ZENMATE REVIEW: Cheap VPN for Mac and US Netflix
|ZenMate Pros||ZenMate Cons|
ZenMate is a simple, cheap, relatively safe and up-to-date VPN service, included in the list of 10 best VPNs. ZenMate can easily solve the most widespread tasks, including streaming and secure torrenting.
Before describing its features and some disadvantages, I want to draw your attention to the fact that in 2018 ZenMate was bought by Kape Technologies, an Israeli company that also owns such large VPN services as CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access.
This fact changed fundamentally the work of the provider, so the reviews published before mid-2018 completely lost relevance.
What are the benefits of ZenMate VPN by the beginning of 2020?
- Low price (at $ 2.22 per month) and a 7-day free trial without providing a bank card
- Support of US and UK Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services
- List of servers for torrenting
- Pro-level applications for all OSs and other platforms
What are the disadvantages?
- DNS leak, even with the “DNS Leak Protection” setting turned on
- Only basic functionality on most platforms (compared to other VPNs)
- Noticeably loads a processor on Windows
- The trial plan does not guarantee streaming and has restrictions
- Streaming locations sometimes might be inactive
Contradictory, isn't it?
ZenMate has an attractive price and features, but it does not 100% protect the data on the users’ locations and visited resources.
How bad is that?
The answer lies in the detailed review of ZenMate, which describes all important features of its use.
In this article, we provide the results of the in-depth testing of the provider using special software, the analysis of ZenMate pros and cons. Moreover, we give some recommendations based on our experience of using ZenMate.
Read chapter by chapter or skip ahead to the section you need using quick navigation:
- 4 differences between ZenMate and other VPNs
- ZenMate research (pros, cons, tests, recommendations)
- How to use ZenMate for free?
- Analysis of prices and plans of ZenMate VPN
- ZenMate history and information about the company
- My conclusion
Have a look at the main features of ZenMate:
|Supported platforms||All OSs, but it has apps only for Win, Mac, and Android|
|Encryption standard||AES 256|
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP|
|Jurisdiction||Germany, Israel, United Kingdom|
|Servers||servers in 35 countries|
|Logs||does not keep|
|Streaming||Netflix, Hulu, and others|
The critical flaw which is of great importance for those who need to hide the addresses of visited sites and their countries is marked in red.
ZenMate offers a small number of countries (35) without the function to choose locations within them. It also has limited functionality, like most medium and low-quality VPNs. Nevertheless, it cannot be called an ordinary VPN service.
The fact is that ZenMate is launched on the technical base of such a giant as CyberGhost VPN. Their soft is almost identical and ZenMate uses a part of CyberGhost VPN servers.
Thanks to this, ZenMate has modern applications not only for major OSs but for other popular platforms and browsers as well, it supports streaming and has good customer service.
What features make ZenMate one of the best VPNs?
1. Pro-level applications for all platforms.
ZenMate is available for all platforms, including web browsers, Android TV, Firestick, and Smart TV. However, some systems are not convenient to use with the VPN. For example, you need to install the third-party OpenVPN client on Linux first, and then configure it. ZenMate does not have its own application or visualized script for this platform. There are no applications for routers either.
2. Special server lists for streaming and torrenting.
This is one of the most important features of ZenMate. Using these lists, you can easily unlock Netflix for a selected region, watch Hulu, and some other video services/channels, securely download files on P2P networks, watch free video content.
3. Free trial for all platforms.
ZenMate has a free 7-day trial. But to be honest, there are several restrictions:
- 4 available locations;
- Maximum speed is 2Mbps;
- Identity Shield is not available (the feature is insignificant for a VPN. Read about it below);
- Streaming is not guaranteed.
4. Low price.
It is difficult to find a cheaper VPN. Its price starts at $ 2.22 per month with a 1-year plan. The truth is that the prices for an annual and 1-month subscription are not so attractive. They are average on the market.
Nevertheless, the provider has significant drawbacks, because of which I do not recommend using ZenMate in some cases, regardless of its price. I will discuss all this in detail in the next chapter.
What else do you need to know about ZenMate? What’s overweight: pros or cons? Is it worth the risk of buying a 3-year subscription to save money?
I will definitely give an exhaustive answer to these and other questions. Let's start with one of the most controversial features of ZenMate - the users’ security.
