AirVPN is an open-source VPN service that aims to protect the privacy of internet users like yourself so that you can surf anonymously without any monitoring of your personal information, data, or surfing behavior. It is based Italy and operated “by activists and hacktivists in defense of net neutrality, privacy and against censorship.”
The company began in 2010 as a free service for anyone to use. AirVPN now has grown to offer pricing plans for virtually any budget, and it enlists the help of lawyers, activists, privacy and security experts, and data protection specialists to provide its services.
After years of foolishly running my online business via public WiFi, I decided to start using a VPN to secure my communications (and access a bit of out of market sporting events while traveling).
But I found out that – similar to web hosting – there is no such thing as a “best VPN provider”. In fact, it’s like a whole world of confusing information where even trustworthy information is near-useless since it’s so complex. This AirVPN review is my notes from trying them out for my own purposes as a security-aware, traveling, US-based businessperson who needs good usability and good pricing. I am not a political activist or someone who regularly travels to firewalled countries.
Whether you are looking for a VPN for privacy, for website access, for avoiding geotargeting, for protecting communications or all the above, hopefully, this AirVPN review will be useful. You can also skip to next steps here.
Here’s my AirVPN review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer performing independent research.
AirVPN Pros / Advantages
AirVPN isn’t necessarily one of the most well-known VPN services, but it has several features that make it a contender against its larger competitors.
Its customers, overall, seem pleased with its features and pricing options, including a 3-day plan that lets you try it out to make sure it has everything you’re looking for in a VPN.
But AirVPN’s real strengths lie in their technical setup and focus on users who want the options to customize their own security. Here are the bigger picture pros/advantages that I found using the service.
AirVPN offers a unique, 3-day trial plan so you can make sure it offers what you need and is as user-friendly as you need it to be. The 3-day trial is 1€, just over $1, so it’s a good price to pay to test the service before entering a payment plan.
AirVPN’s other payment plans are:
- One month: 7€ ($ 7.46)
- Three months: 15€ ($ 15.98)
- Six months: 30€ ($ 31.95)
- One year: 54€ ($ 57.52)
The payment plans aren’t the lowest price out there, but the features AirVPN provides are well worth the cost. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the 3-day trial.
Additionally, AirVPN offers a range of payment options – including cryptocurrency (ie, Bitcoin). If you are looking to protect your identity in addition to your privacy, AirVPN allows you to do just that. You need an email address to register, but like ExpressVPN, it can be a throwaway while still paying with an anonymous solution like Bitcoin.
Five Connections Per Account
When you’re on the go with multiple devices, you want a VPN that allows you to connect your devices to the VPN simultaneously. However, many people searching for the best VPN tend to overlook this feature, and instead focus on speed and security features. It was one of the buried disadvantages in my Avast VPN review.
At home, of course, you can set up your router so that it works with a VPN, allowing you to bypass simultaneous connection restrictions. But, traveling poses more of an issue for VPN users, and the configuration can be a tricky process.
AirVPN allows you five simultaneous connections to your VPN so that you can connect your laptop, smartphone, and tablet at the same time. Although it doesn’t offer as many connections as some providers, five is a solid number that would suit the average person.
No Logs or Compliance for Requests
AirVPN puts everything you do on the internet behind a barrier. It creates no logs of anything you do with its service, as you surf the web or do any other online activities. Privacy is the main reason you, as an internet user, trust a VPN, so it’s important to ensure that your provider truly keeps you anonymous and everything you do private on the internet.
Not all VPN providers keep your information as secure as they claim. Some will keep logs of your activity for at least a few days, and some may provide your information if a legal court order requests it. A benefit of AirVPN is that it keeps no logs and, therefore, will have no information to give the court system, even if the court requests information.
Furthermore, if DMCA issues a take-down notice to AirVPN for a user’s activity that violates regulations, AirVPN has no legal requirement to comply, since it doesn’t host any user’s content. The company keeps every bit of your identifying information safe since it only knows you as a dynamic IP address and time stamp.
Caveat – Note that no VPN is 100% secure. Your traffic is still routing through a company. Any company can go out of business or go rogue. If you are trying to avoid your American ISP – then you are simply replacing distrust of Comcast/Charter with the trust of your VPN. If you are a political activist where trust is a life or death situation, you need to be using something like Tor in addition to a trustworthy VPN. This is a segue to one of AirVPN’s unique features, but the point remains using a VPN does not instantly create security/privacy. That is something you do via aligning company incentives (ie, paying for companies who maintain security) & being proactive with your own security.
When it comes to a VPN, strong encryption is necessary to keep your information protected. In fact, some people choose to use a VPN mainly for encrypting important data, especially with recent concerns about government involvement in our Internet usage and information.
