StrongVPN made many much-needed improvements in the last couple of years, including a complete overhaul of its apps. What used to be a buggy, tedious, and confusing interface is now clean and intuitive.
But will it be enough to keep up with the competition in a crowded market? And does the 20% discount StrongVPN is currently offering make it a good buy?
In my 2020 StrongVPN review, I wanted to learn how this VPN stacks up against the competition and what makes it stand out from the crowd. I tested StrongVPN apps on both desktop and mobile to find out:
- How fast is StrongVPN?
- Can StrongVPN unblock region-locked streaming services (Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video)
- Is StrongVPN secure and private?
- Does StrongVPN work in China?
- Is StrongVPN good value for money?
I’ll cover all this and more in my review.
I spent time using StrongVPN to unblock videos, secure public wi-fi connections, torrent files privately, and protect devices in my home office during the coronavirus pandemic.
Check out the summary of what I think about StrongVPN below, or read the full review to get an in-depth look at this veteran VPN provider.
StrongVPN is a versatile service that’s very user friendly, even for beginners. It bypasses China’s Great Firewall, unblocks a handful of popular streaming services, and offers the security and privacy necessary to torrent with peace of mind. It’s not a top performer in most categories, but it’s a solid all-rounder for the price. StrongVPN is also one of the only VPNs to support the Wireguard protocol. Every subscription comes with SugarSync, a cloud backup service.
StrongVPN Key data
|OVERALL RANK: #9 of 43 VPNs|
|Average Speed*:||71 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||SD, HD, 4K (NA only)|
|Other Streaming Services:||Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Prime Video US|
|Log Policy:||No logs|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$5.33|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
How does StrongVPN compare to other popular VPNs?
Here’s how StrongVPN compares to two other popular VPNs on the market, CyberGhost and NordVPN. You can see a detailed rundown here of NordVPN vs CyberGhost.
|Average Speed||71 Mbps||58 Mbps||115 Mbps|
|Encryption typeType of encryption e.g. 256 AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES|
|Kill Switch||Desktop only|
|Records identifying logs|
|Unblocks Netflix US|
|Unblocks Amazon Prime|
|Unblocks BBC iPlayer|
|Lowest cost per month||$4.66 per month||$2.25 per month||$3.30 per month|
|Money back guarantee||30 days||45 days||30 days|
StrongVPN pros and cons
Here’s a summary of what I like and don’t like about StrongVPN.
- Unblocks Hulu and US Netflix
- Bypasses China’s Great Firewall
- Simplified interface
- No logs
- Ample security
- SugarSync backup included
- Waning support for manual configuration
- Few server locations available
- Some users might find minimalist design limiting
- Slow speeds outside North America
I’ll go into more detail about all of these points in this article.
Speed: Is StrongVPN fast?
StrongVPN operates more than 950 servers in about 40 countries. That’s almost double the number of locations since my last review, but still fewer than many competitors. Most of the servers are in North America and Europe, with a smattering in Asia, South America, and Africa.
StrongVPN performed well in day-to-day use. We encountered no issues or mid-playback buffering when streaming 1080p video. We were also able to play fast-paced online games with very little to no lag when connected to the default “Best Available Location” server.
I ran speed tests at various times per day on StrongVPN servers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Across all locations and times tested, StrongVPN averaged a download speed of 71 Mbps. That makes it one of the fastest VPNs on the market:
Here are the average speeds for StrongVPN servers in each region:
- North America (“Best Available Location”): 101 Mbps
- Europe: 53 Mbps
- Asia: 59 Mbps
Those results make it one of the fastest VPNs available—if I want to connect to a US location. When connected to other regions, however, speeds are about average.
Note that these tests only serve as a general indication of the performance you might experience and cannot be considered definitive. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness. Users with faster connections will likely see larger discrepancies in speed.
Apps: What devices work with StrongVPN?
A single subscription enables you to connect up to twelve devices at one time. That’s about double the number of concurrent connections as most of its competitors. Apps are available for:
- Amazon Fire TV
Although StrongVPN has streamlined and improved its apps for all these platforms, it has tapered off support for Linux, routers, and other devices that require manual configuration.