The content of the chapter:
- ZenMate security: one plus and two minuses
- ZenMate feature tests
- ZenMate for Windows
- ZenMate for Mac
- ZenMate for Android
- ZenMate for iOS
- Extensions for web browsers
- ZenMate for other platforms
As for security, ZenMate has one plus and two minuses:
+ Traffic is well protected without any additional settings;
- Poor protection of the addresses of visited sites (an ISP can see visited domains);
- DNS servers may not be in the country where a VPN server is located.
On the one hand, the service reliably protects traffic, and on the other hand, it partially allows data leakage. How can it be at the same time?
Everything is quite simple. DNS queries are used to link the domains of visited sites with their IP addresses. They are routed to a specially configured domain server using other data transfer protocols.
ZenMate has a DNS query leakage.
I will explain. Take a look at the screenshot:
As you can see, with the VPN connected, the traffic of the tested computer without any encryption shows the address of the site I visited (in the red rectangle at the bottom of the screenshot). And this is not the internal network activity of the system, which is normally not encrypted. This is the traffic that passes through a Wi-Fi adapter and goes straight to the network.
But that is not all. The fact is that ZenMate has a feature that is designed to protect against this leak – DNS Leak Protection. Guess if it was active during testing?
Instead of splashing a thousand words:
ZenMate does not cope with the protection of the DNS queries, despite the option enabled. There is protection, but it is insufficient. After a series of tests with DNS Leak protection enabled and disabled, I came to the following conclusion:
ZenMate with the DNS protection disabled allows the disclosure of visited addresses with a probability of 100%.
If the protection is enabled (by default), then DNS queries are not encrypted, as well. At the same time, they are sent to a user's regional DNS servers (in 25-50% of cases). In the remaining 50-75% of cases, they are rooted to third-party secure DNS servers.
But is it worth “playing roulette”?
By the way, tests on public DNS verification services show the same results. For example, Whoer also identifies a leak:
How bad is all this?
It depends on what a VPN is used for. Just to unlock Netflix, a DNS leak doesn't matter. However, if you want to hide the visited domains from your ISP or government agencies, a DNS leak is intolerable.
Besides, a visited site can reveal your approximate location (country) at the DNS server address.
What good things are about the security of ZenMate?
Of course, it is traffic protection.
At the screenshot of the Wireshark traffic tracking program, the IP address of the server to which 81% of network activity is rooted is shown in the green rectangle. The remaining 19% (local addresses 198.168.x.x and 22.214.171.124) are not related to the information transmitted to the network, so they do not need to be taken into account. This indicates that the traffic is reliably protected. The problem is only with DNS.
Is there any out-of-the-box solution to achieve complete security?
The only way out is to visit “sensitive” sites not by their domains, but by their IP addresses. However, not all sites are available by IPs. The use of cloud technologies and DDoS-attacks protection guards a real IP address of a site, making it accessible only with the simultaneous transmission of an IP and domain name.
Moreover, trial-and-error choice of VPN locations until a connection establish without leakage may help. You can check DNS with such services as ipleak.net, whoer.net, and others.
Therefore, I don’t recommend using ZenMate (at least the 126.96.36.19951 version) for tasks that require strong domain protection.
But what about the second security flaw? - the most attentive readers may ask.
ZenMate, with the DNS Leak Protection feature enabled, tries to redirect DNS queries to alternative DNS servers. But these servers are often not at the same locations as the VPN server to which the app connects. For example, when I used a VPN location in Canada, the US and UK servers were identified:
In 99% of cases, the mismatch of the main IP address and the IP address of the DNS server does not matter. However, this indicates that the data about the sites you visit go to the network without protection.
Now we will analyze the characteristics that monumentally affect the choice of a VPN provider.
The speed of ZenMate is constantly changing from low to high. There is no stability.
The highest recorded speed was with the US server - 45 Mbps and the lowest speed was with the Canadian server (less than 1Mbps):
The server in the United Kingdom also showed a bad result:
I couldn't find countries with stable speed, so I’ll continue to talk about the average speed measured during testing. Some locations operate at an average speed in the range of 15-25Mbps, and some of them accelerate to 35-45Mbps.
Meanwhile, I liked that the servers for streaming almost throughout the testing had consistently high speed, sufficient even for watching 4K video.
