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BSN’s OpenVPN Review: The Underwhelming One

Dominik

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Private Tunnel VPN

As one of today’s most widely adopted rerouting technologies, the OpenVPN protocol doesn’t require any special introductions. And while its impact on the overall VPN space cannot be overstated, today we’re looking at one very specific implementation of this standard – Private Tunnel VPN made by none other than OpenVPN Inc. Because who better to demonstrate how to leverage this comprehensive protocol than the very group that propped it up, right?


OpenVPN Review
2.90 BSN Score
Pros
Fully scalable device licenses even for personal accounts. Annual VPN subscriptions don’t get any cheaper than this. It helps you appreciate more polished VPN services.
Cons
Minuscule server network. Dubious privacy protections. Jack of a couple of trades, at best, master of messing both up.
Summary
PrivateTunnel is a textbook example of how excellent technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee a comparably great user experience. Or even a passable one.
Performance2
Privacy & Security2.5
Ease of Use3.5
Pricing4

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Performance

Well, no, not really. And please don’t get the wrong idea, that was definitely our reasoning for wanting to review Private Tunnel in the first place. It’s just that the overall package ended up being so underwhelming that we spent quite a while pondering whether it’s our fault for setting expectations too high.

But that’s the thing, though: the expectations weren’t particularly high. Instead, they came down to: “hey, OpenVPN Inc. made this, has to be worth a look.” Well, it isn’t, starting with performance. A Modern VPN lives and dies by its server count, whereas the Private Tunnel VPN just doesn’t have that many of them. Given how anyone can do scalable server deployment these days, there is really no good reason users would have to put up with a minuscule network.

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Privacy & Security

While it technically has a no-logging policy, Private Tunnel is operated by an American firm, and U.S. laws allow government agencies to compel service providers such as VPN platforms into spying on you on the go, thus conveniently circumventing the logging barrier. Hardly a great trait for an app that costs money because it promises to protect your privacy.

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Warrant Canary

Despite offering remarkably weak guarantees regarding user data security and anonymity, Private Tunnel doesn’t even attempt to feign those promises are of much consequence. Meaning it lacks a conventional warrant canary, as well as any other transparency reporting substitute.

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Ease of Use

Like most lightweight VPNs, Private Tunnel features a pretty clean design and is simple enough to navigate even if you’re an absolute newcomer to this type of software. Its mobile apps are particularly neat-looking, almost enough to make you forget the infrastructural house of cards beneath the minimalist exterior. With that said, this is primarily a review of the Private Tunnel Windows client which is unstable at best and manic at worst.

The number of times this app managed to freeze my overkill PC by spawning one memory leak after another is borderline impressive. Yet to be fair to its duck-taped codebase, Private Tunnel exhibited almost none of those issues on two other rigs I used it on – a 2019 HP Omen and a budget box originally built as a wireless media server. Still, what kind of a VPN is in such dire need of hardware-specific optimizations? Not a well-built one, that’s for sure.

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Pricing

Private Tunnel’s lackluster capabilities at least come with a super-low price tag – $6 per month, or $36 per year, with that latter figure being almost ludicrously cheap. Then again, how much should we pay for a service that doesn’t really offer a consistent experience beyond simple content unblocking? Probably not much more than $3 per month.

OpenVPN Private Tunnel Review Summary

PrivateTunnel is a textbook example of how excellent technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee a comparably great user experience. Or even a passable one. Because it would seem that designing an intuitive app that maximizes the potential of that technology while preserving some user agency may actually be the ultimate challenge, at least for OpenVPN Inc.


Editor’s Note

BSN’s Private Tunnel VPN Review was 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.

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