CactusVPN Review

CactusVPN is a respected VPN provider based in Moldova. It offers a reliable service with apps for all platforms and a global network of servers. However, it does have much fewer server locations when compared to some of its main competitors. 

Strong OpenVPN encryption with a 256-bit AES cipher ensures watertight privacy and security, and this VPN comes with a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and a trustworthy no-logs policy.

CactusVPN also throws in a Smart DNS service for free, which helps for unblocking streams. Overall, this service is easy to use, is a good option for VPN beginners, offers unlimited simultaneous connections, and permits torrenting on a choice of servers. 

Our Score
4.7 / 5
Pricing
$3.95/mo - $9.99/mo
Simultaneous connections
Unlimited
Server Locations
22 countries
Jurisdiction
Moldova
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average)
33.3 Mbps
Available on:
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Does CactusVPN unblock Netflix?

Netflix
iPlayer

CactusVPN throws in a free Smart DNS service with its VPN that is said to unblock hundreds of international websites and services. Thus, Cactus should be able to unblock the majority of streaming services that you're interested in – either with the VPN or its Smart DNS service. We tested CactusVPN's UK server to see if it would access BBC iPlayer outside the UK, and we found the service to work without a hitch!

Features

Speed and Performance

At ProPrivacy.com we use a custom server-based speed test system to provide you with accurate speed test data for all of the world's leading VPNs.

We test VPNs three times a day using the OpenVPN UDP protocol for consistency across providers. We test servers in the UK, the USA, and South Africa for average and max speeds to give you a reliable sense of how the VPN is performing. Below you can see the results for a three month period in the late summer of 2020.

Cactus VPN Speed test

As you can see from our results, CactusVPN’s server speeds are pretty good. An average download speed of 33.3 Mbit/s and a max download speed of 215 Mbit/s definitely puts CactusVPN near the top half of the market. It also means that it is definitely suitable VPN for streaming in HD and doing other data-intensive online tasks.

On the other hand, you will notice that a number of its biggest competitors do perform better, so if a fast VPN is important to you there are certainly better options available on the market.

IP and DNS Leak Tests

To ensure that the VPN apps are working as they should, we tested for data leaks that will put your privacy at risk.

To do so, we used our in-house leak testing tool and found the VPN to suffer from no critical IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks – on either Windows or macOS. This means you can trust this VPN to provide the privacy it claims. To test CactusVPN for leaks yourself please visit our VPN leak test tool.

Price

As with most competing VPN services, CactusVPN provides a number of different subscription plans to prospective customers. Those plans differ only in price, depending on the length of time that you are willing to commit to. In other words, the features remain the same, no matter which subscription length period you decide to opt for. 

A single month's subscription to Cactus VPN will set you back $9.99, which is pretty standard across the industry.

A three-month plan is available at a cost of $23.99. This works out at $7.99 per month (when you factor in the 20% discount), which is, again, pretty standard fare.

A one-year plan reduces the price further to just $4.58 per month (paid in a single installment of $54.99). And a two-year plan has been introduced that makes the VPN just $3.95 per month.

The longer subscription prices are fairly competitive and definitely make CactusVPN a service that we consider on the lower end of the price spectrum (though not, by any stretch, cheap when compared to some of its competitors). With that said, Cactus does offer unlimited simultaneous connections on a single subscription, which is definitely handy for users with lots of devices, and keeps the pricing competitive.

Payment can be made with either debit or credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrency, and other forms of payments. In addition, CactusVPN offers a free 3-day trial for its VPN and a 7-day trial for its Smart DNS service. With a 30-day money-back guarantee to ensure you can get your money back if you change your mind after subscribing, too.

Privacy and Security

CactusVPN is based in Moldova, a location that is generally considered an excellent place for a privacy service to be situated. It also has a strict no-logs VPN policy, which means that it never stores IP addresses, traffic logs, connection timestamps, used bandwidth, or session duration information. Thus, there’s no worry of usage data being handed over to third parties. 

