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ClearVPN Review

MacPaw’s ClearVPN Review

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ClearVPN is a beginner-friendly VPN service developed by the MacPaw team.

Pros

Cons

Review Summary

I commend MacPaw for entering a competitive space like VPN services with the unique idea of a toned-down, ultra user-friendly platform like ClearVPN. However, the execution in regards to server performance against a comparable, well-known VPN giant like NordVPN is just too vastly inferior with many fewer features at a similar price-point.

For that reason, I can’t recommend anyone sign up for ClearVPN until the service’s performance is improved or the pricing is decreased. For those with a Setapp subscription, you can utilize MacPaw’s entire product line-up including CleanMyMac X, Gemini 2, and ClearVPN for one low price of $9.99/month so in a case like this, I think ClearVPN is justified and just may get the job done for your needs.

 

Price
User Interface
Features
Performance

Not Recommended For Most

2/5

The Ideal Buyer

The only people I think that should be opting to use ClearVPN at this time are either Setapp users or someone who is too intimidated to use a competing VPN service like NordVPN or ExpressVPN due to being less tech-savvy (even then, the performance issues just aren’t worth it at the current price).

Alternate Recommendations

NordVPN offers easy-to-use software, tons of advanced features, and a really nice-looking interface. Their service results in top-notch performance all over the world: their download speeds are very fast and the upload speeds are great as well. NordVPN is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for an everyday VPN provider that’s not too expensive.

ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than NordVPN but they offer some unique features, including a server in China. The service is very fast and has some nice options for streaming media. If you are looking for a VPN provider that will provide you with the most options available to you, then ExpressVPN may be the best option for you.

ClearVPN is a VPN service that offers unlimited bandwidth, allows you to bypass geo-restrictions, and has a zero log policy. A VPN allows you to access blocked websites while using your computer at home or school. It also provides a secure encrypted connection between your device and the server. You can use it to browse the web anonymously, access blocked websites, watch videos online, download files, etc.

We are going to take a look at what ClearVPN does right, as well as where they could improve their services. We will start with an overview of the features offered by this provider. Then we’ll move on to our verdict which includes pros and cons. Finally, we have included a link to the official website so you can check out more details about the company.


What is ClearVPN?

The main purpose of any VPN is to provide anonymity when accessing the internet. This means that no one, not even those who manage the servers, knows exactly what sites you visit and how much data you consume. The service encrypts all traffic sent from your device to its destination making sure that only authorized people can see the information being transferred.

This way, if someone tries to intercept your communications, he won't be able to read them because there's nothing readable inside the encrypted packet. If you need to send sensitive information over the Internet, such as banking credentials or credit card numbers, then a VPN is a must.

Another reason why many people choose to use a VPN service is to get around geographical restrictions imposed by different countries. For example, Netflix doesn’t allow streaming content outside of North America, but thanks to a service like ClearVPN, you won't have to care about being restricted anymore.

You may want to hide your identity when browsing certain websites or downloading torrents. In these cases, a VPN service is essential since most ISPs keep logs of user activity. These records include IP addresses, times, dates, pages visited, search queries, cookies used, and other personal information. When using a VPN, everything stays anonymous including your true ip address. 


What Company is Behind ClearVPN?

ClearVPN is developed by MacPaw, a popular software company based in California. The company also develops CleanMyMac X, Gemini 2, and other popular Mac applications and has been in business since 2009.

MacPaw Company Photo

They offer both free and paid versions of their ClearVPN product which is one of their newest product offerings. Much like the other MacPaw software and services, I'd expect the long-term vision and offerings from ClearVPN to improve over time as the company determines its fit in the marketplace as well as taking user feedback into consideration to further improve the overall experience.


How much does ClearVPN cost?

ClearVPN offers a free and a paid option so it can cater to any user's budget. However, the paid version offers a lot more versatility and far fewer restrictions than the free account.

ClearVPN Pricing

The paid plan is $12.99 per month if paid monthly, but there are discounts for paying for bulk subscriptions. It drops down to $4.99/month for an annual plan ($59.88 total) full only $3.50/month ($83.99 total) and if paid for two years, it comes all the way down to $3.50/month ($83.99 total). 

All of the paid plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee so that essentially functions as a trial period for those who want to utilize the paid account for testing without having to risk money if the service isn't up to your liking. 


A Hidden Way To Get ClearVPN For Cheap Using Setapp 

There is a great way to get a ClearVPN app subscription for cheap using Setapp, an application service that offers dozens of Mac applications as one single monthly subscription fee. 

