I won’t beat around the bush: PacketStream’s residential proxy service is the cheapest on the market. Coupled with the fact that you don’t need to buy a subscription plan, that sounds like one heck of a deal. It sure was in 2020, when I first reviewed the provider.
Two years later, little has changed: the value is still great, and PacketStream remains a go-to choice for many seeking affordable residential IPs. At the same time, it kind of feels stagnant, and I’d be hard pressed to find a difference between PacketStream then and now.
If it works, don’t fix it? Maybe, but the PacketStream of yore had real issues with user experience and the size of its proxy network. In this review, we’ll see where the price king stands compared to other residential proxy services, and if it’s managed to address the shortcomings.
If you’ve come from Google to read about the PacketStream bandwidth-sharing app, we compare it with similar services here.
|Provider type||General-purpose provider|
|Pricing model||Pay as you go|
|Payment methods||PayPal, Stripe|
PacketStream is an American proxy provider. It was established in 2018 by Ronald Bell. The founder and team initially marketed the project on various channels, but their active marketing efforts seem to have ended in 2019.
PacketStream created one of the first proxy marketplaces. Where other proxy services would bury SDKs into popular apps, the provider offered people to straight up sell their bandwidth for money, turning them into proxy servers. By now, it’s become a popular method for sourcing residential IPs.
This straightforward business model has allowed PacketStream to collect a respectable number of residential IPs in short notice. It’s also dumped the prices to impressive lows. But at the same time, PacketStream is extremely reliant on the so-called ‘packeters’, or bandwidth sellers – their whims can make or break the whole network.
As a general-purpose provider, PacketStream is used for various purposes, ranging from one-off web scraping projects to sneaker copping. It’s also a popular option for reselling, so you may be using PacketStream’s proxies without knowing it.
PacketStream Proxy Networks
Currently, PacketStream sells only residential proxies. These IPs come from people who voluntarily share their bandwidth.
A basic but competent service.
PacketStream’s residential proxy network includes around 7 million monthly IPs. It’s not heavy on features, but the essentials are all there.
The proxies cover over 100 countries in the world. Their locations are listed on the dashboard, though there’s no way to know how many IPs each has, so you’ll have to rely on the provider. You can get IPs randomly or target particular countries.
These residential proxies are peer-to-peer, so they inevitably rotate. You can choose rotation on every connection request or to keep the same IP until the source goes offline. The PacketStream app is available only for desktop OSes, so in theory the sessions should remain alive for quite a while.
The two supported protocols are HTTP and HTTPS. Unfortunately, SOCKS proxies aren’t on the table, so this rules out torrents or streaming sites. PacketStream also lacks the option to whitelist IPs, meaning that you’ll have to make do with user:pass authentication.
PacketStream advertises that you can use the proxies anyhow you like, but in reality the terms of service prohibit some use cases, specifically advertisement spam.
|Number of IPs||7 million|
|Rotation||Every request, as long as available|
|Traffic||$50 for 50 GB ($1/GB)||Available|
Compared to some other larger providers, PacketStream sells proxies for peanuts. The pricing model is very simple: 1GB of traffic costs $1. That’s it.
You pay for the traffic as you go, so first, you have to add some credit to your account. Then, your use of bandwidth will simply eat into this money until there’s no more left. If you want, you can hook up your credit card to auto-recharge your balance. Otherwise, top-up amounts are $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1000.
There’s only one gotcha: Even though a gig costs merely $1, you can buy no fewer than 50GBs at a time.
You can get a free trial by filling in a form.
PacketStream Performance Tests
We last tested PacketStream for 2022 Proxy Market Research. The benchmarks are based on a custom script and target Cloudflare’s Trace webpage. It doesn’t block requests and connects to the nearest Cloudflare data center, making the page ideal for testing proxy infrastructure. Our requests came from a server in Germany.
In our test, PacketStream had among the fewest unique IPs – every fourth connection request returned a new proxy during the testing period. Both GeoSurf and SOAX, which advertise fewer proxies, displayed better results.
|Connections||300,000 each||50,000 each|
|Timeframe||14 days||7 days|
Results with country gateways were similarly underwhelming. PacketStream only managed to muster around 5,000 IPs in most European locations and fewer than 500 in Australia. Its American pool was larger but considering PacketStream’s price and attitude toward reselling, I’d expect the proxies to be pretty abused. Strangely enough, PacketStream had the largest presence in Russia.
Compared to others, PacketStream had a nearly identical composition as IPRoyal; both providers failed to make an impression:
On the bright side, PacketStream’s proxies did come from residential devices. The percentage was slightly lower in the US, where an IP database identified nearly 8% as datacenter, but otherwise up to par with premium providers.
