(Editors’ Note: Encrypt.me is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server controlled by the VPN company. All your web traffic travels through that tunnel, hiding it from anyone on your network and your ISP—which is good, because ISPs can now sell your data to advertisers. You also appear to have the IP address of the VPN server, further protecting your privacy.
VPNs are important and effective tools, but they won’t protect against every threat. Using two-factor authentication, antivirus software, and a password manager will go a long way to keeping you fully secure. If you need even greater anonymity, you’ll be better served by using Tor, or a VPN that can access the Tor network. This does far more to obfuscate what you do online and doesn’t require you to trust a VPN company, but it’s at a great cost to your internet speed.
How Much Does Encrypt.me Cost?
A monthly subscription with Encrypt.me, the Unlimited Plan, costs $9.99. The average price of the VPNs I’ve reviewed is about $10.21 per month, making Encrypt.me an affordable option. A slightly higher price can be merited, however, depending on what you get for your money. Editors’ Choice winner NordVPN, for example, costs $11.95 but justifies the expense with numerous features and a quality experience. Meanwhile, Mullvad VPN offers an incredibly robust service for just over $5 per month.
As with most VPN services, Encrypt.me offers longer-term subscriptions at a discount, but Encrypt.me’s Annual Plan doesn’t compare favorably with competitors. The Annual Plan costs $99.99, and there’s no difference in price between the Annual and Unlimited plans. The average price for an annual subscription among the VPNs we’ve tested is $71.87. Kaspersky Secure Connection has the most affordable annual subscription of any service we’ve reviewed, at a mere $29.99. That said, we recommend you avoid a long-term subscription at first. It’s better to try out a VPN to see if it fits your life before forking over cash for a multi-month subscription.
With either the monthly or annual subscription, Encrypt.me lets you use an unlimited number of devices simultaneously. Most companies allow up to five simultaneous connections on one account, but many are starting to offer more. Along with Encrypt.me, Avira Phantom VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN all allow unlimited simultaneous connections. (Note that IPVanish VPN is owned by j2 Global, which owns PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
This is where it gets confusing: Encrypt.me also offers a variety of other subscription plans and “passes.” The difference is that plans are ongoing and renew automatically. Passes, on the other hand, are one-offs. Both options allow unlimited data. You can opt for a $3.99 weekly pass, a $9.99 monthly pass, and a $99.99 year-long pass. It’s unusual to see a service offer flexible pricing like this. The week-long pass, for instance, is a useful option if you’re traveling or are looking for an ephemeral “burner” experience.
We generally like VPN services that have flexibility in their pricing, but Encrypt.me spreads out its offerings across several pages and links. It’s a confusing experience. It’s better to have all the options lined up so you can compare them and make the choice that works for you—especially when there are as many choices as Encrypt.me offers.
In addition to the plans and passes, there’s also a Teams option, which is geared towards corporate VPN customers. Pricing starts at $15.98 per month for two accounts and goes up to $1,491.51 per month for 249 accounts. Encrypt.me says that larger orders are also available.
If you like the idea of members of your family having individual accounts, you can choose the Families option. For $12.99 per month or $149.99 per year, you get five Encrypt.me accounts for family members, each with unlimited data and an unlimited number of devices. But if you can already use an unlimited number of devices on a single account, it’s much less expensive to simply hand out those credentials to every person in your family. I’m not sure this option makes sense.
If you want to go even cheaper, Encrypt.me has a $2.99 per month Mini Plan that limits you to 5GB of data. Notably, Editors’ Choice winner ProtonVPN offers a $5 per month plan with no data limit.
Encrypt.me does offer a 14-day free trial, which you can use without providing your credit card information. If you’re considering this service, We highly recommend you start here and make sure it works for you. ProtonVPN has the best free plan I’ve seen. It places no limit on the amount of data you can use but does restrict you to three servers and one device. Still, it’s hard to beat free.
While the Encrypt.me free trial does not require a credit card, major credit cards are the only payment option for Encrypt.me. Other services allow anonymous payment options, like cryptocurrency or gift cards. Editors’ Choice winner Mullvad VPN will even accept cash payments sent to its HQ.
It’s unusual to encounter a VPN that limits access to P2P or BitTorrent, so it’s surprising that Encrypt.me has a complicated relationship with file sharing. The company explained to me that all P2P activity is blocked in the free trial, and it must be manually unlocked by contacting support after you’ve purchased a subscription. I’m glad that the company allows P2P and BitTorrent for its paid members, but that’s a tedious process that needs to be improved. TorGuard VPN, by contrast, is a service built around serving the needs of seeders and leechers.
One unique feature Encrypt.me offers is Private End-Points, which lets you roll your own VPN. You simply deploy Encrypt.me’s software on your own server, or a cloud-based option like Amazon AWS. “Simply,” is, of course, a relative term. Self-hosting provides a lot of assurance and control, but also requires knowledge and patience. I’d advise against tackling this unless you are already comfortable with the technologies and services involved. Other self-hosted VPN options exist as well, such as Jigsaw’s Outline.
