Astrill’s marketing team does a great job of advertising it as one of the best VPNs out there, especially in China — but are they telling the truth about how good it is?
I tested every feature and analyzed its privacy policies and security measures to see if it’s good enough to recommend. I also paid attention to its server network, speeds, torrenting support, gaming, streaming and finally made up my mind about it.
Astrill VPN has unique features that make it a good VPN for China, but I wouldn’t recommend it for casual users in non-restrictive countries. Its China-optimized servers are secure, but outside of that, its network is small and unreliable. All of its many features make it a complicated app to navigate, and I had to troubleshoot technical issues more than once with customer support. I’d recommend checking out other VPNs if you want a simple and more reliable way to stay safe online.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Unblocks most streaming platforms. Astrill managed to unblock all the streaming platforms I tested (including Netflix and Hulu), but it is very time-consuming to find servers that work. Take a look at my test results below.
- Slow and inconsistent speeds. My speed dropped by up to 40%, which is quite a lot. Besides, the connection wasn’t stable, so the speed fluctuations were big. You can check out my speed test results here.
- Some leaks detected. Some servers were effective at hiding my personal information, while others proved not to be as secure. Check out my full security analysis.
- Works in China. It has multiple unique features like StealthVPN and Smart Mode, which are designed to bypass China’s Great Firewall. Check out my full analysis below.
- Too complicated for beginners. However, it has customizable desktop clients, which are great for advanced users. Take a look at my full run-down for more.
Astrill VPN Features — Updated in September 2021
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Number of servers||100|
|Number of devices per license||5|
|Based in country||Seychelles|
Astrill managed to unblock every streaming platform I tested, but only on specific servers. Most VPNs have specific streaming servers that unblock different streaming platforms, but with Astrill, everything’s a lottery. It doesn’t provide you with specialized streaming servers, and if you want to unblock a specific streaming platform you need to message the support team and hope to get a server recommendation. Since most of its locations don’t work at all, it’s hard to watch anything.
Before I started testing, I reached out to Astrill’s support team to see which server they recommend. After a series of questions, the customer support rep gave me a long tutorial mentioning that any US server will do with StealthVPN (a protocol developed by Astrill) — he didn’t give me a server, but an entire protocol. The StealthVPN protocol uses obfuscation, which makes your connection to the VPN invisible to firewalls and websites. This means that you can technically use it to bypass geoblocks. The problem is that even after following the tutorial, I couldn’t unblock any streaming platform using StealthVPN.
After trying to access Netflix and Hulu using the recommended settings, I reached out to its support team for a second time, and I was given a server — Dallas 1. I immediately connected to the server and accessed Netflix without any issues, but the other platforms couldn’t be unblocked. What I really didn’t like is that once I disconnected and reconnected to the same server, Netflix stopped working and recognized the VPN, leaving me under the impression that it’s incredibly unstable.
I played around with my settings and decided to try another protocol — OpenWeb. It’s more lightweight than StealthVPN, so it’s a little faster — which I hoped would give me the best picture quality. However, I was still disappointed: I had to work hard to find servers that could unblock streaming services. It took about 40 minutes to find a server that worked with Netflix — and I had to start from the beginning to find working servers for each platform.
I find Astrill very confusing, and an overall waste of time. I spent over 5 hours unblocking these streaming services, going from protocol to protocol, and working my way through Astrill’s servers. You shouldn’t have to spend this much time figuring out such an expensive VPN, and it’s best to look for other services providing reliable connections.
Unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, ESPN, and HBO Max
I was able to watch movies on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO Max on Astrill’s Los Angeles Supercharged – only with the OpenWeb protocol. Supercharged servers are supposed to give you lower latency and higher overall performance. However, I spent a lot of time trying to find a working server.
Unblocking ESPN is complicated. On some servers, I could see the shows without being able to play them. On other servers, I’d loop back to the login screen every time I tried to watch something. The only server I could actually watch ESPN on is Chicago 1, and only with OpenWeb.
