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Thunder VPN Review 2021 - Keep This in Mind Before Buying

Author Image Kennedy Otieno
Kennedy Otieno | Cybersecurity Researcher
Updated on 12th July 2021

Thunder VPN is free for life! Signal Lab, the company behind this app, claims to offer users online protection and other great perks without asking for a dime. This sounds ravishing, but we all know that free things sometimes come with hidden costs. So before you jump on the bandwagon, take notes here about what the VPN offers and what they claim to offer but don’t. Many VPNs are out there, but you should only go for VPNs that outperform the flock and give you value for money.

Thunder VPN is free, and there is also a VIP version with slightly upgraded features. The app is only usable on Android devices but can also be used on Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs with an Android emulator. It currently has 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store and 4.8-star ratings from more than 800,000 reviews. These statistics look impressive but also normal for a free app. When we get down to value and performance, however, things get a little twisted.

The only streaming services that Thunder VPN can unblock are Amazon Prime Video and YouTube US. You can’t unblock Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, iPlayer, or HBO Max. Using the app will reduce speeds by as much as 50%, which can impact streaming and gaming if you aren’t on a high bandwidth connection. There is no cap on VPN bandwidth, though.

Thunder VPN uses the SSL protocol which is less secure for VPNs as it doesn’t verify clients like the IPSec protocol and therefore leaves users vulnerable to “man in the middle” cyber attacks. The problem is aggravated by the lack of a killswitch to prevent access to the internet when your device is not connected to the VPN.

Thunder VPN is actually intrusive and collects data through a vague log policy. Your privacy lies at their mercy. Annoying ads will pop up every single time you connect/disconnect from the free app version, which only confirms that commercial interests precede the vendor’s promise of keeping you safe behind a firewall.

Testing this VPN app showed me there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings

Thunder VPN Features — Updated in September 2021

Price $5.11/month
Does VPN keep logs? Yes
Number of servers 10
Number of devices per license 1
Kill switch No
Supports torrenting No

Streaming — Works Only On A Few Platforms

You’ll find little success using Thunder VPN on streaming platforms. I could only bypass the geo-restrictions on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube US. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer all blocked Thunder VPN.

Unblocked: Amazon Prime Video & YouTube

It’s not surprising that Thunder VPN can unblock streaming on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. These are by far the easiest platforms to unblock for most VPNs. I used both the West and East United States servers to stream US exclusive shows The Boys and Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime. YouTube, I would say, was a walk in the park to unblock.

A screenshot of Amazon Prime Video unblocked by Thunder VPN

Thunder VPN unblocked Amazon Prime Video and I watched the US-exclusive show ‘The Boys’

Blocked By: Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, iPlayer, HBO Max

Thunder VPN fails the ultimate streaming test as it cannot allow you to watch shows on Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, iPlayer, and HBO Max.

I connected to the US servers from my location in Nairobi and searched for Netflix shows only available to US viewers like Mystic Pizza, but the platform offered me none. When I repeated the process with a different VPN that I was certain works on Netflix, the shows were available to watch. This was enough proof that the VPN could not unblock Netflix.

Similarly, Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max all blocked my attempts to use Thunder VPN to stream from their platforms.

A screenshot of Hulu and iPlayer blocking Thunder VPN

Hulu and iPlayer blocked me from accessing the platform with Thunder VPN

Speeds — Lost An Average Of 50% Of My Internet Speeds

As with any VPN, I expected internet speeds would drop when I used Thunder VPN. In this case, however, I lost more than half of my initial speeds. Below are the results from my 30 Mbps Nairobi connection and the subsequent speed test readings from the UK, US, and German servers.

