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Atlas VPN is another up-and-coming VPN that’s currently aggressive in performance yet lean on price. If you don’t mind fewer frills and minor bugs, this review is going to be exciting. Learn more.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are flooding the market today. You see everything from the browser-based versions to industry goliaths that include everything but the kitchen sink. Then you have Atlas VPN, one that’s new but punches way above its weight class.
Despite reviewing dozens of VPNs over the past year, Atlas VPN came as a bit of a surprise. What they got right was a little unusual for a new player, but it still came with newbie teething issues. If you’re in the market for a budget VPN, stay tuned.
Pros of Atlas VPN
Cons of Atlas VPN
There’s a lot to love about Atlas VPN, and it manages to keep up with well-established players. That’s also considering the low price at which you can grab a subscription.
Usually, when testing newer VPN services, I expect the speeds to be a little “meh” as they start. It’s normal since server hardware is expensive and challenging to configure perfectly. Atlas VPN blew that concept out of the water and was away faster than a thoroughbred racehorse.
Before heading into the details of the country-based speed tests, I established a baseline to showcase the quality of my Internet line without a VPN active. That’s the “ideal number” that Atlas VPN needs to meet.
Note on VPN speed tests
I ran tests using the WireGuard protocol since it’s the fastest currently available in the market.
The advertised line speed from my Internet Service Provider (ISP) is 500 Mbps up and down. Typically, this is also the actual speed that it manages to meet. Speedtest results showed download speed slightly above 530 Mbps, with a lower upload speed of 484 Mbps.
Atlas VPN speed test – North America
Atlas VPN speed test – Europe (Germany)
Atlas VPN speed test – Asia (Singapore)
Atlas VPN speed test – Australia (Sydney)
Each of the tests above shows Atlas VPN speeds as a pair per country. One tests my speed to a local server in that country without a VPN. The other compares performance to the server with Atlas VPN active.
As you can see from the results, Atlas VPN is extremely fast – as fast as the line speed without a VPN enabled. A large part of this performance is thanks to the WireGuard protocol. This case demonstrates how newer technology can be used effectively to boost even the most recent VPN service.
Atlas VPN currently operates around 700 servers spread across 30 countries. While this is far from matching the top dogs, it’s an entirely respectable network with which to start. I’ve seen well-established VPN brands that can’t muster this network strength.
The countries it operates in are well-distributed and give users reasonable access to all corners of the globe. All in, it’s an excellent beginning, and I look forward to much more from them in this area.
Most old-school VPN services will field a range of protocols from which you can choose. While this seems convenient, some of those protocols may be a little out of date. The VPN service provider just hadn’t gotten round to removing them from the service.
Atlas VPN is new and goes with a very streamlined list. It only fields two; IKEv2 and WireGuard. Usually, I’d say WireGuard will be sufficient since it’s the fastest and newest around. However, you’ll need IKEv2 for the VPN to work on some devices, especially certain mobile platforms.
OpenVPN is conspicuously missing, but I doubt if many will mind the omission.
If you’re wondering what’s the advantage of a trimmed-down VPN protocol list, think of how newbies would approach a VPN. Most won’t know what the protocols are for, and a streamlined list means less confusion and less risk of selecting an outdated one.
The lack of OpenVPN may be an issue for some since most routers currently do not support WireGuard. If you need to install a VPN on your router, Atlas VPN is not suitable.
Despite the fantastic performance that Atlas VPN shows, it doesn’t try to rip customers off with premium prices. True, $1.89/mo on their 2-year plan is far from the lowest price available. But take that price in context to its speed.
Most ultra-cheap VPNs may be easy on the wallet, but you’ll find they crawl when trying to browse the web. Atlas VPN moves way past the price to performance ratio, and the cost of a subscription with them is far less than with most premium brands.
SafeSwap may be a term coined by Atlas VPN, but I haven’t seen something like this elsewhere. Typically when you connect to a VPN server, it assigns you an IP address. That IP address is the one you “adopt” as you browse the web.
With SafeSwap, Atlas VPN servers route your connection data through various IP addresses. In addition, the IP addresses rotate, making it exceptionally difficult (if not impossible) for anyone to track your online activities.
Curious to see if the swapping would affect speeds, I ran additional tests on their SafeSwap servers. Interestingly, these servers performed just as well as the regular ones. There was a tiny increase in latency on average, but it’s hardly noticeable unless you look at the data.
Unfortunately, SafeSwap isn’t available across all their servers. It’s only available in Singapore, United Stated (Los Angeles), and The Netherlands (Amsterdam).
Like most other reputable VPN brands, Atlas VPN shows a formidable range of privacy and security features. However, keep in mind that most of these are industry-standard and available on many competing brands.
Like most other VPN services, Atlas VPN offers top-of-the-line data encryption. WireGuard connections get 256-bit encryption, while those on IKEv2 get the bonus of SHA-384 and PFS. All of this translates into near-unbreakable data packets.
In addition, you get access to a data breach monitor that will let you know if it detects your details online. However, this is so common today that I wonder if there’s value in having an additional tracker for it in your VPN subscription.
Atlas VPN also claims to be a no-logs service that does not collect data about its users. The problem with this lies in the jurisdiction of the service. Their company headquarters is currently in the US, where the government merely needs a court order to get data.