Disney+ was an adventure to unblock. After going through 30+ US servers on all 4 protocols, I discovered that I could unblock Disney+ on the Portland server using OpenWeb. The whole process was more than exhausting, and if I was simply trying to watch a show, I would have just quit.
What I found a little strange is that Astrill’s live agent claimed that no VPN can unblock Amazon Prime anymore — and told me that I should buy a private IP on Astrill’s Dallas 1 server. He explained that the platform can now detect multiple requests from the same IP address, and blocks those IPs. However, I unblocked it with Astrill’s OpenVPN protocol (and many other VPNs).
The only good news I had was that I could also unblock Hulu on the same Portland server. Only with the OpenWeb protocol, and no other server could unblock it.
Astrill Unblocked Every Platform I Tested Eventually
After a long period of trying and testing, Astrill managed to unblock every streaming platform I tested. However, I don’t recommend it at all. It does bypass all the geoblocks, but the process is incredibly long and complicated. On top of that, some servers don’t work at all – 5 of its UK servers couldn’t connect to any streaming platform.
If you’re looking for a streaming VPN, I recommend choosing one with specialized streaming servers and a large network, so the IP addresses don’t get blocked.
Astrill’s speeds are generally good, but incredibly inconsistent. I ran tests on both local and international servers to see if distance made any difference. I used Ookla’s speed test tool and measured my:
- Ping – measures how fast you get a response from a website or app. It’s important in gaming, as a high ping usually means lag.
- Download speed – the time it takes to download files and information from the internet (this includes downloading images and streaming movies).
- Upload speed – the time needed to send files from your computer.
It’s normal for a VPN to slow down your connection a little, as your information needs to travel further away. It also takes time for it to be encrypted. However, there’s a huge difference between the speed tests I took (some were only a few minutes apart), which shows that Astrill is extremely unreliable.
Astrill gives decent local speeds, but I encountered a lot of inconsistencies. It also has its own in-app speed testing tool, but for these tests, I used Speedtest by Ookla because of its reputation. Before I tested Astrill, I performed a speed test from my location in Romania to have something to compare it to. Without a VPN, I had 92.31 Mbps download, 68.44 Mbps upload, and 4 ms ping.
Most of the VPNs I’ve tested have a Best Location feature that automatically chooses the best server for you — but Astrill doesn’t. I had to scroll through the server list myself to find one nearby. This wasn’t hard, but it was annoying and I felt like it wasted my time. After connecting the VPN, my download speed decreased by 45% to 51.08 Mbps, and the upload speed decreased to 58.94 Mbps. The ping increased to 55 ms.
It’s normal to have a lower speed when you use a VPN, as it takes time to route your traffic through its servers, but you should only lose 10-20% of your speed with a good VPN (not 45%). This is where everything got interesting: While I was testing Astrill’s streaming performance, I realized that I was getting inconsistent results, so I conducted more tests.
|Location||Download speed||Upload speed||Ping|
|Without a VPN(Bucharest, Romania)||92.31 Mbps||68.44 Mbps||4 ms|
|Connected to local Brasov server||51.08 Mbps (45% decrease)||58.94 Mbps (14% decrease)||55 ms|
|Connected to local Cluj server||70.58 Mbps (24% decrease)||57.92 Mbps (15% decrease)||157 ms|
|Connected to local Iasi server||43.23 Mbps (54% decrease)||60.33 Mbps (12% decrease)||55 ms|
I tested the same server three times to see how the speed would change. Normally, the connection speed would stay relatively the same — but my results changed by up to 40% with each test. This means that when you’re using Astrill, your connection speed could be very fast one minute— and extremely slow the next. With other VPNs, I didn’t experience this issue; even if my speed went down 20%, it was consistent with every test.
