It’s no secret that torrenting is one of the top reasons why people look to acquire a VPN service. It’s also a very well-known fact that there are quite a few VPN services to choose from out there, which is why we made a top 3 of the VPN services we recommend to use in 2017. These VPN services have been tested extensively for several months as we are using them on a daily basis. Before looking at the torrent speed test results and key aspects of each recommended VPN service, let’s start by breaking down a few of the features that we consider to be essential when it comes to torrenting.
Essential VPN features for torrenting
A lot of VPN providers block torrent traffic either regionally or globally. Most of the times this happens when they try to limit the bandwidth usage which can be quite costly in some locations,especially if cheap cloud/VPS servers instead of dedicated hardware are part of their infrastructure and we’ve seen in our reviews that this is the case with many.
Another very common reason for blocking torrents is to stay away from potential copyright infringement notices and problems with the hosting companies. Some VPN providers may even go as far as forwarding DMCA complaint notices to their users and shutting down accounts, which is definitely something to take into account. A simple Google search for the service provider name and DMCA will give you a good idea whether complaints have been registered against some services.
Anonymous sign-up and payments
When it comes to protecting your real identity, it’s obvious that you should look into a VPN service that allows you to sign-up without identity verification. This may not be a very well-known fact but a lot of VPN providers still ask for some form of identity verification which in our opinion defeats the purpose of setting up a VPN account for privacy purposes in the first place.
Another very important aspect is the allowed payment methods. We feel that accepting bitcoin, other crypto currencies and prepaid/gift cards should be mandatory, as these payments cannot be (easily) traced back to you.
It is very important to know exactly what data is collected by your VPN provider, if any at all, and for how long it is stored. The way this data is used should definitely be a determining factor in choosing your VPN service. We recommend services that do not log activity. Ideally your VPN service should have absolutely no logs, but be aware of services that claim to have zero logs even though in reality it’s not true. This “no log” claim is the de-facto marketing claim in the VPN business. Some services log some user activity in order to provide better customer support and secure their service, which is understandable, and we feel that transparency is the key when it comes to privacy policies.
Regarding torrent downloads, we feel that speed is definitely a deal breaker. The number of servers available is not really relevant when it comes to torrent downloads where quality is appreciated over quantity. To put it simple, if you are in the USA do you really care if your VPN service has servers in Myanmar, Laos or Lebanon? Due to Internet peering and bandwidth capacity, speed to many countries would be absolutely terrible. So you should be looking for locations where important Internet Exchange nodes and datacenters are located.
Software and features
VPN software will always be different and molded around the needs of the customers. Feedback and testing leads to every VPN provider to improve their software and evolve in a relevant direction. Having said that, we still feel that there are specific features that should not be missing from any VPN software that wants to compete on the market and we will put an emphasis on the features that a are a must for torrenting.
- Kill-switch, a feature that cuts off the internet connection when the VPN connection is lost. This is done to prevent your real IP to become visible in the torrent swarm. It’s a must-have feature because it offers a very important extra layer of protection.
- Customization. Changing connection parameters such as protocols, ports or type of encryption can help with connection issues and drastically improve torrent download performance.
- Port-forwarding improves the upload speed. This feature is only a must if you plan on uploading torrents as well, a must for keeping a good ratio on private torrent trackers. If you are the type of user that is only interested in hit-and-runs, torrent downloads from public trackers, this feature will be irrelevant to you.
- Selective routing or support for SOCKS5 are recommended. This will allow you to only run the torrent application thorough VPN while keeping the rest of your traffic relevant to your physical location. be aware that SOCKS5 isn’t encrypted, but it’s sufficient in most cases for torrent downloads and convenient as you can set up a proxy in your torrent client to hide your identity in torrent swarms.
Recommended VPN Services
After testing dozens of VPN services, we found that only a handful of them actually meet the criteria mentioned above. It’s not a simple task to find the right VPN service and requirements will always differ, but again, we focused on services that provide you with the must-have features. Each of them had some interesting features and provide a strong VPN service, so they are not ranked in any particular order.
Private Internet Access (PIA)
Private Internet Access (or PIA VPN) has been one of the top players in the VPN industry for years. With their wide coverage of over 3400 servers in 25 countries, it’s undeniable that they have a solid product. However, as with any service that has a high number of customers, you can expect bandwidth congestion on the most popular server locations which can sometimes be rather unpleasant.
Among the strong points of the service, we would like to mention that they ask for very little information for the sign-up process (just the e-mail address), a no-log policy and very good software that meets almost all the criteria we mentioned above. It’s also worth mentioning that PIA VPN doesn’t block torrent downloads in any of the supported locations.
