In a Nutshell
- For inexpensive, uncensored Usenet access I recommend Astraweb
- For browser-based Usenet access with good customer support I recommend Easynews
- For robust Usenet access, with a built-in search and video previews, I recommend Usenetserver
- For block accounts (i.e. backup accounts), I recommend NewsgroupDirect
To achieve Usenet nirvana, I recommend using SabNZBd as your Usenet client (see my The Best Usenet Clients article), and a open Usenet index (see The Best Usenet Indexes). The Sabnzbdfox add-on for Firefox also makes downloading easier.
Created in 1979, the Usenet is one of the original distributed networks. Still in wide use today, the Usenet now contains a enormous amount of media and messages! Usenet users upload every type of media file in existence (movies, TV shows, music and e-books). In it’s 30 year history, no one has ever been sued for downloading anything from the Usenet.
In 2004, a site called Newzbin started indexing the files available on Usenet and created the NZB file format. A NZB file is the Usenet equivalent of a torrent file. Basically, a NZB file that just contains a pointer to files available on Usenet.
To get started with Usenet, you need to pay for Usenet access from a provider. You can expect to pay about $10-$20 per month for access.
Advantages of Usenet:
- Encourages users to download (leech)
- Direct downloading as opposed to waiting for seeders
- Uses the full bandwidth of your internet connection
- Uses SSL to encrypt data being sent to your computer
There are four main features to look for when choosing a provider:
- Data Retention (how far their Usenet archive goes back — usually around 200 days)
- Monthly Transfer (the amount of data you can download each month — varies from 5 to 50 GB)
- Connections (the number of simultaneous connections you can make at a single time through your account — around 10 is fine for most people)
- Secure Connections (you may want a provider that provides SSL connections, so you can’t be snooped on)
Our recommend Usenet providers:
Best Value and Uncensored: Astraweb
Astraweb is based in Singapore, and they are one of the few remaining independent Usenet Providers, meaning they do not draw from the Readnews, Giganews and Highwinds databases. Astraweb offers 1,550+ days of binary retention along with 1,095 days of text posts, and 256-bit SSL with 20 connections.
Astraweb doesn’t monitor their connections, so they are one of the only uncensored Usenet providers, however, this also means they are vulnerable to spam postings. Personally, I use them as my Usenet provider because they are uncensored.
Note that the “Unlimited Usenet” accounts from Astraweb are speed limited. If you want no speed limits, try their Unlimited DSL service.
Link: Astraweb ($10 per month, or special — $15 for two months)
Easiest To Set Up, Best For Tablets and Smartphones: EasyNews
Easynews is a great service for those getting started with Usenet. Their service is particularly easy to use because all your reading and downloading is done through a web browser — there is no need to download a newsreader program. Easynews has been in the business for a long time, and has built up a reliable backbone of server farms. They also have one of the top forums for troubleshooting and tech issues in the industry. Their customer service is unrivaled as well. However, if you want to download hundreds of gigabtyes of data a month, perhaps you should look elsewhere. They are also extremely strict about takedown notices from lawyers.
Note that you can install a newsreader program and use it with your Easynews Free Usenet Trial account too – there’s no need to sign up for a separate service.
Link: Easynews ($10-$30 per month )
Unlimited Access With No Frills: UsenetServer
Usenetserver is a good choice if you want a reliable, no-frills Usenet service and you are comfortable using NZB files to initiate downloads. Usenetserver offers great header retention (1568 days), good download speeds, and allows SSL connections. I tested their service for a month, and I found the service fast and reliable.
Link: Usenetserver ($10 per month)
Best All Inclusive Package: Newshosting
Newshosting has perhaps the best Free Usenet Trail Accounts. They allow 30 GB download limit on their trial accounts, and they give you access to the same service as a regular account. This includes access to their newsreader that has a built-in index search, and the ability to preview videos if there is a message with video attachments. They offers SSL connections.
Update: The top tier plan from Newshosting is now linked with Easynews. This means that customers who subscribe to the Newshosting top tier plan will be able to login to Easynews and download files using the simple web interface.
Link: Newshosting ($10-$12 per month)
European-Based Usenet: UsenetBucket
Added Feb. 2014:
Cost: € 4,95 ($6.80 U.S.) per month