Welcome back to yet another VPN review!
Today, I will tell you all you need to know about the service called ZenMate. In this review, you will find information that will let you decide if this VPN can become your mate:
- if ZenMate VPN is safe to use;
- how good its speeds are;
- if it works well with streaming services, and more.
Here is a quick navigation menu to help you jump to any section of this review:
- ZenMate VPN: Unique Benefits and Features
- Pros and Cons of ZenMate
- ZenMate VPN: Speed and Security Tests
- ZenMate VPN: Benefits and Features Tests
- ZenMate VPN: Frequently Asked Questions
|ZenMate VPN pros||ZenMate VPN cons|
|⊕ Good platform support||⊗ Keeps logs|
|⊕ OpenVPN protocol||⊗ Slow|
|⊕ Very affordable||⊗ Not that many locations|
|⊕ 30-day refund||⊗ Leaks DNS requests|
|⊕ Has a free version||⊗ Not many settings|
|⊕ Works with Netflix||⊗ No live chat|
|⊕ Allows torrenting||⊗ Based in Germany|
|⊕ 5 simultaneous connections|
|⊕ Has a kill switch|
Do I recommend ZenMate? Well, not really. While it has its share of upsides, some of the drawbacks are just too serious to let them pass. Such minor gripes as the absence of live chat do not influence my opinion about this service too much, but its questionable logging policy and, worst of all, the fact that it leaks your real IP address are a deal-breaker.
If you are looking for a good VPN, I suggest you consider another service. Take a look at my reviews of the following providers to get a better idea of what a VPN should offer:
ZenMate VPN: Unique Benefits and Features
One of the most notable peculiarities of ZenMate is that it provides a free version. Even with it, its Premium plan is not expensive at all, which I will touch upon in a respective section.
According to ZenMate’s official website, over 47 million customers use this VPN.
That’s very impressive. I suspect that quite a few of them are drawn in by the free version being available.
Besides ZenMate, you can also get other products from its website:
- SafeSearch is a Chrome application that doesn’t allow the users to go to suspicious sites;
- WebRTC Protect does what its name says it does;
- Identity Shield is supposed to inform you if your email becomes a part of a data breach.
While SafeSearch and WebRTC Protect can be downloaded from Chrome Web Store, Identity Shield is integrated into the full paid version of ZenMate VPN and can’t be obtained otherwise.
Pros and Cons of ZenMate VPN
Good platform support
ZenMate VPN is above average when it comes to apps for different operating systems. It supports:
Besides that, it also offers browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.
But that’s not all! You can also download OpenVPN configuration files from ZenMate’s site and set up your connection without using the app or extension.
ZenMate provides a few manuals on how to do it, which is another plus.
So far, you can set OpenVPN up on Windows, Ubuntu, Chromebook, and Raspberry Pi, although ZenMate seems to have some difficulties with spelling the last name:
But overall, it’s nice to see so many operating systems supported.
As you might have gathered from the previous section, ZenMate allows the use of the OpenVPN protocol.
OpenVPN is the best protocol available as of this day, so this is definitely a big upside to this service.
You can use other protocols, specifically, IKEv2 and L2TP.
But it’s best to stick with OpenVPN due to its security and speed.
Another good thing about ZenMate is its affordable prices.
Starting at $2.05 per month, ZenMate beats even Private Internet Access in terms of moneysaving. Can it beat that provider in other aspects, too? We’ll see in later chapters of this review.
It’s worth noting, though, that prices are not uniform across all platforms. If you want to get it for Linux or as config files for OpenVPN, you will have to pay more:
Besides, for those platforms, there is no two-year plan, sadly, although that fact is compensated by the presence of a 6-months one.
In any case, ZenMate deserves to be called one of the cheapest VPN services out there.
If you are not satisfied with ZenMate’s performance or simply wish to test its full version, you can make use of the one-month money-back guarantee this company offers.
Has a free version
If a month isn’t enough for you and you want to use ZenMate VPN for a longer time, you can use its free version.
It does, obviously, have certain limitations compared to the full version:
First of all, the free version can only be used as a browser extension. What it means is that you will not be able to protect your traffic while torrenting, because you need a separate client to do that.
Second, there are only four locations offered with the free version of ZenMate:
- Hong Kong;
Those servers are not optimized for streaming, so you are unlikely to access Netflix with ZenMate for free.
Third, the free version’s speed is capped at 2 Mbps.
