ZenMate VPN Review 2023: German Quality?
When you think of Zen, you probably imagine relaxation and simplicity, but how about a German software developer? Eastern mysticism has recently grown very popular for marketing purposes, however, there is definitely more to ZenMate than meets the eye. The service provides its users with peace of mind while surfing in a decluttered interface.
What Is ZenMate?
ZenMate* is a Berlin-based VPN provider, owned since 2018 by Kape Technologies (London), the parent company of CyberGhost and a handful of other VPNs. Below, we check whether ZenMate allows users to profit from this infrastructure and its experience, or if the provider needs to meditate on its purpose.
ZenMate VPN Review
No split tunneling
Unimpressive server network
Data security and privacy concerns
Installation and Features
ZenMate subscribers can connect as many devices as they would like.
Following its acquisition by Kape Technologies, ZenMate's software received a well-needed makeover. The application's user interface now looks more like CyberGhost's: Its main screen is arranged around a large power button that, with a single click, connects you to the best available server. The elongated interface is reminiscent of a smartphone app and has similar usability, an achievement that the developers can be proud of.
When you click on the server location button, a drop-down menu opens that allows you to select from among your favorites or servers that are configured for streaming.
ZenMate's app is eye-catching.
If you want to select from the complete list of servers, click on "More Servers" in the drop-down menu. There, you can scroll through an alphabetically sorted list of servers, or use the search function. Should you be looking for a particular kind of server (for streaming or torrents), you can select from the categories on the left side of the interface. The list also displays information about the distance to servers, their usage, and the ability to favorite them.
In the server menu, you'll be able to see distance, usage statistics, and mark servers as favorites.
Since ZenMate's desktop client is practically identical to that of CyberGhost, we couldn't help but compare the two. Unfortunately, ZenMate drew the shorter straw.
It includes standard VPN features, like a kill switch and protocol selection. Users won't get CyberGhost's "no-spy" servers. This might be because ZenMate is based in Germany, a country that isn't popular amongst privacy activists. Other CyberGhost features that ZenMate users won't get include the ad-blocker, no-track, and smart rules. Even when searching for a server, you can only select a country, not a particular city.
As a trade-off, ZenMate's browser extension includes a few additional features: "Smart Location" offers split tunneling for websites, allowing you to specify which websites automatically connect using a pre-selected VPN server. Alternatively, you can use the white list to define those sites that never use your VPN connection.
ZenMate's browser extension includes additional features.
ZenMate's Android and iOS apps are identical to its desktop clients. Here too, when connecting, you'll tap on the large power button in the center. To change servers, simply open the location menu below it.
In comparison to the desktop client and to CyberGhost's mobile app, the functions available in ZenMate's mobile app are limited. For example, you cannot change VPN protocols or use split tunneling.
ZenMate's mobile app is identical to its desktop client.
Set alongside CyberGhost, ZenMate offers little that other providers don't, and lacks some features that have become standard. We can live without an ad-blocker, but the absence of split tunneling or no-spy servers is an issue. In total, ZenMate offers a decent package, but there's a lot of room for improvement.
Things look a bit different when it comes to servers, as since our last check-in (2019), ZenMate has more than doubled the size of its network, now having a presence in 77 countries and 2,900 servers around the world. As is common, Africa and Asia aren't as well-covered in Europe or North America.
ZenMate's server network has been steadily growing over the past few years.
Despite its progress, ZenMate still can't really come near to the best in terms of network size. Even its Kape Technologies counterpart, CyberGhost, has twice as many servers. Overall, ZenMate's network is nothing to scoff at, but it isn't particularly remarkable either.
We measure the speed of all VPNs from our sample using a European-based server with a 1 GB/s connection. To accomplish this, we connected to random ZenMate servers in the US and Germany at different times of the day. More information about our methodology is available in our VPN speed test article.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
During testing, ZenMate clocked a download speed of 126.6 MB/s and an upload speed of 18.8 MB/s, entitling it to fourteenth place in our ranking, one below where it was in 2019. Nothing to write home about, but decent.
