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 antivirus suite, has also jumped on the VPN bandwagon.
Below, we'll let you know 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?
PhantomVPN is Avira's contribution to the world of VPNs. Based in Germany, the antivirus specialist not only seeks to protect its users from malware, but also from the curious glances of authorities, corporations, or hackers. In the hotly-contested VPN market, Phantom is something of a newcomer, albeit one with a leg up considering Avira's know-how in IT security.
Pros and Cons
Simple and user-friendly applications
Free version offering 500 MB of data per month
Hasn't undergone an independent security audit
Not reliable for streaming content from abroad
DNS leak identified during testing
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 those who only use Phantom, the extra Avira hub icon in the taskbar is unnecessary.
The Avira hub helps to keep track of all of your Avira software.
With its narrow window and quick-connect functionality, there's no denying that the app draws a great deal of inspiration from successful VPN providers. Unfortunately, Phantom's client is slightly less elegant than those of NordVPN or ExpressVPN. At first glance, everything you need appears to be available: With a click on the green button, you can connect to the best possible server, or, based on your settings, a specific country.
You can alternate between light and dark mode in Phantom's desktop client.
To view a complete list of server locations, click on "Nearest location." Owing to the somewhat limited number of servers, marking servers as favorites, or sorting them based on categories is not possible. As a trade-off, ping information on the expected performance of each server is provided.
On the list of server locations, you can view all available servers, as well as the (estimated) connection quality.
Settings can be viewed by clicking on the gear symbol in the upper-right of the interface. These are limited to the ability to configure the quick-connect feature or set an automatic VPN connection for specific networks. There's 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.
When it comes to features, Phantom only provides the basics.
For smartphone users, options are even more limited, with the kill switch the most notable casualty. Apart from that though, the mobile app functions identically to the desktop client. While on the go, automatic VPN connections for specific networks can be set, allowing you to always surf securely. In addition, you'll also be able to make use of the new WireGuard protocol, but more on that below.
In terms of appearance, the smartphone app is very similar to the desktop client.
Phantom provides most of the basic VPN functions, but beyond that, doesn't offer a lot of extras or configuration options. As such, it's clear that Avira is trying to appeal primarily to its established customers who are curious about VPN connections.
'Simple' is perhaps the best way to describe Phantom's approach: The provider is user-friendly, lacking its competitors' bells and whistles. We don't have a problem with that, but features like split tunneling, or the possibility to manually configure connections with devices like routers should be included.
Score: 3.3 / 5
Phantom relies on 1,400 servers across 34 countries. As might be expected, the majority of these are in Europe and North America, with additional outposts in Japan, Israel, and Brazil.
The number of servers has grown respectable, even if their geographic spread could do with a bit more variety. All the same, we anticipate more servers finding their way into the provider's network.
Score: 3.3 / 5
As Avira doesn't offer any OpenVPN servers (only making them accessible via app), we couldn't evaluate the provider using our standard testing protocol. Instead, we assessed the service manually: With a VPN connection, our download and upload speeds were 184.74 MB/s and 9.49 MB/s, respectively. Without a VPN connection, these were a bit higher, at 205.5 MB/s and 11.44 MB/s, respectively.
During evaluation, Avira Phantom VPN recorded excellent speeds.
Taken alone, these results are excellent, allowing Avira Phantom VPN to compete with the fastest services from our sample. However, it's important to keep in mind that such speeds are far less telling since we couldn't measure an average over an extended time period, as was the case with the other providers.
Below, we've provided the upload and download speeds from all providers in our sample for comparison
Our experience surfing with Phantom VPN confirmed the impression its speeds gave off. Its VPN tunnels were reliable and stable, and we didn't have to complete any annoying captchas when using Google.
Unfortunately, in terms of streaming, Phantom VPN stuck out like a sore thumb. Whether Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, or the BBC's iPlayer, our tunnels didn't fool anybody. As a result, we weren't able to access any content from abroad.
