16th May 2015
This week I reviewed Astrill’s VPN service to see what kind of features and pricing they had to offer.
- massive server network
- unlimited bandwidth
- 24/7 support
- fast connection
- lots of personal info required to set up
- no month to month plans
- strict refund policy
Overall Score: 69/100
This score is much lower than the 97/100 scored by our top rated VPN – Express VPN.
There were some significant drawbacks with their service in terms or anonymity, but their connection was undeniably fast thanks to their huge network.
To get Astrill, sign up here: Astrill
With the amount of censorship in countries like China, people around the world are turning to VPNs to regain access to the same content Americans enjoy every day.
This easy to use technology uses IP address blocking to open up your access, regardless of your geographic location.
Then there’s the added problem of snoopers.
Government agencies and hackers alike are constantly preying on our information, constantly compromising our privacy and putting sensitive personal information at risk.
With identity theft rates on the rise, and more and more governments turning to internet surveillance as a means of national security, your connection has never been less secure.
VPNs are a simple, fast solution to the problem, but there are just so many out there to choose from.
Here I’ll be reviewing Astrill’s service, to see how they compare to some of the competition out there.
I’ll also go through some of the selling points of a VPN, explain just what they mean in everyday English, and what you can expect in that category.
Will Astrill Work on My Operating System?
Our process of eliminating the duds from the mix begins with operating system compatibility.
If their software isn’t going to work with all of your operating systems, it isn’t even worth considering purchasing.
It’s worth noting too that you can often use VPN technology on more than one device, so make sure their software works with everything you use.
Astrill is compatible with all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux.
Rating: 5/5 – Works on all devices
What Kind of Features Does Astrill Have?
Features are some of the major selling points of a VPN, and what set them apart from each other.
I’ll go through each one step by step, and show you what you should expect from the VPN provider you choose.
Feature #1: Multiple Connections
This feature refers to the number of simultaneous connections you can have. You’ll want at least two, so you can protect your connection on both your home and mobile devices.
Also keep in mind anyone else in your household that may want to use the VPN to protect their information.
Astrill allows up to two simultaneous connections. However, what is odd is that they don’t just allow it, but require it of their service.
For whatever reason, just make sure you have at least two devices to connect to Astrill.
Rating: 4/5 – Two connections required
Feature #2: Money Back Guarantee
Since a VPN is a service rendered completely online, it’s important that you be able to get a refund if you ask for one.
A money back guarantee holds the company accountable to you, and gives them a reason to keep providing you with great service.
With Astrill, it’s a little complicated.
You can get a refund within a week if you don’t use their 7 day trial. If you do however, you’re not eligible at all.
Even if you skip their trial period, refunds are only given for unresolvable technical problems.
Rating: 3/5 – Strict refund conditions
Feature #3: Number of Servers
The number of servers a VPN has can really impact the quality of your connection, so pay close attention to this one.
Not enough servers can mean that too many customers will hop on the same servers, bogging down your connection.
The best VPNs have at least 50 servers to choose from, so don’t settle for anything less than that.
Astrill has a pretty astounding network of servers, with 220 scattered all over the world. This is well above average, and should make for a pretty reliable connection.
Rating: 5/5 – Massive server network
Feature #4: Referral Program
This isn’t the most common feature, but one that can pay big time to have.
Some VPNs do actually offer referral programs that reward customers with free or discounted service for sending new customers their way.
Astrill isn’t one of them though, so you won’t be getting any perks with these guys for telling your friends about their service.
Rating: 0/5 – No referral program
Feature #5: Data Logging
Data logging is the practice of storing users’ internet activity. While it’s really common for other ISPs and web services to do this, it’s absolutely an unacceptable practice for a VPN provider.
The name of the game is privacy with these services, so don’t give anyone your information that’s going to log your activity.
Though they require a lot of personal information to set up an account, Astrill doesn’t log any of their users’ internet activity.
Rating: 5/5 – No data logging
Feature #6: Bandwidth
This refers to the data capacity of a connection — the more you get, the more you can do.
If you’re big on streaming movies and music, don’t settle for anything less than completely unlimited bandwidth with any service plan.
Astrill gives their customers unlimited bandwidth with all of their service plans, so you never have to worry about hitting monthly cap.
Rating: 5/5 – Completely unlimited bandwidth
How Secure Is It?
Security is the name of the game with VPNs, so don’t settle for anything less than the best when it comes to encryption.
The strongest out there is 256 bit, and the best VPNs offer multiple protocols so you can really customize your connection.
Astrill offers multiple security protocols, ranging from simple 128 bit encryption, up to the military grade 256 bit OpenVPN technology.
There are also numerous settings you can adjust to suit your needs, though sifting through them can be a bit overwhelming to anyone less than a VPN savant.
Rating: 5/5 – Strongest military grade encryption
What’s the Set-Up Process Like?
Since not everyone’s familiar with VPNs and how they work, simple set up is key. The concept isn’t overly complicated, so you shouldn’t have to manually configure connections.
Let great software do the work for you, and kick complicated connection set ups to the curb.
Though the set up process is a pretty straightforward download/install procedure, there were a couple of things I didn’t like about it.
For one thing, before you can even download the software, you have to create an account with Astrill.
This requires a lot of personal information – we’re talking address, phone number, the whole shebang. Not exactly ideal for someone who wants to browse anonymously.
On top of that, you also have to use your cell phone to ‘verify’ your account before you can activate it.
No cell service means you’re just SOL until you can get somewhere where you can get your SMS verification code. Irritating, and pretty unnecessary.
Rating: 2/5 – Requires lots of personal information
Is it Easy to Use?