Astrill VPN’s long-distance speeds provided me with a good connection, but it couldn’t keep it constant. I first connected to one of its servers in Los Angeles to see the difference, and I was not impressed. My download speed decreased by 43%, but it’s understandable since I connected to the other side of the world. Knowing that Astrill’s servers weren’t very stable on local servers, though, I ran more tests using the same LA server.
On my second test, my speed decreased by 59%. Since I had a very fast speed to start with, I didn’t notice any difference to my online activity. However, if your network is not very fast, you may not be able to do much from an international server.
Continuing my tests, I moved to Astrill’s UK servers. My speed went down about 57%, which is a lot. But again, once I changed some settings and switched protocols, my speeds changed too. I switched from StealthVPN to OpenVPN and my upload speed was actually 37% faster than my original one (which is pretty impressive!).
It’s possible to get good speeds using Astrill VPN’s servers, but the inconsistencies and need to change and test out different settings makes it a hassle to actually get them.
Are Astrill VPN’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes, but Only on Some Servers
Only Astrill’s local servers are fast enough for gaming. I couldn’t play anything on Astrill’s international servers because my connection was so slow, which is disappointing. On top of that, some servers didn’t seem to work at all. Because of these issues, I can’t recommend it as a VPN for gaming.
I tested both single and multiplayer games through Nvidia GeForce NOW. As a reference, you need at least 25 Mbps to play games at 60 fps. First, I connected to a US server to see if distance would affect my game quality. My lowest download speed was 38.09 Mbps, which led me to believe that gaming would be possible. However, after testing it with Nvidia’s tool, I realized it will never run a multiplayer online game because my ping was too high. Nvidia measures three values to see if your connection is good for gaming:
- Bandwidth – how much information you can send or receive on the network
- Packet loss – determines how much information you’re getting from in the transfer
- Latency/ping – the time it takes for data to be transmitted to your device
Even though my speed was great, my ping was way too high. In order to play an online game without lag, your ping shouldn’t exceed 50 ms, whereas Astrill’s US server had a ping of 361 ms. Both single and multiplayer games were impossible to play, as the connection kept dropping.
When I switched to a local server, the ping was lower and the speed was fast enough for gaming, so I didn’t have as many problems. Even though the ping was a little high, it still matched the requirements, and I managed to play a Fortnite match without much lag.
If you upgrade to a VIP Plan – which costs $8.61 USD for 100GB of traffic, you get access to servers that are optimized for gaming – meaning they are optimized for low ping.
Astrill VPN is not a good choice for gaming. Some of the UK servers I tested didn’t work at all, you can’t establish an optimized connection for gaming unless you choose the VIP package, and it takes a lot of time to find a server that works.
Server Network — Very Few Servers, but Some Useful Features
Astrill has 100 servers in 50 countries. This global spread allows it to provide fast speeds to most parts of the world. It also has some specialized servers like China-optimized and torrenting-optimized ones.
Most of Astrill’s servers are located in the US and I counted about 50 in its client – which is a low number. This means that if one server isn’t working, you have very few options to choose from. After I went through 35 servers and none of them worked, I started questioning Astrill’s capabilities.
Multi-hop VPN routes your traffic through multiple servers, making you harder to spot — but it’s only accessible to Astrill’s VIP users. It’s a paid feature that starts at $8.69 USD for 100GB of traffic. Instead of routing your connection through only one server, the multi-hop feature will add an extra server on the way in order to make it impossible for anyone to track your connection. For most people this is overkill. Your VPN should already hide your location. Plus, during my tests, multi-hop reduced my connection speeds even more — making it almost impossible to do even basic online tasks.
In general, the multi-hop feature is great to make your connection hard to track, but the slow speeds that come with it defeats the purpose, so it’s not worth the money. You can only use the multi-hop feature with the OpenWeb protocol.
Astrill offers two types of IP addresses:
- Shared IP addresses — in general, when you connect to a server, you share an IP address with all the other people connected to it. The shared IPs are great for anonymity because hundreds of people are using the same one, and you can’t tell who did what. However, shared IP addresses often get blocked by streaming platforms.
