bVPN is one of the countless smaller VPN providers that have cropped up in recent years. It claims, as most providers do, to offer unparalleled security and privacy. But can it deliver on those fronts? The service also costs more than most of its competitors. Is there anything that bVPN offers that other VPN providers don’t?
This bVPN review answers the following questions:
- What are bVPN’s speeds like?
- Does bVPN work with streaming sites, like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video?
- Is bVPN private and secure?
- Does bVPN work in China?
In my testing of bVPN’s service, I used it to try and unblock region-locked video streams I typically have trouble with from my location. I also ran it through multiple tests to assess its speed and security features. If you don’t have a lot of time, I’ve summarized my thoughts below. If you want all of the details, read the full review.
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bVPN review summary
bVPN is a small VPN provider based in the Netherlands, which provides access to a small network of VPN servers. bVPN can access some streaming sites and does work in China.
The protocols it supports are OpenVPN, L2TP, Shadowsocks (proxy), and its custom VPN protocol, called Smoke Tunnel. That’s already a damper. Custom protocols are bad news because they are proprietary and cannot be peer-reviewed.
But things get worse. It provides virtually no features beyond the VPN connection itself. bVPN also logs some user data. Its support, via online chat, while fast is uninformative. All this for more money than most of its competitors. On the plus side, its speeds aren’t bad, and you can connect up to six devices simultaneously. Not really “top-rated” material here.
bVPN key data
|OVERALL RANK: #59 of 75|
|Average Speed*:||35.82 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K UHD|
|Other Streaming Services:||Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES|
|Kill Switch:||Windows only|
|Log Policy:||No logging policy, but still logs user data|
|Protocols:||OpenVPN, L2TP, Smoke Tunnel|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$7.50|
|Money Back Guarantee:||Only for purchases from Apple and Google app stores|
How does bVPN compare to other popular VPNs?
Here’s how bVPN compares to two leading VPNs, NordVPN and ExpressVPN:
|Website||bvpn.com/en/||NordVPN.com||ExpressVPN.com||Average Speed (Mbps)||35.82 Mbps||196 Mbps||193 Mbps||OpenVPN data encryption||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||Kill Switch||desktop only||Allows Torrenting||Connection logs||None||Some aggregated data||Unblocks Netflix US||Unblocks Prime Video||Unblocks Hulu||Unblocks BBC iPlayer||Lowest monthly cost||$7.50 per month||$3.29||$6.67||Money back guarantee||Only for purchases from Apple and Google app stores||30 days||30 days||Overall rating||6||9.7||9.3|
|Best deal (per month)||$7.50|
$7.50 per month for the annual plan
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bVPN pros and cons
- Decent speeds
- Live chat support is 24/7
- Allows up to six simultaneous connections
- Works with some streaming sites
- Supports OpenVPN
- Works in China
- No OpenVPN support in its mobile apps—need a third-party client
- Inconsistent features across apps
- Logs some user data
- More expensive than competitors
- Uninformative website
- Poor customer support
- Small network
- Kill switch only in Windows client
Speed: Is bVPN fast?
Privacy and security are undoubtedly the most important factors in assessing a VPN. But speed isn’t going to be far behind. This is an area in which bVPN does quite well. Its speeds were actually not bad (not amazing, either).
Across all locations and times tested, bVPN’s average download speed came to 35.82 Mbps.
I conducted the tests on servers in North America, Europe, and Asia. And unless you have a (very) high-speed internet connection (i.e., 100 Mbps or above), you likely won’t feel the speed dip at all. Here are the average speeds for each region:
- North America (where I’m located): 61.79 Mbps
- Europe: 28.19 Mbps
- Asia: 17.49 Mbps
I ran the tests using OpenVPN over UDP. I could also have used L2TP or Smoke Tunnel, but I wouldn’t recommend using either L2TP or Smoke Tunnel. L2TP is rather old by today’s standards, and many are on the fence about its security. It’s safe to say that the protocol is on its way out. As for Smoke Tunnel, it’s bVPN’s custom protocol, which can’t be peer-reviewed, and hence, shouldn’t be used as it’s impossible to assess its security.
