VPNMaster is a US-based security company which has been providing VPN services since 2008.
The product range is simple: there is just a single level of service which can be billed monthly ($7.95, £6.50 or AU$11), 3-monthly ($5.95, £4.80 or AU$8.20 per month) or yearly ($3.95, £3.20 or AU$5.40 per month).
These are lower prices than some of the competition, but that was no surprise when we checked the sparse feature list. Servers in 14 countries isn't too bad, but when we read ‘military grade security’, followed by ‘we offer 128-bit encryption’ – the lowest level of encryption you'll get from any VPN – we realised the page was more about marketing than providing detailed information.
Sure enough, the rest of the copy was a list of ‘trust us’-type promises, including "we assure you that we offer the best prices", "we offer the fastest VPN service in the inds [industry, presumably?]", and "we can unblock any site for you" (we'll bet they can't).
None of this boded particularly well or filled us with enthusiasm, but we’re here to review the service – and so let’s explore further.
If you've ever wondered why you should read terms of service pages, reading VPNMaster's version will explain all. Here's just some of what we found.
The service does maintain log files. These aren't used "for monitoring or censoring your internet activities", rather they’re for "monitoring server performance, identifying software bugs, identifying any potential security breaches, and for the purpose of identifying abusive users." The company doesn't say what's logged.
The company may throttle your bandwidth if you transfer more than 2GB per day (probably less than a full HD movie).
Simultaneous connections from different devices are not allowed.
To sign up you must provide your physical address and phone number. And hey, look at this: "You agree that we can verify your mobile phone number by verification SMS." Sounds reasonable, right?
VPNMaster's website is a mess, spread across as least three sites (vpnmaster.com, vpnmaster.org, vmaster.info). This might have happened over time, but it's confusing. Some links are broken (the support site is closed on one domain, working on another), and one seemed potentially dangerous, with a payment link prompting us to pay directly into someone's personal PayPal account.
If you go directly through VPNMaster.com, this isn't an issue, and you get the official shopping cart. Although that has problems of its own as we were required to enter our email and physical address, and phone number, even though we were paying by PayPal.
An email arrived immediately with general setup instructions. We tried the only available client, a simple Windows program, and although this was basic in the extreme it was easy enough to use.
VPNMaster picked up just a little at the end in our tests*, with acceptable UK-UK performance (upload speeds halved compared to what we’d normally get, but downloads were only around 5% slower). Unfortunately UK-US speed was considerably worse, the client had a DNS leak, and there was nothing here to compensate for the rest of our experience.