Zenmate Review

Zenmate

  • Pricing

    From $7.49 / month
ProPrivacy.com Score 7 out of 10
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Summary

ZenMate is a company known for its free VPN apps, but it now focuses on providing a premium VPN service. Although not as fully-featured as some VPN services out there, it provides everything most VPN users likely want at a rock-bottom price.

Quick Stats

  • ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 67.7 Mbps
  • Jurisdiction Germany
  • Simultaneous connections 5
  • Countries 30

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Pricing

As is increasingly common these days, ZenMate offers a simple one-size-fits-all plan with a fairly high monthly price if paid monthly, which drops dramatically if you purchase a one or two-year subscription.

And it has to be said that its longer-term plans are among the cheapest on the market.

All subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can also take advantage of a 7-day free trial, for which only a valid email address is required. A one-year subscription to McAfee Total Security is also thrown in for free.

Payment is accepted by PayPal or credit card, with card payments processed by Cleverbridge.

Supported Payment Platforms

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Features

Simultaneous connections 5
Countries 30

  • No logs
  • Up to 5 simultaneous devices
  • 35+ server locations
  • Multi-platform support
  • Browser extensions
  • Kill switch (Windows and macOS)

Most of its servers are located in Europe, but ZenMate also runs servers on the East and West Coast United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, various East Asia locations, and Australia.

ZenMate markets itself as an easy-to-use VPN service aimed at the layperson. This is fair enough, but it does mean that its feature set is a little basic.

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Speed and Performance

Speed

Our weighted download speed test results for ZenMate are very average. Max burst speed results are also a somewhat middle-of-the-road but are nevertheless plenty fast enough that you won’t notice any slowdown when connecting to a server in the same geographic area as you.

IP leak tests

ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 67.7

In Windows we detected the odd IPv6 WebRTC leak, so Windows users should disable WebRTC in their browsers or disable IPv6 at the system-level. Alternatively, ZenMate offers its own WebRTC Protect browser add-on for Chrome.

We detected no leaks at all in macOS, although in both macOS and Windows we were a little surprised to see some DNS queries being resolved at a location very close to our true physical location. The DNS translation was being handled by ZenMate’s servers, though, and so does not constitute a DNS leak.

We cannot test mobile devices using an IPv6 connection at this time, but on an IPv4 connection detected no IP leaks of any kind

Does ZenMate unblock Netflix?

ZenMate offers special streaming servers, optimized to unblock a selection of popular streaming services in different countries around the world.

Zenmare Netfli

We tested these servers using our benchmark Netflix US and BBC iPlayer services, and sure enough, they successfully unblocked both platforms. ZenMate runs special Netflix servers based in the US, UK, Germany, and France.

Ease of Use

As already noted, only an email address is needed to sign-up for the free trial, and paying for the full service only additionally requires providing necessary payment details. Dedicated apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Android TV.

Manual OpenVPN setup guides are also available for all major platforms, including Linux and Chrome OS. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the required config files anywhere on the website as all the links redirected to pages that were not useful.

The Windows client

ZenMate’s Windows VPN software looks good and is easy to use.

ZenMate Server list on windows

In keeping with ZenMate’s mantra that simple is the best philosophy, you can select server locations but you cannot select individual servers. You can, however, sort servers for ones that unblock selected streaming services and allow torrenting.

ZenMate windows client settings

You can choose between the OpenVPN, IKEv2 and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols, with OpenVPN being the default.  You can also choose between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, which is handy for defeating moderate levels of VPN censorship. Similarly, the random port selection feature can be effective at defeating simple VPN blocks.

A kill switch is included. Force-closing the app itself to simulate a software crash did not terminate the VPN connection. Force-closing the OpenVPN daemon did, but we were then no longer able to connect to the internet. This means the kills switch uses system-level firewall rules to prevent connections outside the VPN tunnel, which is good.

Experienced VPN users who spot close similarities with the CyberGhost client are not mistaken. They are now both owned by Kape Technologies and seem to share a common server network.

The macOS client

Bar minor OS interface differences, ZenMate’s macOS VPN client looks identical to the Windows one. The Mac app uses OpenVPN only, though, and does not feature random port selection or the ability to switch from UDP to TCP. It does feature a kill switch, however.

Mobile apps

Not surprisingly, the OpenVPN Android app is a simple affair. It works well, however, and offers random port selection and the ability to switch from UDP to TCP. There is no kill switch, although Android 7.0+ has a built-in kill switch that works with any VPN app.

The iOS VPN app looks almost identical to the Android VPN app but uses the IKEv2 protocol and does not offer random port scanning.

Customer Service

Although the website features a live chat-style widget, responses are via email only. We asked some questions that were admittedly rather technical but never received a reply. Let’s just say this didn’t impress us!

There are also setup guides and a few technical trouble-shooter type guides on the website.

Privacy and Security

Jurisdiction

ZenMate itself is based in Germany. This is a country known for its strong data privacy laws, and in 2018 was the first country to fully align its data protection legislation with the GDPR.

Contrary to this, it has also enacted the now invalid-on-human-rights-grounds EU Data Retention Directive into local law. This came into full force in 2016 and requires all telecommunications and internet service providers to retain user metadata for up to 10 weeks. Unfortunately, the definition of “metadata” used by the law includes a list of all websites visited.

