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.
Pros and Cons
No split tunneling
Unimpressive server network
Data security and privacy concerns
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 Months||6 months||1 Month|
|Price per month||$2.22||$5.39||$10.99|
|Contract period (months)||18||12||1|
|Number of devices||5||5||5|
|Number of servers||3,000||3,000||3,000|
|Number of countries||30||30||30|
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.
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.