VPS $3.50 Showdown - November 2018 - Lightsail vs. Vultr

Josh Sherman
7 min read
VPS Showdown
HEADS-UP: A ton has changed since this post was originally published!
Why not check out the latest comparison?

Before you go commenting on the obvious, let me go ahead and clear the air a bit.

First off, yes, DigitalOcean and Linode are purposefully omitted from this comparison because they lack of a $3.50 tier.

Second, yes, I’m aware there are other providers that offer $3.50 pricing tiers. Most notable (thanks for all of the requests I receive) are OVH and RamNode.

So why did I choose to omit them?

RamNode didn’t make the cut this go around because they don’t offer Ubuntu 18.04 LTS at this time. Since last month’s post where I dropped back to an older Ubuntu, Amazon did start to offer the latest Ubuntu long-term support release and my own desire to only review the latest and greatest, I made the call to skip RamNode this month but will most likely go back to using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS to allow for it’s inclusion.

OVH was a different story all together. I really wanted to get them in the mix, but while poking around their site, I couldn’t find a way to create an account w/o opting into some promotion that required a one year commitment. I spin these boxes up for a few hours a month and being locked into a year term was no bueno.

Admittedly, I didn’t spent a ton of time trying to figure out their site, so I very well may have missed a way to sign up / created an account without being roped into some promotion.

With all that said, I think I’m getting close to expanding the hosts offered in these reviews and appreciate everybody’s patience as I work out the kinks on my end to make it happen.

Okay, so with all that out of the way, here’s the deal for this month. I’ve been aware for a while now that there are sub-five buck hosting out there. Since these posts did start as Linode vs DigitalOcean many moons ago, I’ve always wanted to keep them in the mix and have always done apples to apples comparisons on either price point or amount of RAM.

Both DigitalOcean and Linode bottom out at $5 and at 1 GB of RAM so there wasn’t really a way to work them into this month’s review.

It’s also worth pointing out, that I believe that hosting as a whole, especially of late, seems to be a race to the bottom. At one point Linode’s stance was that they’d never offer a plan less than $20 and yet market pressure has resulted in them offering two plans less than that.

It won’t shock me if in a year or so I’m including more providers in the sub-$5 price range.

All that being said, here’s how Amazon Lightsail and Vultr stacked up against each other at the $3.50 price point.


  Lightsail Vultr
Location Virginia, Zone A New York (NJ)
RAM 512 MB 512 MB
CPU 1 Core 1 Core
SSD 20 GB 20 GB
Transfer 1 TB 0.5 TB

Pretty comparable product offering outside of Vultr only offering up half of the bandwidth as Lightsail.

It’s worth noting that Vultr also offers a $2.50 plan with the same specs, but only available with IPv6. I’ve also heard many times that instances at that price tend to be unavailable. YMMV but I did just spin one up without issue!

CPU Info

  Lightsail Vultr
CPU MHz 2400.10 2398.15
Cache Size (KB) 30720.00 16384.00
BogoMips 3200.33 3196.00

Neck and neck on this one.


  Lightsail Vultr
Events per Second 888.89 742.34
Minimum (ms) 1.03 1.19
Average (ms) 1.13 1.35
Maximum (ms) 1.59 9.67

Even though the CPUs were stacked pretty evenly, Lightsail performed significantly better. Not only did they process more events per second, the maximum time to execute was quite low.

Memory (Read)

  Lightsail Vultr
Ops per Second 845991.70 3108473.66
Minimum (ms) 0.00 0.00
Average (ms) 0.00 0.00
Maximum (ms) 2.93 10.52

Lightsail server’s CPU may perform better than Vultr’s but for reading from member, there’s absolutely no comparison. Max execution times came in higher with Vultr but the number of operations per second was over triple that of Lightsail!

Memory (Write)

  Lightsail Vultr
Ops per Second 852791.94 3095217.65
Minimum (ms) 0.00 0.00
Average (ms) 0.00 0.00
Maximum (ms) 2.83 5.47

In past comparisons, the memory read and write metrics tend to be in line with each other. Pretty much the norm here, with Vultr trouncing Lightsail.

File I/O

  Lightsail Vultr
Reads per Second 1178.61 1432.22
Writes per Second 785.73 954.78
Fsyncs per Second 2507.92 3049.65
Minimum (ms) 0.00 0.00
Average (ms) 0.22 0.20
Maximum (ms) 15.99 12.98

Vultr edged out Lightsail on file I/O but with not nearly the gap we saw with the memory benchmarks.


  Lightsail Vultr
Transactions per Second 1994.33 1732.67
Queries per Second 39886.67 34653.33
Minimum (ms) 2.36 2.93
Average (ms) 5.01 6.54
Maximum (ms) 40.39 39.90

Even with slower file I/O and memory reads/writes, Lightsail’s MySQL performance was a bit better than that of Vultr.

Speed Test

  Lightsail Vultr
Distance (km) 2090.30 2124.90
Latency (ms) 45.065 786.966
Download (Mbit/s) 282.09 212.41
Upload (Mbit/s) 173.08 357.60

Lightsail tends to have the advantage on this one since Amazon’s Virginia data center is a bit closer to the Texas server I benchmark against than everybody else’s New York / Newark data centers.

Even with the slight advantage, Lightsail was only able to outperform on downloads while Vultr took it for uploads.

Vultr’s latency this month leaves a lot to be desired.

Apache Benchmark (against nginx on the servers)

  Lightsail Vultr
Requests per Second 294.45 289.59
Time per Request (ms) (mean) 1698.51 1726.95
Transfer Rate (Kbytes/sec) 247.00 242.93

I always catch flak for this one because the benchmark is against an out of the box nginx serving up a static HTML file. Even still, both providers performed about the same.


Even with half the bandwidth that Amazon is offering with Lightsail, Vultr seems to be the better all around pick at the $3.50 price point.

As always, YMMV and you should pick a hosting provider based around your personal needs.

If you found this review helpful in making your decision on a $3.50 VPS, pretty please use one of my referral links below.

If you want to run these benchmarks yourself, feel free to pull down my [benchmarks][bench] script.

Got something fun planned for next month, then hopefully in January expanding these reviews to include RamNode and OVH!

Or if you’re feeling really generous, show off your favorite tech stack by picking up a shirt!

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About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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