ZenMate used to be known for its free offering, which helped it amass a sizable user base of over 40 million. These days, only its browser extensions are free; instead, it’s hoping its paid version will be enough to entice users willing to pay for the luxury of fast, reliable connections and a wide selection of servers.
Last time I tested this VPN, it was plagued with a few issues including a questionable logging policy, slow speeds, and DNS leaks.
That said, ZenMate has been making efforts to improve its service, so I’m curious to see just how much has changed.
In this 2022 ZenMate review, I reveal what I’ve learned after putting the VPN through my thorough testing regimen. I’ll tell you everything you need to know to decide if this could be the right VPN service for you.
Before I jump into all the juicy details, here’s a quick overview of how ZenMate fared in some key areas.
ZenMate key data
|OVERALL RANK: #20 of 76 VPNS|
|Average Speed*:||377 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K UHD|
|Other Streaming Services:||Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, ITV Hub, All 4|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES w/ Perfect Forward Secrecy|
|Protocols:||OpenVPN, IKEV2, WireGuard (mobile only)|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$1.99|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
How does Zenmate compare to other popular VPNs?
Here’s how Zenmate compares to two of the most popular and highly rated VPNs out there, ExpressVPN and NordVPN. You can see a more detailed breakdown here of ExpressVPN vs NordVPN.
|Website||zenmate.com||ExpressVPN.com||NordVPN.com||Average Speed (Mbps)||335 Mbps||193 Mbps||196 Mbps||OpenVPN data encryption||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||Kill Switch||Desktop only||Allows Torrenting||Connection logs||Some aggregated data||Unblocks Netflix US||Unblocks Prime Video||Unblocks Hulu||Unblocks BBC iPlayer||Lowest monthly cost||$1.51||$6.67||$2.99||Money back guarantee||30 days||30 days||30 days||Overall rating||6||9.3||9.7|
|Best deal (per month)||$1.99 |
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To test ZenMate, I’ve been using the VPN for everyday activities over the past few months. I’ve used it for browsing, streaming, and downloading to see how it compares to other VPNs. In addition, I’ve conducted in-depth testing on various facets of the VPN, including:
- Download speed tests
- Ability to unblock streaming sites such as Disney+
- Leak tests (WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS)
- Competency and promptness of customer support
…and lots more!
Some of ZenMate’s main claims are “lightning speeds” and a “strict no logs policy.” I was particularly eager to find out about improvements made on both fronts.
Other questions I wanted to answer include:
- Does ZenMate bypass restrictions put in place by Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming sites?
- Is the service worth the price?
- Is Zenmate safe to use?
- Is ZenMate’s security on par with other providers?
- How is its customer support?
…plus a ton more about this service.
I tested various versions of ZenMate’s software including a mobile app and a desktop client. This way, I got a full view of how the service performs for a multi-device user and everything you need to know to make a decision.
The overview and pros and cons below will provide some brief insight into where this service shines and where it lacks.
ZenMate pros and cons
I’ll get into these in more detail, but here are some of the most important positive and negative features of ZenMate’s VPN service:
- Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and more
- Offers a 7-day free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee
- Uses strong encryption and other security features
- Allows unlimited connections
- Inexpensive VPN
- Allows torrenting
- Doesn’t have live chat support
- Doesn’t work in China
Speed: How fast is ZenMate?
So how about this claim of lightning speeds? Since ZenMate didn’t perform all that well on the speed front the last time I tested it, I was interested to see if it had improved.
While speed test results should be taken with a grain of salt, they do provide us with a decent method for comparing the speeds of various providers.
We use a gigabit connection and measure the download speeds of our test VPNs. Tests are carried out using three different test servers, in the US, Germany, and Japan. We repeat tests at three different times during the day, spaced a minimum of four hours apart.
The last time we tested ZenMate, it averaged out at around 32 Mbps which isn’t exactly impressive. This time, though, its average speed was more than ten times that, at 377 Mbps. For context,this places it among the fastest VPN providers on the market.
There was quite a high level of variance, though, with US servers delivering much higher speeds than those in Germany. Regardless, every server we tested was fast enough to handle multiple 4K streams simultaneously.
Our test locations were in Europe, Asia, and North America. If you don’t have a location preference and simply want an encrypted connection, then you can opt for the fastest server for your location. To connect to the fastest server, select Best server location from the app’s server list dropdown.
Switching between servers was quick, usually taking only a few seconds. I didn’t have any problems with dropped connections.
Bear in mind that these tests only serve as a very general indicator of VPN performance. The nature of the internet gives way to a significant level of randomness. When using this VPN, you may see very different results, depending on factors such as your location and internet speed.
Apps: Which devices will ZenMate work with?
ZenMate offers native apps for most major operating systems, including Windows, iOS, MacOS, Android, and Fire TV.
