CyberGhost full review
CyberGhost is a VPN service that’s been around longer than most and has a Windows app that’s more impressive than many rivals. There are a few quirks and concerns that we’ll explain, but on the whole it’s a low-cost choice if you’re happy to commit to two- or three-year subscription.
The company is headquartered in Romania, which is outside the "14-Eyes" group of countries that share intelligence (you can find out more why it's best if a VPN is situated outside the group here). It operates a no-logs policy which is clearly explained on its website. It means that your activity is completely anonymous: neither your ISP nor CyberGhost has any idea what you do, or when you do it.
CyberGhost offers thousands of servers in 58 countries and you can pick servers optimised to streaming services or torrenting. With certain subscriptions (those longer than six months) you get access to a selection of NoSpy servers. These are owned and operated by CyberGhost and are claimed to be faster and more private.
We counted 19 such servers, all of which are located in Bucharest in Romania. This has a couple of implications. First, it means that all the regular servers are not as fast and are merely rented by CyberGhost. Second, it means that Romania is the only location you can choose for NoSpy servers. If you need a VPN in the UK, US or somewhere else, you’re foregoing the best privacy and speed.
CyberGhost says that it runs its own custom operating system on those servers for a “fully secure environment” and has “extra security measures” in place for all rented servers.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t be something we’d mention in a VPN review, but in CyberGhost’s case it’s relevant. The VPN was founded by Robert Knapp, a German entrepreneur. But it was sold to an Israeli company, Crossrider, in 2017, a company known for adware and malware: software designed to collect user data which can be sold to third parties. Because of this negative association, Crossrider changed its name to Kape.
The firm also owns Intego, antivirus software for Macs, and ZenMate, another VPN service.
At the time of writing, CyberGhost provides apps for Windows, Mac, Android (& Android TV), iOS and Amazon Fire TV, and had just released version 7.0 which brought with it a new interface. There are also browser extensions available for Chrome and Firefox.
The iOS and Android apps are extremely easy to install and use. They allow you to pick ‘Best server location’, a specific country or use the ‘Steaming friendly’ tab to choose a server based on the service you want to use: Netflix, iPlayer, Sky Go, YouTube, Hulu, Crunchyroll and more.
Servers are available in many countries including UK, US, Australia, NZ, Canada. You can save favourites, but there are no other options or settings. The only other feature is the option to choose whether or not to let the VPN protect Wi-Fi connections, a prompt which appears when your phone connects to a new Wi-Fi network.
The Windows app is a completely different beast. On the surface it offers the same experience, but expand the main window and many more settings and options are available.
The dashboard has completely ditched the old task-based way of choosing an appropriate server and pares down the choices. Each list shows the number of people connected to a server, the load as a percentage, and its distance from you. You can sort the list by any of these, then filter by favourites, or those optimised for torrenting or streaming.
In terms of settings, the kill switch is turned on by default, which is useful as it means you’re protected from an unexpected disconnection from the VPN server. DNS leak protection is also on, but you’d expect that as standard feature from any VPN.
You’ll find many more settings, including a Smart rules tab where you can choose what happens when Windows starts, including connecting to a specific server and opening a web browser in incognito mode.
It’s also possible to whitelist websites that you don’t want going over the VPN connection, such as your online bank or another service. App Protection is an interesting and useful idea: you can set up a list of apps which, when you launch them, automatically start the VPN and connect to a specified server. This means you can’t forget to run the VPN when you use a torrenting app, for example.
Another section is titled Connection Features. They include an ad blocker, a malicious website blocker, forced HTTPS for all sites and data compression.
Testing the speed of a VPN service is very difficult. Performance varies between servers and also varies by day and hour.
In general, then, over a couple of weeks, we saw acceptable speeds from most servers. The only time speeds dropped to unacceptable levels was when we tried using the US streaming server after around 5pm in the UK when Speedtest.net reported just 2.4Mb/sec on our usual 80Mb/sec line – not really enough to stream in HD. (We've got some tips on how to speed up CyberGhost, though.)
Other servers saw between 30 and 45Mb/sec which is fine for browsing and streaming, but if you’re download a lot and require even better speeds, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and PureVPN proved quicker in our tests.
Connections to servers were established quickly and we had no issues with the VPN disconnecting unexpectedly.
And running our usual DNS and IP leak tests, we saw nothing untoward: CyberGhost passed with no issues.
For unblocking streaming services, we saw an error message from Netflix the first time we tried the US streaming server as it detecting an unblocker, but it worked fine after disconnecting and reconnecting to the same server. That’s standard behaviour for all the VPNs we’ve tested: if you don’t succeed at first, try again.
Don’t be persuaded by all of the extras you get. The ad-blocker, for example, proved less effective than some of the popular free browser add-ons such as AdBlock Plus, and you should be running antivirus software on your PC already, making the ‘Block Malicious Websites’ feature somewhat redundant for a lot of users.
CyberGhost offers a 45-day money back guarantee, which is one of the longest periods among its rivals. If you go for just one month, it’s a steep £11.99 / $12.99 but this drops sharply for longer subscriptions. The best deal is the three-year option which, at the time of review, was just £2.20 / $2.50 per month.
That’s a one-off payment of £79 / $89.99 every three years. Aside from PayPal and Credit Card, which aren’t anonymous, your only option is to use BitPay.
You can sign up to CyberGhost on its website here.
You can register up to seven devices on your account and use them simultaneously. It’s easy to de-register a device and replace it with another.
Ultimately, you might take issue with some aspects of CyberGhost’s offering, whether it’s the rented servers or the ‘interesting’ history of the company which now owns the service. You might be able to live with these factors if you’re just after an inexpensive VPN to unblock streaming services, but if you’re after the ultimate privacy and security you may well prefer to look elsewhere.
- 1-month account
- based in Bucharest, Romania
- no logs
- VPN protocols: L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, PPTP
- 5 concurrent devices
- 80GB data allowance per month
- client software for Windows and OS X
- platform support: OS X, Windows
- manual configuration option
- P2P policy blocked on some servers (free service)