VPN Review: Avira Phantom VPN
The growing desire among Internet users to protect their data online, has seen developer after developer move to add VPNs to their portfolios. Avira, the German software provider, best known for its anti-virus program, has also jumped on the VPN bandwagon. Our test shows whether PhantomVPN is just Avira's attempt to match its competitors, or if it represents a useful addition to the VPN market.
What is Avira Phantom VPN?
Phantom is a VPN made by Avira. The Tettnang-based anti-virus specialist not only seeks to protect its users from malware, but also from the curious glances of authorities, corporations, or hackers. On the hotly-contested VPN market, Phantom is something of a newcomer, albeit one with a leg-up considering Avira's expertise in IT security.
Pros and Cons
Simple and user-friendly applications
Small server network
Installation and Features
Phantom offers applications for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. All other operating systems and devices, like routers or streaming sticks, are not supported, since the software cannot be manually configured. A browser extension for Chrome also exists, which is automatically installed along with the desktop client.
It is somewhat frustrating that Avira's hub always runs when Phantom is open, and that it is necessary to make changes to the latter through the former. For users who only use Phantom, the extra Avira hub icon in the task bar is unnecessary.
The inability to change the app's language is also annoying. As an example, despite using German as the system's language, and having an Avira account which uses German in its interface, Phantom installed in English on our test computer. Changing this was only possible after uninstalling and re-downloading the client. Again, unnecessarily complicated.
With its narrow window and quick-connect feature, the app's design has clearly drawn a great deal of inspiration from other successful VPN providers, however, it is a bit less elegant than NordVPN or ExpressVPN. At first glance, everything you need is here: With a click on the green button, you can be connected to the best possible server, or, based on your settings, servers based in a specific location.
The complete country list can be opened with a click on the field above the connect button. Owing to the somewhat limited number of servers, marking servers as favorites, or sorting them based on categories are not integrated. Ping information on the expected performance of each server is provided.
Phantom does not appear to be designed with streaming in mind: During testing, we were unable to connect to Netflix, Hulu, or the BBC's iPlayer from abroad.
The settings, which can be viewed by clicking on the gear symbol in the upper panel, are limited. You can configure the quick-connect feature, or establish an automatic VPN connection for specific networks. In addition, there is also a kill switch and an integrated malware blocker. Split tunneling is not supported, and users are tied to the protocols that come pre-installed with the software.
For smartphone users, the settings are even more limited, with the kill switch the most notable casualty. Apart from that, the mobile app functions identically to the desktop app. While on the go, automatic VPN connections for specific networks can be set, so that you'll always be able to surf securely.
Phantom provides most of the basic VPN functions, however, it is not particularly generous in terms of extra features or configuration possibilities. It's clear that Avira is trying to reach users of its other products who want to establish VPN connections. 'Simple' is perhaps the best way to describe Phantom's approach: The provider is user-friendly, and doesn't have the bells and whistles of its competitors. To round this out, Avira should incorporate split tunneling or the possibility to manually configure connections into Phantom, as these are pretty much standard in the industry.
Score: 3.3 / 5
Phantom can call upon around 50 servers spread across 36 countries. Among the VPNs we reviewed, Phantom was one of two with fewer than 100 servers. As expected, most of the servers are based in Europe and North America, with additional facilities in Japan, Israel, and Brazil.
We were unable to evaluate Phantom using our standard testing protocol since Avira does not offer any OpenVPN servers. Instead, we tested the program manually: Without a VPN connection, our download and upload speeds were 45 MB/s and 11 MB/s, respectively; with a VPN, 31 MB/s and 4.6 MB/s, respectively.
This means that Phantom VPN uses 63.5% of the existing bandwidth. Since its server network is still growing, Phantom can gain speed in the future, but at the moment, it simply can't even come close to touching the best providers.
Score: 2 / 5
Security and Privacy
Phantom VPN encrypts connections using AES 256, with OpenVPN, the gold standard, for its protocol. In this way, Avira has adopted the most modern security standards, but does not allow users to configure any of the settings. Should you want to have more control over your encryption or protocols, other VPNs are advisable. With that said, in terms of security, Phantom VPN does not seem to have any issues.
Phantom is poorly suited for trips to countries with restrictive internet laws: The lack of special servers for countries with strict censorship, like China, makes tunneling through the "Great Firewall" difficult.
As expected, in terms of security, Avira does not cut any corners. But what about privacy? Here, matters are less clear.
The groups with which Avira shares such data include "Employees (internal and external); IT infrastructure service providers; Payment processors; Service providers for support processing; Software service providers; Marketing and sales service providers; Suppliers of analysis tools; Public authorities."
As can be seen, Avira does not adhere to a strict 'no logging' policy, however, it doesn't create too much doubt either.
Owing to Avira's location, its products must conform to German data protection laws. Germany is party to the 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement, and passes information to other countries and security services. This contrasts with other VPNs based in Panama or the British Virgin Islands, locations which are out of reach of international security services.
Score: 3.7 / 5
Unfortunately, Avira does not offer a live support chat. The only possibility to directly contact Phantom's support staff is via support ticket. On Avira's help center, the email address of your premium account allows you to contact the support team. Entering your email address, even after you're already logged in, is somewhat redundant. On top of this, you also need to input a security code. Questions can be asked in other languages (such as German), however, "fast-lane" support, which provides help quicker, only responds in English.
Avira's support center also provides some assistance, however, this is not so informative as desired.
We received an answer to our query (without "fast-lane") after 4 days (over a weekend). Our English question was answered within 2 hours, however, not to our satisfaction.
Avira would do well to invest in its customer support: A more robust support center would do wonders. As with all VPN providers, live chat is something of a necessity, and Phantom's lack of it is noticeable, knocking the provider down a few pegs under its competitors.
Score: 2 / 5
In terms of price, Phantom's pro-version is in the middle of the pack of the VPN providers we evaluated. Alongside the monthly and yearly subscription plans, there is also a mobile subscription, should you only need a VPN for your smartphone or mobile device. The service can be paid for with credit cards, direct debit, or PayPal.
|Free||Pro (12 months)||Pro (1 month)|
|Price per month||$0.00||$6.50||$10.00|
|Contract period (months)||0||12||1|
|Data volume||0.5 GB||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of servers||38||38||38|
|Number of countries||34||34||34|
In contrast to other VPN providers, Avira offers a free version of Phantom, limited to a monthly data volume of 500 MB.
Avira's Phantom VPN is solid in a number of aspects, but doesn't really distinguish itself from its competition. Phantom has too many drawbacks to truly win over users: Its server network is tiny, its support is one-dimensional, and the provider doesn't offer a number of important features. Good performance could compensate for these shortcomings, but even here, the results are little more than satisfactory. In all fairness, some of these issues could be written off as growing pains, in particular since the creation of good server infrastructure requires time. Phantom's applications cut a good figure, and the premium version will be appealing to a number of users. Should you already use other Avira programs, Phantom would not be a horrible addition to your suite, but not great either.
Some day, Phantom may be able to go head-to-head with the big names in the VPN market, but that day is far off, particularly since there are simply too many other competitors offering better packages.
If Phantom is appealing owing to its free version, a few alternatives exist. Hide.me offers 2 GB of volume and 5 server locations per month, while similar packages can be had from Hotspot Shield and ProtonVPN. If you are ready to pay for a reliable VPN service, look no further than our test winners NordVPN and ExpressVPN. The complete list of VPNs that we tested can be found here.