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The Best VPNs in 2021

Illustration of a Podium Displaying First, Second and Third Place
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

The best VPN services encrypt your web traffic, hide your IP address and effectively unblock restricted websites without compromising on speed.

We’ve tested hundreds of VPN applications using our impartial review process. The services below are the top rated VPNs overall based on speed, security, and privacy.

Based on speed, security, and streaming capabilities, the five best VPNs overall in 2021 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The absolute best VPN for speed, security, and streaming. Read summary
  2. NordVPN: The top VPN for additional features. Read summary
  3. CyberGhost: The best choice for beginners. Read summary
  4. IPVanish: The best VPN for Firestick and Kodi. Read summary
  5. Surfshark: The most affordable premium VPN. Read summary

While these five services score highly overall, the truth is there is no definitive ‘best VPN’. The right VPN software for you depends on your specific needs.

Do you want to unblock Netflix libraries around the world, or stay secure while torrenting? Are you looking for the fastest speeds, or simply to stay safe on public WiFi?

You can find our top VPN recommendations in each category below. If you’re not quite ready to pay for a subscription, you can also check out our list of the best free VPNs.

The Best VPNs of 2021: Performance Ratings

Here’s how each VPN on this page performs in our most important testing areas:

The Best VPN Services By Category

In the section below, you can find our expert VPN recommendations for each key category. You’ll find the top choices for streaming, entertainment, speed, and the top picks for specific countries.

The Best VPNs for Streaming

Find the top VPNs for watching geo-restricted content on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and other popular streaming sites.

The Best VPNs for Entertainment

Not all VPNs offer native applications for platforms like Firestick or Apple TV. Not every VPN supports P2P traffic, either.

If you're looking for a secure VPN for torrenting or native support for your games console, find our recommendations here.

The Best VPNs by Price and Speed

All VPNs compete when it comes to average speed and subscription cost.

Find the top VPN services in each of these categories here – whether you want the fastest speeds, the lowest price, or the best free trial.

The Best VPNs by Device

The right VPN depends on the device and operating system you're using. Some have more features on Windows, for example, and some cater better to iOS.

Find our recommendations for popular devices like iPhone, Android, Windows, and Mac here.

The Best VPNs by Browser

Some VPNs only offer extensions for certain web browsers. You find our top picks for specific browsers on these pages.

The Best VPNs by Country

A VPN's quality depends on the country you're connecting to. Do you need to beat censorship, or simply to connect to a server in a specific city?

If you're looking for a VPN to bypass censorship or connect to a specific country, you can find our suggestions here.

The 5 Best VPNs Overall (Tested June 2021)

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: The Best VPN Overall

    Excellent for speed, security, streaming and torrenting.

    Ranked #1 out of 69 VPN services
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
    (1,762 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN
    1. Impressive speeds, even on international connections
    2. Unblocks streaming services, including 19 Netflix libraries
    3. AES-256 encryption & no personal data logging
    4. 3,000 servers in 94 countries
    5. Easy-to-use apps & Smart DNS for high compatibility
    6. Excellent 24/7 customer support with live chat
    1. More expensive than its rivals
    2. No VPN kill switch on iOS
    3. Dated Amazon Fire TV Stick app
    4. Recent issues with BBC iPlayer
    5. No Linux GUI

    Overall Rating: 9.7/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.6
    • 9.2
    • 9.7
    • 9.6
    • 9.8
    • 9.9

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN service of 2021, whatever your needs. It’s reliably fast, highly secure, and great for all devices including desktop and mobile.

    It consistently unblocks websites and major streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney+. If you do come across any technical issues, it also has an excellent customer support team that is available 24/7.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    US NetflixYes
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChromeos
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. appletvApple TV
    9. androidtvAndroid TV
    10. chromecastChromecast
    11. rokuRoku
    12. xboxXbox
    13. playstationPlayStation
    14. chromeChrome
    15. edgeEdge
    16. firefoxFirefox
    17. routerRouter

    A highly-secure zero-logs VPN

    ExpressVPN is as secure and private as a VPN can get. It uses the strongest encryption available and offers a wide variety of connection protocols including OpenVPN – the industry standard.

    Its advanced AES-256 encryption and obfuscation technologies even allow ExpressVPN to beat aggressive web censorship in China.

    When it comes to privacy, the VPN doesn’t record or store personal usage logs, and it always masks your IP address while running. There’s also a huge range of additional security features including a vital VPN kill switch.

    The company is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is commonly considered a privacy haven. This makes it a fantastic jurisdiction for a VPN company.