From the great example that IPVanish set years ago, the legitimacy of “no logs” is very much in doubt for VPNs in the US.
There’s good and bad news for those who need assistance with Atlas VPN. The good news is that email support gets relatively fast responses, and they seem to know their stuff. I had cause to email the support team with an issue faced and they responded within a couple of hours.
The assistance provided was adequate, and the support agent resolved the doubts in my mind regarding the issue.
Unfortunately, the number of support channels is slightly limited. You get access to a fundamental knowledge base and email support. Without a more reliable support system in place, dependence on email can be touch and go.
Atlas VPN features an ad blocker, tracker blocker, and malware blocker. While these features may be increasingly common in VPN service providers, it’s relatively rare to see them offered on a new service at this price.
I wouldn’t say the advantages these features bring to the table are indispensable, but every bit counts. It’s better to have them in place than to need another couple of extensions added to your web browser.
Some VPN brands advertise that they work with specific streaming platforms. Atlas VPN takes it a step further and uses servers that are “optimized for streaming”. While this sounds awesome, they aren’t any different than regular servers in most ways.
Being located nearly on the opposite side of the world than the US, one of my main challenges has always been getting Netflix US content access. This area was important to me, so I tested with Atlas VPN via their “optimized for streaming” server located in Los Angeles.
There was a little buffering even when skipping time zones in individual movies. While the experience was noticeably different from not using a VPN, that isn’t uncommon even among other service providers.
The point is that it works, and the experience is fairly satisfactory.
In October 2021, Nord Security acquired Atlas VPN. For most of us, Nord is a name that should be familiar since it’s a top dog in the VPN space. This acquisition is somewhat good in several ways, especially for consumers.
The first thing it tells us is that Nord sees the value in Atlas VPN – perhaps their excellent product quality – and simply swallowed it. That isn’t uncommon, even if they keep the Atlas VPN brand “as is.”
We can also now hope that they’ll move Atlas VPN’s headquarters away from the US. Anywhere in the world will do, so long as it’s as far as possible from US jurisdiction. Nord itself is in Panama, so that might be an excellent place to start looking.
One thing that I love about Atlas VPN is the unlimited device connections they offer. Most top brands will limit you to an average of five or six device connections. While that may seem reasonable, it’s more challenging than you might think.
Many households today have multiple individuals with various devices. Tech geeks will struggle more, having PCs, tablets, smartphones, and everything else under the sun. Unlimited sounds excellent and is essentially more practical.
Despite the love I’ve shown Atlas VPN, the service is far from perfect. Thankfully, very few of the negatives I encountered are deal breakers – for me. Some, however, are concerning and may turn certain users away.
The biggest obstacle faced is a seemingly partially broken kill switch. The kill switch stops all data transfers if the Atlas VPN app detects the connection to their server is lost. While it works initially, it will cause lots of problems under certain circumstances.
For example, when I closed the app, exited it, and killed all processes in the task manager, I found myself completely cut off from the Internet. Restarting the computer saw no improvement, and it was only uninstalling Atlas VPN that resolved the issue.
Writing to their support team saw the issue acknowledged. Atlas VPN is aware and trying to fix the problem. For now, though, the kill switch is something you’ll need to risk enabling for extra safety. If you can live with the option disabled, then there’s no issue.
One thing that irritates me to no end is any app or service that’s awesome at what it does but provides a terrible user experience. Atlas VPN is fast and stable but using the app is in some ways just awful.
There are several reasons why I say this about their Windows app. The first is the tiny size of the app, which, incidentally, can’t be resized. While that may not post a problem if you’re eighteen with the vision of an eagle, the rest of us will have to squint to see the text.
Another is the lack of a search function for their list of servers. Here’s where I express my thanks that they only have 30-odd locations. You can’t save a pool of favorite servers, search for servers by name or organize them in any way. All you can do is scroll down the list.
For some strange reason, the tracker blocker feature is under a menu item called “Assistant.” I still have no idea why. Perhaps because it assists in blocking trackers?
From the time you install the app, Atlas VPN tries hard to get your permission to collect data for some reason or other. It’s also clever enough to mix options, forcing you to read what they display carefully.
In some cases, you’ll need to opt out instead of opt-in. If you don’t, they’ll assume consent and proceed to send you marketing spam or collect usage data. The way it’s done is subtle, but the effort is glaringly obvious to someone as paranoid as me about data collection and spam.
While the kill switch is the biggest boo-boo I observed, that isn’t to say that everything else is terrific. I noticed many minor annoying bugs during my review of this service.
For example, at times, switching between VPN servers can be a little laggy. While that may be usual, quitting the VPN app while the app is changing servers causes it to hang. You’ll need to kill the task to get rid of the app window.
Atlas VPN is so new that it still reeks of that “out of the factory” aroma. Having been in the game for less than two years, the brand has not undergone any baptism of fire to date. Yet, in the short time it’s been around, Atlas VPN can compete with industry leaders in performance.
The niggling doubts I have about some bugs and irritation will likely fade away given enough time. At present, the low price makes it a fantastic choice if all you’re interested in is speed and security.