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SmartVPN review

Inexpensive, but slow

SmartVPN
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

SmartVPN does well in some areas, like unblocking Netflix, acceptable prices, and simplicity of its apps. However, it underperforms in many other respects: it doesn’t have any apps for iOS or Android, its server network is extremely small, it allows only one connection at a time, keeps certain logs, has trouble connecting and its customer support is barely reachable.

For

  • Reasonably priced
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Very beginner-friendly

Against

  • Performance issues
  • Tiny server network
  • No mobile apps
  • Only one simultaneous connection
  • Some logs are kept
  • False money-back guarantee claims

SmartVPN is a virtual private network platform (VPN) that masks your IP address, thus helping you protect your private information, access online content that may be unavailable in your region, as well as lower international calling costs by assigning you a specific virtual location.

It doesn’t have any mobile apps, extra features, nor a lot of servers. It also collects certain information when you use its services, allows only one concurrent connection, has no direct communication option, and its connections are unreliable and slow.

All of this makes today’s best VPN solutions much, much more tempting.

Price

SmartVPN’s subscription packages differ in the number of servers included and whether they offer a shared or dedicated IP. Each can be ordered as a monthly, 3-month, 6-month, and yearly plan.

The Basic package, which costs $3.50/month under the monthly, $9.99 ($3.33/month) under the quarterly, $18.95 ($3.16/month) under the semi-annual, and $35.90 ($2.99/month) under the annual subscription, offers access to servers in only two countries - Germany and the Netherlands - while providing its users with a shared IP.

It is followed by the Premium package, which provides servers in more countries, offers a shared IP and costs $6.95/month as a monthly, $19.95 ($6.65/month) as a quarterly, $37.90 ($6.31/month) as a semi-annual, and $71.50 ($5.96/month) as a yearly option.

Finally, the Dedicated package is available at the price of $14.95 for the monthly, $42.95 ($14.32/month) for the quarterly, $81.50 ($13.58/month) for the semi-annual, and $154.00 ($12.83/month) for the annual plan. 

Every package and subscription option is supposedly accompanied by a 7-day money-back guarantee, which can be used to test the service out, but our attempts at contacting the support about a refund were left unanswered. Also, there’s no traditional free trial. Accepted payment methods include PayPal, AmanPay (credit/debit cards), and Bitpay (Bitcoin).

You can use your account on multiple devices (one mobile, one computer, one streaming media, as well as one wireless router), but only one can be connected to the VPN at a time.

(Image credit: Future)

Alternatives

SmartVPN has plenty of problems that you won’t see in most of its more successful competitors, like NordVPN, IPVanish, or CyberGhost, and especially not ExpressVPN.

All of them support multiple simultaneous connections, have huge server networks counting thousands of units, offer excellent performance and stable connections, as well as having apps for all the major platforms.

Streaming

One of SmartVPN’s advantages is that it can unblock Netflix in places where it is usually unavailable. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for BBC iPlayer.

About the company

SmartVPN is owned by a company called Anonymous, which is registered in Casablanca, Morocco. It has very few servers - in only 14 countries (Morocco, Israel, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, and the US). Germany and the Netherlands are supposedly high-speed servers.

(Image credit: Future)

Privacy and encryption

This VPN vendor uses PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and OpenVPN protocols, all of which rely on the 256-bit encryption, except the PPTP that uses the 128-bit encryption algorithm.

According to the company’s FAQ, it doesn’t collect information about the websites you visit but it does store the connection times and total data usage which are kept for a limited time (it's unclear for how long). 

This issue is covered in SmartVPN’s Legal Mentions as well, where it states that it also collects the information on which server you connected to. Here we also learn that the data usage it monitors refers to the amount of data transferred per day.

To try and keep your mind at ease, it also adds that: “We store all the activities and information provided by you in the best possible manner and secures it completely.”

That said, its “software may, during some circumstances, send diagnostic data to an analytics provider of third party for the sole purpose of the identification of connection errors and bugs in the application. All the information collected in this case is very generic in nature and does not contain any information as to personal identification.”

According to SmartVPN’s Privacy Policy, it may also share your personal data with “any government department, agency, court or other official bodies where we believe disclosure is necessary (i) as a matter of applicable law or regulation (such as in response to a subpoena, warrant, court order, or other legal process), (ii) to exercise, establish, participate in, or defend our legal rights, or limit the damages we sustain in litigation or other legal dispute, or (iii) to protect your vital interests, privacy, or safety, or those of our customers or any other person.”

In short, this all means that some logs are being kept and may be shared with third parties, along with your personal information, so discretion is advised.

Support

SmartVPN has clients for Windows and Mac devices, as well as manual configuration for iOS, Linux, Android, Mac, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and routers. There are apps on Google Play Store and iOS App Store with the same name, but none of them belong to this provider.

Should you find yourself in need of assistance or would just like to find out more about SmartVPN, you can do so in its FAQ section, support page (although you need to have an account to access it), or blog.

You can try to contact the customer support, which is available via web form only. The provider also has a Facebook and Twitter page, so you can try there as well.

(Image credit: Future)

Speed and experience

We purchased the Basic package which gave us servers in only two countries - the Netherlands and Germany, so we tested both locations.

The server in the Netherlands delivered a rather unimpressive download speed considering its location: only 16Mbps on a 60Mbps testing connection.

The Germany-based server, meanwhile, refused to connect at all. We tried at least a dozen times, even with the OpenVPN app.

The Windows app is easy to install and use, which is no surprise since it’s really minimalistic and has absolutely no advanced options or features.

Verdict

SmartVPN is a beginner-friendly and affordable VPN platform, but we weren’t impressed by its performance.

The reason behind its below-average download speeds could be its tiny server network and the fact that we were using a shared IP (instead of a dedicated one that is offered in the more expensive package).

On top of that, it supports only one simultaneous connection, keeps logs, and doesn’t give you many options for contact. To avoid these problems, stick with a tried and tested industry leader, such as ExpressVPN.