TorGuard VPN (for Linux) does a fantastic job bringing an easy to use personal virtual private network (VPN) service to the Linux platform. The package starts at just $9.99 per month, but it delivers almost everything you could want from a Linux-based VPN service or even one intended for a more mainstream desktop operating system, including speed and a full-on graphical installation utility that I was able to run on the Ubuntu desktop. While streaming users will need to shell out some additional cash, the TorGuard VPN (for Linux) service was mostly flawless and definitely deserves its Editors’ Choice award, along with NordVPN (for Linux) and Private Internet Access VPN (for Linux), in our VPN Apps (for Linux) review roundup.
Pricing and Features
TorGuard VPN (for Linux) offers deeper pricing discounts the further out you’re willing to go. Its quarterly offering brings the price to $19.99 for three months, while those willing to pay for a full year upfront can get all 12 months for $59.99. All of its plans include unlimited speeds and bandwidth as well as five simultaneous connections. One of the neatest features is its Stealth VPN option, which lets you tunnel through China’s firewall or that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It also supports all of the most popular protocols, including OpenVPN, the primary choice for Linux users. Plus, as stated earlier, TorGuard also provides a full-blown VPN application for Linux users, which makes setting up and using the product much easier for less technical Penguin people. You’ll also find that there are over 3,000 servers in 50 countries to which to connect, which is a multiple of what you’ll get with some competing services, such as Golden Frog VyprVPN (for Linux).
Setup and Configuration
Unlike much of the Linux-oriented competition, such as Golden Frog VyprVPN (for Linux) or Hide My Ass VPN (for Linux), setting up TorGuard VPN (for Linux) is a simple and well-guided experience. TorGuard’s rare Linux graphical user interface (GUI) makes the service no more difficult to use than if you were installing it on any other OS. After running the apt-get command to install some prerequisites, such as OpenVPN, and unpacking TorGuard VPN (for Linux), you’re ready to go. The interface makes it easy to find a fast server, connect, and get started.
While you can certainly start VPNing away after this last installation step, there are several interesting features you can tweak fairly easily if you poke around in the GUI a bit. For example, you can choose which encryption cipher you want to use when connecting. By default, this is set to 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), so it’s probably worth upping this to 256-bit encryption if you think you’re on a more hostile network. It’s also easy to miss the App Kill and Scripts section. (App Kill and Scripts let you specify which apps to terminate prior to connecting your VPN that would otherwise ignore the VPN and could therefore leak data over previously established connections.) While arguably for more advanced users, the typical Linux user is no stranger to reading manuals so it’s probably worth getting this set up in advance. It’s one of those things for which you’ll probably thank yourself later.
If you need to be really sneaky because you’ll be connecting from China, for example, you’ll probably need to use port 4443, which not only uses Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA)-256-bit encryption but also engages stealth mode. Stealth connections are secure VPN connections made to appear as regular web traffic which is typically ignored by deep packet inspection technologies. Luckily, this option is front and center on the Start page.
Netflix and BitTorrent
Using TorGuard VPN (for Linux), you’ll find both good news and bad news if you’re intent on streaming Netflix. The good news is that, yes, you can easily watch Netflix over TorGuard. The bad news is that you’ll need to spend an additional $7.99 per month for a USA residential IP or a streaming IP that’s dedicated to you.
BitTorrent users will find themselves checking the VPN server list to see if torrents are allowed. Fortunately, there is a good ratio of servers that work with torrents, so peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharers won’t feel left out. Also part of the package are configurable kill switches that terminate apps with an existing connection so you don’t have to worry about accidentally having a web browser, for instance, open outside of the VPN tunnel. Also, a neat feature called STunnel lets you perform an additional encrypted tunnel through the VPN for extra security.
Lastly, TorGuard maintains an excellent support knowledge base that includes Linux information and is backed by 24/7 live chat support. That means if something really goes wrong, even under Linux, you’ll always be able to reach out to someone knowledgeable for help, though we didn’t query them on any Linux-specific issues.
Speed and Performance
The host platform for my VPN testing was a hardware system carrying a 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 32 gigabytes (GB) of total RAM. From this, I built a virtual machine (VM) based on the VMWare ESXi 6.0 hypervisor configured with 8 GB of RAM, 10 GB of alloted disk space, and two virtual processor cores all running the Ubuntu 17 Linux distro. To eliminate other factors that could affect network performance, I assigned a dedicated 1GB wired network connection to my cable modem. No other virtual machines were active at the time of testing.
For your own testing, remember that speed is going to be determined largely by the server to which you connect. That means it’s important to be familiar with your VPN providers recommendations, which you’ll usually find posted on their website.
I tested three metrics that typically define a user’s experience over a network connection. First, I measured latency, which is the time it takes for packets of data to travel to a remote server and back to your computer in milliseconds. In this category, lower is always better. The other two metrics are upload and download speed. For those two, higher is always better. However, since everyone’s internet connection is different, and these values tend to fluctuate over time, I represent these as a percentage changed against a baseline measurement of my connection without the VPN. Each data point is tested domestically with a VPN server in the United States, and internationally with a VPN server in Australia. In addition, I cite the highest speed recorded. All metrics are gathered using Ookla Speedtest, which is owned by PCMag’s parent company, j2 Global.
TorGuard’s domestic latency suffered only a 5.13 percent increase in latency from my baseline measurement, though international latency tested at a 671.79 percent increase in latency. The lowest ping time recorded domestically was 28 milliseconds (ms), while the highest was 52 ms. For comparison, the lowest international ping time was 220 ms, while the highest was 317 ms.
For download speed, there was a 85.01 percent decrease in speed domestically, and a 97.82 percent decrease in speed internationally. The domestic upload speed decreased on average by 4.87 percent. International upload speed had a significant, but expected, decrease in speed of 86.37 percent on average. The fastest recorded download speed for TorGuard was 47.13 Megabits per seconds (Mbps), and the fastest upload speed was 27.77 Mbps.
Overall, TorGuard was a little slower than some of the other VPNs I reviewed, but it wasn’t a devastating drop. The speed also wasn’t entirely consistent between connections. On occasion, I managed to get a significantly faster or slower connection, but the above seems to be typical. All that said, it’s still better than average.
Privacy and Security
For those digging deeper into privacy, know that TorGuard falls under the legal jurisdiction of the United States, which currently allows it to have a no-logging policy. That’s an ideal condition, but it’s limited by the legal jurisdiction under which the service operates. However, at least for now, even if TorGuard were forced to comply with legal demands for its data, it really wouldn’t have anything to hand over but blank hard drives. This makes TorGuard one of the better options out there for privacy and safe online browsing. Though given the sometimes fast-changing legal vista of the United States, it’s something you should keep an eye on if you’re using TorGuard long-term.
For those traveling abroad to China, connecting from the mainland is supported, though it’s typical for suspicious or known IPs to be blocked. That means you’ll want to take along a few options for server IP addresses, since DNS is also heavily monitored and restricted in that country. With a bit of effort, however, you can get a connection to servers outside of China and breathe a little easier if you’re engaged in anything you think might generate Chinese governmental ire. The effort comes with having to note the actual IP of the VPN server prior to traveling. The majority of blocked sites and servers are done at the DNS level, so you probably won’t be able to resolve what those are once you arrive.