They also offer a SOCKS5 proxy solution that will allow you to redirect only the torrent downloads as opposed to all of your traffic.
We ran several speed tests through some of the more popular server locations and through their PIA’s Netherlands SOCKS5 proxy.
Speed test with SOCKS5 proxy in Netherlands:
The download speed was good on the tested servers.
Torrent speeds via VPN connection: 50Mbps to 150 Mbps.
Torrent speeds via SOCKS5 proxy (Netherlands): 50Mbps to 200 Mbps.
Please take into consideration that these results may vary depending on your physical location and ISP.
- huge infrastructure, torrents allowed everywhere
- good software, reliable kill switch, several connection methods and encryption types, port forwarding
- privacy focused, proven not to give out user details when challenged
- very good value for the money
- easy to signup anonymously
- SOCKS5 available in Netherlands only. Canada would be a nice addition
- very popular, meaning that there are network congestions at times and many of their IPs are blocked on various sites
- They are US-based and can be the subject of secret court orders.
Full Private Internet Access Review (2016)
ExpressVPN is known for its popularity with Chinese users who are facing a lot of restrictions as far as internet usage goes. The service itself has been around for a few years and offers server locations in 145 cities from 94 countries, which is quite impressive.
Among the strong points of the service, we would like to mention that they offer a very intuitive app for desktop and mobiles, easy to set up and use. They keep the registration information to a minimum, have a good number of payment methods available and their torrent downloads are not blocked on any of the servers. One negative aspect is that they do not offer a proxy solution at the moment, which may be an issue depending on your VPN needs.
ExpressVPN torrent speed test result samples:
Torrent speeds via VPN connection: 20Mbps to 80 Mbps.
Even though the results will differ depending on the location you are in, we found the results to be satisfactory. The fact that ExpressVPN has a high number of customer can create congestions at peak hours which can drastically affect performance and bandwidth. With that in mind, they do have a 30 day money back guarantee which should give you more than enough time to figure out whether the service is sufficient for you.
- excellent software
- excellent kill switch (firewall based), DNS leak prevention
- huge number of countries to connect to, torrents not blocked
- easy to sign up anonymously
- not US based (incorporated in British Virgin Islands, team likely in Hong Kong)
- 30 days money back guarantee
- more expensive than others
- SOCKS5 proxy not supported, port forwarding not supported
- infrastructure can be overused resulting in lower torrent speeds
Full review of ExpressVPN (2016)
Founded in 2012, VPN.AC is a niche player in the VPN market, focused on security and privacy. They offer a fully-featured VPN service with impressive performance and great technical support. They offer over 70 servers in 22 countries and that number is growing.
There are a lot of strong points that the service provides, such as top-of-the-line encryption, fully-featured software for all major operating system, a wide range of payment methods, no activity logging and the list goes on. One of the biggest advantages of being a smaller service is the quality of the bandwidth. As mentioned before, some of the bigger VPN providers can experience network congestions during peak hours due to the large number of customers trying to access particular servers. This is not going to be an issue when choosing a smaller service because the infrastructure is meant to support all the clients they have.
Another advantage that a smaller VPN services such as VPN.ac offers is the level of support. The time and attention received when attended by the technicians will clearly reflect the knowledge and dedication that got the service up and running in the first place.
We ran many torrent speed test on several servers and through both of the SOCKS5 solutions (Canada and Netherlands) that VPN.AC offers and we have to say that we were rather impressed by the results. Here are some torrent download results:
Torrent download test through SOCKS5 proxies in Canada and Netherlands:
Torrent speeds via VPN connection: 40Mbps to 150 Mbps
Torrent speeds via SOCKS5 proxy in Canada and Netherlands: 50Mbps to 250 Mbps.
The results reflect on the strengths of the service which focuses on quality and infrastructure and is not the usual all-around solution. They offer an affordable service with the possibility to test out the product at $2/week. There is also a 7-day money back guarantee so you should have enough time to get a better idea of what VPN.AC can accomplish for you.
- security and privacy focused, lots of innovative features (AES-GCM, Elliptic Curve, encrypted DNS queries)
- excellent support
- excellent torrent speed both with VPN and SOCKS5
- easy to use software, lots of connection settings options
- effective kill switch, DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention
- very good pricing
- easy to signup anonymously
- not US based
- no port forwarding
Latest full review of VPN.AC (2016)
In short, we feel that torrent downloads are a big part of a VPN service and that they should not be neglected. Different providers offer different advantages and services, but we found the three services mentioned above to be the closest to our standards. Whether you are looking for a big name with a wide variety of servers or a small service focused on quality and reliability, you are sure to find what you need by checking out the VPN providers in our review.