- Private IP addresses — if you want a dedicated IP address, you need to pay an extra $5 USD per month on top of your subscription. You are the only person using it and it’s always connected to the same location, which helps maintain a stable connection. Besides, the chances of being blocked by streaming platforms are lower because they can’t know if it’s your real IP address or provided by a VPN. However, dedicated IPs are easier to track and provide less security because they let you open specific ports and forward traffic to your device.
I was disappointed to see that you can’t buy a dedicated IP address if you’re paying for a monthly subscription, which means you can only use them on longer plans.
It’s possible to get dedicated IP addresses in the US, UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Turkey, Australia, and Brazil.
Astrill’s Smart Mode is a feature that allows you to use a local IP address for local traffic, and an international one for accessing geoblocked content. Its purpose is to hide the fact that you’re using the VPN, by keeping traffic on your original IP too.
Instead of routing all the traffic through Astrill’s servers, you can choose which apps or websites use it. When I tested it, I directed my browser traffic through the VPN but left the P2P apps such as Skype and Telegram running on my network.
This feature comes in handy for people living in countries with high censorship, as it won’t trigger any flags while also allowing them to access any international websites without much of a hassle.
Astrill VPN comes packed with a lot of security features – at least on paper. Depending on the type of protocol you choose and your luck, these settings may not be available. Besides, Astrill VPN lacks the well-advertised DNS and IP leak protection, so you need to be very careful when you use it.
Encryption and Protocols
Astrill VPN has 4 main protocols, each with its own purpose and encryption systems. Whenever you turn the VPN on, you can choose between these protocols and the level of encryption you use (AES 256, 193, or 128 bit). Each comes with slightly different settings, making the VPN a little complicated.
- OpenWeb – is a great solution for dealing with limited networks – for example, if your workplace blocks Facebook, you can still access it using OpenWeb. It’s the only protocol allowing you to change the server without turning it off. Since it looks like regular HTTP and HTTPS traffic, internet providers and government institutions won’t be able to detect the VPN. However, keep in mind that OpenWeb can only tunnel traffic from popular web browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera.
- StealthVPN – This protocol scrambles your VPN connection, making it seem like a regular internet connection. That means that your online activity and the fact that you’re using a VPN is hidden. This feature is useful for bypassing network restrictions as well as overcoming internet blocks in countries like China. It works with both TCP and UDP protocols, meaning you can choose from thousands of ports to unblock any website or app. What I didn’t like about the StealthVPN protocol is that I couldn’t change the server without turning the VPN off.
- WireGuard – used for shorter connection times and high performance. It uses 6 encryption protocols, and it was initially designed for roaming. This means that if your device switches from mobile data to WiFi and vice-versa, your VPN will stay connected.
- OpenVPN – unlike StealthVPN and WireGuard, it can be used by anyone without requiring a client. Its purpose is not to hide traffic, but to create stable, secure, and fast connections between parties.
In addition to these 4, you can manually set up some other protocols. These include IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPSec, Cisco IPSec, SSTP, PPTP.
Astrill VPN claims to have a very strict no-logs policy, but it does save some information and sensitive data for a limited time.
I went over Astrill’s privacy policies and found out that it keeps data about your connection time, country, type of device, amount of bandwidth used, and Astrill’s version number – this helps them limit the number of devices connected on an account. All this data is kept for the last 20 logins, and it’s deleted if you don’t use the VPN for 30 days.
On top of that, when your VPN is on, Astrill keeps logs of your connection time, IP address, device type, and Astrill’s client version — but this data is deleted once you close the connection. Most concerning is that it logs your IP address, but since this information is deleted immediately after you disconnect, your anonymity is pretty well protected.
When I checked my logs, I had a big surprise. I tried downloading the .zip document containing my logs, but they all got deleted. After connecting and disconnecting multiple times from the VPN to create more logs, the same thing happened. I couldn’t download my logs no matter what I did. When I messaged the support team to find out more about this issue, they couldn’t tell me anything except that they’d contact me when the issue was fixed.