And finally, you can’t use the OpenVPN protocol with it. However, the IKEv2 and L2TP protocols offer okay security, so this distinction doesn’t compromise your safety.
In any case, those differences are not that major considering this version is completely free. It’s good to see ZenGuard offering it because most of the more well-known providers like NordVPN do not.
Works with Netflix
ZenMate promises to give you access to geo-restricted content on websites such as Netflix:
Moreover, there is a tab called “For Streaming” in the VPN app. Servers optimized for this task are shown under it:
I will tell you more about ZenMate’s ability to unblock country-specific Netflix content in a later chapter of this review.
Another benefit of using ZenMate is that it allows the use of torrenting. Just like with servers for streaming, ZenMate has servers dedicated to this task:
Such an addition is a huge plus because it’s recommended that one uses a VPN for torrenting. If you do not, your ISP can see your activity and take measures to stop you, such as throttling your Internet speed.
5 simultaneous connections
ZenMate VPN offers 5 simultaneous device connections on its paid plan.
While it’s not as extravagant as, for instance, TigerVPN that allows up to 9 devices, for most users, I think, it should be enough.
Has a kill switch
A kill switch is an essential safety measure for any VPN. If your secure connection shuts off (for example, when you’re changing to a different server), your traffic becomes unencrypted and can be used against you, should anyone intercept it.
The kill switch function prevents that, making sure that you will not be able to connect to the Internet while your VPN is down.
ZenMate VPN provides such a function in its app.
It adds to the security of the service and should always be turned on.
Now that we’ve examined all the Pros of ZenMate, let us proceed to a less cheerful task. Now, we’ll see what its Cons are.
One of the first things you’re likely to notice when you go to ZenMate’s website is its claims of its strict no-logging policy:
Very commendable… if true.
So the users’ real IP addresses are stored when they visit the website.
Yes, they are purportedly stored in “an anonymized format” and can’t be linked back to the users. Still, it is worrisome, because it doesn’t qualify as the “Ensured strict no-logs policy” so heavily advertised on the official website.
The reason given is the prevention of frauds. However, I don’t think other VPN providers are very fond of frauds and take no precautions against them. Yet on the website of ExpressVPN, to name one, you won’t see such measures.
On the bright side, no user activity is stored by ZenMate.
Another, more minor privacy consideration is the use of tracking pixels in the ZenMate newsletter. Any danger of those can be avoided by not subscribing to the said newsletter, though.
While I will certainly talk more about ZenMate’s speeds in the next section of this review, I have to mention them here as well.
Indeed, you don’t need to look at precise speed test results and calculate the difference rounded to two decimal places to see how slow this service is. It is apparent to the naked eye.
And I’m not talking about streaming in 4K while also playing online games. Something as simple as loading a (mostly text-based) website takes up to fifteen seconds when connected to the recommended server.
Sometimes, it gets a little bit better. Sometimes, it becomes even more painful.
Not that many locations
ZenMate can hardly rival CyberGhost in terms of the number of locations.
On its “Locations” page, it says it has servers in 30+ countries, or 37, to be exact.
The total number of servers is 300. However, there is no way to know or choose which one inside a specific country you are connecting to. They are not shown anywhere on the provider’s official website or in the app.
Leaks DNS requests
For a VPN, leaking users’ real IPs is a big no-no.
After all, keeping the real location secret one of the primary tasks that a virtual private network should perform flawlessly.
Unfortunately, ZenMate VPN struggles to perform that task. Even more unfortunately, it doesn’t always succeed.
To be fair, DNS leaks are not frequent with ZenMate but they still do happen. I will talk more about them in one of the following sections of the review.
Not many settings
ZenMate’s app is quite barebones. For example, the only setting available for the kill switch is a simple on/off toggle:
You can also choose your VPN protocol, enable DNS leak protection (which doesn’t really help), or select the option to connect to a random port. For more advanced users, the ability to choose a port manually would have been nice to include.
No live chat
The only support option available is via the Zendesk ticket system (these two companies are not related to each other in any way despite their similar names).
Live chat would have been appreciated for the convenience of support that it provides.
As a bit of a nice touch, ZenMate’s app has a little icon that allows you to use the same form directly from the app:
Based in Germany
Per the information that can be found on ZenMate’s Terms of Service page, it belongs to the German company ZenGuard GmbH.
The problem here is that Germany is a member state of the 14 Eyes. It means that intelligence agencies of the other participants can spy on German-based entities with impunity. That’s not optimal.