The diagram below shows ZenMate's average speeds over the past months:
Download: 126.2 Mbit/s 126.2
Upload: 17.4 Mbit/s
Download: 121.0 Mbit/s 121.0
Upload: 18.2 Mbit/s
Download: 126.0 Mbit/s 126.0
Upload: 18.9 Mbit/s
Download: 136.4 Mbit/s 136.4
Upload: 19.9 Mbit/s
Download: 138.6 Mbit/s 138.6
Upload: 19.2 Mbit/s
Download: 133.9 Mbit/s 133.9
Upload: 18.9 Mbit/s
Download: 146.4 Mbit/s 146.4
Upload: 18.7 Mbit/s
Download: 138.8 Mbit/s 138.8
Upload: 18.0 Mbit/s
Download: 131.7 Mbit/s 131.7
Upload: 17.3 Mbit/s
Download: 133.2 Mbit/s 133.2
Upload: 17.4 Mbit/s
Download: 127.1 Mbit/s 127.1
Upload: 18.4 Mbit/s
Download: 130.7 Mbit/s 130.7
Upload: 17.5 Mbit/s
Download: 123.4 Mbit/s 123.4
Upload: 17.2 Mbit/s
We also assessed how the service did in terms of everyday usage. For regular surfing, our connections were quickly established and without disruption. The kill switch was reliable and we didn't have to complete annoying captchas.
In terms of performance, ZenMate finally steps out from CyberGhost's shadow, owing to the connection problems we had with the latter during testing. At the end of the day though, there are VPN services that make it possible to access content from all four streaming platforms (and more).
Security and Privacy
Both the desktop and mobile versions of ZenMate use AES 256, whereas the browser extensions feature 128-bit encryption. Among protocols, OpenVPN and IKEv2 can be selected, however, most users will probably stick with the default settings. Unfortunately, in contrast to CyberGhost, the newest protocol, WireGuard, isn't supported.
ZenMate passed all of our leak tests without issue.
In the past, Kape Technologies (previously Crossrider) was caught spreading malware and other dubious practices. Those sins might have been atoned for, however, having such a questionable parent company doesn't shed a good light on ZenMate.
On paper, we can't fault ZenMate for anything, and the provider's software did pass our leak tests without issue. Since the provider hasn't submitted to any external security audits, we can't help but feel that something isn't as it should be.
Even though the company is based in Germany, (incredibly) its support center, featuring FAQs and guides, is only available in English. The same is true for the contact form, with ZenMate stating "Our support is provided in English owing to our international user basis."
When it comes to support, ZenMate only provides the minimum.
While other VPNs offer live chat and email support in a variety of languages, ZenMate falls a bit flat. It is somewhat frustrating that questions via the contact form are not answered with an automatic response or logged from the moment they're posed. An answer to our query came after four days, definitely making it one of the slowest services from our sample.
Monthly, annual, and three-year contracts are offered. You'll pay the most per month if booking a monthly ZenMate subscription, however, its three-year package is a bargain. A current price list can be found here:
|3 years||1 year||1 Month|
|Contract Period (Months)||36||12||1|
|Number of Devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of Servers||4,800||4,800||4,800|
|Number of Countries||78||78||78|
|No Server Logs|
A free version of ZenMate is marketed as a browser extension, however, you'll only be able to select from four different servers and have to accept throttled speeds of 2 MB/s.
ZenMate offers custom packages for organizations or businesses tailored to their needs.
Perhaps it's unfair of us to be as critical of ZenMate as we have been, particularly since it has the same parent company as another service from our sample, CyberGhost. At the same time, there's no denying that CyberGhost offers more features, newer protocols, and a larger network. We can objectively state that ZenMate lacks several of CyberGhost's strengths while having all of the same weaknesses.
With regard to performance and speed, there's little to criticize. We liked that a free version is offered and that the three-year subscription is reasonably priced. Considering how much ZenMate's network has grown since our last review, chances are good that there will be more of the same. However, what we'd really like to see, even more than additional servers, would be an independent security audit.
Based on the reviews that we evaluated, ZenMate enjoys a good reputation. The company's customer support is both praised and criticized. Some users emphasized the service's good performance, particularly when using streaming services.
CyberGhost, which is owned by ZenMate's parent company, offers additional features such as split tunneling and a larger server network while having a nearly identical appearance. We did run into some connection issues with it during testing, however.
The fastest service from our sample and our overall winner was NordVPN. In contrast to CyberGhost and ZenMate, NordVPN has submitted to external security audits, reinforcing its "No-Logs" guarantee.
More of the best alternatives to ZenMate can be found below: