CyberGhost VPN Review – IGNJune 17, 2020
Design and Features
With a slick, agile app that tucks away nicely in the taskbar and unfurls with options when needed, CyberGhost offers an excellent desktop interface for power users and casual web surfers alike. Simply click the slider button to activate CyberGhost’s VPN, and you’re instantly connected to and protected by one of the service’s 6,300 servers located in more than 90 countries, worldwide.
Like other VPNs, CyberGhost organizes its servers by geography, but it also highlights servers that are particularly good for downloading and streaming video, too – a nice, under-publicized feature. The service also boasts 256-bit encryption, protection from sketchy public Wi-Fi hotspots, IP address-hiding, and log-free servers to preserve anonymity. Add atop that apps for desktop, mobile, and routers – you can use it on seven devices simultaneously – and CyberGhost appears to pack all the essentials a solid VPN needs.
Digging deeper, CyberGhost also offers advanced features that more sophisticated users will love. For instance, on CyberGhost’s desktop app, its “smart rules” will prompt the VPN to activate automatically when it’s connected to Wi-Fi, or automatically disconnect when the computer is on a trusted wireless network. CyberGhost also can compress data, like image files, to reduce your bandwidth usage, as well as force unprotected websites to filter through an https server instead.
Like other VPN services, CyberGhost publishes a regular transparency report, but it’s more promotional than it is reassuring. For instance, CyberGhost’s report isn’t conducted by a third party, and it doesn’t discuss stress or vulnerability-testing, like other services do. Instead CyberGhost’s drills down on DMCA complaints – which are about the VPN’s users violating copyright, a popular use for masking your identity online – or police requests for IP addresses. Really, these numbers aren’t about transparency so much as promotion for how popular the service is.
CyberGhost also offers an array of tech to protect other hardware on your network, from routers to gaming consoles. On the desktop, CyberGhost can protect Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. On mobile, like many other VPNs, it has apps for iOS and Android. Despite advertising that it has apps for streaming boxes and gaming consoles, that’s only true for Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. To make CyberGhost work with smart TVs, Apple TV, Xbox, and PlayStation it simply requires a change in DNS settings. But CyberGhost’s from-server-to-settings holistic approach to VPNs makes it a well thought out service.
On its web site, CyberGhost bills itself as “the perfect balance between speed and privacy.” Our head-to-head comparisons, however, raise questions about what, exactly that balance looks like. For download speed tests, CyberGhost could not keep up with the competition, performing in the bottom third of the services we evaluated. But it wasn’t all bad – in upload and latency tests, CyberGhost was solidly in the middle of the pack.
CyberGhost’s upload and download speeds were measured using an average of its scores taken in the afternoon and evening using the SpeedOf.Me speedtest. To evaluate CyberGhost’s performance, we pinged the servers of several popular video games – Fortnite, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – while logged into the VPN, averaging the response times to measure the latency. Then, to see if CyberGhost is the best VPN for gaming, we played the games while logged into one of its servers. Similarly, to see if CyberGhost was the best VPN for Netflix, we streamed some movies while using the service.
Firing up Fortnite while using CyberGhost was a fairly uneventful experience – the game connected to a fast server, found a party to join, rendered all the elements, and let us off to the races. Even with middling download speed, the third-person shooter held up well, likely because of its low latency response to Fortnite’s server and its better-than-average upload performance. Counter-Strike worked similarly well, and League of Legends, which CyberGhost scored top marks with in ping testing, worked flawlessly, as expected.
Streaming video with Netflix while using CyberGhost worked perfectly fine, connecting domestically or internationally and streaming content seamlessly. The average download speed of around 28mbps was more than enough to keep pace with the fast-paced action movie Extraction, which suffered from a bit of blurring and motion artifacts, but enough to excuse because it’s a streaming movie, not a Blu-Ray.
Like most VPNs, CyberGhost offers an array of pricing options. CyberGhost’s month-to-month VPN service costs $12.99. A one-year CyberGhost subscription runs $71.88 per year, which breaks down to $5.99 per month. If you pay $88.56 for a two year subscription to CyberGhost, the per-month cost goes down to $3.69. But the three-year CyberGhost subscription is the service’s best value, pencilling out to just $2.75 per month, after you plunk down the $99 fee upfront. These rates put CyberGhost solidly in the middle of the pack – it’s month-to-month price is high, but its three-year cost is steeply discounted, making it a better long-term investment than a stopgap.