That being said, CactusVPN does state that it may “send personally identifiable information about you to third parties” if they have your consent or if they receive a warrant that requires them to disclose available information to the authorities.

This means that your name, date of purchase, and payment method could, in theory, be disclosed to law enforcement. This is pretty standard fare and is as good as a VPN privacy policy ever gets. As a result, we consider CactusVPN to be excellent in terms of privacy.

Encryption

In Android and Windows, OpenVPN is implemented with an AES-256-CBC, SHA256 HMAC authentication (on both data and control channels), and an RSA-2048 handshake. Keys are distributed for connections using Perfect Forward Secrecy (ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384.) This implementation of the OpenVPN protocol meets our minimum standards for VPN security, which means that it is trustworthy and future-proof.

The Mac and iPhone VPN clients only support IKEV2 encryption rather than OpenVPN. However, this is a well-implemented and secure protocol that we have no quibbles about relying on for privacy and data security purposes.

All in all, this is a secure encryption implementation that you can rely on. This makes CactusVPN extremely good for data privacy purposes. We are also happy to see that CactusVPN has improved these standards since a few years ago, which means it is working hard to keep itself up to date in terms of security.

Final thoughts

CactusVPN is a much better VPN than the vast majority of services on the market. It is good for unblocking censored or geo-restricted websites and services.

Torrenting via P2P is permitted on a choice of 12 servers, which should be fine for most people's needs. And the service is secure thanks to its no-logs policy, strong encryption, and kill-switch feature.

OpenVPN encryption is implemented securely and is more than adequate enough for most people's needs. CactusVPN provides a 3-day VPN free trial, as well as a 7-day free trial of its Smart DNS service. Additionally, if you take the plunge and purchase a subscription, you'll have a 30-day money-back guarantee to fall back.

Perhaps the only drawback with this service is its lack of server location choices and slightly slower speeds than its main competitors. Despite this, CactusVPN is a good all-round VPN that we enjoy using and that we have few criticisms of. You could do a lot, lot worse.

Visit CactusVPN  

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

34 Comments

H.D.Brandt
on August 27, 2019
Reply
I am still unable to utilize Cactus VPN. I have sent them a second notice today. It downloaded, but would not accept a password. I attempted to re-register with the promo code but was informed that that person (me) was already registered. I do understand that they are a fairly new company, but if they do not respond I will have try another VPN service. At this time they have sent no reply although on the screen there is a message that an email will be sent. Any help would be appreciated Thank you, H. D. Brandt
Norman Bickerdike
on February 22, 2019
Reply
Really cant fault the service or tech support. The client software is very easy to install and use and sets everything up automatic. I can not recommend highly enough. Norman
Ann Bone
on October 26, 2018
Reply
I have been with Cactus for a couple of years now . The system is very good and constantly keeps abreast of the changing climate of VPN servers . On the rare occasions that anything goes wrong the customer service is excellent , they respond quickly and are extremely efficient at resolving any issues . Highly recommended .
BM
on May 23, 2018
Reply
Terrible customer service and no refund. Their connection always drops, I can't complete a few GB downloads. They sent this text for every problem, Please try the following: Connect to different VPN servers (cities). Connect using different VPN protocols. Disable your antivirus or firewall if you have any installed. They can block the connection. If you have a router, check if it supports PPTP and L2TP VPN passthrough and if it's enabled. If the problem still persists, let me know more about your problem: On what device (PC, phone, tablet, TV, etc) and operating system (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, etc) you try to set up our services? Did you use the CactusVPN app or created the connection manually? What error do you get? Don’t ignore your system's errors. Many times the careful reading of messages helps to fix the problem. Tell us your router model, if you have one. And at the final they want to trouble shot remotely via Team Viewer, I doubt they know what kind of service they are selling, why people pay for VPN. And anything with Google a thumb down for me. I can't trust Google in any manner, they don't allow you use their service without collect your data.
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