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StrongVPN review: A user-friendly VPN with a few limitations

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2.78
per month (first annual subscription, then £5.17/month)

StrongVPN does the job, but it's not our first choice for security, speed or streaming

Pros 
Clear, simple, interface
250GB of bundled cloud storage
Unblocks many streaming sites
Cons 
Poor transatlantic performance
Inconsistent features across platforms
US jurisdiction raises privacy concerns
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StrongVPN is a VPN service that securely encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through private servers in any of 40 countries around the world. This means you can keep your identity hidden, access video-streaming services that aren’t available in your region, and use file-sharing applications without your ISP being able to spy on your traffic.

Pricing is simple: you can pay £9.21 (billed in US dollars) for a monthly subscription, or sign up for a full year at £36.86, equivalent to £3.07/mth. That’s not a bad price, but in the second year the price shoots up to £67.02 a year – equivalent to £5.59/mth. There are much cheaper VPNs out there such as PureVPN, which offers a two-year deal for £1.62/mth.

Subscribers can connect from up to 12 separate devices at once, with native client software offered for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Amazon’s Fire OS. Manual configuration instructions are provided for Linux systems, Kodi installations and Synology NAS appliances, and if your router supports outbound VPN connections using PPTP or OpenVPN then you can configure it to protect all traffic from all the devices on your network. All accounts come with the bonus of 250GB of online storage from SugarSync, for the duration of your subscription.

Support is on hand via email or 24/7 Live Chat; StrongVPN also offers phone support, but you have to call a US number, which might be on the pricey side for British customers. If you’re dissatisfied for any reason, annual plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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StrongVPN VPN review: What’s it like to use?

The StrongVPN Windows app has a clean front-end. A map of the world shows your current virtual location (or your real one if the VPN is switched off); below it there’s a location button that you can click to pick a server, and a coloured button below that connects and disconnects the VPN. It couldn’t really be much simpler.

In fact, we think it’s a little too simple. It would have been nice to see a few shortcuts to recent or preferred servers; as things stand, each time you want to switch servers you have to bring up the server list and search or scroll for your desired location. The Settings page is quite short on options, too, although it does offer a choice of five different VPN protocols, which will please techies.

The system tray icon could use a little more sophistication, too. You can right-click it to bring up a quick connection menu, but this only lets you connect to whichever server is already selected in the main interface; at the very least it would be helpful to show a reminder of which server that is.

On the plus side, the Android app maintains a consistent look and feel, with a nearly identical layout. For some reason, the connection details and location button have been swapped around, but overall it’s an interface that will take you seconds rather than minutes to get to grips with.

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StrongVPN VPN review: How fast is it?

Routing your internet traffic via a remote VPN server always has an impact on performance. To see how fast StrongVPN is, we used the Google Speed Test service on a Windows 11 laptop and an Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 tablet, both connected to a 200Mbits/sec domestic fibre line.

With the VPN disconnected, the Speed Test tool reported an average download rate of 212Mbits/sec. When we connected the laptop to a StrongVPN server in London, this dropped to 187Mbits/sec. That’s a perfectly good speed, though a little slower than most rivals: ExpressVPN, HMA, Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, NordVPN, PureVPN and Windscribe all topped 200Mbits/sec in the same test.

Things were much the same on Android. With the VPN connected, the Speed Test tool measured a basically identical 188Mbits/sec – only a tiny step behind the competition, which mostly managed upwards of 190Mbits/sec.

Sadly, when we connected to StrongVPN’s New York server, a bigger performance gap opened up. On our test laptop we measured just 79Mbits/sec; this is exactly in line with what we’ve seen in past tests of this service, but it’s well behind the competition – ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, Malwarebytes, NordVPN, Surfshark, TunnelBear and Windscribe all delivered more than double this speed on Windows.

And when we repeated the test on Android, things went even worse, with an average download rate of just 41Mbits/sec. That’s by far the slowest connection we’ve tested, and it’s likely to feel noticeably more sluggish than your regular internet connection.

Under the circumstances, it’s particularly frustrating that the server selection page doesn’t show any indication of relative speed – so the only way to find the fastest connection is through tiresome trial and error. What’s more, as we’ve mentioned, when you do find a good server, there’s no way to save it for quick access next time.

And while StrongVPN does have a split tunnelling feature, which lets nominated apps bypass the VPN and run at full speed, this is currently only available in the Android app. If you’re using any other platform, you miss out.

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StrongVPN VPN review: Is it good for video streaming?

Netflix recommends a minimum connection speed of 25Mbits/sec for streaming in 4K. StrongVPN is more than fast enough for that – and you should even be able to watch on multiple devices at once, assuming each one has a separate server connection.

However, StrongVPN might not unblock the streaming services you’re hoping to use. Connecting our Windows 11 laptop to the New York server enabled us to access the US Netflix library, but we couldn’t log into Hulu, and the Disney+ website wouldn’t open at all until we disabled the VPN. Similarly, we were able to use a UK server to watch BBC iPlayer and BritBox, but Now TV wasn’t accessible.

We had even worse luck on Android. Even with the VPN connected to a US server, the native Netflix and Disney+ apps both limited us to UK content, and we couldn’t get into BritBox either. There was some comfort, however: we were able to watch BBC iPlayer on our tablet, and the Now TV app also worked on this platform without a complaint.

It’s also not possible to access US-only content in Amazon Prime Video via StrongVPN, but that’s not the fault of the VPN – it’s because Amazon uses your billing address to determine what you’re allowed to watch, rather than your virtual location.

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StrongVPN VPN review: Is it secure?

To help avoid accidental exposure, StrongVPN can optionally enable the VPN as soon as the system starts up. The Windows and Mac clients also include a kill switch function, which freezes all internet access if the VPN connection drops, ensuring that nothing sensitive gets accidentally sent to your ISP.

Disappointingly, though, the kill switch isn’t included in the Android app. There’s also no option to engage the VPN selectively depending on which network you’re connected to or which apps are running, nor to use complex multi-hop routing to conceal your location.

Note, too, that StrongVPN is headquartered in the USA, which is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. This means that any information that the company’s holding about you could be obtained by the US authorities and passed back to the UK.

That isn’t necessarily cause for alarm: StrongVPN assures customers that it keeps no logs of your online activity or connection history – only an email address and a payment method. However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be compelled to collect information in the future. And since StrongVPN doesn’t accept payment via anonymous gift cards or cryptocurrencies, your payment method is effectively a confirmation of your identity.

StrongVPN VPN review: Should you buy it?

StrongVPN is a serviceable VPN that’s reasonable value for the first year – especially if you have a use for the bundled cloud storage. It’s easy to use, and it gave us decent performance on Windows.

Overall though we found it far from the fastest VPN on the block, and the price hike after your first year is hard to swallow. There are some disappointing gaps in the feature set, too, with no way to save your preferred servers, no split tunnelling on Windows, and no kill switch on Android.

StrongVPN's base in the USA is another concern. Realistically it’s very unlikely that the FBI is going to spy on your internet connection, but why take the risk? Add in a mixed performance in our streaming tests and it’s tough to recommend StrongVPN over the competition.

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