    Excellent for streaming Netflix and torrenting

    ExpressVPN is the top VPN for streaming overall, and the best for unblocking US Netflix. It also unblocks 18 other international Netflix libraries.

    All of its apps work with Hulu, HBO, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, too. They can stream BBC iPlayer, but it requires a little tinkering.

    P2P traffic is supported and you can torrent safely on any ExpressVPN server, with no restrictions.

    3000+ fast VPN servers

    Fast speeds are important when streaming, especially when you’re watching content from other countries.

    We recorded average download speeds of 88Mbps in our speed tests, which makes ExpressVPN an extremely fast service. On a 95Mbps connection, that’s a mere 8% loss in speed on short-distance connections.

    ExpressVPN is also especially fast when connecting to distant servers. Here are the latest speeds we recorded:

    Connection Download Speed % Speed Loss
    UK to UK 88Mbps 8%
    UK to USA (New Jersey) 79Mbps 17%
    UK to Singapore 73Mbps 24%
    UK to Australia (Sydney) 69Mbps 27%

    Expensive, but worth the subscription cost

    At its cheapest, ExpressVPN costs $6.67 per month on a 15-month contract. This makes it more expensive than many of its rivals, but you get your money’s worth in terms of quality.

    There are simple apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon Firestick. MediaStreamer, its Smart DNS tool, works well on Apple TV and games consoles.

    If you don’t mind the subscription cost, we absolutely recommend using ExpressVPN. If you want to try it for free first, ExpressVPN offers 7- and 30-day free trials.

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best for Extra Features

    High speeds and advanced security features for an affordable price.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN
    1. Very fast speeds across its entire network
    2. 5,482 high-speed servers in 59 countries
    3. P2P-optimized servers & unblocks Netflix
    4. Verified zero-logs policy & no IP or DNS leaks
    5. Easy-to-use apps & 24/7 live chat support
    6. Many extra features like DoubleVPN & an ad blocker
    1. Slow response to server breach
    2. Limited VPN protocol choice on Windows & Android
    3. Fire TV Stick app doesn't work as well with Netflix
    4. Hulu doesn't work on desktop apps
    5. Manual setup required to work in China

    Overall Rating: 9.5/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.5
    • 9.5
    • 9.8
    • 9.5
    • 9.5
    • 9.5

    NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in the world, and it’s also one of the best.

    Although it’s cheaper than ExpressVPN, it’s almost as good. It provides fantastic speeds, strong security, easy-to-use apps, and great customer support. Very few VPN services can match NordVPN’s offering.

    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    US NetflixYes
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. chromecastChromecast
    9. rokuRoku
    10. xboxXbox
    11. playstationPlayStation
    12. chromeChrome
    13. firefoxFirefox
    14. routerRouter

    Strong security features & verified no-logs policy

    What sets NordVPN apart from its rivals is its wide range of high-end security features.

    It uses secure encryption protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard (branded as NordLynx). Just like ExpressVPN, it also secures your data with AES-256 encryption.

    Extra features include DoubleVPN, which routes your traffic through an extra VPN server for increased anonymity. The service even comes with a built-in ad-blocker called CyberSec.

    NordVPN doesn’t collect any personal web logs, either. This means it does not record your IP address, browser history, or bandwidth usage data. It only collects extremely minimal data, which is hashed and completely anonymized.

    Excellent speeds across 5000+ servers

    NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs you can buy thanks to its huge network of over 5,453 VPN servers. In our latest speed tests, we recorded speed losses as low as 1%.

    NordVPN’s servers are also RAM-based, just like ExpressVPN. This means that no data is stored locally on any of its servers.

    Great for streaming and P2P traffic

    NordVPN works with all popular streaming services including BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It also unblocks Hulu, as long as you use its Smart DNS tool.

    It is also a great choice for torrenting, with a no-logs policy and hundreds of dedicated P2P servers that are specially built for anonymous file-sharing.

    Cheaper than ExpressVPN

    Compared to ExpressVPN, NordVPN is much cheaper on a long-term subscription. It costs $3.71 per month on a two-year contract, versus ExpressVPN’s $6.67 per month on a 15-month plan.

    With the cheap monthly price you get 24/7 live chat support. If you’re unhappy, you can get your money back within 30 days.

    Overall, NordVPN ranks a close second to ExpressVPN. It’s so close that we created a NordVPN versus ExpressVPN guide to compare the two VPN services head-to-head.

  3. 3. CyberGhost: Best for Ease of Use

    A beginner-friendly VPN optimized for streaming.

