Hong Kong based company iTop‘s primary product is a VPN but it has also released a free browser with VPN built-in and a free VPN browser extension. In this article, I’ll be testing both the browser and browser extension.
iTop VPN Browser Review
iTop VPN Browser comes with a slew of privacy features built in including anti-tracking, ad blocker, surfing protection, as well as the obvious VPN:
I scanned the downloaded executable through Virus Total and it came up 100% clean. I also installed the browser inside Sandboxie which allowed me to scan every file and registry entry isolated within the sandbox folder through Malwarebytes and it also came up 100% clean. Now, you’d think that a browser with so many built-in privacy features would be appealing, and it is. However, unfortunately, it also comes with a fair few negatives:
Ad-Supported: While the built-in ad-blocker works well enough it doesn’t prevent the browser from generating its own ads which are displayed top and bottom of most web pages and are apparently used to generate a source of income for iTop.
DNS Leaks: I visited ipleak.net with the VPN enabled and, while the IP address was obfuscated, the DNS addresses were not, revealing my ISP’s local DNS addresses.
Google Search: The browser comes with two search engine options: Google and Bing. While the Bing search engine works fine, the Google search engine does not. Every search is met with the same result:
Once you successfully complete the CAPTCHA, search results will appear as per normal. However, for Google search users this is a major inconvenience. Obviously, there is some activity generated by the VPN which Google finds suspicious. This does not occur with any other VPN I have tested, including the VPN built into Opera and my locally installed system-wide VPN.
Lack of Extensions: At this stage, there are no extensions available for this browser. Even though the browser is purportedly Chromium-based the Google Web Store is currently not recognizing it as a compatible browser.
I had high hopes for iTop VPN Browser but, alas, the negatives are far too many and far too critical to recommend or even contemplate recommending it at this stage. I say “at this stage” because it has only recently been released and I am hopeful that the developers might eventually fix those issues. For now, definitely not recommended.
iTop VPN Browser Extension
Somewhat ironically, the iTop VPN extension is available in the Google Web Store for Chromium-based browsers, including Chrome and Edge. In stark contrast to the iTop VPN Browser, I encountered no such negatives; there are no ads, Google search works fine with the VPN enabled, and no leaks reported by ipleak.net, including no DNS address leaks. This is all good news.
The one negative is the limited number of servers available in the free version — two servers in the U.S., one in the U.K., and one in Canada (a premium subscription unlocks access to 1800+ servers across the globe). However, this is pretty much on par with similar free offerings — Opera’s built-in VPN, for example, provides servers in just three locations: the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The extension is very simple to use – switch to On and select a server location:
I set out to test my internet speed with the VPN connected through the server in California but struck problems with my usual source — Ookla SpeedTest — whereby it would not connect to the server for some reason. The only speed test that worked was the one available right here on DCT. Here then are the before and after results:
As you can see, there is quite a drop-off in speed when connected through the VPN. However, considering the distance between my location (in Australia) and the server location (in the U.S.) this is only to be expected. I am pretty sure that speeds for residents in the U.S., U.K., and Canada would not be degraded to such an extent.
I found the iTop VPN extension simple to work with, with no immediate issues or negatives to report. With just four server locations in three countries to choose from it obviously has its limitations. However, for anyone looking to add another layer of privacy to their Chromium-based browser, it’s an option worthy of consideration.