The residential proxies had a high success rate, especially for an affordable provider. PacketStream managed to beat GeoSurf, NetNut, and Shifter, all of which cost several times more.
However, the proxy server wasn’t particularly fast. Bright Data established a connection more than twice, and Oxylabs nearly three times faster. The only non-premium (looking at the price) provider to compete with them was Smartproxy.
|Smartproxy||1.14 s||0.60 s||0.60 s||0.66 s||1.33 s||1.67 s||1.67 s|
Knowing that PacketStream is an American provider, we expected its proxies to be fastest in the US. Surprisingly, it turned out to be the slowest location, even slower than Australia. My guess is that the server was overused; but then again, we ran the test for 14 days.
All in all, PacketStream’s results were nearly identical to IPRoyal. Either it’s a second coincidence, or IPRoyal is reselling to some extent. In any case, the connection speed was below average.
Results with Popular Websites
|Success rate||Errors||Blocks||Response time|
For a cheap provider with a limited proxy pool, PacketStream performed well. It successfully completed requests 85% of the time and had a response rate of fewer than five seconds. That said, it’s apparent that the IPs had been overused with major targets like Google and Instagram. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had degraded experience with other popular websites, such as shoe stores.
How to Use PacketStream
Creating an account with PacketStream is a simple affair:
- Enter your username, email, and password
- Choose whether you want to sell traffic or buy proxies
Then, you end up in the dashboard. You don’t even need to confirm your email address.
Packetstream has a simple dashboard that tries to serve both sides of its business at once. One half is dedicated for traffic sellers, and the other half for proxy users. This doesn’t affect the user experience too much, as the dashboard is not yet overloaded with features.
Using it, you’ll be able to see your traffic stats, invoices, and buy bandwidth. There’s a button for contacting support as well, but it merely returns you to the FAQ page. Of course, there’s also a page for setting up proxies. Other options, such as downloading the PacketStream app or managing referrals, aren’t really relevant for proxy users.
Finally, you’ll find a form to request access to the Reseller API, if you partake in such activities. What about an API for your own proxy use? The provider says nothing about it.
All in all, the dashboard provides all that is needed to get you going. It’s light on documentation and missing quick access to customer service, but all the essentials are there.
To set up proxies on PacketStream, you can use the provided widget. This involves selecting items from several drop-down lists: proxy type (HTTP or SSL), whether you want the IPs to rotate, and a country. A nice touch is that you can change between DNS hostname (so, proxy.packetstream.io) and IP hostname (220.127.116.11) at will.
Once you’re done, PacketStream generates a proxy list with up to 10,000 IPs in several formats:
PacketStream also provides a cURL proxy string for testing the proxy server, as well as dynamic code samples for multiple programming languages: Golang, node.JS, Python, and more.
All in all, the proxy setup procedure is simple and pleasant.
The only way regular users can track traffic expenditure is via the dashboard. On the home page, there’s a graph that shows consumed bandwidth during the last two weeks. There’s no way to change the timeframe or select custom dates.
PacketStream doesn’t use a subscription-based pricing model. You simply add money via a credit card or Paypal and use proxies at a rate of 1GB for $1.
If you pay by card, PacketStream has the option to automatically recharge the balance once it falls below $1. You can choose the top-up amount. PayPal, on the other hand, supports only one-time purchases.
PacketStream’s documentation is pretty spartan. Aside from code samples, you get a basic FAQ, and setup instructions with web browsers and operating systems.
There’s no start guide, configuration instructions for popular tools, or troubleshooting. Instead, PacketStream asks you to contact its customer support if you need help.
The problem is that customer support is PacketStream’s weakest point. You can reach it by email only, and help doesn’t come fast.
I contacted the provider multiple times and received a reply in 12 hours on average. However, not all customers are that lucky: I found out that in general tickets receive responses within 24 hours.
So, while PacketStream does claim to have 24/7 support, you can hardly call it so in reality. This is better than nothing, but it might not be enough for enterprise clients.
I also managed to reach the provider by Skype but was unceremoniously shooed away after being told that it’s for sales only.
If I had to put it in one sentence, it would sound something like this: PacketStream is lean, its proxies mean, and pricing impressive enough to attract, but the provider still hasn’t put on enough fat to wrestle for more sophisticated clients.
If you’re a business, consider this provider as well. I’d still treat PacketStream as an attractive proposition, even despite its mediocre proxy pool and lacking customer service. Just make sure you don’t need SOCKS5 or city targeting first.
If you’re an enterprise… I would hold off on PacketStream. For now, the provider still doesn’t seem ready despite its strong fundamentals. It might be in the near future, but today I’d go for Oxylabs or Bright Data.