StrongVPN doesn’t make any web browser extensions as of time of writing.
The desktop app features a world map that’s there for aesthetics more than anything else. You can’t click on a country on the map to connect to it. Instead, clicking the location button beneath it brings up a list of server locations sortable by city or country. The default option is “Best Available”, which automatically selects a location according to proximity and server load.
The servers aren’t labeled according to use case, which makes finding one for a specific purpose a bit tedious. For example, you just have to guess which ones unblock Netflix or contact customer support to ask. There’s also nothing to indicate latency, bandwidth, or current server load and capacity.
The mobile app looks almost identical to the desktop app with smartphone dimensions. It’s available on Google Play and the Apple App Store for Android and iOS, respectively. The interface is similar to that of the desktop version, with a map, your time connected, your current IP address, and a location picker.
The StrongVPN mobile app includes a split tunneling feature that allows you to select which apps use the VPN and which do not.
The app is very lightweight and easy to use. For most people, the simplified interface is all you’ll need to get up and running, but more advanced users might find it a bit limiting.
StrongVPN utilizes its own private DNS servers and even offers a standalone smart DNS proxy service, dubbed StrongDNS. We won’t delve too much into the StrongDNS service in this review, suffice to say you can use it to unblock geo-locked content but won’t get the privacy or security bundled with the VPN. If your device doesn’t support VPN apps but does allow you to alter the default DNS servers, this could be a good alternative for unblocking geo-restricted content.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
StrongVPN unblocks US Netflix. Netflix has blacklisted most VPN servers, resulting in a playback error that most providers can’t bypass. We tested it on Netflix in a web browser and on the Netflix mobile app for Android. Whereas most VPN providers struggle with the Netflix app, StrongVPN unblocked US-only videos with ease.
We were able to unblock Netflix on the first server we tested, but that’s no guarantee that they all work. We recommend contacting the live chat customer support service to ask which servers work with Netflix if you’re struggling to find a compatible server.
In addition to Netflix, StrongVPN unblocks Hulu and Disney+ both on a web browser and on the official app. I had intermittent success with BBC iPlayer in a web browser when connected to a UK server. Amazon Prime Video could also be unblocked, but only in a web browser and not via the Prime Video app. Like Netflix, finding a server that works depends on a bit of trial and error or asking customer support.
Kodi users should have no issues using StrongVPN with any Kodi add-on. A Fire TV app is available for Firestick users, but Linux-based Kodi devices can’t use the app, and there’s not much support for manual VPN setup.
Does StrongVPN allow torrenting?
StrongVPN doesn’t explicitly mention torrenting on its website. That’s probably because the company is based in the US, where VPNs must tread carefully when it comes to copyright infringement.
StrongVPN’s terms of service state:
“It is our policy to terminate in appropriate circumstances the accounts of subscribers who infringe the copyrights of others. You may not upload, download, post, publish, transmit, reproduce, or distribute in any way, files, material, information, software or other material obtained through the System that is protected by copyright or other proprietary right or derivative works with respect thereto, without obtaining permission of the copyright owner or other right holder.”
Basically, you’re not allowed to use StrongVPN for piracy.
That being said…
Not all torrenting is piracy. So while piracy is forbidden, torrenting is not.
StrongVPN is a no-logs provider, meaning it doesn’t store any details of what you do online, nor any identifying information like IP addresses or timestamps. So if I torrent something while connected, StrongVPN keeps no record of it.
I had no issues using BitTorrent to download files through StrongVPN.
We have a full list of VPNs recommended for torrenting here.
Security, privacy, and logging
StrongVPN is based in the USA, which might put off some prospective users worried about the NSA and FBI spying on them. That being said, StrongVPN says it does not store any traffic or connection logs of any kind. If a government or other entity requests customer activity data from StrongVPN, it will have no information to hand over.
