The advantage of a large VPN service with thousands of servers is that it’s much easier for traffic to just blend into the background noise of a busy connection. Smaller VPNs don’t really have that, but there are still special advantages such as an easier time reaching Netflix without any special measures. We’ve also noticed that the services paying a higher level of attention to privacy and anonymity tend to be on the smaller side.
Sweden-based AzireVPN is one privacy-focused service. With AzireVPN you don’t get a lot of the frills you might be used to. The desktop app is nothing to get excited about, the country list is tiny, and the server count doesn’t even top 40. Still, the speeds are good, the privacy promises are right, and it’s a solid choice for maintaining a modicum of anonymity for those who need it.
Note: This review is part of our best VPNs for Mac roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
Security, software, servers, and speed
AzireVPN on the desktop uses only OpenVPN for now. It also supports WireGuard, but you need to use the generic WireGuard desktop app. We asked the company if it plans on adding WireGuard to its software in the future, and a company representative said it does. WireGuard is already in a macOS private beta version of AzireVPN with Linux and Windows to follow.
The OpenVPN connection uses AES-256-GCM by default for data encryption, with a fallback to AES-256-CBC for older systems. Data authentication is handled by TLSv1.2 and the handshake uses perfect forward secrecy with an RSA 4096-bit key that is re-keyed every two hours.
As for who’s behind the service, AzireVPN doesn’t say on its website. The service’s parent company is Sweden-based Netbouncer AB. Public records list Carl William Öling and Karl Linus Larsson as Netbouncer representatives. Öling is listed as a Deputy Director and Karl Linus Larsson’s LinkedIn page says he is a co-founder.
Moving on to the software, AzireVPN won’t win any awards for its design on Mac. The app is extremely basic. It consists of two text entry boxes, two drop-down menus, and a connect button.
The first two boxes are where you enter the username and password. The drop-down menus, meanwhile, let you choose the region and the type of OpenVPN connection you want (variations of TCP or UDP). Once you’ve chosen your region and connection type (the default is best for most uses), you hit Connect and a few seconds later you’re ready to go.
There are a few pain points for the AzireVPN app. It doesn’t install on your machine the way other apps do. Instead, you have to drag it into your applications folder, or download it onto a USB stick and run it off there as a portable app.
Second, the app doesn’t retain your password, meaning you have to re-enter it every time you launch the app or establish a new connection. It also doesn’t ask for one-time system permission to establish a VPN connection. Instead, it asks every time you want to connect.
AzireVPN supports nine country locations including the U.S., Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Thailand, and the UK. There are two U.S. locations (Chicago and Miami), but every other country has a single location. AzireVPN plans to expand its location choices with German and Romania in the coming weeks.
AzireVPN has a total of 36 servers at this writing, and all of them are controlled by the company. In fact, the company says it goes in personally to install its servers at data centers around the world. AzireVPN’s servers are also running without hard drives—everything happens in RAM to prevent records being saved. The USB, VGA, and serial ports are also sealed on each server to prevent physical access.
Server speeds were very good in our tests. Over three days of testing, AzireVPN maintained around 40 percent of the base speed using the average of five locations around the world. That is very, very good, though we could only test one server in Asia (Thailand), and there were no servers in other far-flung parts of the world such as Australia or New Zealand. Instead, we had to double up on testing servers in Europe and North America. AzireVPN’s speeds aren’t the fastest of the VPNs we’ve tested, but it definitely performs well.
On a month-to-month basis, AzireVPN charges €5 (about $5.65 at this writing). Signing up for three months drops the per-month price to €4, for €12 total ($13.55). A full year costs €45 ($50.80), and two years costs €39 per year ($44).
AzireVPN accepts a wide variety of payment options, including cash for a greater level of anonymity, which only a few other services do. It also accepts credit cards, PayPal, and a variety of cryptocurrencies.
AzireVPN is available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.
AzireVPN is a good service. It has excellent speeds, very good privacy promises, and it allows for a higher level of anonymity than most VPNs out there. It’s not as good as Mullvad, which provides a randomly generated username and no password requirement, but AzireVPN’s decision not to require an email address puts it very close. The price is also right. There are cheaper options out there, but for a service with the right focus on privacy and anonymity, AzireVPN is worth a look.
Editor’s Note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.