We have just completed an In Depth Review and Full Speed Test of VPNTunnel.SE! VPNTunnel.SE is the very popular VPN service provider based in Sweden. They are best known for their “absolutely no logging policy”, strong encryption, and low pricing. Our editors have had an eye on these guys for quite some time…long before “Anon” came out and endorsed them. But, once that happened, we knew it was time to get on the ball and take a deeper look at their VPN service. So read on for our in depth VPN review of VPNTunnel.SE. We will cover the Web Control Panel, the OpenVPN software, and present Speed Test results.
First up, their Web Control Panel. This is where customers go after signing up with VPNTunnel.SE.
The Dashboard and entire control panel is pretty straight forward. They provide links to the basic stuff you will need to get going, as well some advanced items for power users.
The My Account section gives you the basics regarding your subscription. It will also look to see if you are connected to the VPNTunnel.SE network.
The Software section provides the downloads and information for setup. Windows, Mac, and Linux users get an easy setup file. They do also offer the certificates for a straight OpenVPN install. Plus there is some info on an HTTPS workaround for users that might need it.
The HowTo section is your basic help/support area. Documentation covers everything from setup and install to working with routers.
VPNTunnel.SE offers primarily OpenVPN for customers and is in the process of rolling out a PPTP offering. Their OpenVPN service utilizes a proprietary software package which provides the basic features and functions you expect. Please note that in the screenshots below of the VPNTunnel.SE software we have smudged out some particular such as IP address for protection.
So, lets take a look at that software!
The install is very straight forward on a standard Windows machine. The typical “next, next, next” type install. We should note that this is version 1.0 of the VPNTunnel.SE software. Our contacts inside of VPNTunnel.SE have indicated that a new version of the software will be coming soon. It should have many more new features that will enhance their OpenVPN service. Once that rolls out we will update our VPN review. For now, this VPN review focuses on the current software, v1.0.
Once installed, the software application adds an icon to your system tray and does what you expect it to do – allow you to connect to the VPNTunnel.SE network. The home screen for the VPNTunnel.SE software is the Dashboard where you enter the account credentials. When it is disconnected, it’s pretty plain jane.
Once connected, the Dashboard will give information on your IP address and account status. The log will also indicate that intialization is complete and the image in the upper right hand corner will show you as connected. If you experience any problems, go ahead and save the log and send it to VPNTunnel.SE support via email. Our editors found the VPNTunnel.SE crew pretty responsive in all communications, though we had no problems with install. All emails were responded to within 24 hours. Sometimes much quicker. Just remember that they are located in Sweden!
The next screen in the software is Country Selection. Currently VPNTunnel.SE provides Sweden, NL, Denmark, Germany, and the US. Most of their servers are based in Sweden though. Forewarning on the US based servers: the no logging policy does NOT extend to them. VPNTunnel.SE actually has a blog post on this subject if you want more information. Long story short, if you don’t want logging, stay off the US based servers. Still, these servers come in handy for folks that are overseas and need an american IP address for something like Hulu or Netflix. We should also mention that you need to make your country selection before you connect. Although I guess that’s fairly obvious…Last note on the country selection: the Random Server is a great option if you are experiencing slow speeds or problems connecting. In most cases our editors found that putting it on Random Server gave us a strong connection on the first try with good speeds.
On the Settings screen you will find some basic options like saving the account credentials. Like we said before, this is version 1.0, so cut the guys some slack. They are working on a new version of the software which will provide a lot more features.
The Connection Guard screen implements a standard feature that we believe should be included in all OpenVPN offerings. Connection Guard works by limiting particular applications so that they may only connect through the VPN. This can be especially helpful if the VPN connection ever drops out unexpectedly. Your application would then stop working and lose its connection to the internet. This is a nice safety measure and can easily be implemented for software like web browsers, instant messaging, and file transfer programs to ensure they always go through the VPN.
That’s it for the software review. Lets move on to the speed test!
For our speed test of VPNTunnel.SE, we ran our standard speed test methodology utilizing SpeedTest.net. If you would like to read more on our methodolgy for conducting speed tests, please see our learn page here. To sum up, we first connect to the VPN, open SpeedTest.net, and run a few full speed tests. We record information like Ping, Download, and Upload. We always do the speed tests during the same block of time, on the same host computer. We also attempt multiple runs in order to get a better feel for how the network is performing. Everything we do is an attempt to remove bias and give a more accurate result in terms of speed.
This time our US editor on the East Coast took care of our speed tests. His connection is typical broadband cable with maximum download of 30mbps, and maximum upload of 3mbps. All of our below results are recorded in terms of KiloBytes per second (KB/s). To understand the difference between Mbps, Kbps, and KBps, see our learn page here. Basically, this means anything near 3750 KB/s is a max download, and anything near 375 KB/s is a max upload. The tests were conducted on a Sunday, around 10:00pm eastern time. This time and day should give us a good look at how the VPN network is doing under load conditions. Sunday night in the US is typically a high traffic time, and we prefer to conduct tests during times like that to give a better representation of speeds for customers.