Zenmate browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. These can be handy for browsing and streaming but bear in mind that browser extensions only encrypt the traffic that’s going through your web browser. All other apps on your device, for example, media players and torrenting apps, will remain exposed. Use the native apps if you want protection beyond your web browser.
Each app provides access to servers in around 80 countries. The network comprises over 4,700 servers in total. This is a decent-sized network but it’s not as large as many rival providers. For example, NordVPN and CyberGhost have server numbers surpassing 5,000, while ExpressVPN offers locations in 94 countries.
The apps have a clean, modern design and are easy to navigate. The desktop app extends to a full screen which I personally like. There are just two settings tabs, General and Connection, with all the options you need in terms of setup preferences and security.
The mobile app is more simplistic with a basic connection screen and server list. There is a settings page, but it lacks anything of note that allows you to tweak the VPN.
ZenMate can be configured manually to work with Linux and select routers. A router VPN will protect all of the devices connected to it, and it only counts as one connection in your device limit. ZenMate allows you to connect five devices at a time.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
Does ZenMate work with Netflix?
Yes, it does!
Streaming Netflix US with ZenMate was a breeze. The server list has a For streaming tab which shows you a list of servers suitable for popular streaming platforms. Just choose the Netflix US option and you’ll be good to go.
This is in contrast to some other providers for which you need to consult the website or check with a customer service representative to see which server to connect to. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is an extra step in the process than ZenMate manages to eliminate.
If you’re looking to browse Netflix catalogs from other countries, you may be in luck. ZenMate lists servers for 10 Netflix libraries including Germany and Netflix France. These seemed to work perfectly well but you may want to look elsewhere if you’re looking to access a library that isn’t mentioned since I had no luck trying general-purpose servers from other locations.
Want to use ZenMate to stream from sites other than Netflix? I had luck with the following platforms during testing:
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime Video
- YouTube TV
- HBO Max
If you’re a Kodi user, ZenMate isn’t the best VPN option. It will work with Kodi if you’re using a device that ZenMate has a native app for, for example, your Windows PC, Amazon Fire TV, or Android device. However, if you’re using Kodi on a separate system like Linux, it won’t be supported by ZenMate.
Does ZenMate allow torrenting?
In the past, ZenMate has gone back and forward on whether it was suitable for torrenting. Last time we reviewed it, it even offered instructions for unblocking torrent sites in its help section but this has since been removed, and there’s no mention of torrenting anywhere on the website.
That said, it’s clear that ZenMate does allow torrenting. Its apps even have a seperate list of P2P-optimized servers! There aren’t many but these are spread all over the word, with some in less-common locations like Kazakhstan and Iran.
One concern I had with ZenMate in the past was its questionable logging policy. I go into this in more detail in the next section, but during this review, I still couldn’t garner enough information to recommend this as a no-logs provider. There is also the speed factor to consider. The slow speeds we observed could very well be a turn off for torrenters.
With the above in mind, there are VPNs out there that are more suitable for this purpose.
Security, privacy, and logging
ZenMate is based in Germany, a member of the 14 Eyes alliance. Involvement in this alliance means that the governments of member countries can monitor citizens of other countries, for example, the UK or US, and share the information between their respective governments.
When it comes to VPNs, this is really only an issue if the VPN is logging data that you wouldn’t want to be shared with others, such as information about your online activity or personal details (for example, your IP address).
Logging has many other implications; VPN logs may be sought by copyright trolls, local and domestic law enforcement, and anyone else seeking to identify a user. Any logs that are stored are also at risk of being exposed in a data breach.
This just isn’t good enough. Most of ZenMate’s competitors clearly break down which logs are kept, why they’re required, and how they can’t personally identify you. ZenMate not only obfuscates which data it collects, it seems to suggests that individual users can be tracked down using its logs.
Encryption details are as follows:
- 256-bit AES encryption
- 2048-bit RSA keys
- SHA256 authentication hash
- ECDHE perfect forward secrecy (this ensures that past sessions remain secure even if an encryption key is compromised)
A kill switch is built into all ZenMate apps. It stops your entire internet connection if your VPN connection drops for whatever reason, ensuring your data doesn’t leak.
The kill switch is enabled by default and you can’t turn it off. Somewhat confusingly, in the Windows client, there is the option to toggle the kill switch off in Settings > General. But if you do this, you’ll get a popup message telling you it can’t be deactivated.
DNS leak protection is built-in and can be toggled on and off within the General tab. We observed no issues when testing for leaks.
WebRTC protection is not included, although we didn’t observe any leaks in our testing. You may want to disable WebRTC in your browser to be on the safe side.
ZenMate doesn’t offer built-in IPv6 leak protection either, but it does give you the option to automatically disable IPv6 connections. I usually recommend that users disable IPv6 if you’re worried about leaks, but this handy feature takes care of that for you.
