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Aimee O'Driscoll on in VPN

Keenow is an Israeli-based company that is heavily targeted at users wanting to stream. Its major selling point is its ability to unblock streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It has a different setup to most VPN providers, with the VPN component being an optional add-on to its Smart DNS unblocker.

While the VPN side of things isn’t its major focus, Keenow still claims to be “The best unblocker and VPN…” for whichever country you’re in. So let’s see how it measures up!

Features and pricing

Keenow’s VPN service is part of its premium package, as an addition to its mainstay Keenow Unblocker. A short-term plan can be purchased on a monthly basis which will set you back $9.95 (GBP £7.43) per month. This offers a seven-day money back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with the service. The six-month option offers a steep discount at $6.95 (GBP £5.19) per month, along with a 15-day guarantee. Alternatively, if you go for the 12-month option, you’ll pay $5.79 (GBP £4.32) per month. With this plan, you’ll be able to take advantage of a generous 30-day money back guarantee. What’s more, our readers are being offered three months for free.

You can pay by PayPal, Paymentwall, or CoinPayments (which includes Bitcoin).

Keenow pricing table.

Overall, pricing is pretty average when compared to other VPN providers we’ve reviewed. However, unlike other providers, there is no limit to how many devices you can use with the VPN simultaneously. With most capping at five or six, this is a great perk.

As mentioned, Keenow works quite differently to other providers as its main focus is unblocking geo-restricted sites. As such, it has two components – an unblocker and a VPN service. The unblocker uses Smart DNS – a customized DNS server – to unblock streaming sites no matter where you are located.

Using this method, speed isn’t compromised, at least not to the extent it is with a VPN. However, you also don’t get the security and privacy that a VPN provides. DNS proxies only tunnel your DNS traffic (website requests), while a VPN tunnels all traffic. For example, when using smart DNS, the videos you stream still go through the default unprotected network.

Basically, if you’re not too concerned about concealing your online identity and your main goal is to unblock websites, then you can use the unblocker by itself. If you’re looking for more privacy, then you can connect to the VPN at the same time to offer additional security.

Keenow offers unlimited bandwidth, which makes sense if its majority of users are streaming or torrenting. It has a very small network of servers compared to most providers, but uptimes are decent and the servers are very closely monitored. You can see the dedication to users in the constantly updated status pages on the website.

Clients are available for Windows, MacOS, and Android (Android TV, Android APK, and Amazon Fire TV APK are all available as well). There is a client in the works for iOS, but for now a connection needs to be set up manually.

Keenow also offers a virtual router that can be set up with Windows 7 or higher. This enables you to connect to the Keenow Unblocker wifi network and create your own hotspot. Then, when you connect other devices to the network, they’ll be connected to the VPN used by the Windows device.

Security is on par with many of the top VPN providers, and there are several encryption protocols to choose from. Welcome features such as a kill switch and DNS and IPv6 leak protection are all provided.

If you’re looking at torrenting, there are a couple of servers (in New York and the Netherlands) that support P2P. They have unlimited bandwidth to play with and you should get decent speeds.

Setup and interface

Overall, the Keenow setup is straightforward. If you’re using an operating system for which an app is provided, it’s super simple. Just visit the Setup tab on the website, choose the appropriate download, install, and run.

There are also manual setups available which are slightly more challenging, especially for beginners. It’s a little disappointing that the iOS client isn’t currently available, so this requires manual setup for each server. However, we are assured an app is in the works.

For the purposes of this review, we’ll be using the Windows client and the iOS manual setup.

Desktop

Once installed and running, the desktop client will sit in your system tray and can be pinned to the taskbar. This is similar to that of many other providers and offers an intuitive, user-friendly experience. The main screen tells you how much bandwidth you’ve used and how long you’ve been connected.

At the very top you’ll see an on/off slider for the unblocker, which is the Smart DNS application we mentioned earlier. Next to that is the dropdown menu for the server list, so you can easily switch locations from the main screen.

Keenow desktop app.

At the bottom of the screen, you have the VPN On/Off slider. Note that turning this on will automatically turn the unblocker on since it uses both when you use the VPN. Finally, you have the menu icon in the top left hand corner which will take you to the settings screen.

Keenow advanced options.

The main tab to point out here is the Advanced Settings tab that gives you various setup options. Included here is the kill switch (Drop all network connections if VPN disconnects) and IPv6 leak prevention. You can choose your protocol and OpenVPN port.

Additionally, the Virtual Router Settings tab is where you can set up your own wifi hotspot. The remaining tabs mainly provide links to webpages including the privacy policy and support pages.

Mobile

To access the VPN through iOS, we followed the steps provided and found the process to be smooth and relatively quick. Once you’re connected, that’s it. You have the option to easily disconnect using a slider. This setup is fine if you want to remain connected to a specific server. However, if you want to change servers frequently, or are having issues with the one you’re using, switching becomes a bit of a pain.

You have to go back into the server files and open a different one using the OpenVPN Connect app, and re-enter your credentials, unless you saved them. While this isn’t a huge detriment to the user experience, it’s definitely not as simple as having a nice clean app with a dropdown.

Servers and performance

Keenow currently has 25 servers in 19 countries, which constitutes a pretty tiny network compared with some of the larger providers. For example, ExpressVPN has over 1,500 servers and CyberGhost has over 850. Other small providers like PrivateVPN cover 52 countries, offering far more choice when it comes to geolocation.

You can stay up-to-date with any network issues on the Server Status page. We visited the page on various occasions, and indeed it was diligently kept up-to-date, namely concerning Netflix issues that had been fully resolved by the time of writing. You can also see how all individual servers are functioning using the Network Monitoring Status page.

