A VPN is a must-have tool for any internet user who cares a lick about their privacy and security. Whether you’re doing online banking, downloading and streaming, or simply using Google, a good VPN will keep your data safe when it matters – and also give you access to more content and sites.
But with so many VPN services out there, it can be hard to tell which ones are legit and which ones aren’t. That’s what we’re here for.
Here’s our latest VPN review, this time on ZenMate.
ZenMate claims to have over 46+ million users. That’s pretty impressive, if true.
But it’s kind of unfortunate too, since ZenMate is simply not a top-tier VPN provider. In our testing, we found very little to praise about their – but plenty to complain about.
There are simply much better VPNs that can be had for around the same price, as we’ll describe in more detail below.
Pricing and Value
One of ZenMate’s strongest areas is its pricing. While subscriptions start at $9.99 per month, which is comparable to other VPN services, the price drops to just $2.05 per month if you subscribe for 2 years.
ZenMate also offers a 7-day free trial, which is pretty rare these days among VPNs – and they even add a 30-day money back guarantee on top of that.
But is it worth committing to a one- or two-year membership to get the above discount? Let’s find out.
We’ll cover Zenmate’s features in more depth below, but here’s a brief rundown if you’re feeling impatient.
- Based in Germany
- Servers in 30 countries
- 5 simultaneous connections (but can be upgraded)
- 7-day free trial
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
- Allows torrenting and p2p
- Support for multiple languages: English, German, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Turkish
- Built-in killswitch
- Browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera
- OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and SSTP protocols
Keep reading for more details on each feature.
With the amount of streaming and downloading people do these days, it’s no surprise that speed is one of the top concerns when choosing a VPN.
Now, almost all VPNs are going to slow you down a little, but the better providers keep this speed drop to a minimum. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for ZenMate.
The speed tests we conducted while using the service were not good. While some servers definitely seemed to be faster than others, we struggled to get even 25% of our normal bandwidth while connected through ZenMate.
It could be that the servers we were trying were under heavy load at the time, but since ZenMate provides almost no details on server load or how many servers any particular country has, it’s impossible to know.
Netflix and Streaming
We reached out to ZenMate’s customer support team about their functionality with Netflix and received the following response.
As you can see, it’s a little vague, but the answer to “whether ZenMate works with Netflix” seems to be ‘no’. Or at least, it’s not reliable.
ZenMate does offer a “Streaming Guarantee”, which is even advertised at the bottom of their response email. But apparently that guarantee does not included Netflix.
One common use of VPNs is for protection when downloading torrents or through other peer-to-peer methods. Fortunately, ZenMate advertises themselves as p2p friendly.
But that’s not quite the whole story. Because ZenMate is based in Germany, which is one of the most hostile countries in the world against torrenting – and the authorities there pursue p2p users aggressively. As a member of the Fourteen Eyes, they also cooperate with agencies in countries like the US.
Of course, this is exactly the reason that torrenters need a quality VPN. But is ZenMate up to the task?
Their Terms of Service specifically forbids:
“[C]opyright infringement when using ZenMate, for example by downloading copyright protected files or granting other people access to those. Such use is prohibited.”
In short, if the authorities in Germany or elsewhere come after someone for torrenting, there’s no guaranteeing that ZenMate won’t turn over their IP address, which can then be linked to their ISP and ultimately their true identity.
Of course, VPNs are often required to comply with such a request for information – which is exactly why it’s so important that a VPN not keep logs. If they don’t have logs, they have nothing to turn over.
To sum it up, not only is ZenMate not a truly no-logs provider, they are based in one of the most dangerous jurisdictions for torrenting, making them a less-than-ideal choice for p2p use.
ZenMate has apps for all of the major operating systems, from Windows to Mac to Linux.
Downloading and setting up their Windows application was super easy and the software itself looks very sleek and minimalistic.
The main window is ZenMate’s signature blue, with a big fat ‘connect’ button in the middle and a dropdown menu for server selection below. Then there’s a ‘Settings’ menu, where you can turn on the killswitch and play with a few other options, including changing the language the app uses.
That’s right, you can use English, German, Spanish, Russian, Korean, or Turkish inside the application, which is a neat feature that you don’t see from many VPNs.
Unfortunately, our favorable first impressions were forgotten quickly as we started to actually use the app. For starters, we encountered quite a few bugs. One server that we had connected to fine the day before wouldn’t connect the next day, no matter how many times we tried.
Then, after we had given up and weren’t even using the VPN, it suddenly connected – but seemed to kill our internet connection. Other times, the app would close by itself.
It also gives you little control over which server you’re connecting to and few details on the server it does choose for you.