StrongVPN recommends using either Wireguard or IKEv2 protocols in the latest versions of its apps. IKEv2 is growing in popularity across the industry, especially on mobile devices. IKEv2 can get connected and reconnect very quickly, and doesn’t suffer from any known security vulnerabilities.
Wireguard is a newer open-source VPN protocol that claims to be leaner and faster than older protocols like OpenVPN. StrongVPN is one of the only VPN providers to include Wireguard support in its apps.
OpenVPN is a solid open-source protocol that’s also available, along with L2TP and SSTP.
StrongVPN’s new apps use the following security parameters with OpenVPN in TLS mode:
- AES-256-CBC channel encryption
- 2048-bit Diffie Hellman RSA key
- SHA256 authentication
- Perfect forward secrecy
IPSec’s Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) provides data integrity, encryption, authentication, and anti-replay attack functions on IKEv2 connections:
- AES-256 channel encryption
- 8192-bit Diffie Hellman MODP key
- SHA512 authentication
- Perfect forward secrecy
Both protocols and their associated encryption suites will provide more than enough security for the vast majority of users.
An internet kill switch is built into the desktop apps, but not the mobile apps. Furthermore, it can only be enabled when using the OpenVPN or L2TP protocols. The kill switch will halt all internet traffic going to or from your device if the VPN connection unexpectedly drops, preventing unencrypted data from leaking outside the VPN tunnel. This is particularly useful for P2P filesharing when you don’t want to expose your real IP address.
DNS leak protection is not explicitly listed, but StrongVPN did not leak any DNS or WebRTC traffic during our tests. Securing WebRTC is particularly notable, as many VPN apps fail to prevent WebRTC leaks. WebRTC is a protocol used for voice and video chat and is enabled by default in many browsers. Even with microphone and camera permissions granted, StrongVPN did not leak WebRTC on either desktop or mobile.
Does StrongVPN work in China?
Yes, StrongVPN works in China. It should bypass the Great Firewall on any device, but the desktop apps offer traffic obfuscation that makes OpenVPN traffic more difficult to detect. This obfuscation feature is called “Scramble” and can be toggled on in the settings.
StrongVPN will unblock censored sites like Facebook, YouTube, video streaming sites, and western news sources from mainland China. Likewise, it should work in other countries that censor the web.
Note that the StrongVPN website is blocked in China, so be sure to sign up and download the apps ahead of your visit.
StrongVPN offers live chat and email support on its website, and staff are available to answer questions around the clock.
It took less than a minute to get a support rep on the live chat on a weekday afternoon. I asked a few questions about what server locations worked best with particular streaming servers. A technician was brought in to answer some of my queries, who took another minute or so to join the conversation. I received prompt and accurate answers.
The website contains manual setup guides, troubleshooting tips, and an FAQ section. These are a bit lean and really only scratch the surface of a few basic support topics.
Prospective customers can choose from two plans, both of which offer the same service and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The only difference between the two plans is whether you pay monthly or yearly. The monthly plan costs $8 per month and the yearly plan $5.33 per month, both of which are higher than when I last reviewed StrongVPN. Those prices are fairly middle-of-the-road when it comes to VPNs. If you happen to need a cloud backup solution, the included SugarSync service adds significant value.
StrongVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, Alipay, and bitcoin. The only other information needed to sign up is an email address. If you want to anonymously purchase a subscription, you could use a burner email and properly mixed bitcoin.
ExpressVPN is a premium option with faster servers, more locations, apps for more devices, and a longer list of region-locked streaming services that can be unblocked. Like StrongVPN, it has strong security, a no-logs policy, allows torrenting, and works in China.
NordVPN allows up to six connections and comes in at as little as half the price for plans of a similar duration, pending current discounts. It’s a bit slower but offers many of the same benefits to security, as well as the ability to unblock streaming sites, torrent, and access the web from China.
CyberGhost is another budget option with an allowance of up to seven devices. It doesn’t work in China and you don’t get as much support for those less-popular operating systems, but it’s fast, secure, and makes unblocking region-locked content a breeze.