ZenMate VPN Review Overview
- Unlimited streaming
- Military-grade encryption
- Best VPN protocols
- Iffy logging policy
- 36 month plan - $1.64 per month ($59.00 total cost)
- 12 month plan - $4.49 per month ($53.88 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $9.99 per month ($9.99 total cost)
ZenMate VPN proclaims loud and proud that their service is “Trusted by over 47 million users! Fast. Secure. Easy.”
We’ve reviewed VPN providers making similar claims and found them to be lacking. When we looked at reviews by other VPN review sites, we found vastly different opinions, with one putting the provider at the bottom of the pack and another singing their praises.
Of course, we don’t trust most VPN review sites. We’ve caught them heavily promoting dodgy VPNs (like PureVPN – read our PureVPN review to see why we say so).
Even though they claim not to be swayed by money, their recommendations are more often than not supported by lucrative affiliate programs and paid for by the providers.
So we were very interested to discover whether or not reality supports ZenMate’s boast. And of course, we’re only too happy to share our findings with you in this 100% objective, BS-free review.
How ZenMate Compares to the Competition
Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers!
Located in a 14 Eyes Jurisdiction
First, we had the 5 Eyes Agreement between the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Then they got Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway to join the party and became the 9 Eyes Agreement.
Not long after, they became the 14 Eyes Agreement when Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden decided to throw their lot in with this global government intelligence supergroup.
There are also so-called “unofficial allies” we could mention.
But the point is these are all jurisdictions where the government actively infringes on privacy rights by spying on their citizens and sharing that information with the other members.
ZenMate is a German VPN provider. We’re all for German ingenuity and innovation, but we’re not likely to trust a VPN based in such a privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction.
Exceptions are made from time to time, as you’ll know if you’ve read some of our other reviews. But the VPN provider needs to deliver a great deal if such an exception is to be made.
Will ZenMate make the cut?
NOT a No-Logs Policy
According to Section 2, when you visit ZenMate’s website, they log your:
- Browser type and version
- Operating system
- Time and date of access
- IP address
- Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Once you sign up as a ZenMate client, they also collect your:
- Name, email address, physical address, username, and payment information
- Which emails you open (that they send you)
- IP address
- Approximate location
- Partial credit card information
Some of this makes sense – it would be impossible to run a successful website without some of the above information. Likewise, they wouldn’t be able to manage accounts and issue refunds.
But a lot of it is extremely dodgy.
We don’t want our VPN provider to know our physical address or approximate location. And we definitely don’t want them logging our original IP address while we use their service.
That defeats the purpose of using a VPN in the first place – especially when said VPN is based in a 14 Eyes Jurisdiction.
Granted, ZenMate says they anonymize this information. They also claim it’s not linked in any way to your VPN activities, which “is NOT recorded, logged, or stored at all.”
But they do share this information with Kape Technologies, ZenMate’s parent company (as of 2018) and other companies owned by Kape Technologies. This might include CyberGhost VPN (admittedly one of the providers we do recommend).
More worrisome is the fact ZenMate openly admits they’ll also share it with the German government. This is a huge red flag considering how much personally identifiable data they’re collecting.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
However, it’s also important to note their browser extensions (which we hardly ever recommend using anyway unless it’s together with the actual VPN) only have the less secure 128-bit AES encryption.
If you want to give ZenMate a test run using their free version, however, you won’t have access to OpenVPN.
This is a marketing ploy designed to force you into buying a paid subscription instead, as OpenVPN is the most secure and best-recommended VPN protocol. The free version also has other severe limitations that make it a waste of time (we’ll mention these as we go along).
There is a Kill Switch, But Only Desktop Users Get DNS Leak Protection
We had to dig farther than the homepage to find out whether ZenMate offers a kill switch, split tunneling feature, and DNS leak protection – all of which are important security features (though the split tunneling is more of a nice-to-have for advanced VPN users).
We were connected quickly enough, but the support agent didn’t seem to know much.
At any rate, all of the apps have a kill switch on by default, which cannot be turned off.
Only the Windows and Mac apps have DNS leak protection – mobile apps do not – and there’s no split tunnel feature.
Allegedly, split tunneling isn’t allowed on ZenMate’s servers “for security purposes.” When we questioned this, Peter just repeated it wasn’t available.
All-in-all, ZenMate over-promises and under-delivers on their security features. Especially considering we found an IP leak while testing the VPN (this is a big no-no).
No Double VPN Feature, but TOR Capability
With low hopes, we asked ZenMate’s support agent if they offer a double VPN feature:
This is a little disappointing, though the double VPN feature (also called a multi-hop) is in many ways a nice-to-have.
However, it can and does give you extra security if you’re in a country with draconian censorship laws and can be a life-saver if you’re traveling.
So we asked Peter if we could use our trusty fall-back solution, The Onion Router (TOR), to mimic a double VPN. Thankfully, he said we could.
A few things should be said about using the TOR-over-VPN method, though.
First, TOR doesn’t have great encryption, so you should always connect to your VPN first before opening TOR browser. Second, TOR can be brutal on your internet speed – especially when using it via a VPN.
It’s not a perfect solution. But if you need a double VPN feature and you’re using ZenMate, it’s your only option… other than switching to one of the best VPN services, that is.
Large Server Network
One thing ZenMate does right is its server network size: 3600+ servers in 74+ countries.
This is right around the industry standard for servers, though we’d prefer to see more countries (60+ ideally).
Something worth noting: ZenMate’s free version only allows you to connect to Germany, Hong Kong, Romania, and the US. Granted, that’s a total of 1037 available servers, but you need to be paying close attention to discover as much.
