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BSN’s AVG VPN Review: The Twin

Dominik

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AVG has been a household name in the world of cybersecurity for nearly three decades now. As of quite recently, the Czech company is also operating a global VPN service, offering yet another dimension of privacy and security protections to its customers.

Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at this solution — called AVG Secure VPN — and how it compares to other major names in the segment.


AVG Secure VPN Review Summary
3.57 BSN Score
Pros
Decent trial period Consistent performance with minor speed sacrifices Super-intuitive to use
Cons
Ridiculous pricing structure Suspicious logging policy Light on extra features and customizability
Summary
AVG Secure VPN provides a rather large boost to one’s digital security but is a negligible addition to any privacy protections you may have. As such, it’s a service that will appeal to only a portion of the total VPN user base - a smaller portion, at that. Everyone else will probably be better off with some other virtual private network provider that does more to tailor to their specific needs.
Performance4.5
Privacy & Security2.5
Ease of Use5
Pricing3

AVG Secure VPN Performance

Before getting into actual speeds, let’s just quickly confirm AVG Secure VPN will successfully circumvent regional content restrictions imposed by the likes of YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. The app also comes with a decent selection of P2P servers, so torrenting shouldn’t be an issue from a purely performance standpoint.

Now, it’s no secret that even the best VPNs require sacrifices in regards to peak throughput, i.e. download and upload speeds. While AVG’s offering does have some shortcomings, finding any in this respect would amount to nitpicking.

Assuming your server location of choice is on the same continent as your humble self, it’s unlikely you’ll even notice a difference between regular Internet usage and connecting to the World Wide Web via a VPN.

Things naturally aren’t so great when looking at extreme use cases, though even then, you really shouldn’t be seeing performance drop-offs larger than 30-35%, according to our testing. That’s really close to top VPN solutions on the market and while AVG Secure VPN leans on the expensive side, it still punches above its weight in terms of performance, so kudos to the developers.

AVG Secure VPN Privacy & Security

AVG Secure VPN is pretty light on features and customizability, which isn’t totally out of the ordinary in the industry, though we definitely expected a bit more from a solution that starts at over $6 a month. Especially given how this software is more of an extension of an already robust security suite instead of a mere VPN.

E.g. comparing it to something like Bitdefender, which is in a similar boat in terms of not being a “truly” standalone solution but one meant to be used in conjunction with various sister services, doesn’t yield many results favorable to AVG Secure VPN.

The VPN comes in the form of a standalone desktop app whose Settings page is pretty barren. One of the rare few extra features we found here was native support for a so-called VPN Kill Switch, which is as run-of-the-mill as you can get in the VPN market. Just in case you’re not familiar with the term, this is essentially a binary setting allowing you to automatically kill your Internet access the moment your VPN disconnects for any reason.

Extensive automation via profiles or any other means isn’t an option, and the software even lacks meaningful integrations with AVG’s very own app suite.

From a technological standpoint, 256-bit AES encryption and public IP masking that are par for the modern VPN course are both part of AVG’s package, as they should be. Pay no mind to the “military-grade protection” claims of AVG’s marketing department; while technically true, describing 256-bit AES solutions as such is like saying your car is military-grade because it has four wheels and they use vehicles with four wheels in the army as well.

What isn’t so standard is the firm’s privacy policy which claims no user activity logs are recorded, yet makes it a point to highlight how AVG will investigate claims of abuse, adding that leveraging its VPN for illegal purposes in any jurisdiction is in violation of terms of use. Sounds pretty standard, right? Well… yes, but not really.

The clause against illegal abuse is a regular addition to most software usage terms – with the exception of VPNs. That’s because any VPN worth anything can’t truly investigate abuse cases as they don’t keep user logs. It’s up to users not to break the law and it isn’t up to VPN providers to police them. Imagine if Colt was sued every time someone shot a person with an AR-15 – it simply doesn’t work that way.

In other words, AVG’s decision to point out its apparent ability to investigate abuse cases already raises some red flags. That still wouldn’t be enough for anyone but the most paranoid of users to walk away from AVG Secure VPN, but then its parent company comes into play.

If you’re reading VPN reviews online, it’s pretty much a given you’ve heard of Avast, but what’s not guaranteed is that you know these guys own AVG and employ a sickeningly predatory General Privacy Policy. That would be the same document that also applies to AVG Secure VPN, mind you. If you care about keeping things like your real identity, browsing history, and phone number away from third parties, including government officials, you should stay clear of anything Avast has ever touched.

That’s without even going into the fact the company’s based out of the Netherlands, which is part of the European Union, which was always rather happy to collaborate with U.S. intelligence agencies on a broad range of spying initiatives. You can read up on why using Dutch VPNs isn’t the best idea, but long story short – you should thank Edward Snowden for revealing the extent of privacy violations committed by the U.S. and its allies since 9/11.