Since using ClearVPN requires an app download to use with your Mac, it's one more application you can add to an existing Setapp account at no additional cost. For example, the full version of ClearVPN through SetApp costs $9.99 per month, and signing up for their subscription service gives you unlimited access to dozens of other Mac applications as well! 

ClearVPN on Setapp scaled

Considering you'll be paying for half the cost of the Setapp subscription already when dishing out a subscription to ClearVPN, you'll then get full, unrestricted access to CleanMyMac X, Gemini 2, and tons of other premium Mac applications that make your Macintosh use much more enjoyable.


How ClearVPN is Different Than Most VPNs

Virtual Private Networks are nothing new in terms of technology, but ClearVPN takes a much more streamlined and toned-down approach compared to most competing services. ClearVPN is the ideal choice for someone who seeks to experience the benefits of a VPN but isn't the most tech-savvy as it doesn't include all of the bells and whistles of some bloated VPN software.

ClearVPN uses a minimalist design that focuses on providing users with efficient, powerful functionality that protects their privacy and anonymity online while opening the restrictions of location-based access. This makes it ideal for newer users who want to utilize a VPN with as little effort as possible while gaining maximum protection. 

MacPaw achieved this concept with the introduction of its VPN ‘shortcuts' feature. These shortcuts are preconfigured settings designed for specific purposes. At this time this ClearVPN review was written, there are only a dozen or so shortcuts predefined with the service (at least personalized to me in my US region) although you can achieve 99% of the things you'd need a VPN for with these options.

Based on the amount that they update their other services and applications, I'm fairly certain MacPaw will continue to add more shortcuts for future usage as well. 


User Interface

To connect to ClearVPN, simply open the application and select ‘Activate' from the main menu depending on which shortcut you want to use. To determine which shortcut you need, it will vary on the type of secure online browsing activity that you wish to carry out. 

streaming

Each shortcut is laid out cleanly with a good interface and has designated icons to indicate the type of common usage for each setting making for a simple user experience. Another cool option with the user interface is how they have included a ‘recent activity' section which shows which shortcuts that you used last to help keep track of your VPN usage and ensure that you are using the same shortcuts in the future that you've found success with already.


Features

Given how ClearVPN has been designed to be a straightforward and water down VPN made for beginner use, the features within the service aren't the most impressive.

ClearVPN Free vs Premium

Both the free and paid versions of ClearVPN come with AES 256 military-grade encryption, unlimited data usage, and their strict no-logs policy, but the premium version offers more benefits to take your VPN experience to the next level.

Here are the additional features that you'll get with ClearVPN Premium:

  • Access all built-in shortcuts (free version offers limited access)
  • Ability to unlock and access other region Netflix episodes
  • Connection to other countries for location spoofing
  • Ability to mask your IP address and location to prevent tracking services
  • 24/7 premium customer support to help with any questions or issues that may arise
ClearVPN Encryption No Logs

The included shortcuts that are offered in my US region are: 

  • IP Change – mask your IP quickly with an encrypted connection
  • Watch other regions' Netflix libraries – expand your streaming experience and viewing options through Netflix with access to USA, UK, Spain, Australia and Canada's streaming libraries (base Netflix subscription still required)
  • Watch Rick & Morty Season 5 – watch Rick & Morty on Netflix (normally region restricted in US), but an existing Netflix subscription is required for this to work
  • Enjoy the Relief Sites – a unique offering that is primarily meant for use of browsing adult websites safely and securely through anonymous and encrypted browsing.
  • Stream Sporting Events – stream sporting events with the best speed regardless of location (further subscription fees may apply depending on the specific event that you wish to stream)
  • Access BBC iPlayer – access new streaming services like BBC iPlayer to access BBC TV shows and movies with the best speed from any location
  • Improve online gaming – low-ping secure gaming by connecting to the best idle server
  • Secure Your Socials – access banned social networks with geo-blocking and without tracking from ISPs or the government
  • Secure communication – Be 100% sure your online chat and VOIP communication isn't shared with any third-party tracking or spying software.
  • Secure Online Banking – protect online banking interactions from man-in-the-middle attacks via a secure connection. 
  • Block Malware Sites – remedy security concerns with a quick and easy way to block access to websites or services that have been deemed malicious
  • Block Ads While Browsing – block advertisements & trackers via a secure connection, a good alternative or combination with an ad blocker
ClearVPN Shortcuts Overview

ClearVPN Server Locations 

In terms of server locations, ClearVPN offers a reasonable amount at 20 countries supported (no number of servers mentioned). However, comparatively, this is FAR less than more of its more robust and established competitors like NordVPN which has a much higher number of servers clocking in at 5267 spread over 60 countries worldwide.

