Too often, your network traffic is readable by advertisers, attackers, and snoops.But a virtual private network, or VPN, like FrootVPN ensures that your Web traffic is fully encrypted and that you remain anonymous online. Unlike many other VPN services, FrootVPN is a barebones affair without a local client, and only a few servers available.
Its bargain-basement price will surely attract some, but I’ll stick with our Editors’ Choice winners NordVPN and Private Internet Access
What Is a VPN?
Browsing the Web feels safe, but you’re broadcasting information about the sites you visit and your identity whenever you visit a website.Advertisers can infer a lot about you from the sites you visit, while snoops of all kinds can monitor your movements across the Web, and if you’re on an unsecured network, a hacker could intercept all of your information with a man-in-the-middle attack.
Switching on a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN service’s server.All your data is routed through this tunnel, hiding it from all prying eyes in between.Also, because your Web traffic appears to be coming from the VPN server, advertisers won’t be able to determine your real IP address.
While you’ll probably use a VPN to ensure your privacy, it’s a critical security tool used around the world every day. Journalists and political activists in countries with restrictive Internet policies use VPNs to circumvent censorship. Using the same tools, you can unlock region-restricted content, such as streaming BBC shows, while living in the US. Unfortunately, Netflix and other media companies have clamped down on the use of proxies.
Features and Pricing
With a very straightforward pricing structure, FrootVPN costs $4.99 per month, $11.97 for a three-month subscription, and $35.88 for a full year.Auto-renewal is opt-in, a feature I appreciate.FrootVPN accepts major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, Web Money, and Giro Pay. Other services go further, letting you pay for your subscription using gift cards for even more anonymity.
If you ever wanted to pay for a month of VPN coverage using a Starbucks card, PureVPN is the service for you.
FrootVPN isn’t just cheap.
It’s among the least expensive VPNs on the market.
If you want to go lower, you’d do well to read our list of the best free VPN services.
It costs as much as Spotflux Premium, and less than NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
Most VPN services offer reduced rates as promotions, or never-ending sales, which muddies an actual price comparison.
Still, FrootVPN isn’t going to break the bank.
When you use FrootVPN, you connect to one of the service’s five servers located in Sweden, U.S., Canada, France, and the UK.That’s a very limited list, especially compared with the thousands of servers available from Private Internet Access.
It isn’t even a geographically diverse selection of servers; if you’re hoping to connect through a Chinese, Russian, or Australian server, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
As of this writing, FrootVPN supports Windows, OS X, and Linux desktop operating systems.
If you’re looking to take FrootVPN on the go, you can do so provided you’re using an iOS or Android device and not a Windows Phone.But unlike most of the other VPN services I’ve reviewed, FrootVPN doesn’t bother with a local client.
Instead, you sign up for the service from the company’s well-designed website, and then enter the appropriate information into a local VPN client or directly into your computer’s settings.For my VPN reviews, I typically include screenshots of the product so you, the reader, can better understand what you’re paying for.But in the case of FrootVPN, there’s only one image that’s really relevant.
So for the rest of the article, I’ll be using public-domain pictures of various fruits.
Anyway, it’s important to note that FrootVPN isn’t consistent in its platform support.For example, FrootVPN offers the OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP protocols on iOS, OS X, Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.
If you’re on Windows 8 or a Linux machine, you’ll be stuck with the lackluster PPTP.That’s not great. You can also install the FrootVPN software on certain routers, but TorGuard VPN sells a variety of networking hardware and streaming boxes with its software already installed.
FrootVPN allows P2P file sharing and BitTorrenting on its servers, a feature many users are sure to appreciate. Many VPNs ban the practice or, like TorGuard VPN, only allow these activities on certain servers. Notably, FrootVPN doesn’t offer any specialized servers; NordVPN on the other hand offers servers for high-speed video streaming and others for Tor-over-VPN and double encryption. Of course, if you’re looking to access the Dark Web, you can just download the Tor Browser and use it with your VPN.
Hands-On With FrootVPN
I test VPNs on a Dell Latitude E7250 laptop running Windows 8.1. Without a local client to interact with, FrootVPN relies on your manually entering the pertinent information into your operating system settings and connecting that way. Windows 10 users connecting with OpenVPN have it a little better, but FrootVPN doesn’t provide OpenVPN support for Windows 8.1.Although the company provides guides to help you through the process, I’m not a fan. You’ll still have to run an oft-ignored Windows program called Rasphone, and then manually configure your VPN connection.The FrootVPN documentation does not specify how to do this; I had to infer it from screenshots and a knowledge of the regions served by FrootVPN. Let me be clear: I could not find a way to select a different server, unless I manually rewrote the URL FrootVPN uses to connect.