I also tested bVPN with online gaming and didn’t run into any issues. I was connected to a server close to my actual location to get low ping times, which is important for a lag-free experience. Everything went smoothly. I didn’t experience any lag, slowdowns, or freeze-ups. Good stuff.
See also: Fastest VPNs
Apps & devices
bVPN supports the bigger platforms in terms of operating systems. That means:
However, you won’t be getting a streamlined experience across all apps and devices. Your best experience will be on desktop, and particularly on Windows. The macOS and Linux clients have fewer options than the Windows version. Still, not all VPN providers supply a Linux app—that’s nice to see. The app supports any Ubuntu-based Linux distribution. But you can also create a native L2TP or OpenVPN connection in any non-Ubuntu-based Linux distribution.
On mobile, the bVPN native app only supports bVPN’s custom VPN protocol, Smoke Tunnel. Again, using homegrown protocols is not recommended as you’re left having to cross your fingers that the developers did it right. The protocol being proprietary, it will not benefit from peer reviews.
So you have two options if you don’t want to use Smoke Tunnel. You can set up a native L2TP connection within Android or iOS, or you can download the OpenVPN Connect client app (the official OpenVPN mobile client) and set it up manually. Not exactly user-friendly.
Another thing is that only the Windows desktop client has a kill switch. It would be nice if that feature were accessible across all of bVPN’s apps. An opportunity for improvement here.
The desktop client itself is very minimalistic—which isn’t a bad thing.
The main window enables you to connect/disconnect the VPN and provides some useful information on the connection. There are two Settings windows, a simple one and a more advanced one. It seems to me all the settings could be in the same place, but…
So by clicking the word SETTINGS at the top of the app, you get to the simple settings window, where you can set a few convenience settings:
Clicking the gear icon next to the globe in the main window takes you to the advanced settings window, which comprises three windows. The first one is labeled connection, and you can choose your VPN protocol from there.
The Firewall window is where you can enable the kill switch (only available in the Windows client, for some reason) and IPv6 leak protection. Enabling IPv6 leak protection disables IPv6 traffic altogether. It peeved me a little bit that both of these settings were disabled by default.
The Driver window allows you to choose between the default TAP driver or bVPN’s native TAP driver (the default).
bVPN doesn’t make a big splash about supporting routers, but its FAQ provides instructions on how to set up both an L2TP or an OpenVPN connection on DD-WRT. So it does officially support DD-WRT.
But given the fact that bVPN makes its OpenVPN configuration files available, you should be able to set up an OpenVPN connection on almost any router. I was able to configure it on pfSense. You simply need to copy some of the settings into the router UI from the downloaded configuration file, as indicated in bVPN’s instructions.
Check out this guide on VPN routers if you’d like more information on the subject.
Streaming and Netflix
bVPN was able to access Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer (using a UK server), but that’s all. The service didn’t work with Hulu or Disney+. I wasn’t able to access ITV Hub or 4All either. And I did need to try different US servers until I found one that worked (which can happen with any VPN provider).
Some of bVPN’s servers appear to be dedicated streaming servers – they are marked with either “TVstream” or “TV”. But the only such servers are UK servers, for some reason. And they didn’t work with ITV Hub or All4. That’s all a bit confusing, so I would say just select a server that’s in the same location as the library you’re trying to access and hope for the best…
So bVPN can work with some streaming sites. But if you’re a heavy streamer and that streaming over VPN is important to you, bVPN may not be your best choice.
As far as the performance goes, streaming was smooth—no lagging, no buffering, no freeze-ups. So when it does work, it works well.
Here are our recommended VPNs for streaming if you’re looking for more information on that topic.
Does bVPN allow torrenting?
Yes, it does. Unlike for streaming, there are no dedicated P2P servers. Just pick the server of your choice, connect, and launch your torrent client. If you’re running the Windows client, be sure to enable the kill switch. It’ll stop your traffic from going out to the internet unencrypted if your VPN connection should ever drop.
And torrenting over bVPN was fast and smooth—no issues whatsoever. Good stuff.
If you’re big on torrenting, you can check out our recommended VPNs for torrenting.
Does bVPN support split tunneling?
No, it does not.
Split tunneling allows you to choose where you route your traffic on an app-by-app basis: through the VPN or through your ISP connection. You can choose to send your Netflix traffic through your ISP connection and send the rest out to the VPN. Or, you can choose only to send your P2P traffic through the VPN and send the rest through your ISP. It’s becoming a very popular feature among VPN providers today.
