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ProtonMail secure email review

A powerful, secure email service with great features

ProtonMail secure email review
(Image: © ProtonMail)

Our Verdict

ProtonMail offers a high level of privacy and security and an interface that’s easy to use. As far as secure email services go, few can match it.

For

  • Secure and private
  • Modern user interface

Against

  • Not designed for high-volume sending
  • Email subject lines not end-to-end encrypted

Internet businesses such as Google and Facebook work on a targeted advertising model. In exchange for the use of free services, like Gmail, you agree to let them harvest your data so they can more accurately target advertising at you and others like you. To maintain your privacy online, consider the best secure email providers, such as ProtonMail.

In our ProtonMail review, we test the service’s privacy features, user interface, security, and customer support to determine whether it’s one of the best secure email providers for privacy-conscious users.

ProtonMail: Plans and pricing

ProtonMail has four pricing plans you can choose from. The Free plan is for one user and has a few limitations: 500 MB of storage, 20 labels, 50 messages/hour, and 150 messages/day. You can receive emails at the @pm.me short email domain name, but you can’t send messages from it. Custom domains and additional addresses are also not supported on the free plan. Support is limited.

ProtonMail Plus costs $5/month or $48/year. Your storage is bumped to a useful 5 GB, and you can attach a custom domain if you wish. You can have up to five additional addresses and 200 labels and send 300 messages/hour or 1,000 messages/day. With the Plus plan, you can send and receive messages using the @pm.me short email domain, and there’s support for IMAP email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail. It’s the first plan with custom filters and an autoresponder.

ProtonMail Professional costs $8/user/month or $75/user/year. It’s the choice for small businesses, allowing unlimited users, emails, and labels. Each user gets 5 GB of space. The default user gets 10 addresses, and five addresses are added for every additional user.

Finally, ProtonMail Visionary costs $30/month for up to six users. You get 20 GB of storage space, 10 custom domains, and 50 additional addresses.

You can pay a fixed price to upgrade the number of custom domains or extra email addresses that your account has or increase the storage space that you can use. This makes the available services quite flexible. You also get 20% off when you purchase ProtonMail in conjunction with ProtonVPN, the company’s virtual private network service.

ProtonMail has plans for individuals and businesses (Image credit: ProtonMail)

ProtonMail: Features

Besides the strong end-to-end, zero-access encryption of your email and contact data, ProtonMail has many useful features. For example, you can set an autoresponder, create a custom spam filter, and manage multiple email addresses in the same account. Emails that you send can be self-destructing, so they are automatically removed from the recipient’s inbox after a set time.

ProtonMail Bridge is an application that you can use to encrypt all your emails as they enter and leave your computer. After installing the bridge and setting it up, you can use your favorite email client, such as Thunderbird, knowing that your emails are fully encrypted when sent over the internet.

ProtonMail secure email review 2

ProtonMail’s primary focus is on privacy, but it has a modern interface that’s easy to use (Image credit: ProtonMail)

ProtonMail: Interface and in use

Signing up for ProtonMail requires you to enter your current email address or phone number. Alternatively, you can donate to ProtonMail, but that also requires giving up personal information. ProtonMail says that it only uses your current email address or phone number for registration purposes, but it does keep a hash of the details that you use to sign up.

The dashboard is one of the slickest that you’ll find in a secure email service. With its modern inbox design, you can swap between column and row layouts, use conversation grouping, edit the toolbar, and use custom themes. Emails can be arranged into folders and labels, and you can use custom filters to organize your emails automatically. ProtonMail also has similar apps for Android and iOS.

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ProtonMail has a clean, modern user interface (Image credit: ProtonMail)

ProtonMail: Support

ProtonMail offers three levels of support. Free users get limited support, Plus users get normal support, and everyone else gets priority support. You can email the support team from within the ProtonMail interface or send them a support query through Zendesk. In our testing, ProtonMail responded within 24 hours.

The online knowledge base for ProtonMail is well organized and full of details on every aspect of the product. Guides include short example videos, and there’s a search function so you can quickly find answers to your questions.

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ProtonMail has a comprehensive knowledge base (Image credit: ProtonMail)

ProtonMail: Security

ProtonMail uses end-to-end, zero-access encryption for your emails, so they are always encrypted when in transit or when stored on the email servers. However, the email subject lines are not stored in an encrypted format, so if compelled to by a Swiss court order, ProtonMail could turn over the subject of your emails to the authorities. In terms of physical security, ProtonMail’s IT infrastructure resides under 1,000 meters of granite rock and your data never goes to the cloud.

The code for the web client and encryption algorithms are all open-source, so any security issues can be patched quickly. There’s full support for PGP, and the encryption algorithms used are open-source versions of RSA and AES. You can enable two-factor authentication so no one can access your account without also having access to your mobile device. Overall, it’s an impressive level of security for emails.

ProtonMail secure email review 5

Two-factor authentication is supported (Image credit: ProtonMail)

The competition

If security is your highest priority, Tutanota is a German secure email service that uses its own encryption standards. You may prefer ProtonMail’s adherence to open-source standards, but while ProtonMail doesn’t encrypt your email subject line, Tutanota does. It also offers a fully-encrypted calendar and support for U2F two-factor authentication. 

If you like ProtonMail’s modern interface, Mailbox.org is another secure email provider that’s easy to use. It lacks mobile clients but includes a full suite of web-based email, contacts, cloud storage, and calendar office apps.

Final verdict

ProtonMail is one of the most polished secure end-to-end encrypted email services on the market. The free basic account means you can try it out at no cost, but you must upgrade to the Pro plan to unlock features like custom filters. ProtonMail strikes a good balance between high security and accessibility, and it’s a solid choice for anyone looking for a secure and private replacement to Gmail.