Before you consider using the free VPN Betternet, please consider this. A VPN requires huge amounts of server capacity. Each server that you want to connect from costs thousands of dollars per month to lease and maintain. How do you expect a free VPN that makes no revenue to support such infrastucture? Consider the following about a free VPN:
- The Connection – to use a VPN properly means 100% uptime, otherwise you are susceptible to data breaches and attacks, as well as your IP Address being found out
- Connection Speed – Hardware limitations and peak load speeds cause stress on the server. This slows down the speed of your connection sometimes to a stand still. So that movie that you are streaming might not even stream at all.
- Ease of Use – Most free VPNs are slow and slow down your computer.
That is why we recommend a paid VPN. The paid VPN we think is the best on the market is ExpressVPN.
Our top VPN scored 97/100, check them out here: Express VPN.
This week I reviewed a free VPN service to see how it compared to paid plans. Here’s what I learned about Betternet.
- unlimited simultaneous connections
- fast connection
- easy to use
- totally free
- no version for Mac available
- very limited server selection
- paid for by third party advertising
Overall Score: 48.5/100
Betternet offers a surprisingly fast connection, but their advertising deals mean your cookies get accessed by third parties.
For a small fee every month, you can get anonymous browsing and privacy with options like Express VPN.
To get Betternet, sign up here: Betternet
Thanks to our ability to sync an app with every part of our lives, our personal information has never been more vulnerable.
With the convenience of online banking, shopping, and everything else, our information is everywhere in cyberspace, and more people are falling victim to crimes like identity theft as a result.
Everywhere you go, open networks prompt your mobile devices to automatically connect.
While these networks are no doubt convenient, they’re also hotspots for predators seeking unprotected connections. You can make sure your data never goes naked by using a VPN.
When you sign up for a VPN service, you get a software bundle that allows you to access a worldwide network of servers.
When you choose a location and connect, your data is encrypted and routed to their secure server.
Not only this, but your IP address is blocked, and you’re given access to any content that’s available in that country, effectively getting you past internet censorship and geo-restrictions.
To a beginner, VPNs and their various features can seem overly technical and complicated – they’re not.
I’ll decode the technical mumbo jumbo here and explain how it all works, and we’ll check out Betternet and see what they have to offer.
Will Betternet Work on My Operating System?
The easiest way to figure out which VPN is going to be best for you is start with a simple process of elimination.
Operating system compatibility is the first step – is their software going to work on your device?
Keep in mind most companies allow you to connect to their network with more than one device at a time, so make sure whatever you choose works on everything you use.
Betternet’s compatibility works a bit differently than other VPN programs.
Their actual software is only compatible with Android, Windows, and iOS, but they also have widgets or add-on extensions that you can use with Chrome and Firefox.
Basically, if you’re using a Linux device, but also running a Firefox or Chrome browser, you can still use Betternet, even though they don’t have software for those systems specifically.
Rating: 3.5/5 – Chrome and Firefox extensions available
What Kind of Features Does Betternet Have?
These features make up the real bulk of what you’re getting when you pay for a VPN service.
Since Betternet is actually an entirely free VPN, let’s see what comes with their service, and if you’re really getting what you need with them.
Feature #1: Multiple Connections
Remember how I said you can usually connect a VPN to more than one device at a time? This is where it comes in.
Most companies allow you to connect at least two devices simultaneously to a VPN – usually a home and mobile device – for no additional fee.
Since Betternet is a free VPN service, you can install and use it on as many devices as possible.
You never actually set up an account with them, so there are no limits on how many devices you can actually use with their program.
Rating: 5/5 – Unlimited connections
Feature #2: Money-Back Guarantee
It goes without saying that being able to get a refund is a good thing, but that’s especially true for digital services.
You’re not going to know for a fact how high of quality these products are until you actually use them, so a money-back guarantee gives you peace of mind that you aren’t getting scammed.
Of course, Betternet is actually free, so there’s no need for a refund policy with these guys, but usually you want to look for a company that offers at least a 30-day guarantee.
Rating: 5/5 – Free service
Feature #3: Number of Servers
This is an important feature to pay attention to.
The number of servers available to customers can have a really big impact on the quality and speed of the connection, so make sure you go for a company that has at least 50 servers to choose from.
Of course, server location also impacts the content you have access to, so make sure they have plenty of locations in places like the US for access to media content that may be geo-restricted.
Betternet doesn’t give a list of their exact server locations, and honestly, even with a bit of investigation, it’s hard saying how many they actually have.
