ZenMate VPN Review: is it really that good?
Originally made in Germany, ZenMate is a VPN (or virtual private network) that is owned by the same company that owns CyberGhost. It uses similar technology as that used as CyberGhost and is primarily set up as a more affordable version of that platform. However, it is a bit low on features and does not have as much of a robust customer support system as CyberGhost. Maybe that isn’t surprising, given its position on the lower end of the typical VPN pricing market.
Learn more about virtual private networks and how they work by visiting our “What is a VPN?” page.
A VPN is simply a large network of servers spread across various locations around the world. It allows users to protect their personal data, including their location and IP address, by using servers across the world and by advanced security measures. Users also use VPNs to get around restrictions related to their location, such as geo-blocked content on streaming services.
ZenMate is a serviceable VPN that works on desktops, laptops, and a variety of mobile devices. It is positioned as an affordable alternative to some of the higher-priced VPNs, though this is at the expense of losing out on some functionality and features. For example, it doesn’t appear to be able to unblock some streaming services that VPNs usually work with. On the other hand, for such a cheap alternative, it surprised us by offering unlimited simultaneous connections. In other words, you can connect as many devices to your account as you need.
Pros & Cons
We’ve collected a list of our favorite and least favorite aspects of ZenMate below so that you can get a better idea of its features.
- Large server network
- More than 43 million users to date
- Strict no-logs policy
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols are used
- 256-bit encryption
- More browser extensions that usual (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge)
- Most of its servers are friendly for torrenting purposes
- Works with:
- Limited features
- Sacrifices power and depth for simple usability
- Middling speeds
- Apps are not consistently updated
- Not successful at unblocking iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video
The price of ZenMate is one of its strong points, as it is positioned firmly on the cheaper end of VPNs. It is, after all, essentially a watered-down version of its big brother, CyberGhost. However, keep in mind that paying less in this case gets you less: fewer features and a significantly less robust support system. Still, it is worth the money if you only need a few specific VPN features and don’t want to pay for more than you’ll use.
Month-to-months subscriptions cost about $11 per month, while a year’s plan moves that monthly price down to $4.49. Even better, users who sign up for a three-year subscription can expect to pay only $1.64 per month, which is among the lowest prices out there in the VPN industry.
Accessing the internet in the modern era is all about speed. None of us likes to experience lag in an online game, slow file downloads, or significant wait times for webpages to load. But the fact of the matter is that many VPNs suffer from slow speeds for one reason or another, often becoming weighed down under all the security measures.
ZenMate doesn’t avoid this issue. Its speeds tend to be around the lower end of “acceptable” part of the industry average: 100-170 Mbps. Some VPNs get up over 200 Mbps, while the truly elite can run at 300. If you’re looking for a powerful VPN that runs smoothly at top speed, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
With more than 3,800 servers scattered across the globe, ZenMate’s extensiveness is quite impressive for such an affordable VPN. This shouldn’t be too surprising, though, as it likely is down to its parent company owning CyberGhost as well. Still, let’s give credit where it’s due.
By using different servers, you’ll have better access to location-locked content, keep your true location safe from prying eyes, protect yourself and your data from hackers, and prevent corporations from spying on your activity for advertising purposes.
|No connection limits||have as many simultaneous connections as you want|
|One-click installation||useful for users new to the VPN world|
|No logs||ZenMate provides users with a 100% no log guarantee|
|Apps||iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS|
|Security measures||runs OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols and uses military-grade encryption|
|Large server network||more than 3,800 servers in over 75 locations across the globe|
|Kill switch||offers an internet kill switch that kicks in if you lose server connection|
|Subscription packages||monthly, yearly, and three-year plans|
|Money-back guarantee||available for up to 30 days|
|Free trial||7 days free for new users|
At more than 3800 servers, ZenMate is up there with the largest VPNs.
The user interface of ZenMate is simple, as befits a watered-down version of more robust VPNs. Upon downloading and installing it through a one-click process, users will see an interface that has a large Connect button as well as a list of available servers. You’ll be given a default location, but you can select others if you want to connect to specific areas. Surprisingly, the location mechanic has a bit more to it than some other VPNs.
However, that’s where the complexity really ends, if we’re honest. ZenMate is mostly a simple-to-use VPN that is designed to be more accessible to people who aren’t well-versed with VPNs or technical matters. While that means its interface is super intuitive, it also means veteran users won’t see much here they want.
ZenMate has mobile apps for iOS and Android systems. There isn’t much to these interfaces, and users might even be able to simply click Connect or set up an auto-connect if all they need to do is keep their information and online activity private. As of this writing, the mobile apps also only support OpenVPN protocols, unlike some other VPNs that offer a variety.
The key here is that ZenMate is really all about ease of use. It’s not trying to provide lots of options for customization. Instead, it’s just trying to provide the basic services of a VPN at a low price. And for that, it gets the job done.
- English (US)
- English (UK)
- English (AU)
Split tunneling is a feature many VPNs offer that allows you to hand-select which apps or websites will go through the VPN’s services and which will use your usual ISP. Often, many veteran VPN users like this feature as it provides a measure of control over data and speeds. However, ZenMate does not offer split tunneling.