There are many ways to create a VPN connection. We prefer OpenVPN, which has a reputation for speed and reliability, as well as being an open-source protocol. That means its code has been picked over and audited for any potential vulnerabilities. I’m pleased to see that Encrypt.me uses OpenVPN in its Android, Fire OS, and macOS apps. The iOS and Windows apps from Encrypt.me use IKEv2, another strong option.
WireGuard, another open-source option, is likely the future of VPNs. Encrypt.me does not currently support WireGuard, which isn’t surprising. The technology is so new that only a few VPNs have fully embraced it. That said, I’d like to see Encrypt.me roll out WireGuard in the near future.
Servers and Server Locations
The number of server locations and their distribution is an important consideration when choosing a VPN. While companies will focus their efforts on the regions that earn them the most customers, more locations means that users have more choices for spoofing their locations. It also makes it easier to find an available server when you’re away from home.
Encrypt.me offers servers in 75 countries, far more than the majority of VPN services, but with only 120 total servers. ExpressVPN, for example, has perhaps the best global coverage, with servers in 94 countries—far more than the 51-country average. Most of Encrypt.me’s servers are located in North America and Europe, which is typical for a VPN. The company deserves praise for greatly expanding its footprint, now boasting servers in two African nations and five South American countries—two regions completely ignored by most competitors. Encrypt.me does not, however, offer servers in regions with restrictive internet policies, such as China, Russia, or Turkey.
More on this unusual design choice later.
While more is always better, the correlation between the total number of servers provided by a VPN and the quality of service is not as strong as you might expect. As I’ll show later in this review, Encrypt.me earns good speed test results despite having only 120 servers. CyberGhost currently leads in this category with nearly 6,000 servers available.
Virtual servers are software-defined servers, meaning that one hardware server can play host to many virtual ones. Virtual locations are servers, virtual or otherwise, that are configured to appear somewhere other than where they are physically located. Neither are necessarily privacy threats, but we prefer that companies are clear about where hardware is located, and who owns that hardware.
Encrypt.me tells me that it doesn’t use any virtual servers, and that each server is where it claims to be. The company says that it owns the majority of its hardware, and that its leased hardware is secured according to best practices. Some companies have made their security practices very public. ExpressVPN and NordVPN, for instance, have tamper-resistant diskless servers.
Your Privacy With Encrypt.me
An unscrupulous VPN company could monitor and intercept all your online activities. That’s why it’s important to understand each company’s position on privacy before you sign up. In general, I’m surprised and disappointed with Encrypt.me’s policies, especially considering the amount of information it gathers.
Cloak Holdings, LLC and parent company NetProtect own Encrypt.me. (The company has been acquired by J2 Global, which owns PCMag’s publisher Ziff Davis.) It is based in the US and operates under US law. The company says it responds to legally binding requests for data, but it employs a legal team to ensure such requests are not “overreaching.” This is pretty standard among VPN companies. Some VPNs choose to incorporate outside the US to shield customers from legal requests for information.
Encrypt.me does not publish a transparency report, which would outline how many requests for information the company has received and how the company responded. Nor does it have a warrant canary, which indicates whether or not the company has received secret requests for information.
A representative for the company told me that Encrypt.me’s only source of revenue is VPN subscriptions, which is good, since a VPN company shouldn’t profit from user data. The company does not log any information about the websites its clients visit, nor the applications that clients use.
The company does log some information. On a per-device basis, Encrypt.me stores the device’s operating system, a connection timestamp, the amount of data sent in the session, and the device’s IP address. Connection time and IP addresses are deleted on a rolling basis every 16 days. The operating system data is stored for as long as you have an account with Encrypt.me. The other data is aggregated. According to the company, this this information is retained is to enable customer service.
Encrypt.me deserves praise for its honesty in discussions with me, a reporter, but the company should make this information more transparent for all customers. It also collects and retains a large amount of information. Other VPN companies gather far less information or at least delete it faster.
Several VPN companies have begun releasing the results of third-party audits, in order to establish their privacy bona fides. Encrypt.me was audited in 2016, and the results of a second, comprehensive audit of its apps was released in late 2019. Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear has similarly committed to releasing annual security audits, and it does so publicly. While audits are imperfect tools, we like to see companies that have made the effort to have their operations investigated publicly.
It can be difficult to draw definitive judgments about a VPN’s security and privacy practices, as those are typically hidden from reviewers and customers alike. As is the case with most security products, trust is key. If, for whatever reason, you do not feel you can trust a particular company, you should look elsewhere.
Hands On With Encrypt.me
I installed Encrypt.me’s client on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. It’s disappointing that the app’s design has not improved since the last time we reviewed it.
On Windows, the Encrypt.me app lives in your system tray. When you click the icon, a window appears that vanishes whenever you click away. Is it too small? Too hard to see? Too bad. It’s bolted to that spot on your screen and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is puzzling since Encrypt.me’s website shows a mockup of a large, legible application on a laptop screen.
