Windscribe vs. ProtonVPN Face-to-Face Comparison Review
How trusted is the VPN provider you want to get VPN services from? Brand matters. The rule of thumb is to buy from trusted brands that have been in business for longer. Shun these new little-known brands as they will compromise your security and privacy. In our evaluation of brand trust, we were concerned with the experience and ownership of the provider and what cybersecurity experts and users are saying. So, which VPN wins this first round?
Windscribe is not a new name in the VPN industry, having been founded in 2016 by 3 cybersecurity experts; Yegor Sak, Mark Ulicki, and Alex Paguis. Windscribe was, however, acquired by Gape Technologies™ for a whopping $696,969,420 in 2022.
Today, Windscribe is popular for its free VPN service and has earned the recognition of top cybersecurity experts and publications.
Most consumers also laud it for its reliability, except for a few isolated cases of complaints. At the time of writing, Windscribe has a Trustpilot Trustscore of 4.8/5 after over 9,500 reviews.
ProtonVPN has also been around for some time. The company, owned by Proton AG, was launched in 2017 and remains a crowdfunded project.
Like the founding project Proton Mail, ProtonVPN has quickly risen the ranks in the VPN market and is one of the best free VPNs today. Proton VPN boasts over 70 million users worldwide and has been hyped by cybersecurity experts and featured in TED Talks.
Most consumer reviews are good, save for the several bad ratings attributed to billing issues. At the time of writing, ProtonVPN has a poor Trustpilot Trustscore of 2.5/5 after around 330 reviews.
What devices is the VPN you want to buy compatible with? This is another critical talking point, as some VPNs are versatile enough to work with all devices you can think of, while others are compatible with select devices. Besides compatibility, find out how many devices you can connect simultaneously on a single license. Here, the best VPN is the one that allows for the maximum number of simultaneous connections and, preferably, unlimited. So, how does Windscribe square it out with ProtonVPN?
Windscribe is a versatile VPN with apps for all PCs, regardless of the platform. Whether Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, or Firefox, Windscribe has got you covered.
There are also mobile apps for Android and iOS. Windscribe also works with routers and other devices, including streaming devices, consoles, etc.
One of the reasons we like Windscribe is that it allows for unlimited simultaneous connections, thus offering the best value for money.
ProtonVPN, too, excels when it comes to supported devices, but there’s a catch. There are apps for all PCs, Windows, macOS, and Linux, alongside Chrome and Firefox extensions.
The VPN also works with mobile devices, routers, Android TVs, streaming devices, consoles, etc. On the downside, you can connect a maximum of 10 devices simultaneously on a single subscription.
But there’s always a way to get around this limitation – adding more devices via a router that is already protected.
Whether you are an expert-level user or a newbie, usability is an important consideration when selecting a VPN. Ask yourself how easy it is to get started with the VPN. Is there any technical configuration required? How user-friendly is the app interface? You definitely want a VPN with a simple registration and configuration process. The apps should also be intuitive and clutter-free.
Windscribe is a user-friendly VPN. You can take charge of your digital footprint in just a few minutes. First, sign up for an account and get a subscription.
Just to mention, you can get started without a subscription by just signing up and confirming your email. Now that you have an account or a paid subscription, the next step is downloading and installing the client software.
Launch it after installation, sign in, and you are good to go. Not much configuration is required. The apps are intuitive and have straightforward navigation.
ProtonVPN is also a great deal when it comes to usability. The setup process is quite similar to Windscribe’s now that you also need to create an account to get started.
After creating an account and confirming your email, download the app, install, and launch it. Log in with your details, choose a server, and you are all set.
The ProtonVPN apps are also very intuitive, with straightforward navigation and menu.
Security is one of the reasons you want a VPN. At the core of a VPN's security is encryption. For starters, encryption refers to the technology deployed to scramble data into an unreadable format. The scrambled data is secured using crypto keys which act as passwords for unscrambling the data back into readable formats. There are several encryption technologies with Advanced Encryption System (AES) 256-bit as the industry standard, so settle for nothing less.
Windscribe is a trusted and secure VPN that encrypts data using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. This is the encryption technology adopted by top government and banking institutions, so you can ensure your security is not compromised with Windscribe.
It would take millions of years to perform a successful brute-force attack. AES 256-bit is complemented by SHA512 authentication and 4096-bit RSA keys.
The browser extensions use AES 128-bit GCM cipher / TLS 1.2 ECDHE RSA for authentication and P-256 as the key.
ProtonVPN is also a highly rated VPN in terms of security. It also leverages Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit key.
As mentioned earlier, AES 256-bit systems are so secure that it would take millions of years and the world’s fastest supercomputers to perform brute-force attacks successfully.
HMAC backs up the AES 256-bit key encryption with SHA-384 for authentication and TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption. Also worth mentioning is Perfect Forward Secrecy, which is an extra layer of security.
