Welcome to this Astrill VPN review, where I will share my own unbiased opinion after using this VPN.
Location and jurisdiction
- Who is Astrill VPN?
Astrill is a VPN owned by Astrill Systems Corp that is registered offshore in Seychelles (East Africa). A privacy-friendly location, because it’s outside of the 5, 9, or 15 Eyes intelligence alliances.
Till the moment of writing this review, Astrill has never been involved in any scandals related to sharing users’ information.
Launched in 2009, this VPN service focus on bypassing the world’s strictest censorship like the Great Firewall of China, and this is one of his biggest selling points.
One thing I want to clear out about “connect unlimited devices” that appear on their website, it only means that you can set it up on unlimited devices, and you can only connect 5 devices simultaneously.
Astrill and Streaming
Netflix is one of the biggest platforms that VPNs struggles with.
In order for me to ensure the ability of Astrill VPN to bypass Netflix geo-blocking, I’ve tested that using a kids-show (Shaun the Sheep: Adventures from Mossy Bottom) that is not yet available for me in my country (Morocco).
When I try to access this kids-show when Astrill is off, all I get is this reminder button.
When I turned it on the first time connecting myself to the “Los Angeles A” server, I didn’t succeed in unblocking Netflix.
But shortly after testing with the “Los Angeles B” server, the play button started showing.
From this, we understand that if a server does not work for you, try to connect to another one before saying that this VPN is not working.
If you are a streaming fan, I recommend you to use the OpenWeb protocol because it’s optimized for both speed and security, and switching servers using this protocol is almost instantly.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a BBC iPlayer account so I can test this.
What I’m sure of is, if you can’t unblock BBC iPlayer using multiple UK servers and you are looking for reliable access, you can buy a private UK IP address as an add-on.
Using that, you are not using a shared UK IP address, which will make it less likely to be recognized as a VPN.
I did this speed test on my Macbook Retina mid-2012, using OpenWeb protocol, which known to be slower than OpenVPN, because of the “handshake” process at the start of a connection.
Closest VPN server
(Spain ~ 600 miles away from me)
Before using Astrill VPN:
After using Astrill VPN:
Only a 2% decrease in download speed, which is a good result.
The ping of 42 is still considered good for gaming.
Farthest VPN server
(Australia ~ 10 000 miles away from me)
Before using Astrill VPN:
After using Astrill VPN:
As you can see, there is a major decrease in download speed after using a faraway server.
A 74% decrease in download speed is considered very bad. With ExpressVPN, I only get 13%.
The same thing with ping, 337 ms is very bad.
If you wonder if your speed after using this VPN will allow you to watch HD or not, having 5Mbps in the download results are enough to watch full HD.
If you are in China and you want to improve your USA servers speed, choose ones that have the USA flag and named “[China] Supercharged”.
This is not true, because asking me for my phone number and verify it is not “as little personal information as possible”.
Doing that to combat free trial abuse, yes it’s normal to ask me for my phone number. But when I hand you $20 a month and you still do the same, here I see it as unreasonable.
Doing that is against the purpose of having a VPN because here no privacy remains.
The only thing that bothers me in what we’ve seen in the photo above is that they collect real IPs during sessions. Even though you delete it directly after I disconnect, it’s better to not have it in the first place.
Being located in Seychelles (East Africa), they are not legally obliged to share logs with authorities.
Another thing that they do but they did not talk about it is that they create a device fingerprint.
A user on the internet says that when he tried to sign up for a free trial (using a phone number and an email address that is never used before with Astrill), he was asked to upgrade his account because he already benefited from the free trial before.
When he contacted Astrill support about how he was identified, he was told that a device fingerprint was formed and stored to prevent free trial abuse.
Device fingerprint is based on information about your device like the OS, monitor, keyboard, computer hardware, browser version, language, settings …
It is not a perfect solution of identification to combat free trial abuse, because my friend or my brother can have the exact same laptop model as me, so it’s not effective.
But in the case of authorities having this information and they are trying to pinpoint between you and other five peoples, it becomes effective because chances of all of these 5 people having the same operating system, browser version, keyboard, and settings are near impossible.
Astrill has VPN servers in 109 cities across 60 countries.
I didn’t find on their website how many servers they had, but internet users say they have 365 servers. Although this number may not be accurate, I feel that it is closer to the truth, because if they had a large number of servers they would have been promoting it.