Moreover, ZenMate keeps its users’ IP addresses stored, albeit in an anonymized form. Still, this information may lead to your identity being revealed to a surveillance agency.
ZenMate VPN: Speed and Security Tests
I have mentioned earlier in this ZenMate review how painfully slow it is. But now I will get into this aspect of the service in more detail.
As I always do, the first thing I did was I tested my Internet speed without a VPN to set a criterion up. It allows me to compare how ZenMate VPN affects my connection speed.
Then, it was time to test various ZenMate servers. The first among the European servers was the one in Brussels:
Given the relative proximity of Brussels to my real location, I expected better, to be honest. On the positive side, the upload speed is almost the same as it was.
A Slovakian server was next. It did even worse than the Belgian one:
Next, I tested a server in Frankfurt. This was the result:
I wasn’t particularly impressed with these speeds. But those servers were all located in Europe. So, what about other continents?
If you guessed that speeds would become even slower, you were right. Check out the Australian server test results:
New York was a little better:
Johannesburg stayed firmly in the single digits:
And, finally, the speed I got when connected to Tokyo was the following:
Overall, speeds were far from great. A part of the problem, I suspect, is the inability to choose a specific server within a country.
I have no idea why ZenMate restricted that ability because, if it was present, it could’ve been possible to find a faster connection than the automatically chosen one.
In the table below, you will find the detailed speeds comparison:
|Server||Download speed, Mbps||Upload speed, Mbps||Speed change, download/upload, %|
|New South Wales (AU)||2.29||1.57||-97/-98|
Okay, so ZenMate’s speeds were underwhelming. Maybe it was due to its extensive security measures? Maybe the protection is so state-of-the-art that it’s bound to slow you down so much?
Let’s find out by seeing if there are any IP leaks.
First of all, I tested a German server:
No leaks were found. Good job, ZenMate.
The next server on the list was in New York. My tests found no IP leaks either.
So far so good, right?
But then something bad happened. I’m sure you’ve guessed what it was, considering the chapter name.
I tested a UK server (connecting to it is consistently difficult, by the way) and saw the following result:
For privacy reasons, I can’t show you the original picture, but in the lovely “doctored” image above you can see that my real DNS address got leaked.
And that’s with DNS Leak Protection enabled in ZenMate’s app.
To be fair, this doesn’t happen all the time. In most cases, there are no leaks with ZenMate.
However, it only takes one time to compromise your privacy and safety. This is why I recommend against using this service. It simply doesn’t cope with the basic tasks of a VPN.
ZenMate VPN: Benefits and Features Tests
There’s little point in continuing to review ZenMate since it failed the security tests. However, I always want to provide my readers with the fullest account of every VPN I test.
So, I will proceed.
How easy is ZenMate VPN to use?
The answer is “very easy”.
To get to use it, though, not so much.
So, first of all, you pay for your subscription. It’s straightforward enough:
Payment options are limited to PayPal and credit cards. Disappointing, but it does the job.
This is what a ZenMate account looks like:
All the toggles and sliders you see don’t really do anything, they’re just for show. They are supposed to demonstrate the differences between the free and paid versions.
The official website of ZenMate has this nasty habit of logging you out of your account when you try to go to any page other than your account one. It makes downloading the app a pain because that is done on another page.
But when you finally succeed, ZenMate installs in two clicks and some twenty seconds of time.
ZenMate is accessed through the tray. However, you can press the button on its side to open a full-scale window:
In the app, you can access settings, your account, and choose a server from one of the lists on the left.
All in all, the app is simple enough not to cause any difficulties.
Does ZenMate work with Netflix?
Only a selected few VPNs unblock Netflix’s geo-restricted content. Interestingly, ZenMate is among those services, at least, as of now (September 2019).
The app even shows you what server is optimized for this task.
However, I found that all US servers under the “For streaming” tab work just as well. The one in the “All servers” menu does not, though.
Does ZenMate VPN allow torrenting?
It does and even has servers dedicated to this task:
I’m glad to say that ZenMate indeed works with P2P and torrents!
ZenMate VPN: Frequently Asked Questions
- Go to your account on ZenMate.com.
- Click Settings.
- Find the Plan Type line under the Payment subheading.
- Click View.
- On the Transactions page you are taken to, click View again.
- Click Deactivate automatic renewal.
- Confirm your decision in the pop-up.
One subscription allows connection 5 devices at the same time.
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