Besides encryption, protocols too are essential as far as VPN security is concerned. For beginners, protocols, also known as VPN tunneling methods, are a set of rules that dictate how data is routed between servers., VPN protocols really matter as they dictate several aspects, including security. Besides, they influence speeds, applications, and compatibility. The rule of thumb when buying VPNs is to go for a VPN that supports multiple VPN protocols for versatility. So, what protocols do Windcribe and ProtonVPN work with?
Windscribe is a great deal in terms of supported protocols, as it works with 5. First is IKEv2, which is the default protocol. IKEv2 is fast, but the fact that you are using a VPN is easy to detect.
The VPN also works with OpenVPN on both TCP and UDP. The former is fast and hard to block, while the latter offers fast speeds but is susceptible to blocks.
WireGuard, known for striking a balance between security and speed, is also supported. The other 2 are Stealth and Websocket Stealth, which are highly secure but slow.
ProtonVPN supports 4 protocols; IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard, and Stealth. IKEv2 is great when it comes to speeds, but your VPN activity can be detected easily.
Proton also works with OpenVPN, which is considered the industry standard, and WireGuard, which offers ultrafast speeds and security.
WireGuard is versatile as it works across different platforms, is fast, and can bypass firewalls. Stealth, as the name suggests, is a camouflage protocol that enables users to bypass internet firewalls.
Just to mention, ProtonVPN has a cool feature dubbed Smart Protocol that conducts checks in the background and suggests the best protocol to use.
Security doesn't end with encryption and protocols. You need to be on the lookout for several features to enhance your security and VPN experience. We have basic features such as IP and DNS leak protection, kill switch, and split tunneling that any serious provider must have. Similarly, there are advanced security extras unique to particular VPNs. So, what do Windscribe and ProtonVPN offer here?
Windscribe is well-endowed when it comes to security extras. To start, it has a functioning IP and DNS Leak Protection. Also worth mentioning is the WebRTC Slayer, which protects your IP further by disabling WebRTC in your browser.
Unfortunately, there is no kill switch. Instead, Windscribe offers Windscribe Firewall. Split Tunneling is also available so you can decide which apps to connect to the internet via the VPN and which apps can connect directly without the VPN bridge.
When it comes to IP addresses, Windscribe has static IP addresses only; there are no dedicated IPSs for security reasons. Port Forwarding is also available to facilitate remote PC or home network access.
Other security extras include a server-side domain dubbed ROBERT, proxy gateway, Double VPN servers (Double Hop), Split Personality, IP blocking tool, and Time Warp.
ProtonVPN also excels when it comes to security extras. To start, it comes with IP and DNS Leak Prevention which prevents IP leaks and DNS query leaks.
We are glad there is a network kill switch, so immediately after your VPN connection drops, your internet connection is cut, preventing traffic from leaking. You can also separate your traffic with the Split Tunneling feature.
Regarding advanced features, ProtonVPN boasts Secure Core architecture which defends the system from network-based attacks, and NetShield, a DNS filter that protects you from malware.
Last is Forward Secrecy, which generates new keys frequently, and Tor over VPN facilitates traffic routing via the Tor Anonymity Network so you can safely visit Onion sites.
7. Privacy (Jurisdiction)
Where is the location of the VPN you are about to subscribe to? The jurisdiction can be the deal maker or breaker regarding online privacy. This is because some countries are privacy friendly and respect the privacy of citizens' data. Similarly, there are countries known for spying on the activity of citizens, while others are part of surveillance organizations such as the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes. On that note, it is best to go for VPN providers in privacy-friendly jurisdictions. You don't want to compromise the confidentiality of your data. So, where are Windscribe and ProtonVPN based?
Unfortunately, Windscribe is based in Canada, a not-so-friendly jurisdiction that is actually part of the 5 Eyes alliance.
This means the Canadian government can collaborate with other member states by forcing the provider to provide users’ data if required.
To make matters worse, there are mandatory data retention laws. ISPs are required to store data for 6 months and up to 12 months if a court proceeding is underway.
One of the advantages of ProtonVPN is its location. The provider is based in Switzerland, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, not part of any surveillance organizations.
But just to let you know, always play safe, as Swiss authorities often collaborate with international security agencies, including Europol and Interpol.
Besides the jurisdiction, ascertain the logging policy of a VPN. The big question is, does the VPN collect and store any of your personally identifiable information such as IP address, DNS queries, system data, etc? Importantly, find out whether the policy is credible as many VPNs claim to be no log VPNs, yet they collect and store crucial data that could be used to trace or profile you.
Windscribe may be in Canada, which is part of the 5 Eyes alliance, but the good thing is that it does not log any personally identifiable information.
It only logs basic data that can’t be traced back to you. This includes the last time you used the service and bandwidth consumed in 30 days.
Interestingly, the VPN deploys RAM-only servers that delete all data after every reboot, so you can rest assured that your activity is safe.
ProtonVPN is also a no-log VPN that doesn’t store any personally identifiable information.
The company doesn’t just claim it is a no-log VPN. The logging policy has been independently audited.
9. Server Network and Distribution
As you may be aware, VPNs work by routing traffic from one server to another. Having said that, the server network and distribution are essential. In this segment, we want to find out which of the two VPNs has the best server infrastructure. The best VPN is, of course, one with many servers spread across the globe. Besides the number of servers and distribution, specialized servers are recommended. So, who wins this round?