Baseline speed test results

Screenshots of speed test readings without Thunder VPN

Speed test readings from my location without Thunder VPN

UK Speed test

Screenshot of speed test results with Thunder VPN connected to UK servers

Speed test results with Thunder VPN connected to UK servers

Download speeds without VPN 33.23 Mbps

Download speeds with VPN on UK servers 20.74 Mbps

Speed loss of 37.58%

US Speed Test

creenshot of speed test with Thunder VPN connected to US servers

Speed test results with Thunder VPN connected to US servers

Download speeds without VPN 33.23 Mbps

Download speeds with VPN on UK servers 16.80 Mbps

Speed loss of 49.44%

German Speed Test

Screenshot of speed test with Thunder VPN connected to US servers

Speed test results with Thunder VPN connected to German servers

Download speeds without VPN 33.23 Mbps

Download speeds with VPN on UK servers 15.67 Mbps

Speed loss of 52.83%

Are Thunder VPN’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? No

If your connection is bordering average then I would not recommend this VPN for gaming primarily because I lost nearly half of my baseline internet speeds on most servers I tested. If, however, you have a high bandwidth connection then you should have no problem with gaming or streaming in HD using Thunder VPN because download speeds as little as 4Mbps can do the job.

Server Network — Can Fail You Sometimes

Thunder VPN’s free version has a very limited server network with servers in only 8 countries including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Singapore, Netherlands, and the United States which is split into Eastern and Western servers.

The VIP version is an improvement as it adds more countries to this server list to a total of 10. Among the additions are Australia, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland, India, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and the US South. The coverage in Asia is a major boost because previously, they have been criticized for being Euro-centric.

A screenshot of Thunder VPN servers on the free app version

Thunder VPN’s free version has servers in 8 countries

As a rule of thumb, being closer to servers provided by a VPN provider offers you a better experience with their service as long as the server space is not overburdened by many users. Thunder is a free VPN with a high number of registered users and few servers, so you should expect their server networks to be slow at times.

It has done a good job by integrating a signal meter that shows the strength of each country’s servers at a particular time and automatically connects you to the most optimized server based on your location. Sometimes, you will see none of the servers has a green signal, thus indicating that the server network is occasionally weak.

There aren’t any city-optimized servers showing ping rate, download, and upload speeds to help you choose the best intercity servers. The only country where they have made small efforts to create area-based servers is the US, where they have East, West, and South servers.

Another commendable feature of the app is that you can instantly switch between servers without getting disconnected from the VPN, as it happens with most VPNs. It takes only 2-3 seconds to change servers which I find to be impressive.

Once in a while, you might encounter incidents where Thunder VPN uses virtual servers. This means that you may set the app to UK servers, but if the servers there aren’t working, you may be assigned an IP in France. This is exactly what happened when I connected to Thunder VPN servers in the UK.

A screenshot of Thunder VPN using virtual servers

While connected to UK servers, I had a France IP and DNS servers in Belgium

I checked my IP and DNS more than once only to see they were French and Belgian addresses. Other servers I tested, like the US, Canada, Luxembourg, and Singapore, did not show the same results. My guess is perhaps this happens whenever the server network is down.

You can use Thunder VPN without worrying about exceeding their bandwidth cap because they do not have any limits on bandwidth.

Security — Better Than Nothing

You can’t take any risks on your security with free VPNs like Thunder VPN. There are a few impactful security issues with this VPN. I’ll start by saying it doesn’t have a killswitch as many standard VPNs provided in the market do. A killswitch is important for hiding your IP address because it will automatically stop your device from accessing the internet if you aren’t connected to their servers.

Another security issue to consider is that Thunder VPN uses the SSL encryption protocol for data transmissions. This protocol is not substandard per se. As a matter of fact, it has certain merits over the IPSec protocol, which is popular among today’s VPN vendors.

The SSL protocol bypasses firewalls easily and can restrict access to specific apps by third parties. Thunder VPN has capitalized on this characteristic and integrated a split-tunneling feature that enables users to choose apps they want to route through the VPN and allows other apps a direct connection to the internet.

It is, however, easier for hackers to penetrate the SSL encryption protocol partly because it does not require any third-party software for authentication like the IPSec protocol. Coupled with other reasons like slower speeds, SSL does not compete well against the common VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols. It is mostly used on browsers.

With the free version, you will see ads pop up every time you connect and disconnect from the app, which should ring bells that there are no strong firewalls in place. The lack of ad blockers also implies you could be an easier target for viruses and malware by using this app.