For three days, I’ve measured the speed at popular locations and struck an average that you can see at the table:
5 tested locations of ZenMate*
|Location||Download/upload speed (Mbps)|
*- average (approximate) speed was indicated. The test was carried out for 3 days. During this time, the speed has changed significantly.
ZenMate does not allow you to choose locations within countries and specific servers like NordVPN does. That’s why it was not possible to connect to the same server (or location) on different days for an objective speed test. For example, the US server speed could reach up to 45Mbps and after reconnecting it dropped to 18 Mbps.
I did not find a link between the data on the load degree indicated on the list of countries and the real speed. The load could reach up to 75%, and the speed was about 30 Mbps and higher. And with another location, the load was 5%, and the speed was 15 Mbps.
Thus, ZenMate has unstable speed, ranging from low to high.
As I’ve said, streaming support (and Netflix in particular) is one of the main advantages of ZenMate.
Using the list of the locations for streaming, I easily found the one that works with Netflix.
As you can see in the screenshot, you can choose the desired video service in the desired country. However, there are slim pickings. For example, Netflix is available only for the United States and the United Kingdom.
I like the connection speed. It rarely dropped below 15Mbps, more often it was above 20 Mbps. In any case, movies are opened quickly and with no hitch.
Hulu is also supported by ZenMate. It is not on the list of available streaming services but it works fine on the same server that intended for Netflix:
The inspection of other services is not part of our testing. But they are likely to work well, as they are considered less “problematic” than those for Netflix and Hulu.
- Looking for a fast VPN that has more countries than ZenMate can offer? You will find it in our best VPN services for Netflix review.
It's easy to use ZenMate for secure torrenting. There is a choice from 29 countries for this. Any chosen server can be used for a program that supports P2P technology.
ZenMate has almost everything you need to ensure privacy and convenience:
- Kill Switch (on Windows and Mac);
- effective traffic protection;
- a list of guaranteed secure servers for torrenting.
However, the fact that the Windows-based app has DNS leakage and does not encrypt DNS queries casts a long shadow over the situation. But this does not pose a direct threat since the listed disadvantages appear only when visiting torrent sites. Their domain names can be seen by your Internet Service Provider. Downloading torrent content does not use DNS queries, therefore it is safer.
Thus, ZenMate is good for torrenting but if you want to mask the fact of visiting torrent sites, use CyberGhost VPN or NordVPN which also have the lists of torrenting servers but have no security problems.
4. Google Search and Gmail use
Sometimes a VPN service copes with main tasks but makes the difficulties that have not emerged with a VPN disabled. This can be an annoying message to prove you are not a robot when searching Google or visiting other sites. Moreover, access to Gmail can be complicated.
There is no problem with ZenMate. I did not face any difficulties using Google services.
I always recommend using a VPN on mobile devices. Making payments, using social networks with public Wi-Fi hot spots, etc. pose a tangible threat. Moreover, some people use mobile gadgets for responsible operating or other sensitive tasks.
However, not many people know that a VPN under certain circumstances does not guarantee the protection of data and a real user’s location, not only in public Wi-Fi networks.
A leak can occur if you unexpectedly disconnect from a VPN server for several reasons:
- a problem with a VPN service;
- unstable or weak Wi-Fi or cellular signal;
- change of a VPN location;
- moving between different access points;
- switch between Wi-Fi and the cellular Internet.
You must admit that all these cases are likely to happen in real life.
IP leak can take place on Android when ZenMate is on:
The screenshot shows the disclosure of the real IP address after the temporary Internet disconnection.
VPN services have long offered an effective solution against data leakage - Kill Switch. This feature blocks all traffic on a device if a connection with a VPN suddenly drops.
ZenMate has Kill Switch only on Windows and Mac apps. The Android app doesn’t have one. Although the feature helps to provide more reliable data protection when torrenting on PC, it doesn’t protect your traffic when you are torrenting on an Android device or if your connection with a VPN server drops out.
- If you are going to use a VPN for Android, I’d recommend you using NordVPN or Surfshark which have a reliable Kill Switch on their apps for all OSs.
What about an iPhone or iPad?
Fortunately, iOS has built-in partial protection from leakages and ZenMate uses the built-in OS features for the VPN. Therefore, using Apple gadgets is quite safe.
However, the protection won’t be activated if a user changes a VPN location.