One of the disadvantages of Windscribe is the small servers network. While the best VPNs have thousands of servers, Windscribe has around 600 servers in over 63 countries and 110 locations.
But we like the fact that all servers are RAM-only servers with top-of-the-line hardware for reliability and privacy. Besides, they are all physical servers; there are no virtual servers.
Another shortcoming, there are no specific specialized servers for streaming or torrenting, but with the Autopilot feature, you can land on a favorable server.
ProtonVPN is the best choice when it comes to server network and distribution. At the time of writing, the company has expanded to over 2,900 servers in 68 countries.
These are highly specialized servers that guarantee reliability. They may not be RAM-only servers but boast full disk encryption.
Proton also has ultrafast servers with 2Gbps ports and select servers that can hit 10Gbps. Worth mentioning are Secure Core servers, available for Plus users.
They route traffic in select, privacy-friendly jurisdictions. You can use the Quick Country Selector to find the best-performance servers depending on your location.
10. Streaming, Torrenting, and Gaming
The applications of VPNs are vast. They are not just for online security and privacy. VPNs have other use cases, including streaming, torrenting, and gaming. VPNs for streaming enable users to unblock streaming sites with geo-locked content. On the other hand, VPNs for torrenting facilitate torrenting and P2P sharing, which is often shunned by ISPs. Last, we have VPNs for gaming which protect gamers from threats, improve gaming performance and facilitate access to geo-restricted gaming content. But not all VPNs are up to these tasks. So, how does Windscribe compare to ProtonVPN?
Windscribe is not the best VPN for streaming. We tried unblocking several Netflix libraries but with no success.
Whenever the streaming site started playing a movie, the IP was banned. The only Netflix library it managed to unblock reliably was Netflix Japan. We are glad it also unblocked YouTube and Sky GO, but for the likes of Hulu, DAZN, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime, it was an exercise in futility.
Next, we tried torrenting. While it was possible to download torrents, the slow speeds were such a put-off.
Last, on gaming, Windscribe can protect gamers from DDoS attacks and other threats and allow gamers to access geo-restricted content such as new heroes, maps, and discounts. However, it is not up to the mark in terms of performance because of the slow speeds and high latency.
As far as streaming is concerned, ProtonVPN is the best choice. In our tests, it unblocked all the Netflix libraries reliably, from Netflix UK to Canada and Japan. The VPN also unblocked Amazon Prime, HBO Max, YouTube, Sky GO, DAZN, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, among other streaming sites.
We also like its torrenting capabilities. In all our P2P sessions, we got out files in record time, and at no time did we get blocked or experience bandwidth throttling.
ProtonVPN is also a good VPN for gaming that can keep DDoS attacks at bay and facilitate safe and smooth gaming. It’s also possible to access geo-restricted gaming content and discounts.
Support is crucial for users, whether newbies or nerds, who understand the ins and outs of VPNs. There will be times when you will need the provider's help, be it on billing issues, technical issues, or just a random inquiry. So, what do you look for in a VPN as far as customer service is concerned? Well, the best VPN should have multichannel customer support with 24/7 live chat as a priority. So, what are the available options for contacting the team at Windscribe and ProtonVPN?
Windscribe understands the essence of having reliable customer support. While there is no live chat, a friendly bot dubbed Garry can help you with the most basic issues around accounts, sales, and technical.
You will have to submit a ticket for human assistance, but unfortunately, feedback is not immediate.
Besides the bot, you can take advantage of the company’s Subreddit or refer to the tutorials, guides, FAQs, and knowledgebase.
ProtonVPN also has excellent support. The live chat function is the best, but unfortunately, it is only available for paid plans.
There’s also an open form ticket you can fill out or use email. Besides these channels, you can find solutions on the many guides and tutorials on the company website.
12. Plans, Pricing, Payment Options
In this last test of this Windscribe vs. ProtonVPN comparison review, we will talk about money. The goal is to find out which of the two providers offers the best value for money. We will find out the available Windscribe and ProtonVPN plans, the subscription costs, and available payment methods. So, who wins this round?
Windscribe has a free plan, but there is no free trial. Paid plans are 2; a monthly plan for $9 billed monthly and $5.75 monthly billed once annually.
Just to mention, there’s a custom plan which lets you build a plan depending on your needs. A 3-day money-back guarantee covers all paid plans.
The payment methods available include PayPal, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard, and even Bitcoin for those who want to make under-the-radar payments.
ProtonVPN also has a free plan, but there is no free trial. When it comes to paid plans, you will have to fork out more for ProtonVPN.
There are 3 plans: a monthly plan for $11.49 per month billed monthly, a yearly plan for $5.99 a month billed yearly, and a 2-year plan for $4.99 a month billed biannually. If you are dissatisfied with the service, you can get back your money courtesy of the 30-day money-back guarantee.
The payment methods include Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, Bank Transfer, and even Bitcoin for anonymous payments.