Should you not intend to use a VPN for streaming content from abroad, or be able to make do without it, Avira Phantom VPN is a good choice owing to its speeds.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Security and Privacy
Phantom VPN encrypts all connections using AES 256 with OpenVPN as its protocol. Since our last check-in (2019), WireGuard has usurped OpenVPN as the gold standard in terms of protocols, however, this is only offered in Phantom VPN's Android app.
On Windows, the client passed all of our VPN leak tests. On macOS, we didn't encounter any IPv6 or WebRTC issues, however, when connecting to a VPN server in the US, a DNS leak was identified. DNS queries were forwarded to our local provider's (Vodafone) DNS server rather than to the VPN's DNS server. This means that despite using a VPN tunnel, we weren't actually surfing anonymously.
Unfortunately, we were able to identify a DNS leak during testing.
And how about privacy?
According to Avira, they last submitted to an independent audit in 2016, the year of Phantom VPN's launch. Since we couldn't find the accompanying report, we have to take the provider at their word, and that's what third-party audits are meant to prevent. Until Avira makes more information available about audits that it has submitted to in the past, we aren't comfortable relying on them.
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 that are out of reach of international security services.
We're disappointed: In addition to the DNS leak, the lack of an independent security audit is just another strike against the service, particularly since other providers, like TunnelBear or NordVPN, show that regular third-party audits are possible. Since Avira is in the IT security business, it's unfortunate that we were able to identify so many risks and dangers.
Score: 2.3 / 5
In terms of support, Avira's website only offers a knowledge base containing some FAQs that aren't all that extensive. Generally speaking, Avira suffers from the same problem as most larger software developers, namely, that their individual programs have fairly superficial support centers.
A sub-forum for VPN users is offered, containing, as of the time of writing, around 300 entries that can, like the FAQs be searched through using the text search.
Telephone and email support is offered.
Direct support is available either by telephone or support ticket. Unfortunately, Avira does not offer a live support chat. The contact hours for telephone queries are very limited, Monday to Friday, 2-5 PM. Other providers staff their phone lines more regularly.
We received an answer to our support ticket query after five days. Anyone keen on fast support should look elsewhere.
Score: 2.7 / 5
In terms of price, Phantom's pro-version costs about as much as our sample's average. Alongside its monthly and yearly subscription plans, a mobile subscription is also available, 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)|
|Base 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|
|No server logs|
Unlike other VPN providers, Avira offers a free version of Phantom VPN, limited to a monthly data volume of 500 MB. On the plus side, users can connect as many devices as they'd like, and use any of the service's servers.
Smartphone users can take advantage of a 7-day trial version, and any subscriber can get their money back within 30 days if unsatisfied with the service.
Avira Phantom VPN is solid in a number of aspects but doesn't really set itself apart from the competition. The server network could do with a bit more variety, its support is one-dimensional, and a number of important features are missing. Some of these issues could be written off as growing pains, as the creation of good server infrastructure, in particular, necessitates a great deal of time.
On the plus side, the service demonstrates excellent speeds, even if we couldn't assess these in the same manner as the rest of our sample owing to the absence of OpenVPN servers. The free version is another highlight. Should you already use other Avira programs, Phantom would not be a horrible addition to your suite.
Overall though, there are simply too many providers offering better packages for Phantom VPN to make a lasting mark.
But, what do users think about Phantom VPN? We compiled reviews from several reputable aggregators to provide you with an overview.
If Phantom VPN appeals owing to its free version, a few alternatives exist. Hide.me offers 2 GB of volume and the ability to connect to 5 server locations per month, with Hotspot Shield and ProtonVPN providing similar packages.
Should you be ready to pay for a reliable VPN service, look no further than our speed demons NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Both perform extremely well, have sizable server networks, offer more features, and have submitted to external audits.
The best alternatives to Phantom VPN can be found below: