Sometimes the contenders in our VPN comparisons are top in their respective classes, intensely battling for the title of “best”. That’s not the case here in the matchup between StrongVPN and Betternet. One of these VPNs we thought was “OK” in its individual review and the other we quite disliked, so this is hardly a prize fight. Still, we want to know how VPNs in the same general weight class perform, so this should be quite a show.
StrongVPN boasts of high levels of encryption, describing itself as “military grade”. They’ve also been around for ages, with a founding date of 1994 StrongVPN surely predates most current VPN providers. They’re based in the USA but have taken measures to deal with privacy issues.
Betternet is better known for providing an unlimited free VPN service. They use an innovative ad-supported model to fund such a generous offer, although in our free VPN reviews we weren’t big fans of the offering. Here we’re comparing Betternet Premium, which has a traditional pricing model.
Both VPNs will be matched up to our standard nine criteria as detailed in this table.
|Features||Encryption, Location Spoofing||Basic VPN features: Hides IP and Location.|
|Servers||650+ servers in 25 countries||10 Countries|
|Logging Policy||Zero logging policy||No logging|
|Security||2048 Bit Encryption, PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec||128/256 – bit encryption|
|Speed||2.92 Mbps||4.41 Mbps|
|Device Support||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android + OpenVPN||MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android|
|How Many Devices At Once?||Five||Five|
One of the main reasons many people even want a VPN is to either unblock streaming content from regions like the USA or to keep their streaming private on services like Kodi. So to that end we tested both these VPN services.
|Netflix||YES – 480p||NO – Proxy Detected|
|Hulu||YES – 480p||NO – Proxy Detected|
|Kodi||YES – 480p||Yes – Poor Performance|
While StrongVPN was only able to muster SD video quality, it unblocked everything. Betternet was no use at all here. That being said, I’d recommend using TorGuard or SaferVPN if streaming is your main concern.
Now, let’s see how their strengths and weaknesses compare.
Who Should Use These VPNs?
- StrongVPN – Perfect for people who don’t demand high performance, but just want a functional VPN
- Betternet – No one should use this VPN. Expensive, unstable and best avoided.
Who Should Not Use These VPNs?
- StrongVPN – Want high-speed performance? Look elsewhere.
- Betternet – No one should use the premium Betternet product. There is no reason to go for this service at all.
Still wondering which of these two is the better choice for you? OK, let’s get our hands dirty and compare them in detail.
StrongVPN vs Betternet
The first impression one gets of a VPN starts the very moment when you register and install the client. When it comes to StrongerVPN everything was easy-peasy. I didn’t even have to log in to get the software and it downloaded in seconds thanks to its small size. Installing the Windows client was just the usual wizardly experience.
Betternet, on the other hand, proved to be a real pain. When you go to their site they only really mention the free service. You are only made aware of the premium option once you actually have the client installed and run it for the first time. It is from there that you can pay to become a premium user.
Then you have to wait for an activation email before the client can be switched to a premium mode. This proved a major hassle since for some reason the emails just weren’t coming. The codes are only valid for two hours, but like clockwork arrived after they had already expired. The whole experience sucked.
StrongVPN’s list of features would not stand out among the majority of VPNs, but next to BetterVPN it looks overly generous. Both VPNs, of course, provide basic functionality such as IP hiding and encryption, but StrongVPN has much higher levels of encryption and includes a kill switch option. Neither of them has ad-blocking or malware filters.
Betternet charges $12 for a single month of premium service. On the face of it, this isn’t too bad. Most premium VPNs fall somewhere along the $10 mark, so it’s a bit pricey, but not by much. However, if you look at the value of the product overall, that twelve dollar price tag quickly begins to look like a ripoff. If Betternet was charging $5 a month I could start to see some sense in it, but for the asking price, there are some truly brilliant VPNs out there.
StrongVPN, on the other hand, doesn’t feel overpriced. At least not by much, which is why it’s the better of the two in this category.
Ease of Use
Betternet wins the ease of use crown with a friendly application that has very little functionality and therefore little to go wrong. Winner: Betternet
StrongVPN isn’t the most difficult VPN client to use, but it is one of the least pleasant. First of all, it looks rather old-fashioned and basic. It really stands out like a sore thumb on a modern computer. That aside, it has some clunky quirks that did not endear it to me. The biggest problem is the idiotic wizard-based server selection system that you have to slog through every time you want to change servers.