Whereas most VPNs will let you pick specific servers in specific cities in its supported countries and often provide you information about them, like the amount of load they’re currently under, that’s not the case with ZenMate.
You can select a country – and that’s it. For instance, you can choose United States or United States West, which corresponds to New York and Los Angeles, as far as we can tell. Unlike other VPNs, there isn’t an option to select between individual servers in Atlanta, Chicago, or Dallas. In fact, there don’t even seem to be US servers outside of NYC and LA.
If you can’t connect to the country you’ve selected, as we experienced, well, you’ll have to pick another country, since there’s no ability to simply select a different server in the desired country.
In short, the ZenMate app for Windows looks nice – but that’s about it.
Our experiences with ZenMate on Mac were much the same as with Windows.
Installing the app was quick and easy. The app itself looks great, with very accessible and intuitive buttons for connecting and disconnecting, selecting a server, and accessing the settings.
It also has the multi-language functionality – with support for English, German, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Turkish – as we describe above.
However, this is about as far as it goes. There’s no choice of which servers you connect to, other than simply selecting a country. And even then, we weren’t always able to connect to a particular country’s server, with no explanation given as to why.
Most premium VPN providers give you way more control over the servers you connect to than this, and their apps aren’t nearly as buggy.
We’d love to see ZenMate iron out their issues with the app, since they seem to have a solid foundation in place, but for now, it’s a miss.
ZenMate’s limited server information isn’t limited to their app. Their website doesn’t provide many details either.
They have servers in 30 countries, but there’s no indication of how many servers they actually have in total nor in what cities they’re located. It looks their US servers are limited to New York and Los Angeles, which is pretty disappointing when you consider what ZenMate’s competitors offer.
Their server selection outside of Europe is lacking as well, with very limited options for Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.
Good security is one of the most crucial aspects of picking a VPN to trust with your data. Here’s how ZenMate’s security features stack up.
Based in Germany
ZenMate is based in Berlin, Germany. While Germany has typically had a solid privacy record, they are part of the “Fourteen Eyes”, which are countries that cooperate with some of the most invasive intelligence agencies in the world, like the NSA.
Germany is also pushing some worrying trends with regards to online freedom, which we’ll discuss further below.
Encryption and Protocols
One positive point of ZenMate’s security is that they offer all of the protocols you’d like to see, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and SSTP.
These will keep your data safely encrypted while you’re using the VPN, which is an excellent thing for your privacy.
Does Keep Some Logs
As we covered above, ZenMate does log your IP address, along with the date and time that you connect to their servers. This is a big negative for anyone looking for a non-logging VPN provider.
We already discussed how ZenMate’s logging affects torrenting and p2p, but there’s another cause for concern.
Recently, the German government has been pushing for “hate speech” laws which would make it illegal to post certain content online. Now, no one is condoning racism here, but these laws have come under massive criticism because of how vague they are. The worry is that they’ll be applied just as vaguely as they’re written.
The UK’s font policing of online speech gives us a glimpse of how this could play out.
And ZenMate’s Terms of Service seem to coincide with Germany’s laws on the topic. For instance, they forbid using the VPN for “unlawful purposes”, which includes “threatening, insulting, defamatory or any other offensive content or any other racist or xenophobic statements”.
In short, if you post the wrong thing online by mistake, you could be in hot water – and ZenMate has your information, which they are willing to turn over. This is a real problem for a service that’s supposed to protect your privacy.
Killswitch and Leak Protection
ZenMate does offer a built-in killswitch, as any good VPN should. This will keep your data from leaking if your VPN connection drops for whatever reason.
They also offer protection against IP and DNS leaks, as well as WebRTC leaks in the browser extensions.
No Bitcoin Payments
Unfortunately, ZenMate does not appear to accept Bitcoin or other forms of private payments at this time.
Okay, so let’s talk about support.
For starters, ZenMate does not offer a live chat feature, so you’ll need to use a ticket system and receive support via email. Though they did respond to our questions relatively fast. It was within about 6 hours, though we can’t say exactly because they don’t email you a confirmation when you submit the ticket.
ZenMate’s site is also very vague when it comes to a lot of their features. As we talked about above, they don’t even tell you how many servers they have. It was also hard to find specific info on their site about their privacy and security features.
Combine this with some of the troubles we had with their app, and you’re left with a lot of questions and no way to get immediate answers. Any customer support experience that involves emailing back and forth for days at a time is not a strong one.
So, we’ve looked at all aspects of ZenMate’s service, from there speeds and servers to their customer support.
We liked their 7-day trial, and they provide all of the VPN protocols we look for. On the other hand, there was a lot we didn’t like, including a lack of servers, their logging policy, and no Netflix support.
So, would we recommend ZenMate?