ZenMate advertises “military grade” encryption on its website. This is almost certainly the standard 256-bit AES encryption used by most VPNs, including CyberGhost. We’re a little put off by the fact that we couldn’t find an explicitly spelled out mention of this, though. However, military-grade encryption is virtually uncrackable, so your data should be safe with ZenMate.
That’s really all there is to see here. Like the other features offered by this VPN, its security measures are largely the highlight and are largely used to provide the service that new users will be looking for.
ZenMate, in a major change from its other features, actually offers more browser extensions than the average VPN. Usually, we only see Chrome or Firefox provided, but this VPN offers Opera and Edge extensions as well. The security measures are the same as those above, including encryption and either OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocols.
A kill switch cuts you off from the internet if you lose connection to a VPN server. It’s a standard feature among most VPNs, as it prevents your computer from reconnecting to the internet via your ISP when you think you’re still protected by the VPN’s server’s security measures.
There is an effective kill switch in place for ZenMate. It actually works better than some more feature-packed VPNs, consistently kicking the user off the internet within seconds of potential exposure to threats. It also usually reconnects to a VPN server in a decent amount of time, and many users might not even register the blip in connection.
Some VPNs have begun to upgrade their servers to RAM-only data storage. Unlike storing data on a disk, where it must be deleted using specific processes, data stored as Random Access Memory is automatically erased whenever the server is rebooted. This means there will be no trace of your internet activity, as no data is retained whatsoever.
ZenMate does not offer RAM-disk mode, but neither do many other rival VPNs. In keeping with its position as a newbie-friendly VPN, we shouldn’t expect it to be on the forefront of features here.
The same encryption is available when you are using the VPN for gaming purposes as when you are using it to surf the web. There are no additional security measures like malware protection or port forwarding, but ZenMate gets the job done with its protocols and its large server network.
The only significant, but still minor, issue with ZenMate’s security seems to occur on desktop or laptop via the Windows client. The kill switch doesn’t alert the user when the connection to the VPN server has been severed, instead just reporting that the user isn’t connected to the internet. There is potential for confusion there, but honestly, it’s a minor quibble. The encryption, protocols, and kill switch all work as they should. There’s nothing really flashy here, but the nuts and bolts are properly aligned
We like that ZenMate has extensions for more browsers than usual, including the oft-forgotten Edge and Opera. Again, there isn’t anything super fancy going on with security or privacy measures for these browsers. Instead, you can expect a firm level of security, the ability to switch between servers both manually and automatically and browse the internet all while keeping your personal information and browsing activity secure.
We expect users to get lots of use out of the mobile apps for ZenMate, especially given the unlimited number of simultaneous connections. Why not connect all your mobile devices for added protection? There is plenty of good security here, but it should be noted that it looks like only OpenVPN protocols are supported by the mobile ZenMate app. This gets rid of the IKEv2 option available on desktop. Meanwhile, other VPNs also allow for protocols like L2TP, PPTP, IPSec, and others.
As we’ve said above, it’s not abundantly clear whether ZenMate has specific software for router setups. If it does, it likely only allows for routers that can use OpenVPN, such as DD-WRT models. Plus, there is less of a need for routers in this situation, since ZenMate is ahead of some other VPNs by offering unlimited simultaneous connections.
ZenMate is headquartered in Germany, which is part of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance of countries. This means it shares its intelligence with other countries on the list. Unfortunately, that means it isn’t an ideal location for a VPN if it wants to instill confidence in its privacy policies. Despite the fact that ZenMate pledges not to keep any logs of user activity and never to turn over user data to the authorities, its presence in a 14 Eyes country means that it could feasibly be forced to comply with anti-privacy laws.
If you are setting up a router, you’ll likely need to have a DD-WRT router that can use OpenVPN. However, we suggest calling the support line at ZenMate with any router-related questions, as these are not very clear online.
ZenMate has not been audited by external entities for its privacy or security measures. This shouldn’t count too much against the VPN, though, as many of its competitors also have not undergone these audits. In fact, external auditing to confirm things like no-log policies and encryption methods have so far only been undergone by a handful of VPNs. Doing these audits helps to build trust in the claims made by the company, but we don’t expect ZenMate to submit to one any time soon.
ExpressVPN is a competitor of ZenMate that has developed a new protocol called Lightwave. It is reportedly more secure than OpenVPN, but some users have suggested that it tends to be slower on average than VPNs that use the older protocol. Regardless, only ExpressVPN is using Lightway at this time
Streaming and Torrenting
Whether it’s using a service like Netflix to stream movies and television shows or watching location-blocked live sports, many users seek out VPNs primarily for streaming capabilities. Here, ZenMate gets a middling grade. For some popular streaming sites, like Netflix and Disney+, the VPN is decent at unblocking geo-blocked content. However, it doesn’t appear to work with BBC iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video. Depending on what you want to watch, you might need to go with a VPN with more features.
