Editors note: Since publishing this post, we’ve received a number of emails from Astrill users saying they’ve had problems. For this reason, we recommend you consider Freedur which is what we use personally. We’ve received e-mails about “defamation” from Astrill asking us to remove this disclosure but continue to believe that sharing this information with our readers is better than deleting the post outright. If you have any information about an interaction you had with Astrill that we should know about, positive or negative, leave a comment below.
Several days after comparing the options and publishing this guide on how to get unrestricted internet access in China, I got an e-mail from Astrill Corp who, starting in 2010, offers a VPN service similar to Freedur.
When we’re talking about accessing the huge portion of the internet that’s blocked in China, you can never have too many options. So I took a look at Astrill’s VPN and compared it to Freedur, which it bears a strong similarity to.
Like Freedur, Astrill offers totally unrestricted access to everything on the internet and requires you to download a small application to your PC. Unlike Freedur, you’re ready to go as soon as you install Astrill – you won’t need to mess with any Firefox extensions, just install the tiny 2mb application on your PC and you’re good to go.
Astrill supports all modern versions of Windows (XP, Visa, and Windows 7) but unfortunately, a Mac OSX version isn’t available yet. I tested Astrill on Windows 7 and it worked just like you’d expect it to. When you launch the program you’ll immediately know if it’s active or not by the huge On/Off indicator in Astrill’s control panel window which also displays your current upload and download speed. With this feature I was able to see if Astrill was fast enough to utilize all of my bandwidth (my average China Telecom connection maxes out at 200kbps), and sure enough, it does. Youtube videos start playing immediately and websites load quickly.
And now the downside: if you decide to sign up for long term service, you’ll be paying a premium over Freedur. One year of service costs $80 (versus $60 for Freedur) which wouldn’t seem like too much if there wasn’t so much new competition in this space. Without big features to distinguish it from cheaper alternatives Freedur and Witopia, one can’t help but wonder why Astrill carries such a significant 25% premium.
Even with the forementioned reservation, Astrill works flawlessly and is a welcome addition to the growing cast of VPN solutions.
Astrill is currently in beta and unlike Freedur, offers a three-day trial so you can give it a shot risk free.
edit: Since publishing this article, Astrill has lowered the price for annual service to $60, which is great news. They’ve also removed the public beta so you’ll require a beta key to apply for the free trial. The following key will work for the first 100 people who use it: ASTRILL-CHARLIE-D837E-6PDX4