VPN Review: ZenMate

As a concept, Zen is often equated with relaxation and simplicity. Far less frequently, Zen evokes images of German tech companies. Cynics can one again smirk at the adoption of Eastern mysticism and "wisdom" for marketing purposes. But is ZenMate deserving of trust? Does it provide its users with peace of mind and an uncluttered interface while surfing? Our test will answer this, and other pressing questions.

What is ZenMate?

ZenMate is a VPN provider headquartered in Berlin, which since 2018 has been owned by the Israeli tech firm Kape Technologies, the parent company of CyberGhost and some other data security programs. Below, we explore if ZenMate allows users to profit from this infrastructure and its experience, or if the provider needs to meditate on its purpose.

Review

Review Score
3.3 / 5
02/2020
satisfactory
Visit Website
Performance
4.0 / 5
Installation and Features
3.3 / 5
Customer Support
3.0 / 5
Server Network
3.0 / 5
Security and Privacy
3.0 / 5
1.

Pros and Cons

User-friendly applications

Good speeds

No split tunneling

Unimpressive server network

Data security and privacy concerns

2.

Installation and Features

A ZenMate subscription allows you to register up to 5 devices, about the industrial average. Alongside applications for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS the program offers extensions for Firefox, Opera, and Chrome.

After acquisition by Kape Technologies, ZenMate's software received a long overdue makeover. The application's user interface was aligned with that of CyberGhost, another of Kape's offerings. The app's main screen is arranged around a large on/off button that connects you with a single click to the best server based on your location. The long interface is reminiscent of a smartphone app, and has similar usability, something 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.

If you want to select from the complete list of servers, you need to click on "more servers" in the drop down menu, or the additional window above the arrow button on the panel's right border. In the expanded menu, you can alphabetically scroll through the servers or use the search function. There are also special servers designed for torrents and streaming. Apart from that, you can see information about the distance to servers and their usage for each country.

Even though ZenMate's client is practically identical with that of CyberGhost, the former definitely drew the shorter straw. All of the typical VPN settings, like a kill switch and the ability to switch between protocols are available, however, users have to make due without no-spy servers. This might be attributable to ZenMate's headquartering in Germany, a country not exactly famous for its lax data laws. Other functions like an ad-blocker, no-tracking, or smart-rules are also absent. On the server list you can only choose from countries, not individual servers.

Our streaming test had mixed results: We were able to connect to Netflix from abroad, however, not to the BBC's iPlayer.

Mobile App

ZenMate's apps for Android and iOS are identical with the desktop versions. Here too, you can click on the large button in the middle to connect to the nearest and best server. Clicking on the button below opens the server menu, allowing you to choose from the complete list of countries.

In comparison to the desktop app and to CyberGhost, ZenMate's mobile app's functions are limited. You cannot change the VPN protocols in the app, and split tunneling, like on the desktop version, is not available.

ZenMate definitely comes off worse when compared with CyberGhost: The program has a limited number of features, most of which are offered by other providers. We're fine 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.

Score: 3.3 / 5

3.

Server Network

ZenMate is present in more than 30 countries, whereby most of the servers are in Europe. From its roughly 300 servers, there are some in North America and Asia, as well as Israel, South Africa, and Australia.

Global coverage could be worse, but it definitely isn't impressive either. The other Kape Technologies product, CyberGhost is present in twice as many countries, ExpressVPN in three times as many.

Score: 3 / 5

4.

Performance

The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random ZenMate 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):

When testing was conducted, ZenMate clocked a download speed of 144.9 MB/s and an upload speed of 17.5 MB/s, entitling it to thirteenth place in our ranking. In terms of speed, ZenMate's performance could still be classified as good.

The diagram below shows ZenMate's average speeds over the past months.

Score: 4 / 5

5.