AirVPN provides strong 256-bit encryption, which is higher than other providers offer. For the average user, a 128-bit encryption may be just fine, but if you’re focused on getting the best encryption possible, the 256-bit encryption is the one to choose.
AirVPN’s encryption is virtually unbreakable. The sheer nuisance of breaking the encryption to gain access to your information is so high with 256-bit that it’s unlikely that someone would even attempt it.
Additionally, AirVPN further protects your sensitive information by ensuring that even your encrypted data doesn’t leave your hands unless it goes through your VPN first. The service is known as DNS Leak Protection, and it provides an extra layer of protection between encrypted data and the internet.
Feature-Packed Open-Source Client
One of the best things about AirVPN is that it uses an open-source client, OpenVPN, with the codename “Eddie.” Since Eddie is open-source, its users can monitor the source code to make sure everything is working like it’s supposed to, and nothing is seeing sensitive information. AirVPN users have total access to its code.
Eddie has features for both basic and advanced users. If you’re just starting out with AirVPN, or VPNs in general, you’ll like that Eddie guides you when picking the best server. Its list of stats helps pinpoint you in the right direction based on the number of users, current latency, etc.
If you’re a more advanced VPN user, you’ll benefit from advanced DNS options, routing features, port forwarding, and more. For example, for countries that don’t support OpenVPN, AirVPN provides SSL and SSH tunneling.
Customer service is a tough topic to work with. Many customer support complaints or testimonials are anecdotal. They are hard to tell if they really apply to how you use the service (ie, think about the last 1-star Amazon review that you read).
AirVPN is a bit different from other VPN providers that I’ve looked at. A lot of AirVPN’s value is in their technical options, passionate users, and open-source software. In that way, they are ahead against some customer support approaches but behind in others. I find the approach to be a pro with a caveat that I’ll touch on below.
To start with, AirVPN solves many issues via transparency. It has a wealth of information, re-time status updates and diagnostic tools built into its app. And although the company is much smaller than others, it’s prepared to handle inquiries, concerns, and issues that arise. It helps that, unlike some VPNs, AirVPN has a passionate userbase – many of whom happily contribute to the community forum.
Even if you’re not a registered AirVPN subscriber, you can browse the forums to learn more about the service before you hand over your money. Once you subscribe, check here first for any questions you have. Members are readily available to answer questions and are extremely helpful.
AirVPN also answers direct support tickets quickly and is active in the community forums to help answer any questions or address concerns. Good customer service is especially important for those who aren’t quite as well-versed in the technical aspects of VPN services. AirVPN can address your questions and get your client running quickly.
*The big asterisk here is that AirVPN has no real “Not My Problem” button. You still have some responsibility for your setup & security. And that’s because with their service – that’s a feature, not a bug. Support will support you – but can’t necessarily just fix everything. AirVPN does not have phone or chat support. They are fast and thorough, but their approach to support might not fit non-DIYers.
Remote Port Forwarding
Remote port forwarding isn’t a necessity for all VPN users, but if you’re going to be doing anything that requires other users outside of your VPN to gain access to your connection, you need it.
For example, do you upload torrents for others to download? Those users need to connect to your connection, which is impossible when you use a VPN unless you have remote port forwarding.
AirVPN provides up to 20 forwarded ports, and you need at least one to provide this kind of service. When you forward a port, AirVPN opens it up so that others can access your information via that port without gaining access to your VPN.
AirVPN also has helpful guides in its forum that explain how to set up port forwarding through a router securely so that you’re not potentially exposing your information from your client to people outside the tunnel.
VPN Through Tor
AirVPN is one of the few VPN providers (ExpressVPN is another one I’ve looked at) to offer VPN through Tor. Tor is a free software that helps protect anonymity on the internet. It offers a secure browser for computers and mobile devices that help protect your data, browsing history, and identity when using the Internet.
Using a VPN through Tor protects you and your data even more than a VPN alone can. You first connect to Tor’s network, and then to your VPN, providing several layers of protection between you, your sensitive information, and the internet.
VPN through Tor that AirVPN provides gives you the best of both worlds – Enjoy the high level of anonymity of the Tor network with the speed and data encryption tools of a VPN.
AirVPN Cons / Disadvantages
Since there is no such thing as a “best VPN” – only the best for your lifestyle – there’s going to be disadvantages with every VPN. And AirVPN is no different. Unlike many any larger VPNs, there is a lack of AirVPN complaints around the web – either real or anecdotal. Here’s how I perceive AirVPN’s bigger picture disadvantages.
Caveat – most of these relate to the fact that AirVPN is a small company, which is good for its strong community but also hurts the company when it comes to server locations and speed. This point is a perfect illustration of tradeoffs and choices that you have to think about when choosing what is best for your uses.
