VPN Review: Windscribe
From Edward Snowden to Cambridge Analytica: Discussions about the Internet, its purpose, and its nature, have been tinged with cynicism over recent years. Far removed from the tech utopia it was once thought to be, the Internet as a place of boundless freedom and anonymity have been shown to be illusory. Windscribe promises to bring back "the Internet, as it should be." In our VPN test, we've looked closely at underdog providers like Windscribe, to show just how much they really have to offer.
What is Windscribe?
Windscribe is a Canadian VPN provider, active since 2016, which offers free and paid subscriptions. Desktop applications are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as are mobile Apps for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, and browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Windscribe can also be configured for Smart-TVs and routers.
Pros and Cons
Intuitive apps with a number of features
Cheap and flexible subscription options
Free version (10 GB data volume)
Split tunneling available only on Android
Average server network
Installation and Features
Windscribe's website automatically detects your operating system and browser, providing links to the appropriate software downloads, significantly shortening the installation process. Within less than a minute, we were able to use Windscribe in Windows, as well as Chrome.
Windscribe's app interface is even more light-weight and unobtrusive than the most minimal VPN providers we've reviewed. Features such as an interactive world map, or performance data from servers are nowhere to be found, with only the bare necessities integrated into the app's interface. These include a drop down server location menu, an on/off switch, your IP address, a kill switch (referred to as the 'firewall'), a notifications bell, and a hamburger menu icon which opens settings.
Once a connection has been established, its quality can be rated by clicking on the nearby bar symbol. In the drop down menu, the bar symbol provides information about the strength of potential connections; if you hover your pointer over the symbol, the exact ms of this can be seen.
Unfortunately, there are no server categories in the country menu, which is a feature common to many other VPN providers. Favorites can be selected, which will then be pinned to the top of the list, as well as preferred cities that will be connected to when available.
The desktop app features all of the usual settings such as auto-start, an automatic kill switch, and protocols, about which more can be found in the "Security and Privacy" section below. Under settings, you can also configure the LAN proxy of your network. Should your network adapter support it, you can also create a secure hot-spot (we tested this on Windows). Further options include the ability to establish HTTP or SOCKS proxy servers, enabling additional devices to use your connection.
Windscribe's browser extension is as slim as its desktop counterpart. It likewise features quick-connect, a country list for servers, and shows your IP address. In terms of privacy, the browser extension also serves as an ad-blocker, allowing for ads and malware, social media widgets, notifications, or WebRTC queries to be blocked, according to your preferences.
The "split personality" feature reduces the risk of browser fingerprinting, by rotating the user agent, browser version, and operating system that is reported to websites you visit. Using the "location warp" and "time warp" features, you can change the GPS and time settings of your proxy connection. In "double-hop" mode, which activates VPNs in both the desktop and browser interfaces, your internet traffic is routed through two different VPN servers, creating even more anonymity.
As of the time of writing, split tunnel routing is only supported for Android, however, this feature will be made available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users in the near future.
During our streaming test, we were unable to open the BBC iPlayer using Windscribe's UK-based Windflix server. We were, however, able to access British Netflix content without difficulty.
The app, which is currently available in seven languages, offers the same features as the desktop client, leaving little to be desired. As mentioned above, Android can use split tunneling to control which apps use the VPN connection, and which don't.
In the mobile version, dedicated servers for video streaming appear as a special server category. Using these, we were also able to fool Netflix and gain access to content outside of our geographic region.
Windscribe is intuitive, fast, and packed with practical features, despite its bare-bones interface. Achieving such a nice balance between the interface's design, and the variety of features offered seems to still be an issue for many VPN providers. The only criticism we have of Windscribe's features (its lack of split tunneling), will disappear as soon as support for more devices and operating systems is integrated.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Windscribe serves its users with a network of around 500 servers (the support personnel we discussed the topic with did not want to tell us the exact number) across 110 cities in more than 60 countries. Users of the free version can select from 10 of these locations. In terms of numbers, Windscribe is far off the leading VPN providers such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN, however, in contrast to these, Windscribe's server network is not bloated with virtual servers.
In terms of its geographic spread, Windscribe conforms to the industry's trend, focusing upon Europe and North America, while practically ignoring Africa and Asia. In general, however, the server network is solid.
