CyberGhost is a Romanian and German-based privacy giant which provides comprehensive VPN services for more than ten million users.
This provider boasts 800 servers across 26 countries, and offers an impressive range of features including custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, with torrents allowed on all servers. There’s a stripped-back free plan, a 30-day money-back guarantee for everything else, and live support to help you through any tricky bits.
The free plan includes ads, supports connecting only one device at a time, and the company says that it might run at only 20% of the speed of the commercial service (our experience is that it’s usually much better than that). Oh, and there might also be a delay of a minute or so before you can connect, you’re not able to access all the servers, and it’ll disconnect after three hours.
But on the plus side, there’s no data transfer limit (other free services might restrict you to under 1GB a month). Also, you don’t have to provide your email address to use it, a major privacy plus. But if you do decide to sign up, the product installs as a trial of the full-speed commercial product for its first three days.
CyberGhost Premium can be up to five times faster than the free service, as mentioned. It drops the ads and gives you full access to any of the company’s 800 servers. The plan still supports only one device, but the standard price is reasonable at £3.74 ($4.70) a month billed annually, or £3.99 ($4.99) billed monthly. There are regular special deals, too: as we write, the Premium Plan is available for £1.61 ($2) a month billed annually.
The top-of-the-range CyberGhost Premium Plus extends the package further by lifting the one device limit to five. That raises the standard price significantly to £5.83 ($7.30) a month billed annually, or £6.99 ($8.70) billed monthly, but again there are frequent deals. Premium Plus is currently £2.51 ($3.10) a month billed annually at the time of writing, and we’ve occasionally seen other offers on the website and when you install the client.
All of this is presented in detail on the CyberGhost website, along with some welcome extra touches. While other companies might just list the countries they cover, for instance, CyberGhost shows you every single server, its location, status, current load, and whether it’s available with the free or premium plans.
Most VPNs love to advertise their no logging policy in big letters on the front page, but that’s mostly for marketing. To really understand what’s going on, it’s wise to spend some time browsing the company’s small print.
The key logging clauses say the company doesn’t log “communication contents or data regarding the accessed websites or the IP addresses”, or “data on who had used which server and when”, or generate any “statistical data, which can be linked to a user account”. This might leave some scope for minor session logging – a record of when you logged in to the service, say – but there’s nothing that could compromise your privacy.
There’s more good news in the detailed explanation of how CyberGhost manages its accounts. It doesn’t store any personal data, keeps payment data separate by using resellers, and even stored email addresses aren’t linked to user IDs. This isn’t just the company saying ‘we don’t do bad things’, either – it’s explaining how the system works to ensure that kind of logging isn’t necessary.
Getting started with CyberGhost is easy and convenient. You can download and use the free product without providing an email address. Signing up for a commercial plan is straightforward, with payment options including Bitcoin as well as PayPal and credit cards. The website explains how and where to install the client, and this automatically set itself up on our test Windows 10 system.
CyberGhost’s software is very different to the basic shells provided by most VPNs. Instead of the usual plain list of servers, it opens by asking you what you want to do: surf anonymously, unblock streaming, protect Wi-Fi, torrent anonymously, unblock basic websites and so on. Make your choice from all these options and the program guides you in the right direction.
If you’re just concerned about accessing a public wireless network, for instance, clicking Protect Wi-Fi will connect you to the fastest available server, and can optionally do that whenever you access that network in future. You don’t have to choose a server yourself, you don’t even have to understand or care about the details: it just works.
It’s a similar story elsewhere. If you can’t access a streaming site, clicking Unblock Streaming displays tiles for 20 popular streaming sites (including the BBC, YouTube, Amazon Prime, ESPN, Fox, Hulu and others, but no Netflix). Choose a site, CyberGhost selects an appropriate server, and one click opens a browser window at the site, ready for viewing.
You can also use the VPN in a more conventional way, namely choosing a server yourself and clicking to connect, but even this delivers more than you might expect. There’s an option to open your browser in incognito mode as soon as you’re connected, delivering the maximum possible privacy.
There’s real intelligence and attention to detail here. Unlike many VPNs, CyberGhost does its best not to block your email traffic, instead automatically detecting your email servers and adding them to an exception list (domains which aren’t passed through the VPN).
Bonus features in the commercial version include blocking of ads, trackers and malicious sites, data compression to reduce mobile costs, and even automatic HTTPS redirects (you click a link to http:site, the client sends you to https://site).
For all its simplicity, CyberGhost isn’t just aimed at beginners. If you’re the hands-on type you can change the connection mode (TCP/UDP), use custom or CyberGhost’s DNS or set up a proxy. An App Protection feature ensures CyberGhost will automatically connect whenever you launch specific apps, and an option to install beta updates gets you an early look at any new features.
In our tests*, performance proved to be solid and reliable. UK to UK connections averaged 25 to 30Mbps downloads, and both European and US servers were typically 20 to 25Mbps. Latency was reasonable and our connection still felt snappy and responsive. Speeds fell to below 10Mbps for the very long-distance trips (Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong), but that’s to be expected, and they were still usable for basic browsing.
We completed our checks by running multiple leak tests, and CyberGhost passed them all with ease – servers were in the promised locations, there were no DNS or WebRTC leaks, and our identity was properly protected at all times.
CyberGhost is easy-to-use, with decent performance and great clients. The one device limit is an issue, but if you can live with that it’s an excellent choice.
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we’ve reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.