Having a strongly encrypted VPN is essential in the present modern world where the threat of cyberattacks is ever-looming, yet we still use public WiFi. The IP your VPN assigns you will be important in protecting you by showing potential attackers an address that is far from your location.

Proceeding on, I performed IP, DNS, WebRTC leak tests on Thunder VPN and did not find any major leaks even with the free version.

Privacy — You Get Very Little If Any

After reading their privacy and usage policies which are published in their Terms of Service, you can’t help but feel nervous about giving control of your data to anonymous people on the net. At first, they give this brief assurance about ‘not collecting log traffic data’ to just help you feel safe.

Just one paragraph after the above statement on their policy, they present a long list of information they collect from users, which include;

  • IP address
  • Email address
  • OS Version
  • Internet service provider
  • App identifier
  • Ad identifier
  • Language of your device
  • Device manufacturer and model
  • Times when connected to the server
  • Choice of server locations
  • Time zone and network state (WiFi and so on)
  • Amount of data transferred (etc.)

You know Thunder VPN takes away more of your privacy than they indicate if terms like ‘so on’ and ‘etc.’ are appended on their policy.

Another reason why I feel the app is intrusive is the statement on the policy that they store and analyze user information to help them deliver the best experience. This ‘best experience’ apparently includes throwing third-party ads to your face every single time you connect and disconnect from the app.

Interestingly, they add that you can log into their website and change your personal information. Their website is straight-up bland and does not have anywhere to log into, so this is just a misconstrued statement.

A screenshot of Thunder VPN website

Thunder VPN’s website is plain and unresponsive with only one working link to Google Play

Let’s briefly look into Signal Lab, the company behind Thunder VPN. It owns another free VPN app called Secure VPN which equally has more than a million downloads. They don’t have any website of their own or a professional email that users can use to contact them.

If you search the corporate address they have provided under both apps, you’ll see that the 91803 Zip Code provided is for Alhambra in Los Angeles, California, and not Arkansas as they have indicated.

I can’t argue whether the company is legit, but my concern is who takes responsibility if data breaches happen? It would be such a big mess, especially because they have so many subscribers.

Torrenting — You Can But It’s Risky

You can use Thunder VPN on P2P sharing clients like BitTorrent, but is it really worth the risk? First, the SSL protocol is not that secure.

Secondly, the personal information collected through their log policy, which includes email and IP address, already means torrenting with the app is a risky affair.

Thirdly, they state that uploading, downloading, posting, reproducing, or distributing copyrighted materials will lead to the termination of a user’s account. My team and I do not condone illegal torrenting, but from what I read in their privacy policy, they have the right to snoop into what you are doing online, including which personal files you are sharing. This, again, defies their promise of not collecting “browsing activity” data.

Does Thunder VPN Work in China? No

Thunder VPN does not use obfuscated servers which can bypass tight censorship in China. Obfuscated servers prevent networks from detecting that you are using a VPN. They are mainly found in VPNs using the OpenVPN protocol.

With the SSL protocol, I highly doubt if you can use Thunder VPN in China even if you connect to their Hong Kong servers. I checked their site URL on The Great China Firewall and saw their servers are blocked in that country. They have no support team to ask about this issue, so I’ll stick to what I already know.

Simultaneous Device Connections — Only The Free Version Can Be Used on Several Devices

You can use the Thunder VPN free version on an infinite number of devices because no account registration is required. In the VIP version, however, the privileges you purchase can only be used on 1 device.

Device Compatibility — For Android Users Only

Thunder VPN works exclusively on devices with Android 4.1 or above OS versions.

Signal Lab hasn’t created any official apps for iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, Xbox, PlayStation, Chrome, Firefox, Kindle Fire, or routers. You can, however, use the VPN on Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs via an Android emulator.

A word of caution here. There are suspicious vendors offering Chrome browser extensions for Thunder VPN, but they are not from the same vendor, so be careful about what you install on your PC.

Ease of Use

5.3

Set-Up & Installation — Very Simple

Even if you haven’t used a VPN before, you will get it right the first time you use Thunder VPN because it is that easy to install and operate.