The small server network doesn’t appear to be a hindrance to Keenow’s functionality and we didn’t observe any connection issues while using the service. It never took more than a few seconds to connect to a server and disconnecting was typically almost instantaneous. There has been issues in this area with other providers we’ve tested, so it was nice not to have to deal with any inconveniences here.

When it came to actual usage, there were no dropped connections, which isn’t surprising given the solid uptime reports coming from Keenow’s website. We streamed 1080p video seamlessly while connected to our test servers in the US East (New York) (P2P server), US West (Los Angeles), and the UK. We used the same servers to play online games and again saw no issues.

When we carry out our speed testing, we aim to be as empirical as possible. As such, for each test, we downloaded the same file (~100MB) from an Oregon server. We conducted the tests at three different times of the day using the same three sample VPN servers mentioned above. We compared the results to another VPN that was tested in the same manner. We also carried out a control test without a VPN. The tests were performed in Toronto, Canada. In the boxplots below, the thick black line represents the median download time, while the red diamond represents the mean. Lower is better.

Boxplot of speed test results.

As you see from the results, Keenow doesn’t offer the best performance when it comes to speed, but some results weren’t too bad. It performed okay when connected to a server geographically close to the one the test file resides on. It was also fairly quick when connected to the New York server which is recommended for P2P. However, the UK server results were pretty poor, which also contributed to a large spread in results as indicated by the box size.

We did also test each of the servers at the various timepoints without being connected to a VPN, and only using the Smart DNS connection. As expected, the speeds greatly improved, often being very close to the “without VPN” results. As mentioned earlier, using the Keenow Unblocker without a VPN connection gives you access to different geolocations to unblock certain sites. However, it doesn’t offer you the privacy that the VPN does. So, if you’re favouring speed over privacy when downloading, the unblocker by itself might be the way to go.

Of course, it’s important to point out that these tests aren’t definitive and can only serve as a general indication of the performance you might see. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness, so these tests should be taken with a grain of salt. They were run while using a 30Mbps connection, so you’ll likely see longer wait times with a slower connection, and perhaps smaller or larger discrepancies.

Does Keenow unblock Netflix?

Keenow hangs it hats on its ability to unblock Netflix and this is indeed a major concern for its operators. When we began using Keenow, it was running into issues with its US Netflix servers. Updates were constantly shown on the server status page so users were never in the dark about what was going on. While the US servers were down for a short period, all other servers we tested worked seamlessly with Netflix.

At the time of writing the review, most Netflix servers, including the US ones were working to unblock Netflix. This is a pretty big deal, since many providers only unblock US Netflix along with a handful of others. For example, we’ve had trouble in the past trying to find a provider to unblock French Netflix, but it worked seamlessly using Keenow. Other countries covered include UK and Turkey.

Netflix access is an ongoing issue for many VPN providers, so having the US ones blocked for a time doesn’t come as a surprise. Moreover, given that this is Keenow’s main selling point, you can be assured that it will always be doing everything possible to maintain this service.

Keenow also offers additional instructions in case you run into issues unblocking the Netflix app while using its service. Of course, Netflix isn’t the only streaming site. We also tested several others with no issues, including accessing Amazon Prime with various test servers, and BBC iPlayer with a UK server.

Does Keenow work in China?

Keenow doesn’t currently work against China’s “Great Firewall”. Moreover, it’s not a priority for the company right now. Therefore, if you’re planning to travel there in the near future, you’re probably better off looking for a different provider.

Security and privacy

Although there is a UK-based address on the website, Keenow is owned by Keen Internet Technologies Ltd, which is based in Israel. Therefore, it isn’t subject to data retention laws. As outlined in its privacy policy, it does store some logs. These include IP addresses of visitors to the Keenow website and user activity on the website itself, which is fairly normal. Keenow doesn’t keep logs of IP addresses or user activity while using the VPN.

To sign up for the site, you’ll need to enter a valid email for which you’ll be provided a password. As mentioned, there is the option to pay with Bitcoin and other coins through CoinPayments, which offers an additional layer of privacy.

As for data security, Keenow uses OpenVPN which we deem to be ideal. There are several sets of configurations available for different ports. The most secure is AES-256 encryption which is as strong as you can expect (some providers opt for 128-bit which is still considered very secure). It also uses SHA512 for authentication along with 4,096 bit RSA keys. Perfect forward secrecy is also provided as standard with OpenVPN.

There is a built-in kill switch, although it’s disabled by default. To enable it, go into Advanced Settings and check the box against Drop all network connections if VPN disconnects. This will ensure that your browsing data isn’t inadvertently leaked should the VPN connection drop for whatever reason. In addition, although enabled by default, you have DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection.

Customer service

You have a few support options depending on your needs. The Setup tab on the website has everything you need to get started, and there is also the FAQ page, which is particularly helpful if you’re having issues with Netflix.

The Support tab takes you to the server status page we mentioned earlier. This houses up-to-date server news as well as links to other helpful pages. First, there’s the Network Monitoring Status page where you can view the status of all servers. Then you have the Keenow Troubleshooting Wizard which should help you solve common issues. However, this didn’t appear to be working when we tried it out.

Finally, if you still need help, you can open a support ticket. Based on the past response times we were provided with, almost half of all tickets are responded to within an hour, and the vast majority within four hours, which isn’t bad at all.

Verdict

Overall, this provider offers reliable connections at decent speeds, albeit not as fast as others we’ve tested. Its undeniable focus on connecting users with Netflix means it’s a great choice for those looking to stream from that and similar sites.

The fact that you can use an unlimited number of devices simultaneously is also a rare bonus. However, this is dampened rather a lot by the fact that there is no app currently available for iOS. However, we are assured it’s in the works. Once that’s available, Keenow will be a pretty solid all-rounder.

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