Once you get the VPN set up, it needs to be quick and easy to connect to.
It should be as simple as selecting a server and clicking connect – anything more than that is just going to slow you down unnecessarily.
Astrill’s software was easy enough to use, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it user-friendly.
There’s no way to minimize the dashboard on a Windows system, so that little window is forever in your way.
There’s also a massive number of settings to sift through, making adjusting your security protocol a little more complicated than it should be.
Rating: 3/5 – Unintuitive and overly complicated
Getting signed in to the software was relatively easy, especially since you just use the same credentials you do on the website.
You can also have the program remember you, so you’re not having to keep track of another password.
It’s pretty simple to switch servers with Astrill’s software.
Though there is no real time display of the traffic on them, it’s an undeniably simple process to bounce around from server to server until you get one that works for you.
What If I Need Help?
Any time you purchase an online product, you need to make sure it’s backed up by solid customer service.
Anything less is just going to slow you down, and make technical problems even more frustrating.
Remember, you’re not just paying for a connection, you’re paying for a service, and you should get every penny’s worth out of it.
This is definitely the most integral part of customer service. Their hours will have a huge impact on how fast you get help, so make sure whoever you choose have round the clock support.
Astrill has service reps available any time, day or night to answer your questions, so you should get a response really fast from them if you run into any problems.
Rating: 5/5 – Round the clock support
The more ways you can get in touch with customer service, the better, but you want a company who at least has live support.
Most VPN providers offer at least e-mail support, but the best ones have live chat or phone support as well.
With Astrill, you can get in touch with them through their live chat feature on their site, or by the standard e-mail ticket support system.
Rating: 4/5 – Live chat and e-mail support
Customer Support Test
There’s no better way to see just how good a company’s customer service is than by putting them to the test yourself, so that’s what I did with Astrill.
I made sure to contact them both during peak and off business hours, to see how their response times compared.
E-mail Support Test #1 – Tuesday/4:15 p.m.
I sent my first e-mail inquiry to Astrill during peak business hours, in the hopes of getting them during a high inquiry volume period.
I still got a response in under an hour, and an on the ball answer to my question. So far, so good.
Result: 43 minutes
Rating: 4/5 – Fast and to the point
E-mail Support Test #2 – Wednesday/10:21 p.m.
I sent my second inquiry in to Astrill later in the evening, but still got a really fast response, in less than 45 minutes this time.
Once again, support was helpful and polite, and got right to the point of answering my questions.
Result: 37 minutes
Rating: 5/5 – Prompt, helpful service
Live Chat Support Test #1 – Tuesday/9:29 p.m.
I tested out their live chat support later in the evening for the first time. Though the response was undoubtedly fast, it still took a couple of minutes to get a representative.
In addition to that, I had to repeat myself three times to get a direct answer to my question.
Result: 2 minutes 12 seconds
Rating: 2/5 – Not very helpful service
Live Chat Support Test #2 – Wedneday/11:18 a.m.
My second interaction with Astrill’s live chat support was pretty similar. I couldn’t get service right away, and once again, didn’t get a direct answer to my question.
The whole thing was frustrating – I hate repeating myself.
Result: 2 minutes 47 seconds
Rating: 2/5 – Not the best support
Overall service with Astrill’s support team seemed to be a little touch and go.
While they were undeniably prompt, I ran into some frustrations with the efficacy of their live chat support, having to repeat myself multiple times to get answers.
Overall Support Rating: 13/20 – Fast, but not always helpful
How Fast is Astrill?
There’s not really any way to know just how fast a VPN is until you try it out yourself. However, speed is crucial to a good connection, especially for streaming and downloading.
I ran two speed tests, comparing my connection speed with my standard home network versus Astrill’s.
Typically with any kind of encryption, your connection is at least a little bit slower.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that with Astrill, it was actually just a hair faster.
Rating: 5/5 – Very fast connection
How Much Does Astrill Cost?
The great news for customers is that there are tons of VPNs out there to choose from, which means pricing is really low and competitive right now.
While it’s usually true that you get what you pay for, there’s certainly no reason to pay more than $15 a month for a typical service plan.
Astrill is pretty reasonable priced, with service plans that start out at around $10 per month.
The only thing I didn’t really care for with their pricing model is that you can’t just buy a week or a month.
Their packages start at 6 months’ worth of service and go up from there – not the most flexible plans in the world.
Rating: 3/5 – Low prices, but not very flexible
The X Factor
This final category really has more to do with your overall impression of a company, can be greatly influenced by less tangible things.
Marketing styles, website organization, and the language used on the site can either give you a good feeling, or make you feel like you’re handing your credit card info to the wrong people.
While their website was professional enough, I had a really hard time with the way Astrill ran things.
The over the top amount of personal information that was absolutely required to set up an account seemed to be pretty counter-productive.
The ridiculous policy of requiring an SMS verification code blew my mind. Sure, they have a professional enough product, but I feel like they sort of missed the point.
Rating: 2/10 – Privacy software that violates your privacy
Well, with any luck you feel like one seriously informed shopper. Let’s wrap things up here and see how Astrill did in this review:
- compatible with all operating systems
- 2 simultaneous connections
- 7 day refund policy
- no data logging
- unlimited bandwidth
- HUGE network of servers
- 24/7 support
- fast connection
- strongest encryption
- prompt customer service
- low monthly rates
- no referral program
- strict refund policy
- requires a lot of personal information to set up
- SMS verification required
- unintuitive software
- chat support isn’t always helpful
Overall Score: 69/100
While Astrill has a lot of great features to offer, this isn’t a customer that puts their customers’ anonymity first.
However, if access is your main reason for buying a VPN plan, this one may be worth checking out.