This is certainly a contender. Like a champion boxer with only a few slight weaknesses showing, CactusVPN packs a punch in terms of service and value. It's highly functional, has advanced settings and they're cool with P2P. There are a few rough edges, in that they keep connection logs and don't accept Bitcoin, but it is an otherwise very sound service. Sound good? Sure it does. Read on for our full CactusVPN review.
The website is smart and modern, with most features that you might expect. It has a scrolling home page and any information that you might need is super easy to find. One extra feature from CactusVPN is that its proxy service. While VPN is usually a better option for most tasks, CactusVPN's proxy has an option that allows you to keep your everyday browsing normal and only change your IP address for certain websites.
Plans and Pricing
The pricing for CactusVPN is a little bit different to most providers. They only have a monthly rate and don't give discounts for longer subscriptions. They have a range of plans that each charge $4.99 per month, including the US VPN, UK VPN, Liberty VPN and Smart DNS. The US VPN gives users access to four servers within the US, the UK plan comes with six UK based servers, the Liberty plan has four in the Netherlands and two in Romania, while the Smart DNS allows users to unblock common media websites in some major countries. Their DNS service is great if you are looking to use US Netflix, Hulu or other geo-restricted content. Cactus VPN also offer a VPN plus Smart DNS plan for $6.99. This bundles in all 16 servers with the SmartDNS plan.
Unfortunately, CactusVPN don't accept Bitcoin payments, so it's probably not an option for anyone who wanted to pay for the service anonymously. They do accept both credit cards and PayPal. If you aren't quite sure whether CactusVPN is right for you, they offer a 24 hour free trial period so that you can get to know it.
There are some great setup guides on the Cactus VPN website to help you get started. They also have an FAQ for any general questions that you might have, but for more detail, you might have to contact their customer support. Cactus VPN offer helpful support and they get back to you quickly, which is the most important. There staff were very knowledgeable and helped us with all of our problems. Another great part about their site is that they have a Learning Centre that includes information on how VPNs work and other details about online anonymity.
Privacy and Security
As far as security and privacy are concerned, CactusVPN is solid. They keep connection logs for three days for the purpose of troubleshooting, but don't hold onto anything about your uploads or downloads. The company is based in Moldova, so it is quite difficult to be sure on where it stands with regards to the law. It seems as though there is little legal oversight of VPNs here, but if you want more legal certainty, it may be best to choose a provider where you know where you stand.
Looking at the technical side of things, Cactus VPN have 256-bit AES encryption with 2048-bt key authentication on their OpenVPN connections. They also offer 256-bitSSL key encryption on SSTP and 128-256 bit encryption on L2TP/IPsec connections. Security-wise, everything seems pretty up-to-scratch.
If you only want to use the free trial, the sign up only requires an email address and your name. If you decide you want to sign up for the month, you will also have to hand over some payment details.
The Windows client is functional, yet very clean and modern. It is super easy to use, find options and change your settings. In the main tab, you can choose your server location and protocol, while there are also more advanced settings if you're so inclined to play with them. One unique feature of the client is its Apps. Killer. This allows the client to only close your chosen applications in case of a VPN connection failure.
We tested out the speeds and here's what we got:
|No VPN||UK Server||NL Server|
|Download Speed (Mb/s)||20||19.1||19.11|
|Upload Speed (Mb/s)||1.16||1.09||1.07|
These are some great speeds. CactusVPN also performed wonderfully on the DNS Leak Test and didn't show through our IP.
There is an OSX version of the VPN client as well as an IOS app, but Android users still have to use a manual setup at this stage. There are manual guides for Windows, OSX, Ubuntu and DD-WRT routers.
There's a lot to like about CactusVPN. It's cheap for the service that it provides, allows peer-to-peer sharing, doesn't take any usage logs and provides strong 256-bit AES OpenVPN and SSTP encryption. Not only this, but it's fast, comes with an autoproxy and the option to use its Smart DNS. The downsides of the service include that they don't take VPN, have restricted simultaneous connections and don't have OpenVPN support for all major platforms. This is a really good browser. It's not a perfect one and its certainly not for everyone, but it certainly should be a contender for most people who are in the market for a VPN.
Are you a CactusVPN user? Leave a CactusVPN review below with your thoughts on the service, and help others out when making their decision.