ZenMate VPN

Category VPN
Reviewed by Cristiana
Updated Apr 12th, ’22

Tekpon Score

8.9

Users Score

7.5

ZenMate VPN Review

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ZenMate VPN, or a virtual private network, is a digital security construct that hides the private IP address of its users. The ZenMate VPN extension facilitates IP address hiding by routing browser traffic through its servers. ZenMate VPN for Chrome has over 5 million installs and is also available for Android. Also, ZenMate is based in Germany but is owned by a company that owns ExpressVPN. This ZenMate VPN review will look at its features and functionality, including whether there’s a free version of it.

UI/UX

9.0

Ease of use

9.5

Value for Money

8.5

Features

8.5

Customer Support

9.0
Pricing Details

Starting from: $1.66/month/3 years plan

Pricing Model: Subscription

Yes, has free trial

No free version

PROs
  • Servers in 80 countries
  • Unblocks BBC Player, Netflix, and Disney Plus
  • Faster, more reliable open-source network protocol (Lightway)
  • Uncapped bandwidth on the German server
CONs
  • At least one partnership with a data scraping company
  • No security audits
Best for
  • Small business
  • Medium business
  • Non-profit Organization
  • Personal
Deployment
  • Cloud, SaaS, Web-Based
  • Desktop - Windows
  • Desktop - Mac
  • Mobile - iPhone
  • Mobile - Android
  • Desktop - Linux
  • Desktop - Chromebook

Why use a VPN service?

A VPN service provides anonymity online and evades geoblocking. For example, copyright laws are strict for internet users in Germany. A German internet user trying to watch YouTube might find many music videos blocked to ensure compliance with public broadcasting regulations. German users can bypass the block and use YouTube like everyone else by using a VPN service. Yet, you will get a clearer image of these processes in our ZenMate VPN review.

Other services outright block access to non-approved regions. In addition, video streaming and on-demand video platforms run an IP check for each connected user. VPN helps in that case, allowing for access and use of the platform. 

Institutions can block unwanted internet traffic too. For example, schools and universities may block access to news websites, forums, or YouTube. You can easily bypass the restrictions thanks to the ZenMate VPN browser extension.

ZenMate Chrome VPN Extension

ZenMate provides an extension that routes the traffic through ZenMate’s servers for Chrome users. It is free, and the installation process takes only two clicks.

User reviews in the Chrome App Store mention the extension is usable on Brave, a Chromium browser. In addition, brave automatically blocks ads, neutralizing the most common complaint with the ZenMate extension. Thus, this makes me think other Chromium browsers are supported too.

An overwhelming majority of the most recent reviews on the Chrome version offer glowing recommendations for the extension.

What is ZenMate VPN?

ZenMate VPN is an internet privacy solution that gives you a private connection and a private IP address. The VPN location replaces your IP address until you use the VPN kill switch. Hence, hiding your digital information gives you more hacker protection and serves as a deterrent against cyber security threats.

How does ZenMate work?

ZenMate is VPN software that routes your internet traffic through servers owned by ZenMate or its partners. The hops make the traffic untraceable allowing you to use a tight security solution.

Furthermore, ZenMate uses strong encryption as the foundation of online security. So any attacker that sees your traffic can’t extract data from it but can analyze the traffic patterns. That’s fine, though, because you can switch to another server and become a needle in the haystack.

At the same time, you can use the ZenMate VPN program for p2p file-sharing or join a peer-to-peer network. The secure connection is just one of many privacy features contributing to overall protection. 

How to use ZenMate on PC

Visit the ZenMate website, mouse over “Downloads,” click “Free VPN,” and click “Start seven days trial.” Then, make an account, and you’ll land in the ZenMate VPN dashboard. Here you can activate your ZenMate VPN and see all the connected devices. Confirm your e-mail address to activate your account. 

Scroll down, click the “Desktop (0)” link, and click the “Download App” button next to your platform of choice. Then, install the program, but opt out of the anonymous data collection step. You can choose from servers in 80 countries, including one in Mongolia and one in Monaco.

Double click the one you like. Using the messenger icon in the top right corner, you can report a problem with it. The interface will sort the same servers by distance (nearest to farthest) for torrenting. There is a separate set of servers for streaming, with a note explaining each. About 50,000 users in the entire ZenMate VPN network, mostly in the US and EU countries. 

How to add the ZenMate Chrome extension?

Visit the Chrome Web Store and search for “ZenMate.” After that, click the blue button to add it to Chrome. You will be asked to confirm your choice.

Click the puzzle piece icon in Chrome, click “Pin” next to ZenMate, and the icon will appear on your toolbar. Click it and click the shield to activate the VPN. 

Is Zenmate VPN working with Netflix?