Considering I already experienced leaks on some servers and kept experiencing more problems, I’m convinced that you should look for a different VPN. I don’t find it too surprising that it hasn’t performed third-party audits on its apps or policies, either.
I experienced leaks on some servers while using Astrill VPN, however the VPN blocks you from using the most popular leak testing tools. When I began my tests, I kept getting blocked when trying to access ipleak.net, one of the most popular platforms to test leaks. I sent a message to the live chat team asking what was happening, and they said that these tools are purposely blocked because “most of them sell the IP data”.
They also recommended I use Astrill’s own DNS leak test. For me, this was a red flag. Other top VPNs I’ve tested allow the use of leak testing tools, which reassures me that they have nothing to hide. Besides, when I tried Astrill’s DNS leak test on different (yet very secure) VPNs, I was informed that my connection was not secure – which was definitely not the case.
After looking for a DNS tester that wasn’t blocked by Astrill, I found ipleak.com. The first server I tested was Los Angeles B, which completely failed to cover all my information. My IP address, ISP, location, city, country, and coordinates were all visible.
This means that every website I visited, along with my ISP, could see all of my online activity and my actual location. This defeats the purpose of using a VPN completely.
The second server I tested was a Canadian one that managed to hide all my data, except for the local time – if someone were to check it, they’d figure out something is happening on my network.
Astrill’s IP and DNS leak protection is lacking, and I don’t recommend using it. Even if you do, you are blocked from using the appropriate tools to ensure your connection is secure. There are many other options out there that will keep you safe (and give you the option to make sure that’s the case).
Astrill VPN’s automatic kill switch worked well when I tested it. The kill switch shuts down your internet connection in case the VPN fails. Even when you’re using a reliable VPN, your connection can fail from time to time. Without a kill switch, your personal information would be immediately exposed.
I tested its kill switch on my MacBook and it did the job. However, the moment I closed the VPN, it also blocked my internet access. This was inconvenient because I had to restart my WiFi connection whenever I disconnected the VPN.
To activate the kill switch, you need to go into Astrill’s privacy settings and check the “Internet Kill Switch” box.
App Guard allows you to manually select the apps you don’t want to run without a VPN. This protects your online identity and keeps your IP address hidden. Keep in mind that App Guard is slightly different from the classic kill switch. It allows you to choose which apps to tunnel, while the kill switch will block all your apps from accessing the internet in case of a failure.
This feature is only available on Windows. The classic kill switch works just fine with the macOS and Linux clients, so your identity will be safe even if the VPN disconnects.
Outside of the Intelligence-Sharing Community
Astrill VPN is based in The Republic of Seychelles, which is outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance. It has no obligation to share your data with other countries or intelligence agencies, and it doesn’t store a lot of information about you. After going through Seychelles’ data protection law, I noticed that no data collecting entity needs to send any information to the government. And if an international entity requires that data, Seychelles’ Data Protection Commissioner can block the transfer.
Astrill VPN lets you choose which websites are routed through the VPN and which ones stay on your regular IP address. Since it’s only available for websites, all apps are automatically routed through the VPN.
To see if this feature really works I added ipleak.com to the list. At first, I instructed the VPN to only tunnel that website — but it failed from the start. Ipleak.com could see my IP, city, and all the other information I was trying to hide. The only explanation I had was that the functions were inverted, so I also instructed Astrill to exclude that website from filtering — and I had the same result. Not only did Astrill not tunnel the website I instructed it to, it didn’t mask any of my information either.
It’s also inconvenient that (unless you’re using the OpenVPN protocol) you need to include or exclude websites based on their IP address, not URL. This is a complicated process, and you need to have some coding skills to get it.
This feature is available on all of Astrill’s clients, with OpenVPN, StealthVPN, and WireGuard protocols.