6. Other problems with ZenMate
When I was writing this review, I was eager to get to this chapter as soon as possible. And there was a reason for this.
ZenMate heavily loads a processor. Its flash heat makes a notebook fan to work hard.
This deprives you of comfort using ZenMate on Windows (there is no such a problem on Mac). The noise disappears only after disconnecting from the VPN.
As you can see in the screenshot, ZenMate is the most energy-intensive process in the system. For 3 days of testing, the processor load varied from 10 to 30%. The impact on Windows is more tangible when connecting/disconnecting of the VPN.
This is a serious drawback if a computer is used at full capacity. In other cases, this fact plays a minor role.
I did not find other significant problems with the work of the provider.
ZenMate application for Windows is both the most functional and the most problematic. It offers Kill Switch but has a DNS leak.
What ZenMate features and options are available on the PC?
- OpenVPN protocol (TCP and UDP);
- Kill Switch;
- IPv6 leak protection;
- DNS leak protection (not effective);
- Separate lists of streaming and torrenting servers.
In general, the functionality of the Windows version is quite limited. If you compare it with CyberGhost VPN for Windows (let me remind you that the software of both providers is very alike), then ZenMate has almost no advanced functionality. For example, there is no Split Tunneling, which allows you to choose applications for work in circumvention of the VPN. Moreover, it offers significantly fewer locations for streaming and significantly lower speeds.
Pros of using ZenMate on Windows:
- Convenient functionality;
- Reliable data protection (except DNS).
- DNS leak;
- Slow connection;
- Limited functionality (compared to other competitors);
- There is no possibility to choose locations and specific servers within countries.
My opinion about ZenMate for Windows: it is a practical application with basic functionality and a convenient choice of servers for different purposes. But at the same time, a DNS leak does not allow it to be used for critical tasks. Besides, the application makes its presence felt by the excessive noise from a notebook fan and fast battery discharge.
Download ZenMate VPN for Windows from this page of the official website.
ZenMate VPN app for Mac is almost identical to the Windows version but has significant technical differences:
- The standard protocol for Apple IKEv2 is used;
- No DNS leak;
- Absence of VPN connection settings.
Besides, the application works smoothly, quickly connects and disconnects, does not overload a processor and battery.
In fact, ZenMate is one of the best VPNs for Mac.
With it, you can effectively mask IP address, protect traffic, watch streaming services, download torrents safely, and solve other tasks that are common for the modern Internet.
You can download ZenMate for macOS only from this page of the official website (there is no such an app for Mac on the Apple App Store) as an importable.PKG file.
Although according to our statistics, desktop users are interested in VPNs more than others, there are a lot of mobile platform users (Android, in particular) who also interested in the issue. Besides, all good modern VPNs offer support of 5 or more devices at a time within one subscription. What’s wrong with installing an app on your smartphone?
Choosing a good use a VPN for Android is slightly more difficult than for Windows.
ZenMate cannot yet be called one of the best providers for this platform.
Pros and cons of ZenMate for Android:
+ There is a choice of UDP or TCP OpenVPN (TCP may be blocked on some networks);
+ Stable operation without sudden shutdowns;
- Lack of Kill Switch;
- No automatic reconnection;
- There is no list of servers for torrenting as their desktop application has.
I want to highlight the lack of Kill Switch. Without this feature, a VPN connection is extremely vulnerable in the real-world (in public Wi-Fi zones and when using the cellular Internet).
Tests proved (see “IP leak test with unstable connection”) that the provider does not guarantee 100% security on Android.
I would not use ZenMate on this platform. There are more functional and secure VPN applications.
You can download and install ZenMate for Android on Google Play Market.
The iOS app will hardly be surprising. Except perhaps the absence of useful settings.
There are no even lists of streaming servers for iPhone and iPad.
Actually, only a choice of countries and the VPN enable button are available for users.
Perhaps these features are enough for anonymous browsing. However, they don’t distinguish ZenMate from dozens of other VPNs.
Thus, you can use ZenMate on iOS but, as in the case of Android, there are much more functional and interesting VPN apps.
ZenMate is available as an extension for the following browsers:
ZenMate supports Chrome and other web browsers using SOCKS-proxy tech. This means that only browser traffic is protected. Other applications remain unprotected.