Yes, but with some caveats. The server list in the ZenMate free VPN desktop application showed:

  • Australian server for Netflix AU
  • German server for Netflix DE
  • Indian server for Netflix IN
  • three Italian servers: Netflix IT, Netflix IT Firestick, and Netflix IT Android TV
  • Japanese server for Netflix JP
  • Korean server for Netflix KR
  • UK server for Netflix UK
  • US server for Netflix US

However, the speeds might not allow for smooth playback if you’re outside these countries. Thus, expect buffering and much frustration. Also, a server that you use one day might not work the next day if Netflix blocks its IP until ZenMate finds a new IP. Therefore, you won’t always enjoy this VPN for Netflix use; hence, you must give it a couple of tries.

Why should you use ZenMate?

ZenMate is a valuable alternative to other VPN providers. If other VPNs you use, such as ProtonVPN, get compromised or blocked, you can switch to ZenMate and keep surfing. 

In addition, video streaming platforms regularly block IP addresses associated with major VPNs. ZenMate’s relative anonymity works in its favor, minimizing its IPs’ chance of being blocked. The smaller the VPN, the better it unblocks video streaming platforms. 

The IP address is personal information. Like all other personal information, malicious entities can use it to jeopardize the person’s web security or incriminate it. Yet, small VPN companies are less likely to have security breaches of this kind in their database. Thus, you can use a safe IP address without it being exposed. Hence, this makes for another layer of security over your personal information online.

Additionally, you can use ZenMate to confirm the performance of another VPN in a specific country. For example, if ZenMate has better performance than another VPN on Italian websites, you’ll know the other VPN lacks, not your internet connection.

ZenMate VPN Features

Let’s see what features ZenMate VPN includes and how you can benefit from them!

  • Live sports streaming

Sports broadcasting rights make it hard to watch all matches of your favorite teams and athletes. Furthermore, watching a match on a seedy website might be slow regardless of your internet speed.

The ZenMate official website claims you can watch anything from the Olympics to ESPN and F1 circuits through ZenMate VPN. In addition, some of ZenMate’s servers are optimized for certain sports services such as Eurosport and Fox Sports. 

  • Whitelisting

You can add websites to a whitelist where ZenMate VPN won’t activate. This is useful when you’re doing some business VPN should not interfere with, such as banking. However, it is available only in the browser extension. 

  • Stealth Connection

Works much like the Incognito feature in browsers. You can turn it on to have ZenMate erase all traces of your internet activity accrued through ZenMate. This feature is also available only in the browser extension. 

  • IKEv2 network protocol

Open the ZenMate app, click “Settings,” and click “Connection.” In the VPN protocol dropdown menu, choose IKEv2. It is a low-latency network protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco. Its main advantage is authentication, provided the network handler uses strong encryption. Yet, the main downsides are that it’s closed source and uses UDP port 500, making it easily blocked in the firewall.

NSA allegedly compromised IKEv2, but those reports are unsubstantiated as of April 2022. But as long as it’s implemented properly, IKEv2 is very strong against tampering. 

  • Chrome extension

In the Chrome extension store, the ZenMate VPN extension has 4.5/5 stars based on 44,618 reviews. It was last updated in February 2022. 

I tested the ZenMate VPN extension on a fresh installation of Chrome, version 100.0.4896.60. It provided four free VPN servers:

  • Germany
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • United States

At testing, the German IP address was 194.36.108.94, resolved to Berlin. However, IP lookup revealed it is registered to M247 Europe SRL. 

At the time of testing, the Romanian IP address was 193.176.84.245, resolved to Bucharest. However, However, However, IP lookup revealed it is registered to M247 Ltd.

At the testing time, the Singaporean IP address was 89.187.163.180, resolved to Singapore. However, However, However, IP lookup revealed it is registered to DataCamp s.r.o.

And, the US IP address was 156.146.59.6, resolved to New York City. IP lookup revealed it is registered to DataCamp Limited. 

M247 is a British web hosting and communication company. It offers partnerships, particularly for clients wanting to create dedicated private networks. Moreover, the company boasts a presence in 60 data centers and full ownership of 4. 

DataCamp is a data science company; the official website is boasted of courses and tutorials on machine learning, Python, and other data scraping and analysis methods. The mission statement in the “About Us” section of the website says, “DataCamp teaches companies and individuals the skills they need to work with data in the real world.”

  • Firefox extension

Moreover, there is a version of the extension for Firefox. Unfortunately, though, Mozilla does not actively monitor it for security issues. The last update was in March 2021.

It has 3.7/5 stars based on 793 reviews. However, some complaints mention the extension stopped working after purchasing a subscription, which is a complaint I noticed among the Chrome extension reviews too. 

  • Edge extension

The ZenMate VPN extension has 4.5/5 stars based on 457 reviews in the Edge extension store. The last update was in February 2022. 

  • Opera extension

The ZenMate VPN extension has 3.5/5 stars based on 530 reviews in the Opera extension store. However, many complaints about the extension not working reliably enough and issues with logging into the account. The last update was in June 2019.

