Install a VPN or two for free and you will often find hidden discoveries. It’s free for a day or two and then ships; It’s full of advertisements. Connections are dropped every five minutes and the developer is anonymous, so you can’t tell if they are trustworthy or not.
If this all sounds too familiar to you, Calyx VPN It sounds too good to be true. Free VPN, no bandwidth limit, no registration required, Android, Mac and Linux apps? There must be a trick, right?
Well, maybe not. This is not the usual anonymous free service: Calyx is provided by Calix Institute, an established non-profit organization that claims to be “dedicated to the study, testing, development and implementation of privacy technologies and tools …”
It’s made possible through donations, so there are no annoying ads. You can install and use the Service without providing your email address or other personal information. And the apps are also open source, so experts can check the code to see exactly what it does.
Sounds good to us, but how does Calix behave in the real world? We took a closer look.
The Calyx site is basic, as we’ve seen, but that’s probably a good thing. No ads, no shiny photos, no attempts to tell you things you already know – it’s just a brief explanation of the service and a link to chalice download page.
Calyx uses the open source OpenVPN application dot maskDevelopped by LEAP project for encrypted access (Another nonprofit.) There are downloads for Android, Mac, and Linux, or you can get a copy. Directly from the Play Store.
We downloaded and launched the Android application and chose Calyx as our operator. The app asked us to create a profile. Was this a violation of anonymity? We accepted the offer, and no: we were only asked to enter a username and password, no email address required.
Whatever we entered, the app warned: “Try again: bad response from server”. Did we choose an existing username and break some password rules? He said the app is not boring.
Fortunately, Calyx also had a “Use anonymously” option that allowed us to delete profiles, so we opted for that and went ahead.
The Calyx VPN app is so simple that a VPN novice can get started right away. Click the Enabled button and see the “Connecting …” messages and within seconds the status message will tell you “Your traffic has been routed securely through Calyx (New York)” and when you are done click Stop and you are offline.
There is no sign on the list of servers or locations outside of New York. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising either. For example, ProtonVPN Free is funded by paid users of ProtonVPN, but still only supports three locations: US, Netherlands, and Japan.
Navigating the app menu revealed some valuable bonus features.
The “Always-On VPN” option unlocks the Android system settings, allowing you to activate Android’s built-in kill switch with just one click.
“Exclude apps from VPN” is a split tunneling system, in which you can choose which apps don’t work with VPN or don’t need it, and instead route their traffic through your normal connection.
The Bridges feature is designed to help you bypass VPN and connection blocking.
By clicking on “Show experimental features”, we were able to prevent IPv6 data breaches and even use our devices as a WiFi VPN hotspot. It’s not as good as it sounds – it only works if you have root privileges on your device – but the options are here, if you can use them.
We never expect great performance from free services, but they should be usable at least for basic tasks, perhaps basic browsing and emailing.
Our initial results weren’t great, with SpeedTest.net reporting 5-10 Mbps downloads from the UK to New York. However, this is enough to navigate and may be enough to continue.
You may see better results on another site. We tried to connect from a French data center and downloads jumped to 60-70 Mbps. Well, not everyone has connection levels in the data center, but getting closer to the server should increase your speeds as well.
Kalix hasn’t unblocked US Netflix or Amazon Prime, but that’s not surprising. And look at it this way: when it happens, we see less bandwidth available for non-streaming tasks.
There is a lot to love about Calyx VPN. Free, no bandwidth limit, no registration required, reliable, easy to use and no ads to get in your way.
Of course, the service doesn’t have ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or any of the big names or unblocking capabilities. No wonder it’s completely free.
The speeds seem poor on some sites and we think this will be the biggest issue for most users.
If it’s fast enough for you, Calyx is worth downloading, if only to be used as an emergency backup VPN server in the event of a main service outage.
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