test it very carefully on all platforms before you buy.
Namecheap doesn't make any specific claims about its website-unblocking abilities, but generally suggests it can help you 'securely unblock sites and content.'
This didn't work with BBC iPlayer, unfortunately. Namecheap offers four UK servers, but whichever one we used, the iPlayer site complained that its content was 'not available in your location.'
The service picked up when we switched to the US. Okay, it failed with Amazon Prime Video, but we were able to stream from US Netflix and even Disney+, a task which defeats many big VPN names.
Our performance tests got off to a speedy start, with local UK connections achieving an excellent 66-8Mbps on our 75Mbps test line.
UK to US connections were slower, but that's no surprise, and they were still above average at 40-55Mbps.
The exact results you'll see are going to vary according to your location and the server you choose, but Namecheap's StackPath-owned network is a capable one, and you're likely to see decent speeds in most situations.
Namecheap's speeds and price are impressive, but the mobile apps are underpowered, and we'd like a more consistent look and feel across the range. Could work as a simple desktop VPN for unblocking Netflix and other basic tasks, but this isn't yet the service for experienced or demanding users.
- Also check out our roundup of the best VPNs