When you use their software, you’re given a choice between a US or UK server, and then there’s an option to just use the fastest connection.
However, when I selected this option, I was greeted with a lot of ads geared towards people looking for companionship in the UAE, so it seems like the actual server, or at least the IP address, may have been in that region.
For the sake of argument though, I’m definitely going to say Betternet has less than 50 server locations, and only two to actually choose from.
Rating: 0/5 – Only 2 servers to choose from
Feature #4: Referral Program
Again, this is a feature that primarily applies to paid services, but one that you definitely want to keep your eyes peeled for.
Some companies actually offer you free or discounted service when you send new customers their way, so be sure to see if this is a perk you can count on.
Rating: 0/5 – No perks for referrals
Feature #5: Data Logging
Data logging is the unpleasant practice of storing users’ internet activity.
Since a big part of the point of VPNs is to ensure your privacy and anonymity, this is a big no-no – make sure whoever you go with doesn’t collect any of your data.
When you use their software, they literally require zero information from you – not even an email address. Everything is anonymous.
Rating: 5/5 – No data logging
Feature #6: Bandwidth
Bandwidth refers to the data capacity of your connection. Depending on the company’s limitations, it can affect the speed of your connection, so make sure it’s unlimited.
As most other companies do, Betternet includes unlimited bandwidth with their software. No service plans, no limitations.
Rating: 5/5 – No bandwidth restrictions
How Secure Is It?
VPNs have two primary draws: security and access to blocked content. When you connect to a VPN’s network, your data is encrypted, keeping your information secure.
There are two basic strengths of encryption here to consider – 128 and 256 bit, the latter of which is the tough stuff.
Most VPNs at least give you the option of using 256-bit encryption to protect your data.
The trouble of course is that the more heavily encrypted your connection is, the slower it tends to run, so here’s where it’s nice to have options.
Ideally, you want one that you can turn down the security a bit for high-bandwidth activities like streaming and downloading, and then crank back up when you have to access sensitive information.
According to Betternet, their software offers both 128 and 256-bit encryption, though in my experience it’s not clear how you would alternate between the two.
The software interface is extremely simple, and nowhere in it did I see security options.
Rating: 3.5/5 – Top rate encryption, but limited options
What’s the Setup Process Like?
Since not everyone’s familiar with how VPNs work, it’s important that setup is a breeze.
I’ve used a lot of VPNs, and while most of them have a simple download and install setup process, there are a few that make it excessively difficult.
Sometimes you’ll have to manually configure connections, which usually entails downloading a zip file and messing with a lot of your network settings – in short, a total PITA.
Betternet is one of the simple ones. When you go to their website, just click the download button, and it will direct you to the software package that’s compatible with your system.
Just download the package, run the installation wizard, and you’re ready to go.
Rating: 5/5 – Anyone can set it up
Is it Easy to Use?
Once you get your VPN set up, using it should be as simple as selecting a server location and connecting.
If you have to import a location file every time you want to try a new server, or constantly reenter your login details, it’s not the norm, and it’s time to look at more convenient options.
Betternet is no doubt incredibly easy to use. Once you fire up the software, just choose a server, or select the option that picks the one with the fastest connection.
From there, just hit connect, and you’re up and running.
My one complaint with Betternet though is that the program itself is severely limited by that oversimplified design.
There are no options, there is no way to adjust your location – you just have to close it down and start all over again. It’s easy to use, but it’s not convenient.
Rating: 3/5 – Not user-friendly
This is one category you don’t have to worry about at all with Betternet.
Some programs have you sign in every time you restart your device, but with this one, there is no login information, so there is no logging in. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
In most cases, changing servers with a VPN is as simple as disconnecting, selecting from a drop down menu, and reconnecting.
With BetterVPN, there is no way to do it once you’ve started the program – you actually have to close it, reopen it, and then reselect a server.
What If I Need Help?
Even if you’re using a really simple VPN like Betternet, it definitely doesn’t hurt if there’s someone you can get in touch with when you start having problems.
Here are a couple of things to look for when checking out a company’s customer service.
Ideally, the company you go with should have round-the-clock support. This feature is the biggest indication of how fast you can expect to receive help.
Honestly, Betternet doesn’t specify whether their support is 24/7.
Generally speaking though, this is a feature that companies want you to know about if they offer it, so I’m going to assume that Betternet doesn’t.
Rating: 0/5 – 24/7 support unlikely
This feature refers to the ways you can get in touch with a company’s customer support.