Score: 3.7 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random Windscribe servers at different times of the day to more accurately evaluate their performances. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
Windscribe was one of the slower VPN services which we tested, securing only eighth place. In comparison to the top performers, this is still considered to be 'good'.
The diagram below shows Windscribe's average speeds over the past months.
Score: 4 / 5
Security and Privacy
Like most VPNs, Windscribe encrypts your data with AES 256-bit encryption, which is considered the industry standard. Users can choose from among VPN protocols such as IKEv2 and OpenVPN (TCP or UDP). In auto-connect mode, the desktop version uses IKEv2, necessitating a trip to the settings menu for those who prefer OpenVPN.
Apart from this, there are further modes, namely 'stealth' and 'wstunnel', which are encapsulated OpenVPN connections that simulate an ordinary connection. These can be particularly useful in countries which restrict Internet usage, such as China.
Windscribe is based in Canada, a country with strict data storage laws and member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement. Unlike Panama, Malaysia, or the British Virgin Islands, Canada is not the ideal location for a VPN provider to be headquartered. For most users, however, security and privacy concerns will probably not extend to the level of government surveillance. Nevertheless, the legal situation, particularly in regards to copyright laws, should be taken note of.
Windscribe promises, not to save any "identifiable logs", including connection logs, IP timestamps, or session logs. The only data that is saved, according to Windscribe, is that of bandwidth usage over the past 30 days, and the time of the last VPN connection. Taking Windscribe at its word, for which little alternative exists, we did not notice any red flags.
That Windscribe takes its users' privacy and security seriously is shown in the plethora of security features that it offers, such as "double hop" or "split personality", which go beyond those offered by its competitors. Those unbothered by the company's headquartering in Canada are likely to be pleased with the service. An independent audit, a step taken by a number of Windscribe's competitors, would go far in boosting its credibility among users.
Score: 4 / 5
Windscribe has a dedicated employee named Garry who is available to answer your questions around the clock. As soon as a question is posed in the support center, Garry will immediately begin typing a response. Unfortunately, Garry is a bot, and as such, he is only helpful in certain situations or for very basic questions.
In contrast to the heavyweights in the VPN market, like NordVPN, Windscribe has neither a live support chat, or a hotline. The company's support personnel can only be contacted through the somewhat old-fashioned filing of a support ticket. On the positive side, the ticket we filed was answered by the support team within roughly 2 hours.
Windscribe does have a relatively active subreddit, and its support center features a knowledge data base, FAQs, and setup guides. Windscribe has attempted to preempt any questions through these measures, however, in certain cases, particularly those which are complex or highly detailed, others in the VPN market are simply better, offering more personal and immediate connections to live support.
Score: 4 / 5
Apart from Windscribe's free version (which has a 10 GB monthly data limit, and allows connections to 10 servers), monthly and yearly subscription packages are also available. In terms of price, Windscribe is one of the best from the VPNs that we examined. An option also exists to create your own subscription package, paying per server location used per month.
A current price list can be found below:
|Price per month||$0.00||$4.08||$9.00|
|Contract period (months)||0||12||1|
|Data volume||10 GB||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of servers||10||500||500|
|Number of countries||10||60||60|
Discounts are available for students, while for businesses and organizations "ScribeForce" charges on a monthly basis according to the number of 'team' users. Static IPs can be booked (at cost) as part of the subscription price.
Windscribe's flexibility and low cost set it apart as one of the most attractive VPN services on the market.
Until recently, Windscribe has flown under the radar of many VPN users, standing in the shadow of its more well-known competitors, in our opinion, without reason. Among free VPN providers, Windscribe is without equal in a hotly-contested market. Its low-cost subscription prices also make it less of an underdog, particularly considering its sleek design, and wide variety of features.
Unfortunately, points were deducted for performance, where Windscribe falls flat. If Windscribe were able to score here, it would be an excellent all-rounder, at a very low price. For those who attach little importance to speed when choosing a VPN provider, Windscribe offers an excellent choice.
Based on the customer reviews we examined, most users seemed to be highly satisfied with Windscribe. The free version's high data volume and the program's intuitiveness were both praised on many occasions. Complaints, although sparse, pertained mostly to connection problems and low speeds.