When it comes to protocols, you have a few options: OpenVPN, IKEV2, and WireGuard. Unfortunately, the faster, newer WireGuard protocol is only available on mobile, so desktop users will have to put up with the other two for now. Both are secure and relatively efficient, but they are starting to show their age.
ZenMate uses its own private DNS servers which is a plus from a privacy perspective. Many VPNs use public DNS servers such as those run by Google. In those cases, Google (or another third party) can see DNS requests and which websites are being visited.
Does ZenMate work in China?
Blocks imposed by the Chinese government mean it’s very difficult to find a VPN that works in China, let alone one that works reliably. That said, there are a few VPNs that strive to serve the vast number of VPN users there.
ZenMate, unfortunately, is not one of them.
Unsurprisingly for a smaller VPN, Zenmate doesn’t prioritize users in China. While some users have had luck in the country, many have not. The provider itself even warns users not to pay for a subscription with the anticipation of using the service in China.
Even if you are able to download the application in these countries, we strongly recommend that you do not sign up for a paid subscription. We are not responsible for the lack of service and are not liable to provide refunds. This applies to China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The same goes for users in Iran and Saudi Arabia. If you’re traveling to one of these countries or China, you’ll want to opt for a VPN that prioritizes giving users around the globe access to the free web. I also asked about UAE and was told that the VPN likely won’t work there either.
Is ZenMate’s customer service any good?
One of the issues I had with ZenMate in the past is the fact that it doesn’t offer any kind of live support. Any VPN provider worth its salt offers live-chat support, so I was optimistic that the new-and-improved service would include this feature.
I was disappointed.
ZenMate provides a fairly thorough support section on its website, covering set up, using the service, and troubleshooting.
In fairness, the email support was quite prompt with the average response time to my basic questions being around an hour.
Note that the email support system is outsourced to Zendesk–an unrelated third-party company—which isn’t ideal for more privacy-conscious users.
Servers and locations
ZenMate has increased its number of servers and locations over the past few years, from over 1,500 servers in 37 countries to more than 4,700 in 81 countries. These are all physical servers as opposed to virtual ones. ZenMate owns all of its servers, which is unusual to see—most VPNs rent them. This is a plus as it gives ZenMate full control of its servers from a security and performance standpoint.
Locations include countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, North and South America, and Africa. The largest concentration of servers is in Germany, Romania, the UK, and the US, with more than 200 servers in each of those countries.
Three of those countries (all but Romania) have servers in multiple locations. However, it’s not possible to choose your server based on its city. As such, it’s the luck of the draw as to which one you get. The option to choose your location can be handy in some situations, for example, if you’re looking to avoid blackouts of sporting events coverage or want to select the nearest server.
Wondering how much this service will set you back? You may be pleasantly surprised.
The monthly rate is $10.99, which is around the industry average. Opt for an 18 month term to get a large discount and pay $1.99 per month. Or select the 6 month offer of $5.39 per month.
All deals come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ZenMate offers new users a seven-day free trial. While this might seem pointless when there’s a lengthier money-back guarantee, a free trial is preferable for many users. With a free trial, you don’t have to pay anything upfront, and in ZenMate’s case, you don’t have to hand over any payment information (on desktop). This way, you get to avoid the hassle of trying to get a refund or canceling automatic payments if you don’t think the service is a good fit once the trial has ended.
Payment options include PayPal and credit card, but no cryptocurrencies.
ZenMate coupon codes
Should I buy ZenMate?
After thoroughly testing this service, would I recommend you give it a go?
I wouldn’t put this VPN at the top of my list overall but I do see it as a good fit for some users. Speeds were very impressive and ZenMate unblocks plenty of geo-restricted sites, so I like it as a streaming VPN. It’s a secure service so it’s suitable for general browsing.
While ZenMate allows P2P filesharing and has no caps on data or bandwidth, I’d advise going for a faster VPN if you plan on torrenting regularly. Users in China will need to look elsewhere too.
Are you a novice user? If so, you may miss having a live chat feature for instant help with setup and troubleshooting.
ZenMate has improved its service somewhat since the last time I tested it, including expanding its server network and adding WireGuard support. That said, it still has a long way to go before it would be considered on a par with some of the industry dominators. ZenMate particularly needs to work on delivering a clear, privacy-first logging policy and ideally, live chat-based customer support.
If you’re in the market for a service with a verified no-logs policy and 24/7 live chat, NordVPN is a better alternative. This service offers even higher speeds and excels at unblocking streaming platforms. Better still, it even works in China.
If you’re on a tight budget, Surfshark is a great option too. This service has exceptional unblocking abilities and a strict no-logs policy. Surfshark protects your internet traffic with strong security features and offers excellent support, while allowing you to secure all of your devices at once.