Ideally, you should be able to reach them by email and at least one instant channel, like by phone or live chat.
Betternet only offers email support at this point, so there is no instant way to get assistance from them – just the waiting game.
Rating: 1/5 – No live support option
Customer Support Test
The only way to really know how effective a customer support team is going to be is by putting them to the test, so that’s exactly what I did with Betternet.
I contacted them twice, both during peak and off business hours, to see how their response times and the quality of their support varied.
Emmail Support Test #1 – Saturday/9:00 p.m.
I sent my first service request to Betternet long after typical business hours on the weekend.
I was actually pleasantly surprised with how quickly they got back to me – within 4 hours I had a response from their team.
However, their service wasn’t as helpful as I was hoping. I wasn’t given an exact answer to my question, but a vague response that really didn’t get to the root what I needed to know.
They were polite, but service definitely could have been more concise.
Result: 3 hours 50 minutes
Rating: 2.5/5 – Didn’t answer my question
Email Support Test #2 – Sunday/8:47 a.m.
My next support request with Betternet yielded similar results.
They definitely got back to me in a pretty decent amount of time, but I still couldn’t get an answer to my original question regarding their server locations.
Result: 2 hours 51 minutes
Rating: 3/5 – Fast service
Overall I was actually really impressed with how fast and responsive Betternet’s customer support was.
However, it was obvious in my interactions with them that there was a significant language barrier, and I’m wondering if that contributed to their vague and unhelpful responses.
Overall Support Rating: 5.5/10 – Fast, but not helpful
How Fast Is Betternet?
Just like with customer service, there’s no better way to see how fast a VPN’s connection is than by putting it to the test.
I ran two speed tests, one on my home internet connection, and one while connected with Betternet, to see how the two compared.
Typically you get a lag of around 2 mbps when you use a VPN, just because your connection is loaded with some extra security, and that’s about what I got with Betternet.
It was a little bit slower than my standard connection, but not enough to really impact my overall experience.
Rating: 4/5 – Only a little slower
How Much Does Betternet Cost?
With so many options for VPNs available, you can usually find a pretty good deal. Most services won’t cost you more than $15 a month.
Of course, Betternet is a free service, so you can’t beat that. But of course, like with everything in life, there’s a catch.
Though your experience with Betternet is ad-free, they make their money by allowing third party companies to advertise to you from their servers, using your cookies.
So, even though Betternet doesn’t log IP address or internet activity, they allow their third party advertisers to use your cookies to try to sell to you on websites you visit while you use their service.
It’s free, but only technically – you give up a little privacy instead.
Rating: 3/5 – Only free thanks to marketing
The X Factor
This category has more to do with your overall impression of the company you get service from.
Sometimes it’s that their marketing seems a little over the top, or that the operation is a bit shady, but either way, the X factor can usually make or break a decision for potential VPN customers.
With Betternet, it was definitely their vagueness that made me suspicious.
When you download their software, you’re directed to another site to do so, which made me immediately wary of picking up some spam by accident instead.
In addition, though it’s nice to have a free adless VPN available, the way in which Betternet makes their service free is just a little more than I’m willing to pay.
They may not be getting my browsing data, but my cookies are off limits as far as I’m concerned.
Rating: 0/20 – Sketchy operation over all
I know that seems like a lot to cover for just shopping for a VPN, but with any luck this comprehensive guide has given you a really good idea of what to look for.
Let’s review and see how Betternet did.
- compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS
- unlimited simultaneous connections
- service is completely free
- no data logging
- no bandwidth restrictions
- top-rate encryption
- easy to set up
- easy to use
- fast customer support
- fast connection
- completely free service
- Not compatible with Mac or Linux
- very limited server network
- unable to choose between locations during use
- no referral program
- unable to select security options
- very limited software
- limited support options
- not the most helpful staff
- service powered by 3rd party advertising
Overall Score: 48.5/100
Unfortunately, this is just a class case of you get what you pay for. Betternet is a great free option – their connection is fast, and even their support team is pretty quick to respond.
However, the shady practice of selling out their customers to third party advertisers, coupled with extreme limitations of their primitive software leads me to think it’s just not worth it.
Options like Betternet work in a pinch, but ultimately you’re gambling a lot, and it’s generally not worth the risk.
There are plenty of reasonably priced options like ExpressVPN that can offer you privacy, without a catch.
To get Betternet, sign up here: Betternet
To see the highest rated VPN that scored a 97/100, click here: Express VPN.