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VPN Monster for Android Review: Free, but with catches

Written by  Apr 24, 2018

VPN Monster promises free, unlimited VPN access, with a cute little mascot that’s always on the lookout for the fastest server. And you can indeed use it without paying a penny, and without the monthly bandwidth restrictions of rivals such as PureVPN and TunnelBear.

However, you’ll have to put up with some incredibly intrusive advertising, and a limited selection of locations: the intention is clearly to drive you towards the premium service.

That will cost you £9.99 a month, dropping to a much easier to swallow £2.54 per month if you pay for a year’s service in advance. This “Super Monster” package is ad-free, and promises faster connections and more servers. You can try it free for seven days, then cancel the Google Play subscription if it’s not for you.

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Setup and basic use

It’s hard to overstate how annoying the ads in VPN Monster are. One popped up for us before the app even opened for the first time, and every single thing you do seems to summon up another. Some play video and even launch podcasts. It’s a very pushy way to encourage you to get out your credit card.

That’s a shame, because the app is otherwise quite charming. Tapping the big central “On” button wakes up the monster and sends him off to find the fastest server. Tap the icon on the right and you can pick your own location from a tabbed list, including free and premium-only options. There’s not much in the way of features or settings, but it’s hard to beat for general ease of use.

Server locations

VPN Monster’s global coverage isn’t bad. Free users can choose from a selection of servers in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the USA, Canada, Singapore and India; going premium gets you access to more servers, plus additional locations in Japan and Russia. That should cover most people’s requirements, though if you’re a frequent traveller or want to fake a presence in specific countries, other Android VPNs give you more options.

Performance

When you’re using an exit node that’s close to home, VPN Monster is fast enough to get along with: via a UK server we got 53% of our non-VPN download speed. Connecting through the Netherlands saw that drop to 40%, however, and tunneling via the US caused downloads to plummet to just 17% of our non-VPN speeds – less than 5Mbits/sec. Going premium is supposed to improve performance, but we saw no significant benefit.

On the plus side, VPN Monster seems reassuringly leak-proof. As usual, DoILeak.com’s tests threw up an alert over WebRTC leaks, but on checking we were able to confirm that these didn’t give away our real IP address. Similarly, HTTP requests leaked a spoofed location in the US rather than our British offices.

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Extra features

VPN Monster doesn’t try to be a do-it-all security and privacy app, and additional features are basically non-existent. Note that there’s not even a killswitch feature, so if your VPN drops out while you’re connected to a website or service, your real IP address could be revealed.

Privacy and security

VPN Monster is based in Russia, and the operator publicly states that it doesn’t keep logs: any information related to your online activities is purged as soon as the VPN session is closed. Russia also doesn’t routinely share intelligence with Western governments or law-enforcement agencies, though the state obviously has its own surveillance programmes.

Verdict

VPN Monster is extremely easy to use, and the app itself is undeniably cute. If you subscribe for two years, it’s not bad value either. However, it’s not our first choice of Android VPN: it lacks some of the security features of its rivals, and the free service is so overloaded with ads that, even with unlimited usage, it’s impossible to recommend.

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