Astraweb is one of the oldest Usenet providers out there, and has been at the top for several years now. Speeds are extremely high (we reached almost 130 Mb/s, or 15 Megabytes per second), and almost everybody should be able to max out their connection with them.
Retention is at the top end of the scale, with files as old as 2461 days, or over 6 ½ years. Fun fact: Astraweb was the provider that started the „retention wars“ in 2008, so they can be called a real innovator. Two server farms, one in the US, one in the EU, help users from both regions to get the best speeds possible.
With unlimited plans starting at only $7.5 per month (with the 2 months-plan), they are even cheaper than our favorite provider Newshosting. Only difference: they don’t offer their own newsreader like Newshosting does, so you have to use a third-party client. You can find a list of the best newsreaders here.
All in all, Astraweb is one of the best services out there, and for anybody who likes to use their own newsreader (like, for example, Alt.Binz or SabNZBD+).
Our Detailed Review:
In 1997, Astraweb saw the light of day, and is still one of the more popular providers in the market. Not only do they provide accounts directly to customers through their home page, but they also resell their services to Internet providers who want to offer Usenet to their customers.
Unfortunately, as we all know, few ISPs include Usenet in their plans. A good reason to see if Astraweb can fill the gap with their offerings. They’re known as an innovator in the market. Back in 2008, when most providers only offered a few dozen days of retention, they declared war on other services, announcing that within a few months, files up to 270 days old would be accessible to their customers.
And indeed, up the numbers went! When the dust settled, almost all providers had retentions of several years, and it has been growing every day ever since. And that wasn’t all: Astraweb was among the first to offer special deals through “hidden” pages on their website. With plans starting at only $8, including unlimited speeds and downloading volume, you can’t get much cheaper for such quality.
But innovation is not all. How have they kept up all these years?
1. Website And Signing Up
Remember how websites used to look back in 2000, with almost no content, really easy navigation, weird fonts, no gimmicks, no nothing? That’s how this website looks like, straight to the point. Notice the small “No Setup Fees!”-notice on the left side. Yes, back in the days, Usenet providers actually had setup fees when you wanted to sign up for an account! Also, the banner on top proudly informs us that Astraweb has been around for “15+ years”, meaning the last, large website upgrade happened in 2012.
Doesn’t affect the signing up process through. You can choose between Paypal, all major credit cards, iDeal and Sofort, a service allowing you to pay via bank wire, as many people in Europe are used to. Select your plan, accept their ToS, hit the “Pay”-button, and within a few minutes you’ll receive your login information per email.
Enter these into your newsreader, and you’re off to go.
2. Plans And Pricing
Essentially, there are two different kinds of plans available: Unlimited and block accounts. While unlimited means you can download as much data as you want, block accounts include a certain volume for you to use as you see fit. Unlike the volume-restricted accounts some, more expensive providers offer, it is up to you if you want to use the volume within a week or several months or years.
The unlimited plans come in two types: You can choose unlimited speed, with prices ranging from $13 – $15 a month, or limited speed of 10 Mbps, starting at $6.60 per month. Both plans come with either monthly or quarterly payment, with discounts given when paying for several months in advance.
As for the block accounts, you can choose between 25 GB for $10, 180 GB for $25, or 1000 GB for $50; this pricing is comparable to that of other providers.
All of these prices are reasonable, however, as usual, do not sign up; we found a special deal for you, which cannot be found through the official website.
For a limited time, Astraweb offers a special promotion: You can get unlimited Usenet for $8 per month or even $7.50 per month, if you decide to pay for two months in advance.
Usually, this type of pricing is only available for yearly accounts, but with Astraweb you only have to pay for two months tops. This is quite unique in the market for this kind of high-quality Usenet access.
There is no money back guarantee however, so you should carefully read this review to know for sure if Astraweb is for you or not.
3. Speed: How fast can you get that sweet content?
Usenet is known for its extremely high speed, and this is one of the main reasons for most people to switch from file sharing and similar, more traditional ways to get the content they want. So, how quickly can you download with Astraweb?
To start with, here is some information on our test setup: We test on a powerful Aspire V 15 Nitro notebook and a 150 Mbit Internet connection, which is among the fastest available in Europe. Keep in mind you’ll only be able to reach the speed your connection can provide you, so don’t be too upset if things are slower on your end. We can merely test the maximum a Usenet provider can theoretically give you, not boost your home connection.
Two different server farms are available: One in the EU, one in the US. As we’re located in the EU, our expectation would be to get top speeds on the EU server, and slightly worse results for the US. For our test, we used Newsbin Pro, one of the fastest newsreaders around.
That being said, we currently have no test account, we so cannot provide you with a speed test just yet. As soon as Astraweb will have provide us with one, we’ll do one and post it on this page. Sorry for the inconvenience!
4. Retention and security: The pesky little technical details
No review would be complete without a few comments on retention, and of course security and encryption. Most of these things are industry standard, but we feel it is important to at least skip over these details:
How good is their retention: 2462 days worth of content is available on the Astraweb servers, which turns out to be over 6 ½ years at the time of writing. It should be noted that this number is still growing every day, so don’t wonder if the retention is higher when you go see on the Astraweb website for yourself. With such a large archive, you can get almost anything you like, and it will hardly ever happen to you that you can’t download something the major search engines can’t find, because you’re “too late”.
Yup, that “retention war” of Astraweb has gone above and beyond the original 270 days that started it all…
About security and encryption: As is standard with most providers, you have the option to encrypt your connection with SSL, particularly helpful if you are on a network with a snooping administrator, or if you don’t fancy your government tracking what you download, something more prevalent in repressive regimes. This is the same encryption used on online banking sites or by payment processors such as Paypal, so this provides you with pretty strong protection.
No logs of what users download are being kept, no worries here: Based on how Usenet is structured, a provider would have to downloads tens of thousands of separate articles for each download, which is completely unrealistical.
The verdict: Cheap, extremely fast, reliable provider: We’re sold!
Yes, Astraweb is still one of the top providers out there, if you fancy loads of retention, awesome speeds, and of course very low prices. We would have liked if the home page didn’t hide the discounts you can find on our website, as we think everyone should benefit from low prices, but of course, they can be found online. On this website, for example! 🙂
Other than that, we missed a newsreader, like our favorite providers Newshosting offers. Than again, prices are a tad lower, and many people like to stick with their own newsreader or go for a third-party program such as Newsbin.
So, Astraweb definitely is a very good choice for most people.
PS: Since one of our readers complained that they did a search on Google for the website of a service we recommended, but actually went to the wrong website, we include a small preview of the Astraweb site below. The best way to reach it is to use the links provided on top of this page, though…