  • Lightway network protocol

Called Lightway, ZenMate uses a network protocol with routers and smartphones optimizations. That makes it faster than other network protocols and more reliable during network traffic switching. It was first used in ExpressVPN.

Lightway dated from 2020 and went public in October 2021, with the open-source code published a few months prior on GitHub. Moreover, according to the ExpressVPN blog announcement, Lightway is free of technical debt and comprises only 2,000 lines of code. Thus, that makes it drains less battery and connect 2.5 times faster than OpenVPN, even when switching from Wi-Fi to mobile and back.

Yet, those are not empty boasts. The testing confirmed that there is indeed improved reliability compared to other VPNs in a similar scenario. Even when I quickly switched servers, everything worked fine, and there were no connection breaks.

Additionally, a Lightway connection that breaks is not terminated; it’s instead put to “idle.” As soon as a connection is possible, you will automatically have a restored connection. This makes all Lightway-using VPNs a feasible option for fast-paced multiplayer video games.

Uncapped bandwidth on the German server

Bandwidth speed test showed 1–2 Mbps speeds for 3 out of 4 free servers. Normally, VPN freeloaders get limited bandwidth, but the German one was not capped for some reason. This is probably because ZenMate is based in Germany and has a sweetheart deal with German ISPs.

ZenMate VPN Pricing

The 7-day free trial that doesn’t require payment info and the Ultimate plan is notable pricing details. Furthermore, you can access the ZenMate version for desktop operating systems by purchasing the Ultimate plan. However, it is a 3-year commitment.

1 Month

$10.99
Monthly

1 Year

$54
Yearly

3 Years

$59
Every three years

See all Features

Is ZenMate VPN a free software?

ZenMate VPN is not free software. Yet, ZenMate VPN browser extension is free software in terms of money, but, as people like to say, “There’s no free lunch.” Thus, you have to pay one way or another.

Someone has to pay for the bandwidth used by your traffic in ZenMate’s network. This way, the compromise is serving you ads. So how well you deal with ads determines how “free” ZenMate VPN is for you.

There is a free trial lasting seven days. It is perfectly usable throughout the trial, and nothing stops you from re-registering for another free trial after seven days.

Alternatives to ZenMate VPN

ZenMate VPN vs. NordVPN

In contrast to ZenMate, NordVPN supports the Onion protocol over VPN, adding another security layer. Moreover, the base of operations for NordVPN is in Panama, which boasts a lack of data retention laws. Now, compare this to Germany, a member of the 14 Eyes alliance, where participants spy on each other and share the data outside any jurisdiction or legal recourse. 

Furthermore, NordVPN offers a static IP add-on, useful if you regularly connect to the same website. For example, if you want to use a French website that requires logging in but constantly changing IPs, the network admins will notice the suspicious activity on your account. Thus, you can appear as a legitimate French resident without causing alarm. 

ZenMate VPN vs. ExpressVPN

The main advantage of ExpressVPN is that it underwent a security audit by PwC. The PwC experts checked the configurations and servers for a month while interviewing the staff. Unfortunately, the audit results are only available to logged-in ExpressVPN users after accepting the Terms and Conditions of PwC. 

Since the same company runs them, you can expect shared features. Indeed, ExpressVPN offers Lightway but also OpenVPN. ExpressVPN has more servers as well — 160 compared to ZenMate’s 80. The base of operations is in the British Virgin Islands, which also has no data retention laws.

ZenMate VPN Review Conclusions

ZenMate worked better than expected. Moreover, it was fast and reliable no matter what was going on. The VPN browser extension is a great solution, especially if you use a Chromium browser and have an adblocker.

There was an issue with the desktop program blocking all internet access if it was idle for too long. Quitting the program in the system tray restored internet access. This appears to be the Kill Switch feature that prevents accidental data leaks.

ZenMate is fairly unknown, but that doesn’t have to be a downside. The fewer users in a VPN, the more bandwidth for those who use it. I recommend it and look forward to seeing more of it.

Take the 7-day free trial for a spin and see how you like it. If it aids your internet surfing, consider taking the Ultimate subscription. In addition, the subscription offers multi-device deployment rather than just browser extensions. 

Is ZenMate a safe VPN?

As of April 2022, yes. There are no scandals associated with it, and user reviews don’t reveal any security issues. That could change, though, so watch out for scandals involving any name mentioned in this ZenMate VPN review.

Keep in mind that a VPN should undergo regular audits. ZenMate has not performed any audits. 

Is ZenMate any good?

Yes. It has above-average utility. Server switching was smooth, and the connection worked without a hitch. The interface is clean and presented intuitively. 

Competitors

Norton Secure VPN

Tekpon Score

Users Score

Updated Mar 25th, ’22

NordVPN

Tekpon Score

Users Score

Updated May 18th, ’22

Surfshark

Tekpon Score

Users Score

Updated Jan 5th, ’22

ExpressVPN

Tekpon Score

Users Score

Updated Mar 7th, ’22