Currently, we are unable to determine if the Data Retention Act applies to VPN services based in Germany.

Germany is a close ally of the United States, with the NSA basing its European headquarters in the country.  The 2016 Communications Intelligence Gathering Act authorized Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) extensive powers to monitor all internet traffic entering and leaving the country.

In 2018 ZenMate was acquired by Kape Technologies, a company that now appears to be based in the UK. This is far from ideal since the UK now enforces some of the most extensive mass surveillance laws ever passed anywhere, and as a founding member of the Five Eyes spying alliance, its GCHQ security agency works in very close partnership with the NSA.

Logs

The ZenMate website collects a lot of personal information when you visit it, including your unique internet (IP) address. Its long privacy policy details what it does and does not do with the information collected from its website or which you provide to it when signing up for the service.

Just to stress, this only applies to the website. Although rather brief, the privacy policy clearly (if rather briefly; ZenMate tells us this will change soon) states that no logs are kept when using the VPN service itself:

“The above-mentioned Personal Data is not, at any point, associated with any kind of activity done by the user inside the ZenMate VPN tunnel, which is NOT recorded, logged or stored at all.”

We do wish, though, that it was clearer whether German VPN services are included in the Data Retention Act, and therefore required by law to keep logs for 10 weeks.

Technical security

The Windows app uses the OpenVPN encryption protocol by default, although you can switch to IKEv2 or IPsec. The Android and macOS apps use OpenVPN, while the iOS app uses IKEv2.

When using OpenVPN the data channel is secured using an AES-256-CBC cipher with SHA-256 hash authentication.

Information is not available on settings used for the control channel, although they are probably the same as used by CyberGhost: an AES-256-CBC cipher with SHA256 hash authentication. Control channel: an AES-256 cipher, RSA-4096 key encryption, and SHA384 hash authentication. Perfect forward secrecy is provided by an ECDH-4096 key exchange.

Which is a very strong setup.

ZenMate uses also 100% bare metal servers, which is great news for privacy. As already noted, we detected WebRTC leaks in Windows, but the apps are otherwise secure.

Final Thoughts

ZenMate is an easy-to-use cheap VPN service that does what it says on the tin. As such, we think it delivers great value for money for the more casual VPN user.

Scores on the doors

8/10

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

44 Comments

  1. Pedro Domingues

    on August 15, 2018
    Reply

    I really really hate Zenmate VPN. I use the windows version. It's really really slow most of the times, it's buggy, customer service seems to be automated responses only, however they put some "human" names in their response emails. I just feel they robbed me. This is NOT a security solution at all. And I will not even talk about tracking, because all the problems I cite above should be the base of such a software. Stay away from it

  2. Steve Anderson

    on May 7, 2018
    Reply

    After my account being hacked and warnings from Zenmate to change my passwords due to their ineptness at running a professional service. Zenmate's customer service is all automated, you cannot get through to them. Now I see they are soliciting money via crowd-funding Crowdcube to rip more people off. Do not trust this auto site, the sales pitch is pro-perfect and all smoke and mirrors and deceptive reviews. Emails falsly indicate a real person is sending emails and that if you reply, a person will be in contact however a cyber bot answer is all you get. I had an initial problem with my difficulty cancelling my auto-renewel. I was too late via their difficult system however I had sent an email in time for cancellation. They still debited my credit card and they refuse to refund even though they can see I have not logged into my unwanted account. How can these people do this to customers and then ASK CUSTOMERS TO INVEST IN THEM? Beware Beware beware. I see professional writers have also slated the non-existent customer service. It is not just my bad experience. I have asked them many times and if they had customer service, they would see that it is just and fair to refund me as the service paid for was never used, it was cancelled on time but their robot has no heart nor brain. My business is quality performance assessment in tourism and customer service is integral for business success. Zenmate, your speeds are reviewed by others as slow at times, your marketing is deceptive and your customer service is very, very poor. Send me another grovelling request to give you more money and I will have to remind readers of your lack of integrity and lacking performance standards.

  3. David H

    on May 2, 2018
    Reply

    I have been using Zenmate for over 3 years. I recently noticed that my pricing had changed from GBP to double that amount in EUR as well as being overcharged for 5 months at EUR 119 per month but cannot recall receiving any notification. Zenmate have been quick to refund the overcharge. However, they have not been forthcoming with any explanation and couldn't even bother to apologize. I also tried to cancel my subscription and got into a discussion on how and when which in the end came down to timing. Their records show that I cancelled shortly before the expiration of the subscription month but after they had taken the next month's subscription. After an exchange of correspondence and some days later, they summarily cancelled my Zenmate Premium but have not refunded the month's subscription. Again, no explanation or apology other than for a 2/3 day delay in a reply. I have written to them twice subsequently but they are ignoring my messages. I have no complaints about the Zenmate service and have been very happy with their product. I am keen to try their WebRTC leak prevention. However, their attitude to customers severely lets them down. They certainly need to improve before attempting to raise crowdfunding for future development.

  4. Ozgur

    on June 30, 2017
    Reply

    Paid account got hacked, can't recover or cancel. Somebody successfully hacked my paid account. I know because an automatically generated email from Zenmate informed me. Their recovery link was a dead end. I tried to contact the support link multiple times but their customer service is non-existent. I can't login to cancel (because somebody took the account over) and don't know if the credit card info is safe.

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