Here are the countries that ClearVPN supports at this time of review:

  • Poland
  • Canada
  • Singapore
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • Russian Federation
  • United States of America
  • Netherlands
  • India
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Brazil
  • France
  • Denmark
  • Sweden

 The only server location that ClearVPN offers that NordVPN doesn't is Russia.


Performance Testing: ClearVPN vs NordVPN

speedtest native connection

Baseline Metrics (No VPN)

The following test and performance results were run within an hour time span on a 16″ MacBook Pro hardwired directly to my Ubiquiti Dream Machine Pro with a Spectrum cable internet connection running into it which advertises 940Mbps down and 40Mbps up.

From my own testing at this time, I was pulling in the following internet speed performance metrics through the SpeedTest servic:

Ping: 20ms

Download: 939 Mbps

Upload: 38.7 Mbps

As you can see via my network status report above, my speeds are solid and very close to the advertised speeds from my Spectrum internet connection when running without any VPN configured.

When I switched on my VPN apps from ClearVPN and NordVPN, these numbers fluctuated significantly, which is expected considering the data is being wired through a different data path with a middle man between the source and the destination.

How much these numbers differed between the two providers was pretty staggering though and gives you a good idea of how much more value you get with one VPN provider over the other.


ClearVPN vs NordVPN: Ping Comparison

Comparing the ping performance between the two providers, it is evident that ClearVPN is inferior to NordVPN's network performance. Most of the locations showing a notable decrease in ping when comparing the two and ClearVPN did not offer better performance in any of the 19 testing scenarios (Russia was excluded from testing as NordVPN doesn't offer this).

The ping performance within the US location alone was concerning for me as that should be the fastest speed from both providers. ClearVPN came in with 88 ms which isn't horrible but is mediocre whereas NordVPN came in at 18 ms which is right in line with the native ping when not under VPN protection.

A likely reason for this big difference in ping would be server locations. ClearVPN defaults the US connectivity to a New York location where I am in Florida hence a far distance from that datacenter. NordVPN offers many different data centers throughout the US and it automatically chose Miami for me to connect to due to performance reasons. This made NordVPN's US ping performance 80% faster than ClearVPN.


ClearVPN vs NordVPN: Download Speed

Moving to arguably one of the most important attributes to consider when evaluating VPN performance, download speed will give you a good indication of how well it will perform for general web browsing as well as high bandwidth activities like using a streaming service or downloading multimedia (audio, video and high-res photos).

ClearVPN's download performance was rather disappointing as a whole with the US location performing the worst out of their entire server lineup. The reason for this is likely due to a significantly lower number of servers in the US than competing services. So when the majority of ClearVPN users utilize shortcuts that opt for their US servers, it likely overloads them and throttles data performance across the board. In addition, it was pulling download speeds from a data center as far as New York which isn't ideal for my Tampa Bay, FL location.

NordVPN on the other hand has download speed handled efficiently and effectively as they have been offering VPN services for almost a decade now. Their server count and technology stack is much more robust which allowed my download performance to be the fastest connection speeds in the US (which should be expected) and topping nearly 600Mbps which is far more than I need for most uses. Looking at the graphs, you can see how much faster NordVPN is for download speeds than ClearVPN across virtually every location despite the price-point being similar.


ClearVPN vs NordVPN: Upload

Upload speeds aren't as important for most VPN users as you'll typically be doing more downloading than uploading on a VPN.

However, it may be important to some users especially those who may be using a streaming platform like Twitch while simultaneously being on a VPN for data encryption.

ClearVPN performs best in terms of upload speed, beating NordVPN the majority of the time although the margin of difference is notably smaller than that of our download speed benchmarks.


Review Summary

To sum up this ClearVPN review, we have found MacPaw's service to be an ideal option if you're looking for a simple but powerful and secure VPN service. While it isn't the most advanced service, it is priced similarly to the more advanced options which is a bit of a bummer as I'd like to see a cheaper price for such a watered-down experience.

While their server locations are limited compared to other more renowned VPN providers, ClearVPN still offers users plenty of options in terms of streaming content and accessing blocked web services – although their access is restricted to a more small selection of countries. In terms of performance testing, ClearVPN was found to be significantly slower than competing services like NordVPN which offer a lot more performance and value for the price..  

With all of this information in mind, we feel that MacPaw has created a decent VPN client for beginner to intermediate users. However, for the price, we think NordVPN is going to be a better choice for most consumers than ClearVPN. The exception is for Mac users who wish to spend a couple of extra bucks a month on a Setapp subscription to get full access to ClearVPN and other premium Mac app solutions for a reasonable cost.