Port forwarding allows remote devices to access your computer through a private local area network. It’s useful if you want to create a direct connection between a device in your home and another remote device – for example, you can use this if you need to monitor your security cameras when you’re away from home.
With a shared IP address, you can choose one pre-selected port to forward to. However, with a dedicated IP address, you can choose to forward any port, while also using the NAT Firewall. The Network Address Translation (NAT firewall) is your router’s security system. It makes sure that the devices you register on that network can and will access the internet. Astrill’s port forwarding option can forward up to 3 ports on the same network.
Onion Over VPN
The Onion over VPN feature helps you to safely access the dark web without being traced. Instead of using Tor, you can turn on the Onion over VPN feature, and all your traffic will be rerouted through a series of nodes.
When you switch on Astrill’s Onion over VPN feature, all your traffic is sent first through the VPN and then through the Onion network. This allows you to access .onion sites from any browser (not just Tor). During my tests, it was much slower than a regular connection, but this is normal because my traffic had to go through the VPN server as well as the Tor nodes. It’s much more secure and useful if you want to access the dark web, but it’s unnecessary and too slow for regular traffic.
Astrill comes with a built-in ad blocker, but it’s not reliable. I turned off my browser’s ad blockers and turned Astrill’s on. I could still see all the ads and pop-ups. If you’re concerned about blocking ads, I suggest continuing to use your regular ad blocking software activated instead of using this feature.
Torrenting — Fast P2P-Optimized Servers
Astrill VPN performed OK when I tested its torrenting capabilities — but considering many of my connections weren’t secure, your anonymity is not guaranteed. The good thing is that Astrill’s local speeds were good during my test, so I was able to finish the download.
It also offers the possibility to connect to a SOCKS5 proxy, designed to create an additional layer of security – it creates a TCP connection behind the firewall and routes all the data through it. It also has specialized servers for torrenting that are marked with a star in the app.
I connected to a few servers in Romania, Canada, the US, Netherlands, and the UK. I could download my files on all of them, but the speeds on the international servers were very slow. On the Romanian server, my speed was good and I didn’t notice any connection issues.
It works well with clients like BitTorrent, LimeWire, and uTorrent – and I was glad that it was also compatible with my torrenting client, Transmission – which is very restrictive. However, you will need to enable port forwarding in order to torrent with Astrill VPN, which isn’t the greatest for security. You also can’t access P2P-optimized servers using the OpenWeb protocol.
Overall, I don’t recommend using Astrill VPN for torrenting. Even though it performed decently, you have no guarantee that your connection is secure enough to keep you safe.
Astrill works in China using the StealthVPN protocol and its Smart Mode feature. It also has a mirror website accessible by users in China and a fully functional .onion domain. This is important because China’s government bans non-government approved VPNs (and therefore blocks their websites). That means if you’re already there you won’t be able to download it any other way. Even the renowned anti-censorship website greatfire.org claims that Astrill VPN is one of the best VPNs to bypass the Great Firewall. This is probably Astrill’s greatest selling feature.
I contacted Astrill’s support team first to see if I could still use the VPN in China, and they said yes.
Stealth VPN uses obfuscation technology to make your VPN connection seem like regular internet traffic. This makes it very difficult for China to block your connection for using a VPN. It uses the OpenVPN protocol and scrambles that connection over either UDP or TCP. However, StealthVPN isn’t available for iOS devices.
Smart Mode is a unique technology developed by Astrill that ensures greater anonymity specifically in China. It simulates DNS and HTTPS traffic using a regional Chinese IP, so you can unblock international websites while still using a local IP address. Smart Mode is only available while using the OpenWeb protocol. However, you can use the Website Tunneling feature using any protocol, allowing you to access local sites while connected to the VPN as well.
It would be a shame to have these great features only to realize your chosen server was leaking your real information. So, I ran a few tests on Astrill’s China-optimized servers to make sure my connection was secure. I didn’t experience any leaks using the Seattle China-optimized server – my IP address, ISP, and location remained hidden.