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.

Review

Review Score
3.1 / 5
02/2020
satisfactory
Visit Website
Security and Privacy
3.7 / 5
Installation and Features
3.3 / 5
Performance
3.0 / 5
Customer Support
3.0 / 5
Server Network
2.7 / 5
1.

Pros and Cons

Simple and user-friendly applications

Free version

Small server network

Average performance

Limited functions

2.

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.

Mobile App

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

3.

Server Network

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.

With more server locations than Perfect Privacy, but far fewer than ProtonVPN, Phantom's infrastructure was the second smallest among all of the VPNs we reviewed.

Score: 2.7 / 5

4.

Performance

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

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.

The program passed our VPN leak tests for IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC without any difficulties.

As expected, in terms of security, Avira does not cut any corners. But what about privacy? Here, matters are less clear.

Phantom's privacy policy promises Avira does not "transmit your data to third parties for reasons other than those listed below." These include, "If you have expressly given us your consent for this; It is legally permissible and necessary for the execution of our contractual relationships with you; Data transmission is based on a legal obligation; Data disclosure is justified by a legitimate interest and there is no reason to assume that you have an overriding legitimate interest in the non-disclosure of your data at this time."

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.

In sum, Phantom's privacy policy should not create all too many concerns, but it isn't the most water-tight among the providers which we've reviewed either.

Score: 3.7 / 5

6.

Customer Support

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

7.

Price Point

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.

FreePro (12 months)Pro (1 month)
Price
Set-up fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Price per month $0.00 $6.50 $10.00
Contract period (months) 0 12 1
Limits
Data volume 0.5 GB unlimited unlimited
Number of devices unlimited unlimited unlimited
Features
Number of servers 38 38 38
Number of countries 34 34 34
No Logs
P2P allowed
Tor Access
Kill Switch
Protocols
OpenVPN
OpenVPN
OpenVPN

In contrast to other VPN providers, Avira offers a free version of Phantom, limited to a monthly data volume of 500 MB.

Conclusion

Review Score
3.1 / 5
02/2020
satisfactory
Visit Website
Security and Privacy
3.7 / 5
Installation and Features
3.3 / 5
Performance
3.0 / 5
Customer Support
3.0 / 5
Server Network
2.7 / 5

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.

Avira Phantom VPN
(587,634)
38 servers in 30+ countries
offers free plan
small server network
Devices
unlimited
Datenvolumen
0.5 - ∞
Protocols
1
Contract Period
0 - 12 months
Avira Free
$0.00
monthly price
Visit Website
Review Score
3.1 / 5
satisfactory

Customer Ratings

Customer Rating
4.5 / 5
587,634 Ratings
excellent
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 587,634 ratings with an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 .
Show sources

Alternatives

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.

Best Overall 2020
ExpressVPN
(178,151)
Fastest VPN in our test
3000+ Server
160 cities in 94 countries
Saves no logs
30-day money-back guarantee
ExpressVPN impresses with strong performance, a huge server network and excellently designed applications, but this quality also comes at a higher price.
Devices
3
Datenvolumen
unlimited
Protocols
6
Contract Period
1 - 12 months
+3 months
Black Friday Deal
ExpressVPN 12 Months
$8.33
monthly price
Visit Website
Best Overall
4.8 / 5
excellent
Best Value for Money
NordVPN
(310,167)
5000+ servers worldwide
60 countries
No logs
6 devices simultaneously
Inexpensive 2-year package
NordVPN combines speed, user-friendliness and functionality into a coherent overall package that is also fairly affordable.
Devices
6
Datenvolumen
unlimited
Protocols
5
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
+3 months
Black Friday Deal
NordVPN 2-year plan
$3.71
monthly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.7 / 5
excellent
Surfshark VPN
(25,851)
1700+ servers in 63+ countries
Unlimited number of devices
Many apps (Linux, FireTV, ...)
Saves no logs
Very cheap on the 24-month plan
Surfshark is one of the cheapest providers on the market, but besides the price also impresses with strong protection, many features and a great support with 24/7 live chat.
Devices
unlimited
Datenvolumen
unlimited
Protocols
3
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
+3 months
Black Friday Deal
Surfshark 24 months
$2.49
monthly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.6 / 5
excellent
Author (German Version): Martin Gschwentner
Martin Gschwentner majored in American Studies and Media Studies in Germany, the USA and France and works as a freelance editor in Paris. He is a doctoral student at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Paris Diderot, where he is researching the influence of money on US politics. On EXPERTE.com he writes about IT security, data protection and software for the self-employed and small businesses.
English Translator & Editor: D Bare
Other languages:
Italiano Deutsch