And we have another opportunity for improvement on bVPN’s part.
You can take a look at our recommended VPNs for split tunneling if it’s an important feature to you.
Security, privacy, and logging
So bVPN collects:
- Application diagnostics
- Non-identifying device information
- Anonymized analytical information
- Bandwidth usage
- Approximate location (without using the GPS)
Well, that’s a lot of information. Application diagnostics, device information, and analytical information are pretty much black boxes in that they could mean almost anything. And if bVPN is getting your approximate location without using GPS, it would seem to point at bVPN logging your original IP address… If it does log your IP address, it should be mentioned here.
A bit further down, we find this:
So when using bVPN, not only is your data being collected by bVPN, but it’s also collected by third-party analytics and advertising companies. That’s pretty antithetical to privacy. A trustworthy VPN provider should keep data collection to a minimum, not use third-party analytics trackers, and should (definitely) not send user data to marketers. Not very good on the privacy front.
Its website being uninformative, bVPN doesn’t disclose its encryption specs. However, looking through the setup tutorial for OpenVPN on DD-WRT, I found that it uses AES-256-CBC encryption, which is robust. But I couldn’t tell you about the RSA key size or the hashing algorithm. I contacted support (more on that later) and have yet to get an answer on this one.
As far as IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks go, I was pleased to see that bVPN didn’t leak on any of those fronts.
IP Test – No VPN
IP Test – With VPN
DNS Test – No VPN
DNS Test – With VPN
bVPN provides access to 44 servers in 24 countries. It’s a small network, and while I’m a fan of small networks, I could understand that 44 servers might not be enough for some. I prefer smaller networks because it makes me feel as if more care goes into the configuration of each server. It may simply be wishful thinking on my part. I’m happy to acknowledge that, but when a VPN provider’s network comprises tens of thousands of servers, one can wonder how much time is put into setting up and maintaining each server.
Does bVPN work in China?
Yes, it does. However, bVPN’s website is so uninformative that you wouldn’t know without trying it. I had to write to bVPN’s support department (more on that below) to confirm that bVPN officially supports the feature.
At first, it seemed that I needed to download extra software to connect from China. But I pressed the support representative, asking if it was possible to connect from China using the bVPN client, out-of-the-box.
The answer was finally yes, but your mileage may vary, as I can’t test it. If connecting from China is important to you, you should have a look at our recommended VPNs for China.
How good is bVPN’s customer service?
It’s typically pretty easy for a VPN provider to score well in terms of support. There’s a simple trick: provide good customer support. You don’t need to be a premium VPN with a huge budget in order to provide good customer service.
Unfortunately, bVPN’s support left a lot to be desired. Like bVPN’s website, its customer support is rather uninformative and sometimes confusing.
So, as I mentioned above, I contacted bVPN’s support team to find out whether or not the service worked in China. The first response I got was a bunch of links to some third-party software—with no explanation or instructions. Heck, the rep didn’t even bother saying “Hello” in their message…
I pressed on with my questions. I asked what the third-party software was for and if they could provide instructions on how to connect from China. That last question was simply ignored…
When I finally asked if it was possible to connect from China using bVPN’s native app, I finally received a “Yes” 20 minutes later.
So how good is bVPN’s customer service? It’s not.
bVPN offers three subscriptions:
- Monthly: $9.99 (GBP £7.49)
- Six months: $50—works out to $8.33 per month (GBP £37.50/£6.24 a month)
- One year: $90—works out to $7.50 per month (GBP £67.51/£5.62)
Each subscription allows you to connect up to six devices simultaneously. And you can even bypass that limit by configuring a VPN connection on your router.
That’s pretty expensive, especially given the fact that bVPN isn’t overflowing with features. It’s hard to justify choosing bVPN over, say, ExpressVPN or NordVPN. Either of those providers will give you more than bVPN for less.