Security and Privacy

Both the desktop and mobile versions of ZenMate use AES 256-bit encryption, whereas the browser extensions feature 128-bit encryption. Among protocols, OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP can be chosen from, however, most users will probably stick with the pre-installed options.

Owing to the company's headquartering in Germany, ZenMate can't make the same data privacy guarantees that its competitors based in Panama or the British Virgin Islands can. Germany does have relatively good data protection laws, but the country is party to the multilateral 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement. Most VPN users won't feel particularly impacted, but ZenMate's privacy policy is on shakier legal ground than those of other providers.

The program passed our VPN leak tests for IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC without any difficulties. Additionally, the kill switch is always activated, both on the desktop and mobile apps.

ZenMate advertises a no logging policy, which is hotly debated by data privacy experts. ProPrivacy determined in 2018 that ZenMate can save connection logs without contradicting its policy. The company's privacy policy has been changed since Kape Technologies took over, with passages relating to logging modified:

Kape Technologies (previously Crossrider) has been caught out in the past for malware infections and dubious practices. Maybe the sins of yesteryear have been atoned for, but having such a questionable parent company, doesn't really throw a good light on any of its subsidiaries, foremost among them, ZenMate.

On paper, we can't really fault ZenMate for anything, and the provider did pass our software tests without issue. We are still far away from having peace of mind with it though.

Score: 3 / 5

6.

Customer Support

Even though the company is based in Germany, (incredibly) its support center, with FAQs and guides is only available in English. This is the same for the contact form, with ZenMate stating that "Our support is provided in English owing to our international user basis."

While other VPN providers offer live chat and email support in a number of languages, ZenMate is a bit flat. It is somewhat frustrating that questions via the contact form are not answered with an automatic response and logged. An answer to our query came after four days, definitely making it one of the slowest services in terms of customer service response times.

Score: 3 / 5

7.

Price Point

Month, year, and two-year contracts are available. ZenMate is the most pricey when used on a monthly basis, whereas the two-year contract is particularly affordable in comparison to other VPN providers. A current price list can be found here:

18 Months6 months1 Month
Price
Set-up fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Price per month $2.22 $5.39 $10.99
Contract period (months) 18 12 1
Limits
Data volume unlimited unlimited unlimited
Number of devices 5 5 5
Features
Number of servers 3,000 3,000 3,000
Number of countries 30 30 30
No Logs
P2P allowed
Tor Access
Kill Switch
Protocols
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP

A free version of ZenMate is available as a browser extension, but limited to 4 server locations and a connection speed of 2 MB/s.

For companies, ZenMate creates personalized packages based on some basic information.

Conclusion

Review Score
3.3 / 5
02/2020
satisfactory
Visit Website
Performance
4.0 / 5
Installation and Features
3.3 / 5
Customer Support
3.0 / 5
Server Network
3.0 / 5
Security and Privacy
3.0 / 5

If we would be as critical of ZenMate if it weren't so intricately linked to CyberGhost (and similar to it) is impossible to say. In most respects, ZenMate is just too unimpressive when compared to its competitors. With regards to performance and speed, there's little to criticize, but ZenMate is weaker than CyberGhost, and its weaknesses, particularly in regards to its questionable privacy policy, simply eclipse all of the good. With all of this in mind, we can't really recommend ZenMate, despite its free version and good price.

ZenMate VPN
(69,300)
3000+ IP addresses
30 countries
30 days money-back guarantee
Devices
5
Datenvolumen
unlimited
Protocols
6
Contract Period
1 - 18 months
ZenMate 18 Months
$2.22
monthly price
Visit Website
Review Score
3.3 / 5
satisfactory

Customer Ratings

In the reviews that we evaluated, ZenMate fared pretty well. The company's customer support was often praised, but also frequently criticized. Some users emphasized its good performance, particularly when using streaming services.

Customer Rating
3.8 / 5
69,300 Ratings
good
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 69,300 ratings with an overall rating of 3.8 out of 5 .
Show sources

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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