The entire installation process can be done in 3 minutes or so. First, head over to the Google Store and find the right app. Make sure it is named ‘Thunder VPN’ with the letter ‘T’ transformed into a thunderbolt logo. Some apps on various stores also have similar names, so check that you are not installing the wrong stuff.

A screenshot of Thunder VPN download page on Google Play

The correct Thunder VPN app on Google Play

Once the Thunder VPN app is on your mobile device, you have to accept their terms of use, which also contains their privacy policy. It will ask for permission to set up a connection that allows it to monitor network traffic. After allowing this, you are ready to go.

A screenshot of Thunder VPN interface after installing

The Thunder VPN interface looks simple

Once you click the connect button, you are automatically connected to the most optimized server based on your location. You can change the servers from the thunderbolt icon in the upper right corner. You can also switch between servers without the VPN disconnecting.

Props also go to the designers of this app because the user interface is intuitive and color aesthetics look as sleek as most prime VPNs you can find in the market.

There is a split-tunneling feature that picks on automatically and puts all your phone apps under VPN protection. You can manually disconnect the apps you don’t want to be associated with the VPN.

Thunder VPN is, by far, one of the easiest VPNs to use.

Compare Thunder VPN with the top alternative VPNs

9.9
9.5
9.3
9.3

Pricing

1.3
Annually
$5.11 /month
Weekly
$6.13 /month
Monthly
$10.09 /month

Plans: Thunder VPN is free, but there is also a VIP version that starts at $5.11/month.

Payment options: Google Pay

Trial: No trial period

Money-back guarantee: No money-back guarantee specified in their terms of use

Thunder VPN prices are over-exaggerated for the little value you get out of the service.

Reliability & Support

3.3

You will be frustrated should you encounter any technical issues with Thunder VPN because there is no support team behind it. Their website has less than 70 words and does not offer any information about how to contact them. They tried putting a solution center on the Android app but only five brief FAQs are posted which basically explain how to use the app. If you are going to use this VPN, then first be comfortable with the idea of not getting any help if you need it.

The Bottom Line

Final Verdict

As a free VPN, Thunder VPN doesn’t perform well. Yes, it is basic and can get you through light surfing as it doesn’t leak IP, DNS, or WebRTC. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it fails on key parameters like unblocking streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, iPlayer, or HBO Max. It also reduces speed by 50%, uses a less secure protocol for VPNs, has servers in very few countries, and operates on an intrusive log policy. This list goes on, so it’s up to you if you can tolerate where they fall short.

FAQs on Thunder VPN

Is Thunder VPN safe?

Yes, it is safe only for light web surfing as it doesn’t leak IP, DNS, or WebRTC. Never use it on high-threat sites, including torrents, because the SSL protocol is not very secure.

Can Thunder VPN unblock Netflix?

No. You won’t unblock US-exclusive shows using Thunder VPN. See the streaming tests on Netflix and other sites.

Will Thunder VPN slow my speeds down?

Yes, your speeds may reduce by half. The free version is slower because of the relatively fewer servers compared to the paid version. I performed speed tests on Thunder VPN here

Money Back Guarantee (Days) : 0
Mobile app :
Number of devices per license : 1

Thunder VPN User Reviews

6.0
Based on 2 reviews in 2 languages
Bert Appeldoorn
Schakelt steeds uit. - 2
Bert Appeldoorn

Ik heb dat het programma constant uitgaat en ik het weer handmatig moet aanzetten. Erg irritant. En wanneer ik bij de optie feedback dit aangeef met emailadres, krijg ik niet eens antwoord. Vraag me af wat ik verkeerd doe.

Schmidt
Wenn es das macht was es vorgibt,ist es TOP!!! - 10
Schmidt

Eigentlich funktioniert die App super. Ich kann allerdings nichts genaues dazu sagen,weil ich es noch nicht geprüft habe. Sonst echt TOP!!! Leichte Bedienung,Kostenlos,schnelle Server. Einfach Empfehlenswert.

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