Another thing is that bVPN does not provide refunds for subscriptions purchased from its website anymore. It used to, but it stopped doing that in 2019 in order to mitigate abuse… OK, but most other providers can provide a 30-day money-back guarantee without being abused. The other purchases would be from Google and Apple’s respective app stores, which provide refunds. Not having a proper refund policy seems like an odd move…
So with bVPN, you can sign up for an expensive subscription that won’t provide many features beyond the VPN service itself and without the possibility of a refund. Are you itching to sign-up yet?
On the payment front, bVPN does allow many different payment processors, including Bitcoin, which is appreciated as it becomes possible to make anonymous payments.
Do I recommend bVPN?
Nope, I don’t. I’ll go into greater detail in a moment, but there is a growing tendency in the commercial VPN market for small VPN providers to crop up and charge more than tried and tested premium VPN providers, seemingly in the hopes that they will be perceived as one of them. And I’m afraid that’s the case with bVPN. Were we to say that there are “A-list” VPN providers and “B-list” VPN providers, bVPN seems appropriately named.
But it’s not all bad. bVPN does provide good speeds. The service also works in China. And bVPN will enable you to unblock some streaming sites (though not all that many). Great.
However, bVPN’s mobile apps only support its custom VPN protocol called Smoke Tunnel. Again, custom protocols are bad news because they don’t get peer-reviewed. If you want to use OpenVPN on mobile with bVPN, you’re going to need to configure it manually, using a third-party app. Most other VPN providers support OpenVPN (and even WireGuard now) in their native apps.
Then we have bVPN’s logging practices and its sharing of user data with analytics and advertising companies—not something a VPN user is typically looking for. And its website is wholly uninformative—there is literally nothing but marketing. bVPN even has a dedicated web page about its custom VPN protocol (Smoke Tunnel) which tells you pretty much… nothing. Have a look. And its uninformative website is not compensated for by thoughtful customer service. Nope. In my experience, bVPN’s customer support was subpar—unclear and borderline rude.
Add to that the fact that bVPN provides very few features beyond the VPN connection itself, and it has a very small network of servers. It also sells its service for a higher asking price than more established premium providers. Put two and two together, and it becomes impossible to recommend bVPN. Oh, and let’s not forget that bVPN does not provide refunds for purchases made on its website. Everything to convince you to sign up, right?
I don’t recommend bVPN to anyone. Even if you’re just a casual VPN user that uses their subscription sparingly, you’re better off signing up to one of the providers below – you’ll have a better VPN, and you’ll save a few bucks too.
ExpressVPN is one of the larger players in the commercial VPN market and benefits from an excellent reputation. Its privacy and security practices are extremely good. All of the VPN servers run from volatile memory (RAM) and are booted from read-only disks. This setup essentially guarantees that no remnant data (logs) can exist on the system’s hard drives, which is great for user privacy. ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than most providers out there, but it’s fast, secure, unblocks streaming sites, and works in China.
Surfshark is another provider worth looking at. I believe it to be the cheapest VPN service I’ve seen, with subscriptions starting at only $1.99/month (GBP £1.49). Surfashark only supports secure protocols and works with streaming services. It adheres to its strict no-logging policy and works in China. Surfshark also allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. Definitely worth checking out.
Methodology used for testing
Below you’ll find the criteria used to assess the VPNs we review. It’s essential to be consistent across the board so that our reviews are reasonably objective and that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. For that reason, we want to expose our criteria.
- Speed – Speed is one of the most critical factors of any VPN. Aside from being frustrating, slow speeds can prevent you from streaming or even browsing the web. To make sure we address this issue, all of our recommended VPNs scored very high in our most recent speed tests.
- Apps & ease of use – More people than ever are using VPNs today. So app design and how easy it is to understand and use is critical. We look at the client apps’ UI, the features they provide, the supported operating systems, and their complexity.
- Streaming services – Accessing streaming sites over VPN is becoming rather tricky. But many VPN providers claim to work with streaming sites—with varying degrees of success. We test VPNs against a range of popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and more, before recommending a VPN provider for streaming.
- Torrenting – P2P file-sharing has been around for a long time, and it’s still going strong. But not all VPN providers allow torrenting over their network, while others go as far as providing dedicated P2P servers. We look at each VPN’s policy around torrenting and run tests on those that do to see how well they handle file-sharing.
The above represents a high-level view of our methodology. If you’d like more details, have a look at our full VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach helps us better understand the services to recommend the right VPN to the right users.