Extensions do not require any configuration. They provide good traffic and addresses protection by default.
Links to ZenMate for Chrome and other browsers can be found on the official website page.
Another plus of ZenMate is the applications for Android TV and Firestick
You can also use the settings for OpenVPN. This will allow you to configure ZenMate on routers and any other devices that support this VPN protocol.
At the same time, there is an explicit reference to the provider’s No Logs policy:
The above-mentioned Personal Data is not, at any point, associated with any kind of activity done by the user inside the ZenMate VPN tunnel, which is NOT recorded, logged or stored at all.
Thus, to optimize their operation, ZenMate registers and uses the data about their users’ activity on the website but does not register any data on its servers.
Many people are searching for ZenMate as a free VPN.
This is due to the fact that initially, the service had a free plan which made the provider popular.
But today, the provider no longer offers free services. There is only a 7-day free trial available without a bank card.
The period has some limitations, which I will highlight in the next chapter.
This is the only way to use ZenMate for free.
At the end of 2019, ZenMate changed its plans. Now there is no profitable 2-year plan but, on the other hand, a record cheap three-year plan has appeared. Besides, the annual subscription went up in price a bit.
ZenMate VPN pricing
|Duration of a subscription||Price, $|
|6 month||5.39 (32.34 per 6 months)|
|1 year||2.22 (39.96 per 1 years)|
It's hard for me to say whether it makes sense to buy ZenMate for three years at once. This period is probably too long if a VPN is needed only for streaming.
In other cases, this can be justified, since the provider is owned by a large company that isn’t going to leave the market in the coming years.
Moreover, it’s also difficult to find a cheaper VPN.
If you are confused by the disadvantages of ZenMate but you like its price, then pay attention to Surfshark. It is # 2 in our ranking of the best VPNs and # 1 in the ranking of the cheapest VPN providers.
What features does ZenMate pricing have?
- 7-day trial period for all platforms;
- 14-day money-back guarantee.
I want to dwell on the refund policy.
The fact is that on the main page of the ZenMate website, it is said that the provider guarantees a refund within the first 30 days:
But if you carefully study their refund policy, then you can see that there is not a word about 30 days. It says only about 14 days, during which you can get your money back:
Once the initial subscription fee has been charged, you have 14 days from this time to cancel your subscription to be eligible for a refund. If you do not cancel within this time period, you cannot request a refund.
Thus, ZenMate is one of the cheapest VPNs when choosing a long-term subscription. At the same time, you should not count on a 30-day money-back guarantee.
I would like to note that you can buy ZenMate only with a bank card or PayPal. Other payment systems and cryptocurrencies are not supported.
ZenMate was founded in 2013 in Germany by ZenGuard GmbH. Initially, it was a free VPN (had a free plan). In 2018, the service was bought by Kape Technologies. By this time, ZenMate had offered locations in 24 countries and had had a customer base of more than 40 million people. The deal amounted to €4.8 million. By that time, Kape had already owned CyberGhost VPN, a large VPN provider. This VPN has become the basis for the new ZenMate concept. It was made easier and cheaper than CyberGhost VPN, while the main features of the big brother” remained the same.
In fact, ZenMate today is a simplified version of CyberGhost VPN with a longer trial period and lower price.
ZenGuard GmbH Address:
Am Treptower Park 28-30 Berlin, 12435
Kape Technologies is affiliated with 8 countries, including its head office in the United Kingdom and its representative office in Israel:
37-41 Mortimer Street
London, England W1T 3JH, GB
Sarona Azrieli tower
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv 6701203, IL
Is it worth using ZenMate VPN?
- Yes, if you want to access geo-restricted content of US or UK Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other streaming services, as well as if you are a Mac user.
- No, if to protect information about visited resources is a matter of great importance for you.
+ Stable application performance
+ Streaming support
+ TV platform support
+ Does not keep logs
+ Kill-Switch on Windows and Mac
+ Low price when buying for 3 years
+ The service is managed by a large company with extensive experience in the field of VPNs
- DNS leak
- No choice of VPN protocols
- Relatively small choice of countries
- No choice of locations within countries
- Unstable speed. Rarely high
- There are no modern features available in comparison with competitors (Split tunneling, double VPN, etc.)
- Less functional than competitors’ applications for mobile devices
- Many popular payment methods and cryptocurrencies are not supported
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