From a pure usability perspective, Betternet is much, well, better. The client is very simple, there aren’t many buttons or menus. As such it’s easy to use. At the same time, it doesn’t really give you any control, so take that the way you want to.
Betternet’s website is so thin it’s barely there at all, the competition wins by default. Winner: StrongVPN
The Betternet site looks like it’s built on a WordPress template or something similar. You won’t find much in the way of informational content here. Want to know how many servers they have? Tough, I couldn’t find that info despite every other VPN putting it front and center. The support site might as well be a separate site since it bears little resemblance to the main pages.
StrongerVPN and Betternet both only cover mainstream devices natively, but the former also has OpenVPN for third-party clients. Winner: StrongVPN
Both of these VPNs have native clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Both VPNs also use OpenVPN as a protocol, but I could find no explicit mention of OpenVPN router support on Betternet’s site. If it is there someone will have to point it out to me, but since StrongerVPN clearly officially supports OpenVPN routers the winner here is a clear one.
What can I say? Both server networks are equally unappealing in their number and quality. Winner: It’s a Draw!
StrongVPN claims to have 650 servers, which is OK but not the most we’ve seen. However, about two-thirds of these will only work on the PPTP protocol, which is obsolete and insecure. The rest run on a modern OpenVPN implementation and are fine, but for anyone who cares about privacy that’s a big issue. These servers are spread over 22 countries and 44 locations.
In the case of Betternet, I have no idea how many servers they have. I couldn’t find the information anywhere on their site. They have a massive user base of about 38 million, which suggests a sizable network, but all we know if that they only have 10 countries listed in the client. The good news is that only one of those hosts the hordes of free users, the bad news is that the server in question is in the USA. So unless you don’t care about spoofing a US location you’re going to be in the crowd.
In a race to the bottom, Betternet is faster, but not actually better. Winner: StrongVPN
They say slow and steady wins the race, but that’s not true when it comes to VPNs. We have the need for speed and these two services have their work cut out for them.
To test their performance we ran them on our 10 Mbps unthrottled ADSL connection. First, we get a baseline reading.
This is the target we’re aiming for, anything less than this while the VPN is running is a bad thing.
Usually, I’d run two tests per VPN. The first with a best-case, auto-selected server and then with the nearest US server. In the case of StrongVPN, there is no auto-select, so I just go with the US option right from the start.
Well, that did not turn out as one might have hoped. Still usable, but not snappy by any measure.
OK, not it’s Betternet’s chance to shine. First up the auto-selected server. You’ll notice the speed test results look different. This was because the Betternet client seems to have a problem with Windows 10 at the moment, forcing me to do my tests using iOS.
A little better than the US server on StrongVPN, but this is not apples to apples. Let’s test the US server.
A cringe-worthy result, with an unusable speed and intolerable ping.
In this case, I’d say that StrongVPN was the lesser of two evils.
Security & Privacy
As you read above, most StrongVPN servers seem to run on the outdated PPTP protocol. Fine for preventing casual snooping, but anyone who wants to see your information can do it with some effort. Still, if you stick to the OpenVPN servers and make use of the killswitch function and strong encryption options, you’re going to be OK.
Betternet, on the other hand, is not OK. The connection was terribly unstable, I never knew which protocol I was actually using and there’s no kill switch. That’s a recipe for disaster in my book. Even worse, the Android app has at times been found to contain malware. Not a ringing endorsement of Betternet I tell you.
StrongVPN has caught a lot of flack in reviews over the years for less than stellar customer service, but when I reviewed it I found a snappy and friendly live chat service, good email support and plenty of well-written material so that I could help myself.
Somehow, despite costing more than StrongVPN, Betternet lacks live chat. Premium users are meant to get priority when it comes to email support. I don’t know how long free users have to wait, but I waited hours for a reply related to a serious billing issue before getting any joy.
StrongVPN is not a good VPN. At the same time, I could not say it’s all that bad either. For the money, I’d rather have something else, but with just a little improvement here and there it could stand shoulder to shoulder with the big names.
Betternet, on the other hand, feels like an insult, given its price, wonky technology, and absent support. As I said in my individual review, I’d only consider it if it were a dollar a month and even then I wouldn’t enjoy it.
Overall Winner: StrongVPN
In all honesty, however, I’d want neither of these services for myself. Especially given how they are both priced. Rather, I’d take those dollars and spend them on either of my current favorites. The ultra-fast (but P2P unfriendly) SaferVPN or the reliable (and P2P friendly) TorGuard.
Written by David Minister