Compared to Express, this server’s network is below average.
Most of Astrill servers network are concentric in the USA, Europe, and Asia. So, if you are looking for servers in these two locations, you will get a lot of servers to choose from.
Continents where you will be very limited in terms of servers to choose from, are Africa (2 locations) and Australia (5 locations).
However, Astrill has servers inside China.
Unlike most VPN providers, you can get a Chinese IP address from outside China, to access local services like TV.Sohu.com, CNTV.cn, V.Baidu.com, Video.sina.com.cn, V.qq.com, Tudou.com, IQiYi.com, Youku.com, etc.
When we talk about torrenting and VPNs, we analyze two things: speed and privacy.
When Astrill VPN was off, my download speed was around 9.5 MB.
After connecting myself to the Spain server (~ 600 miles away from me), my download speed decreased to 8.5 MB (only 10%).
Astrill VPN offers P2P-optimized servers marked with a yellow star, which allows you port forwarding to get faster speed results.
From that, I can say that Astrill VPN is good for torrenting when we talk about speed.
Even if I put privacy after speed, I value privacy more than speed when we are talking about torrenting.
I don’t know how to start this point, but in short, Astrill VPN is not good for privacy with torrenting.
I will explain in more detail.
Even though Astrill has major security features like Kill-Switch, high-standard encryption, it lacks other important things DNS leaks (more details below) and by default, the internet kill-switch is disabled in the desktop application.
So, if you start torrenting automatically and your internet connection did disconnect suddenly, your real identity may be exposed.
Other than this, around 2019, a Reddit user shared a negative story where he states that he received a copyright infringement notice while he was connected using Astrill VPN.
Depending on platforms, Astrill offers a generous choice of protocols.
- StealthVPN protocol is Astrill’s customized version of OpenVPN designed to bypass strict censorship like in China.
- OpenWeb is limited to only hide your web browsing traffic
- OpenVPN hides both, your web browsing and desktop applications traffic.
My recommended protocol is OpenVPN, for his privacy capabilities.
For more information about the availability and advantages of each protocol, check out this page.
Astrill VPN also offers Onion over VPN service, for an extra level of anonymity. Learn more.
Encryption is what makes your data useless even if it falls into third-parties hands.
Astrill VPN offers a bunch of encryption methods, AES 256-bit, Blowfish 128-bit, CAST 512-bit, Camellia 256-bit.
The one that I recommend you to use is AES 256-bit because it’s the most secured one. This is why its used by banks and militaries.
- DNS LEAK TEST:
This is the part that turns me off from recommending this VPN.
During my leak tests using the Perfect Privacy website tool, I found that my real information (IP address, Country, and city) get leaked to this tool when I’m connected using OpenVPN, StealthVPN, and WireGuard protocols. This does not happen when I’m using OpenWeb.
A similar thing happens during my leak tests using DNSleaktest.com.
When I enter this web-tool, my real information is shown on the homepage like this.
This thing happens only with OpenVPN, StealthVPN, and WireGuard protocols. When I’m connected using OpenVPN, everything went without leaks.
- KILL-SWITCH/APP GUARD:
Kill-switch is a security feature that protects your real data from leaking when your internet connection is instable.
What happen when your internet connection is instable is that when you get it back, VPN needs time to connects and during this time the website waiting for your internet connection will be loaded having your real IP address and DNS info.
When you have the kill-switch feature enabled, when your VPN software feel that your internet connect about to drop, he block you from accessing website unless he get everything under control.
Fortunatly, Astrill VPN have a kill-switch feature for MacOS and Linux.
For Windows users, he has something a little bit advanced (name App guard), which allows you to choose which app to allow to continue getting internet while you block it for other apps.
One thing I found when I install Astrill VPN on my MacBook is that the Kill-switch feature are not enabled by default after using it. So, it’s like if I don’t have at all if I didn’t pay attention to it.
Another thing that Astrill VPN lack at the time of writing this review is that there is no kill-switch for Android and iOS.
Does Astrill Work in China?
The selling point of Astrill is his ability to reliably bypass The Great Wall of China.
This is what distinguishes ِAstrill VPN over the majority of competitors.