One area that can affect some AirVPN users, depending on their location, is speed. Unfortunately, speed is one of the most important things to consider when accessing the internet, so this takes some major points off the AirVPN service.
AirVPN is Italy-based, so if you live in the UK, its UK servers have good upload and download speeds, if not better than other VPN services. Users who try to switch to a non-local server that’s less crowded, for example, may find themselves with much slower upload and download speeds.
If you’re using VPN through Tor with AirVPN, you may even see more of a negative impact on your speed. Other additional things you do, like remote port forwarding, can also impact your upload and download speeds, so if you’re already having problems with base speeds, this can be a real issue.
It’s important to note, though, that many users successfully experiment with different combinations of server locations on AirVPN, such as a UK server to a US server, to increase speeds. It could take some time to figure out what works best for you, but it’s possible to achieve good speeds with AirVPN with some tweaking.
For example – here is my baseline Internet connection with no VPN.
Here’s my initial speed test with AirVPN.
Ok – that’s impossibly bad. So I went and re-connected while selecting a new “recommended server.”
Much better. It’s still only running at 50% bandwidth capacity, but that’s competitive.
And yet – even after I had my bandwidth sorted out, I still kept intermittently dealing with long latency.
It wasn’t terrible, but it was annoying that I kept having to think about it and fix it. I just wanted the service to work awesome every time…which leads to the next big disadvantage with AirVPN.
Technical Client & Options
Although AirVPN’s Eddie is amazingly feature-packed, it’s also highly technical, which can pose a problem for those who are not quite as savvy with VPN terminology, usage, and features. If you’re looking for the simplest, set-up-and-go client, Eddie / AirVPN isn’t it.
And yes – I know full well that lots of technical options can be a good thing – if that is what you are looking for. Some VPNs go too far with simplicity. But I think AirVPN goes too far with technical options & setup. Because here’s the thing from my perspective –
A good VPN that you use is better than the perfect VPN that you don’t use.
When you first create your AirVPN account, the interface will likely confuse you if you aren’t familiar with how VPNs work and the many features they provide. AirVPN provides almost too many features for the average user, which can make its features seem excessive rather than helpful.
To start, you have to create an account, choose a plan, select a VPN server file and download your Eddie installer package separately. And each step has a multitude of options.
Right after I purchased a plan – I got this screen.
Ok – so I went to configure my file for my Mac.
There were *lots* of settings in the basic and definitely in the advanced mode.
I downloaded the OpenVPN file…but…I couldn’t open it without an app.
So I click around to find the app download.
But then I had to pick settings for my application download.
And after installing my app then opening my settings…yay!
Some major tweaks to the Eddie interface would create a more useful client for AirVPN users. The current client does a great job displaying server information, logs, and speed data, but AirVPN should rethink its user-friendliness in the future.
Again – many of these settings are useful. If you are that type of user – then AirVPN is your choice. But I think there has to be a way to hide and streamline these settings so that a new user does not have to “think” as much.
Small Number of Server Locations
AirVPN is one of the smaller VPN companies that I’ve used, yet it still has over 80 servers in 18 different locations worldwide to serve its customers.
That said 80 servers in 18 countries is not really many server locations from which to choose. Its 18 locations are hardly comparable to other providers that offer upwards of 50 server locations. If you’re having problems with speed on one server location, then, there isn’t a wide variety of others for you to use.
The lack of server locations is a major reason why AirVPN suffers in speed compared to other VPN providers. Yes, AirVPN is a smaller company, so a smaller number of server locations makes sense. However, it doesn’t make sense for future expansion needs as more users hop on board and clutter the servers.
The higher number of server locations a VPN has, the better your chances of connecting to one close to you to improve speeds and decrease latency. Especially if you’re traveling, you may find that AirVPN just doesn’t provide enough locations for the best experience.
AirVPN Review Conclusion
As a small VPN provider, it packs in some incredible features, like remote port forwarding, an open-source client, and five simultaneous connections for all your devices to gain access. AirVPN’s open-source client, Eddie, is one of the most powerful clients with highly-advanced features that let you optimize your VPN connection. However, Eddie is also very technical, which could easily scare away users who are new to the world of VPNs.
Some of the best and worst features of AirVPN come from the fact that it’s a small company. If you are looking for a company with that culture and a commitment to security, anonymity and open-source operations, then you should sign up for AirVPN here.
If you are looking for a provider with more usability and a balanced approach to pricing, support, and performance, then I’d recommend checking out ExpressVPN here (or reading my ExpressVPN review here).
And if you want to get really granular on every VPN provider, then check out this spreadsheet here.