While I don’t like the Encrypt.me app, I do like that it is straightforward. With a single button push to start your connection and default to the fastest server available, it’s fast and simple to get started. The Stop Encrypting button ends your session.
I can overlook a clunky client to a point (Private Internet Access had a truly awful user experience for years) but there are just too many oddities here. If you want to switch to a different server, for example, you click the map Pin button in the upper right corner. This deploys a long window that stretches from top to bottom. It might be useful to see the entire slate of servers in a single place, but this looks like no one has tested the app’s UI. You can also view the available servers in the Settings menu.
Another odd choice: the app makes references in the settings panel to “Transporters,” which is confusing. Is this Star Trek? Popular action film franchise The Transporter? It turns out that “Transporter” is what Encrypt.me calls its servers. The company can call them whatever it likes, but it would help if this were clear to the user. PCMag much prefers VPN apps that make their servers searchable and sortable. Encrypt.me also doesn’t include information about its servers beyond location. There’s no way to tell if the Cleveland server is more crowded or higher latency than the Chicago server, so why bother telling me they’re different servers? ProtonVPN lets you choose a broad location from a map, or drill down to specific servers with information about each. TunnelBear goes in a different direction, with a fully graphical interface built around a map, but that is easier to use than Encrypt.me.
Clicking Settings opens a new, larger window with few options. You can, for instance, manage a list of trusted Wi-Fi networks. An odd feature is that the app trusts cellular and Ethernet connections by default, which doesn’t seem like the best choice. it’s also not particularly relevant for my device, which has neither.
I was surprised to find that in the Account tab that I was currently enrolled under the A Plan. Is that short for “annual?” Is there a B Plan somewhere? Not that I saw. This is a tiny point, but it’s indicative of the confusing nature of the Encrypt.me app. You could argue that such minimalism is in service of a “set and forget” model, but unless the user understands what to set, they probably won’t feel comfortable enough to forget.
When you use a VPN, you expect that it won’t leak information about you or your online activities. In testing, we confirmed that Encrypt.me did indeed change my IP address and successfully obscured my ISP information. Using the DNS leak test tool, we also confirmed that Encrypt.me redirected my DNS requests from my ISP.
Encrypt.me and Netflix
Streaming services, such as Netflix, tend to block VPN traffic because you can use a VPN to spoof your location and access content that’s not supposed to be available in your locale.
That’s the case with Encrypt.me. When we tested the service, we were unable to stream Netflix content while connected to a VPN server—not even one in the US. Keep in mind that this might change at any time, as VPN companies and Netflix are locked in a cat-and-mouse game.
The VPN space is increasingly crowded, which has driven some companies to pack in more features in order to stand out. TunnelBear, for example, offers a stand-alone ad blocker for your browser, as well as the Remembear password manager.
Currently, Encrypt.me does not offer any add-ons or additional features for customers with standard subscriptions. Encrypt.me does provide ad-blocking and content filtering to customers that use its previously mentioned Private End-Points deployment, but these features aren’t available via its regular VPN service.
Speed and Performance
Using a VPN adds distance and complexity to your already complex internet connection, which usually results in higher latency and lower download and upload speeds. To get a sense of how much impact each VPN makes, we run a series of tests using the Ookla speed test tool to find a percent change between when a VPN is active and when it is not. These tests probably won’t reflect your experience, but they allow us to compare between all the VPNs we’ve reviewed. See How We Test VPNs for more information. (Note that Ookla Speedtest is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
The last time we reviewed Encrypt.me, it racked up shockingly good speed test scores. This time, its results were still very good but much closer to the median. Testing shows that Encrypt.me increased latency by 53.6 percent, and reduced upload and download speed test results by 63.4 and 59.9 percent, respectively. Those results are good enough to earn it a spot among the fastest VPNs we’ve tested.
You can see how Encrypt.me compares in the chart below, which shows the best results from among nearly 40 VPNs we’ve reviewed.
This year’s results show that Hotspot Shield VPN had the least impact on latency and download speeds, making it our fastest VPN for 2020. Surfshark, however, is right behind, with similar results and a truly stellar showing in the upload speed test category.
Still, we always caution against purchasing a VPN on speed alone. For one thing, your results will almost certainly be different from ours. For another, we consider design, pricing, value, and privacy to be far more important factors than mere speed.
Encrypt.me on Other Platforms
Encrypt.me currently offers first-party apps for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. Notably, you can also download an Encrypt.me app for Fire OS devices, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire. There’s no native Linux client for Encrypt.me currently, but the company has one is in development. Many other VPN companies offer proxy browser plug-ins that allow you to spoof the location of your browser location, instructions on how to configure your router to use a VPN, or even the option to purchase a preconfigured router. Encrypt.me does not, but it’s no great loss.
A Unique Offering With Unique Shortcomings
The Bottom Line
Encrypt.me VPN Specs
|Allows 5+ Simultaneous Connections||Yes|
|Geographically Diverse Servers||No|
|Server Locations||75 Countries|