With the use of his own protocol StealthVPN, that they made based on OpenVPN protocol, they get an added layer of traffic obfuscation to bypass highly-restricted countries like China, Iran, UAE and Turkey
Moreover, they provide you also servers in countries close to China like South Korea, HK, Japan, and Taiwan to get faster speeds when you are connecting from inside of China.
Things you must pay attention to if you want to use Astrill from China, is that you should install it first before arriving at China.
If you are inside China, you can use another VPN to unblock Astrill website then download it.
The screenshot above shows that 47% of Astrill website visitor are from China. This is enough to make sure that Astrill VPN works reliably in China.
Port forwarding is a feature that maximizes torrent speed.
For more information about how to set it up, you can visit this wiki page.
Split tunneling is a feature that allows you to decide which apps/websites to pass through the VPN and which not.
Astrill VPN calls this feature Application Filter and Site Filter.
If you have devices that you can’t install VPN software on or does not allow you to manually configure them with your VPN, you can enable this VPN Sharing feature to use your computer as a gateway for this device.
If you want you PS4 for example to benefits from Astrill VPN, go to Setting, then Network, and click “Set Up Internet Connection”
One of the best features that I was not expecting to found in Astrill VPN because I didn’t see it before during my VPN reviews, is the built-in speed test feature.
You may see it not useful, but after I tried it the first time it opened my eyes to a helpful feature that top VPNs do not provide, which is testing servers’ speed before connecting.
What makes it useful, is that you can easily type a country name, select all available servers for this country and test their speeds. After only some seconds you can know which one is better for you.
Ease of use
Astrill software user interface required me some trial and error first to get familiar with it.
They still have plenty of optimizations to do before being an easy to use application like other VPNs.
Things I don’t like:
- No notifications that alert me when I’m connected to a server and when I’m not.
- Small servers drop-down window that requires more mouse scrolling.
- Usability little mistakes, like not knowing how to close the settings page because there is no red “x” closing button.
- By default, the Astrill software window stays floating above any opened software (you can disable it).
Things I like:
- Getting an explanation of every feature by just hovering over with your mouse.
Astrill Free Trial
Because Astrill does not offer a full or partial refund, I highly recommend you to benefit from the 7-days free trial before purchasing it, especially that he requires only basic information like email address, full name, and phone number that you can verify with.
This free trial does not require any payment information, so you will not worry about accidentally paying for the next month, or to worry about remembering to cancel your membership.
Another great thing about Astrill VPN free trial is that they not use any data caps to limit you like with other VPNs.
Unfortunately, some servers like Chinese ones are not available in this free trial.
Unfortunatly, unlike the majority of VPN services, Astrill VPN does not offer any full or partial refund.
This not fair for users who wants to test Chinese servers before buying, because this ones are not included in the 7-days free trial.
I really liked how many support they provide to their users.
First of all, they offer a 24/7 live chat that I think I’ve used two times, and the response time was very fast (support agent joined after only 15 seconds).
Other than the 24/7 live chat, there is also a ticket system that is also fast (18 minutes).
If you are just looking for a “how to” help, there is a lot of FAQs, video tutorials, and manuals.
Astrill VPN Cost
Astrill offer 3 plans :
- The monthly plan at $20
- The semi-annually at $90 ($15/month)
- The annually at $120 ($10/month).
As you see, Astrill VPN is very expensive even for long-term plans, and they have to justify this expensive price.
All this plans have the same features, the only difference is the lengths.
You can also purchase a private IP address if you want for an additional monthly cost.
Compared to other VPN services, you can get best deals like :
- 12 months of Private Internet Access (PIA) for $39.95 (read the review summary)
- 24 months of Surfshark for $47.76 (read the review summary)
- 12 months of ExpressVPN for $99.95 (read the review summary)
I do not recommend you to choose a VPN based on the price only, this is why I’ve included links to each reviews summaries.
Astrill VPN Coupons
There is no direct coupons right now, but from this hidden page, you can play the classic game (2048) to get a chance to win a free Astrill VPN coupon code.
I didn’t get a chance to win in this game, but I think that coupons range from 5% to 50% off.
Do I Recommend it?
Yes, I do recommend it only for people who travel for short periods to countries with restricted censorship like China, UAE, Iran …
If you live in one of those countries or you plan to stay for more than two or three months, I recommend you to try ExpressVPN for free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee .
Astrill Frequently Asked Questions