Because FrootVPN lacks a local interface, information about the company’s servers is found through their company website. NordVPN’s client software includes handy statistics about server load, helping you select the best server to accomplish your goal. With FrootVPN, you login to the webpage and can see how much activity is currently on each of the servers. You can also download OpenVPN config files from here, too.
In this way, it’s quite similar to TorVPN.
Once you’re up and running, you can connect up to three devices simultaneously to FrootVPN’s servers.That’s usually enough, but note that if you have VPN on your router, you protect all of your smart devices and computers—including your Internet-aware fridge—with only a single device.
No matter which VPN service you choose, using it will have some impact on your Web browsing experience.Generally, connecting to a VPN increases latency and slows down your upload and download speeds, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
In fact, using PureVPN actually yielded significantly better upload and download speeds.
When I test VPNs, I use both Speedof.me and Ookla’s Speedtest.net speed tests.
I stress-test the service by connecting to the furthest possible VPN server I can (usually Australia, but Sweden in this case) and selecting an Ookla speedtest server in Fairbanks, Alaska.After performing several tests, I average the results and calculate a percent change from a baseline.
All my testing is carried out over a sequestered network with comparably slow, but reliable, speeds.
For all my testing, I take baseline measurements immediately after getting the VPN services. Network conditions are notoriously fickle, after all.I found that latency 147.8 percent higher with FrootVPN active, rising from 130.3 milliseconds to 323.This is actually a comparably small increase; VPNs typically triple latency times in my test, but my other tests cover far more territory (Fairbanks to Sydney versus Fairbanks to Stockholm).Even taking that into account, FrootVPN doesn’t have the lowest latency.That honor goes to Hotspot Shield Elite.
Ookla testing also showed that download speeds are 5.8 percent lower with FrootVPN running, dropping from 2.8Mbps to 2.6Mbps. Upload speeds are 24.1 percent lower, going from 0.72Mbps to 0.56Mbps. While it’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison (again, distance), that’s still a good score.
Among other services tested, HideIPVPN had the lowest download impact, but it was still more than FrootVPN’s.TorVPN had the lowest impact on uploads, but was also slower than FrootVPN.That’s impressive.
That’s fine for when you want to spoof your location, but odds are you’ll want privacy and speed more than a Swedish IP address.
In these situations, you’ll want to connect to the closest possible server.
This test is identical to the previous, except that I use Speedof.me, which automatically selects the closest possible server. My Speedof.me results showed that FrootVPN increased latency by 225.5 percent, which is unusually high for a test within the US. Using local servers, TotalVPN latency is 10.5 percent higher, from 31.3ms to 35ms.
The real surprise in this test was in download and upload speeds.According to Speedof.me, download speeds are only 3.78 percent lower, from 3Mbps to 2.97Mbps.FrootVPN actually improved (as in, made faster) upload speeds by 98.7 percent, from 0.75Mbps to 1.49Mbps.
Improved speeds are a rare thing, and usually comes about because the ISP connected to the VPN server has a faster connection.These are by far the best results I’ve yet recorded for domestic servers, but we’ll see how they stand up as more VPNs take the challenge.But these are all just numbers, and some of them represent changes so minimal that you might not even notice them.Despite its ho-hum international VPN speed test scores, I found browsing with FrootVPN to be almost no different from browsing without the service. Pages primarily filled with text loaded quickly, as did more media-heavy pages.
Video streaming was less impressive. YouTube videos loaded quickly, but not at HD quality. Likewise, 4K videos took a very long time to load.
I also found that Netflix streaming was blocked while using FrootVPN.
Slow and SteadyWhen it comes to security software, I am always willing to make some trade-offs in the name of better performance. Our Editors’ Choice winner, Private Internet Access, for instance, has an ugly, overly minimalist interface but does offer easy server switching and several thousand servers to choose from.FrootVPN is so simple that it barely exists. What is there isn’t easy to use and requires an above-average understanding of Windows.And although FrootVPN has impressive speed test scores, even improving domestic download speeds, it has very few servers to choose from.
If you’re comfortable with mucking around in Windows settings and are looking for a bargain-basement price, FrootVPN is a decent choice.But I’m sticking with my personal favorite, and Editors’ Choice winner, NordVPN, which is far more functional and easier to use.