It is also worth mentioning that since VPNTunnel.SE does not support the ability to pick and choose an exact server, it was somewhat difficult for us to test every single server. Our preference is to test every server when we can, and we expect that this server selection feature will be added soon to the VPNTunnel.SE software. Once that happens we will come back through and update our speed test results. What you see below are the country codes and then a server number. SE = Sweden, NL = Netherlands, DK = Germany, and DE = Denmark. As you can quickly see, the bulk of the servers we tested are Swedish servers. Remember, VPNTunnel.SE is based in Sweden and most of their servers are located there. They also have a few servers offering IP’s for other countries. So that’s why you see the SpeedTest.net server location not changing amongst some of the other countries. This is fairly standard practice in the EU area since a single server in say, Sweden, could offer IP addresses for the surrounding countries very easily.
Enough talk, lets see some results!
Selected SpeedTest.Net Results:
Overall, we were pretty pleased with the speeds from VPNTunnel.SE across the board. Especially since we had a report or two from customers indicating extremely slow speeds. Our speed tests clearly show that users can expect some good performance from the VPNTunnel.SE network. The Swedish servers all performed quite well. The Swedish servers we tested averaged a download speed greater than 1000KB/sec. That’s pretty darn quick considering the distance between the tester and the VPN server. One interesting thing to note is that speeds typically fell off after the first run. We’ve found this in other tests before, and we believe it’s a part of the testers cable modem. Most cable services in the US now include “speed burst” or “speed boost” that is designed to enhance the initial connection. These bursts/boosts of speed are designed to die off though, and speeds will decrease as a result. This is why we do multiple test runs on each server and look at an average. Considering that the Swedish servers are the primary offering from VPNTunnel.SE, we would have no problem recommending them or calling them “high speed”. 1000KB/sec, or about 8mbps, is more than enough to stream video over the web, and you shouldn’t notice any issues with regular internet browsing. For specific recommendations on speeds for streaming high def video over the web see our learn article here.
The NL, DK, and DE servers registered speeds slower than the Swedish servers. We expected this result, but were pleasantly surprised with the relatively good speed results we did see. Unfortunately we could not get the software to connect us to anything other than server “number 1” for each of these countries. Still, you’re looking at an average of around 500KB/sec amongst these three countries (NL, DK, and DE). That’s still relatively quick at about 4mbps. The pings did increase but they aren’t terrible – nothing above 150 and certainly nothing in the 200’s. For the most part, we saw consistent speeds from these servers which means we were probably getting a good look at how the network is performing.
Unfortunately we did not get a chance to test the US based servers. For US based users these servers should be relatively fast, but probably not the reason they would want the VPNTunnel.SE service anyway. Most US based users are probably looking for high speed access into the SE servers, which VPNTunnel.SE does a good job providing. We wanted to focus our VPN review on what we felt users were most interested in. It also seemed like the US servers were experiencing some problems which prevented us from connecting to them. However, when we come back around for another update, we will test the US servers.
As far as the encryption strength goes, VPNTunnel.SE does pretty good. Their website advertises 2048 bit Blowfish. Of course this is on the control channel, and not on data or HMAC. If you just got lost, don’t worry, our learn article on OpenVPN encryption will catch you up. We were able to see the 2048 bit in use on some of the servers, but other servers were using 1024 bit on the control channel. Our contact inside VPNTunnel.SE indicated this was not a fluke, and they are still in the process of rolling out 2048 bit to all servers. On the data channel they are using 128bit Blowfish, and for HMAC they have 160bit SHA1. We would have liked to see SHA2 there, but to be honest, most providers are still on SHA1. All in all, their implementation of Blowfish sets them apart from other providers that rely on AES. Take a look at our above Dashboard Connected picture for a screenshot of the log with 1024bit control, 128bit BF data, and 160bit SHA1 HMAC in place.
It’s worth mentioning that shortly before we conducted these tests VPNTunnel.SE had a small period of downtime. Unfortunately this came during a holiday period in Sweden, and it did take them a day or two to fully sort out the problems. In the mean time, some servers were up while others were down. We noticed the issues, as well as our users, who reported on the downtime in the comments section. Once everything was sorted out, the network was up and behaving quite well. With the exception being the US based servers, which was quite interesting considering they were up during the problem, but have been down since the problem was fixed. That entire time the VPNTunnel.SE team was doing a good job communicating with us, and their customer base, via Twitter, Live Help, and their Blog. So, although it was unfortunate and bad timing; it was a nice example of how they do when things get tough! Our verdict there – pretty damn good. $hit happens, as they say!
That’s it for our in depth VPN review and speed test of VPNTunnel.SE! Please make sure to take a look at our editors review and read the customer comments for more insight. As always, don’t forget to leave us your feedback on their service. Keep an eye on our News section for more updates once the new software is out!