Another thing we’re not quite sure how to feel about – ZenMate restricts access to certain servers once they’re “full”. This can be bothersome if you need a specific server (a streaming server, for example).
When you use a VPN, your internet speed slows down. Sometimes it’s by a lot, sometimes only by a negligible amount. But it will slow down.
One reason is your data travels further. This also means the further you are from the VPN server you’re connected to, the more that connection will negatively affect your internet speed.
This isn’t the only factor that determines how fast your connection speed will be. You also need to think about your device type, operating system, original internet speed, and even how many users are connected to the same VPN server.
When too many users are connecting to the same VPN server, you get what’s called network overload. The server is essentially working close to, or even at, its maximum capacity, which drastically slows down the VPNs speed.
With (allegedly) 45 million users sharing 2600+ servers in 37 countries, we were cautiously optimistic about how ZenMate would perform here. That’s a lot of users…but also a lot of servers.
We did our usual tests (which include multiple times a day, always using the same locations, etc.) and got the following results:
Fortunately for ZenMate, its server speeds were above average!
Device Compatibility and Connections
One thing definitely working in ZenMate’s favor is their wide device coverage range:
- Chrome (browser extension)
- Firefox (browser extension)
- Opera (browser extension)
- Gaming consoles
Their OpenVPN Solution also allows you to protect your router.
However, the free version is more limited here, only allowing you to use their browser extensions. This is highly disappointing, as VPN browser extensions should only be used together with the VPN app.
As for simultaneous connections, we couldn’t find any information on their website. After turning to live chat support again, we got the following response:
5 simultaneous connections for Ultimate/Premium users is about the industry standard, as is limiting free users to only 1.
UPDATE 07/23/20: ZenMate recently confirmed they’ve upped their simultaneous connections to unlimited for premium users!
Subscription Plans and Pricing
In addition to their (very limited) free subscription, ZenMate also gives you the following options:
In the above screenshot, you can also see ZenMate offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
However, their Refund Policy says you only have 14 days after your first payment to request a refund. It also reveals Bitcoin, UKash, and PaysafeCard payments are non-refundable.
Other payment options include credit card and PayPal.
Specialized Streaming Servers
Something ZenMate does get very right is having a list of specialized streaming servers available for premium users. You need to dig around their app to find it, but once you do, you can easily “favorite” servers to make finding them easier in the future.
What’s great about this addition is ZenMate (allegedly) tests these servers regularly to ensure they still work. This is very important, as streaming services such as Netflix use sophisticated proxy detection software to actively block VPN servers.
We gave their Netflix and BBC iPlayer servers a test and were quite happy with the results. We had no issues streaming the Netflix libraries on the specialized servers, nor did we have issues streaming BBC iPlayer.
Still, given everything we know about ZenMate, we recommend using one of our Best Netflix VPNs instead.
Similar to streaming, ZenMate has specialized torrenting servers allowing premium users to establish Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connections for file-sharing. If you’re going to use ZenMate for torrenting, we recommend favoriting the P2P server(s) that work best for you to save yourself the trouble of hunting them.
However, we wouldn’t recommend using ZenMate for torrenting. Their dodgy logging policy, 14 Eyes jurisdiction, and “banned activities” list in their Terms of Service suggest it’s less than ideal.
Instead, take a look at our suggestions for the Best Torrenting VPNs.
Usability and Support
ZenMate’s installation starts by asking you to either opt in or opt out of certain logging. Of course, we recommend opting out…though this does little to ease our worries about what they’re still logging.
Installation itself was surprisingly quick and painless, but the app didn’t work properly. When we contacted live chat support, they suggested submitting a ticket instead, which we did.
It took 24 hours to get a copy-paste response, which we’ve seen other reviewers also receive when having issues with the Windows installation:
After answering all their questions (which we wouldn’t have done if we were a regular customer – we would’ve simply uninstalled and migrated to a competitor), we’re still waiting for a response.
Eventually, we just uninstalled, temporarily disabled our antivirus, and reinstalled. Third time was the charm.
Problems aside, the ZenMate app is user-friendly enough.
While the ticket/email support team is absolutely useless, the live chat team is at least somewhat competent. The first agent we spoke with was often vague and uncertain, while the second was more helpful (albeit not much more direct).
We never had to wait long for a live chat response either, no matter what time of day, which is the only reason ZenMate scores as well as they do in this department.
How to Cancel ZenMate and Get Your Money Back
To be fair, ZenMate isn’t a terrible VPN. It has a lot of potential, especially as a streaming VPN – but the provider also has its work cut out.
If you want to cancel your ZenMate subscription, here’s how:
- Login to your ZenMate User Dashboard
- Click Transactions
- Follow the on-screen instructions to cancel
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a refund
When requesting a refund, you also need to provide the following information:
- Reason for cancelling
- Payment reference
- Account email address
How much does ZenMate cost per month?
$9.99 per month, though there are longer subscription plans also available.
Does ZenMate work for Netflix?
Yes, but only via their specialized Netflix servers.
Is ZenMate legitimate?
Is ZenMate a good VPN?
It’s not a bad VPN. But it’s not a good VPN either. The features are too limited and its logging policy is too sketchy, for example.
Does ZenMate hide my IP address?
Yes, however we did find some IP leaks when testing the service.
Does ZenMate charge monthly?
Yes, though ZenMate also offers a 1-year and 3-year plan.
Is ZenMate a zero-logs VPN?
No. Despite advertising themselves as such, ZenMate actually logs a lot of personally identifiable information.
Can you cancel ZenMate anytime?
Yes, though refunds are limited to the first 14 days after your initial payment.
Is ZenMate safe in China?
No, the provider admits it is not safe to use in any jurisdiction with restricted network access.