AVG Secure VPN Warrant Canary

Given all of the privacy concerns already raised in this review, it’s no surprise AVG Secure VPN has no warrant canary of any kind. We can only imagine what sorts of damning info such a repository would have to publicize on a regular basis if it existed, so it’s hard to blame AVG for keeping its sketchy practices on the down low – that’s why you’re reading an independent VPN review, not an official feature rundown on AVG.com.

Be that as it may, it’s worth noting that AVG’s parent company that also happens to run another VPN service you might have heard of actually has a warrant canary it updates on a quarterly basis. Some may assume this communication would also encompass AVG and other Avast subsidiaries but given the wording of its automated messages, that is not the case. Welp.

AVG Secure VPN Ease of Use

There’s a silver lining to the barebones state of AVG Secure VPN – it’s dead-simple to use. The lack of personalization at least guarantees an uncluttered interface with prominently displayed, easy-to-follow menus.

It doesn’t matter how much experience with VPNs you have under your belt. Frankly, one could even lack any understanding of what a virtual private network is or does while still easily installing and enabling AVG Secure VPN.

The Prague-based developers even made sure their super-suspicious privacy policy is straightforward to access.

AVG Secure VPN Pricing

AVG Secure VPN can set you back $4.99 or $3.99 per month, depending if you opt for a year-long plan or a longer commitment, respectively. It’s a shame choosing a 36-month subscription yields no additional direct savings over a two-year one, and the lack of shorter plans is also equally disappointing and surprising.

Instead, AVG is essentially trying to strong-arm you by vowing to raise prices as soon as your initial subscription ends. I mean, just look at this scheme:

AVG Secure VPN Prices

It’s like AVG doesn’t want to make any sales.

The incredibly demanding pricing structure is probably what prompted the company to at least offer a decent test run to anyone who hasn’t ran away screaming the moment they saw its VPN rates.

You see, it’s important to note that a seven-day trial of AVG Secure VPN is on the table with no strings attached. While you may not think much of that, countless other online services are using free trials as more of a way to trick people into paying for a month or two of their underwhelming offerings instead of a reliable method for, you know, trialing those very same solutions.

AVG Secure VPN, on the other hand, provides a week-long testing period without even requiring your credit card info, so it’s not possible to end up paying for something you didn’t want just because you forgot to cancel some shady tryout on time. That speaks volumes of AVG as a company, as well as its confidence in the VPN service being reviewed here.

In an ideal world, this would be the bare minimum expected of digital businesses, but unfortunately, we’re forced to commend AVG for not acting like some second-grade con artists and instead offering a true trial of their service to anyone interested in giving it a go. And yes, of course we’re going to eat those words in just a couple of paragraphs.

Combined with the fact that there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, it’s difficult not to at least mention AVG Secure VPN when talking about worthwhile contemporary investments in online security and privacy; even though we’re not too impressed with the rest of this package.

Yet it’s here that we also stumble upon something we first thought AVG was above of – shady sales tactics. Namely, the no-questions-asked refund policy does not apply if you’ve used AVG Secure VPN to go online over a hundred times during your first month, so keep that in mind if you’re on the fence with the app.

The bright side? A single license covers five devices and chances are, you have more than one you want to protect with a VPN. Also, the fact AVG doesn’t discriminate between subscribers in terms of feature and bandwidth availability is also somewhat unique in the VPN space.

AVG Secure VPN Review Summary

AVG Secure VPN provides a rather large boost to one’s digital security but is a negligible addition to any privacy protections you may have. As such, it’s a service that will appeal to only a portion of the total VPN user base – a smaller portion, at that.

There’s simply no way to go around the fact that a VPN that doesn’t provide near-absolute guarantees on the privacy front is a half-baked solution at best. Unfortunately, an alarming logging policy that AVG Technologies enforces is a big no-go in this respect.

If you’re already an AVG customer, even if you’re only utilizing the free tier of its antivirus suite, AVG Secure VPN is worth taking for a week-long test ride because its performance is decent enough and it won’t cost you anything. That’s because this software is more of an extension of AVG’s existing platform than a VPN capable of standing on its own figurative feet.

Everyone else will probably be better off with some other virtual private network provider that does more to tailor to their specific needs.


Editor’s Note

BSN’s AVG VPN Review has been written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.

If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.

The overall score doesn’t represent an average of all individual ratings but a weighted average which values Performance as 33%, Privacy & Security as 33%, Ease of Use as 12%, and Pricing as 22% of the final figure. It’s meant to standardize our reviews by giving more weight to the attributes we value the most in VPNs (speed, privacy, and security) without completely disregarding the rest. Naturally, much like any other review out there, the starting points/ratings are still inherently subjective to a particular reviewer’s experience.

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