Torrenting (or P2P file sharing) is a way of connecting large groups of users and transferring files between them. Most of the servers in ZenMate’s network are torrent-friendly, but not all are. Check before you try to use the service to torrent
Torrenting is also a common reason for getting a VPN. While it is often of dubious legality, depending on where you live, torrenting is a way for a network of users to share and download files between them. Most of UltraVPN’s servers are conducive to torrenting.
Gaming and Consoles
ZenMate has a section on its website about gaming consoles like Xbox and Playstation, but it doesn’t have specific apps for those consoles. If you do use the VPN for gaming purposes, don’t expect much other than simply encryption protocols and IP address masking. For many of us, that might be enough. Regardless, you’ll need to be sure that your device supports OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocols, because those are the only ones available with ZenMate. It has not yet adopted the more secure one that CyberGhost uses, WireGuard.
Desktop and Laptops
Most people will likely use ZenMate on either a desktop or a laptop. The good news is that it offers decent functionality and has dedicated browser extensions for various operating systems. On the other hand, its customizability is lacking and it is basically aimed at users who just want a VPN to mask their online traffic.
There aren’t a lot of add-ons like ad blockers or malware protection, which you can expect from some of ZenMate’s more expensive competitors. What you get instead is simply encryption, access to worldwide servers, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, and a simple kill switch
ZenMate has extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, like most VPNs these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it also provides users with extensions for less popular browsers like Opera and Edge. This is another example of its dedication to providing simple, quickly-accessed interfaces for its users. By browsing via the extensions, you’ll be able to hide your online activity from pesky prying eyes while being protected by the VPN’s security protocols.
We were also pleasantly surprised to find that, despite its barebones nature, ZenMate does include leak protection for IPv6 leaks. In other words, your IP address and personal data should be safe in ZenMate’s hands.
Mobile and Tablets
In the fast-paced world of the modern age, internet users are almost more likely to be on their mobile and tablet devices than they are to be on the desktop or laptop interface. Again, simplicity is the main buzzword for ZenMate’s mobile and tablet offerings. It is compatible with iOS and Android, and its interface typically consists of a large Connect button as well as some additional options to select server locations.
We think new users will really appreciate this, and there is value to the fact that you can connect as many mobile devices as you want due to the unlimited simultaneous connections allowed by ZenMate. However, more technically-minded individuals will certainly need more features on their mobile versions.
There was no readily available information on router usage via the ZenMate website. Regardless, you’ll need to use a router that is compatible with OpenVPN. However, with the unlimited simultaneous connections allowed by the VPN, you don’t really need to connect through the medium of a router. You can connect directly to a server from as many devices as you want.
How to install
ZenMate is built around the concept of easy usability. It has a one-click installation system that requires you to simply select Download, hit Install, and that’s it. Once the client boots up, you’ll see a large button that says Connect, and clicking on that button takes you directly to one of the VPN’s servers. It really is that simple.
Customer support is one area that ZenMate could do with some improvement. It doesn’t have live chat options online and warns that calls may take up to two whole days to respond. That may just be the company covering itself from any potential client anger, as users report a fairly swift response to queries, typically within an hour or two. We would like to see more online resources as well, with clearer instructions and more direct language about the company’s policies.
If you are having trouble with the VPN, chances are good that you aren’t experienced with these services anyway. Resources that use industry terms and jargon can simply add to your confusion. Still, it’s not that big of a deal when you consider that live chat and around-the-clock customer support is available.
ZenMate does what it is set up to do: provide an easy to use interface with minimal features for new users of VPNs. It is decent at unblocking some of the more popular streaming services, its security features are good, and it has a server network that is admirably large. It also gets a thumbs up from us for the fact that most of its servers are torrent-friendly. Plus, it’s a comparatively cheap VPN that allows you to connect as many devices to the network as you want, simultaneously.
However, it’s probably not appropriate for more technical users who desire more control over server selection, configurability, security protocols, and other matters. ZenMate also doesn’t offer split tunneling, which is usually a highly sought-after service for veteran VPN users. We give it a solid middle-of-the-road rating and recommend it mostly to anyone who is just starting out on their VPN journey. As you become more accustomed to how VPNs work, you’ll likely want to graduate to a more robust service.
Does ZenMate work with Netflix?
ZenMate can be used to unblock geo-restricted Netflix services. It also reliably unblocks other streaming services like Disney+ and Hulu. It’s a mixed bag here, though, as ZenMate doesn’t seem to unblock iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video.
Is ZenMate free?
ZenMate is on the cheaper end of the VPN spectrum, but it isn’t free. Plans range from $11 for a month-to-month subscription to $1.64 per month for a three-year subscription. If you’re new to the service, you can get a free trial that lasts for seven days, but then you’ll be charged on the year-long plan unless you change up your subscription.
Is ZenMate good for torrenting?
Yes. Despite its lack of many features, the servers in ZenMate’s extensive network are mostly torrent-friendly. The company commits to a no-log policy, though its location in Germany and its lack of RAM-only storage makes us a little bit leery.
Is ZenMate legal?
VPN services like ZenMate operate legally and are legal services. However, some countries restrict or ban the use of VPNs, so its legality for you is largely based on where you live. You’ll need to check your local laws regarding the use of VPNs and internet privacy to be sure, but ZenMate as a company is doing nothing illegal.