    CyberGhost app
    (311 user reviews)
    Visit CyberGhost
    1. Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ & more
    2. Secure with IP leak-free encryption
    3. Doesn't log personal usage data
    4. Huge 6,900 server network across 91 countries
    5. Affordable & easy to use on all your devices
    6. 24/7 support & 45-day money-back guarantee
    1. Not as fast as its rivals over long distances
    2. Mobile & macOS apps missing some features
    3. No longer unblocks BBC iPlayer
    4. Doesn’t work in China, Turkey or the UAE
    5. Incompatible with Chromebooks
    6. Ad-blocker doesn't work very well

    Overall Rating: 9.2/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.6
    • 8.8
    • 9.5
    • 9.3
    • 9.8
    • 9.5

    CyberGhost is one of the most accessible, affordable, and reliable VPN services there are. It’s cheap, incredibly easy to use and fantastic for streaming.

    Cheapest Price$2.25/mo over 3 years See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionRomania (EU Member)
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    US NetflixYes
    Works in ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. chromecastChromecast
    9. rokuRoku
    10. xboxXbox
    11. playstationPlayStation
    12. chromeChrome
    13. firefoxFirefox
    14. routerRouter

    Built for streaming on multiple devices

    The main benefit of CyberGhost is how well it unblocks streaming websites.

    The VPN service offers 46 servers that are specifically optimized for streaming, with appropriate labels for each streaming platform. These include Netflix, HBO, YouTube, and more.

    There are apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. It also works on Fire TV Stick, Smart TV, Linux, and routers.

    There’s even Smart DNS functionality for use on Apple TV, PlayStation and Xbox. CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections, which is a rather generous allowance.

    Fast, no-logs torrenting servers

    CyberGhost has servers optimized for torrenting around the world, which means you should never be far from a server that supports P2P.

    Speeds are good on nearby connections, with a speed loss of only 13%. However, CyberGhost’s speeds can’t quite match ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

    A VPN kill switch ensures your IP address isn’t exposed in the unlikely event of a VPN connection drop.

    CyberGhost doesn’t log any web activity apart from anonymous server usage data. It even has “NoSpy” servers in a secure data center in Romania, where CyberGhost is based.

    Lots of extra features for an affordable price

    At $2.25 per month over three years, CyberGhost is very affordable. It also offers a one-day trial and a 45-day risk-free refund guarantee.

    Its VPN apps are some of the easiest to use. If you do have issues using them, experienced support agents are available via 24/7 live chat.

    The various CyberGhost VPN apps come with a long list of additional features. Here’s a list of the most important:

    Feature What Does it Do?
    Dedicated Torrenting Servers Servers optimized for P2P traffic. Listed in a menu on the home screen.
    Dedicated Streaming Servers Servers optimized for streaming. Labeled with their location and the platform they unblock.
    Ad-Block Built-in ad-blocker that blocks in-browser and in-app ads.
    Malicious Content Filter Blocks potentially harmful websites before you access them.
    Tracker Blocking Blocks web tracking attempts from websites and services.
    Automated HTTPS Redirect Secures HTTP web pages with HTTPS encryption.
    Data Compression Compression tool to save data on mobile and metered connections.
    Exceptions This is CyberGhost’s name for split tunneling. Choose which apps and programs to exclude from VPN protection.
    App Protection CyberGhost automatically connects if you open any apps added to this feature.
    Kill Switch Automatically interrupts your internet connection if the VPN drops (enabled by default).
  4. 4. IPVanish: Best for Firestick & Kodi

    A secure, no-logs VPN well-suited to Firestick and Kodi users.

    IPVanish VPN
    (175 user reviews)
    Visit IPVanish
    1. Great Fire TV Stick VPN app
    2. Excellent short-distance speeds
    3. Doesn't store web activity logs
    4. Unblocks US Netflix
    5. Over 40,000 IP addresses across 75 locations
    6. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    1. Doesn’t unblock BBC iPlayer or Disney+
    2. Based in the privacy-unfriendly US
    3. Can’t bypass web censorship in China
    4. No VPN browser extensions
    5. No Smart DNS tool
    6. Handed over information to the FBI in 2016

    Overall Rating: 9.1/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.9
    • 9.1
    • 9.6
    • 8.5
    • 8.6
    • 9.5

    Though it has a troubled past, IPVanish is still a very good VPN service in 2021. It’s fast, secure, and now completely trustworthy.

    It offers excellent speeds and over 40,000 VPN servers in 75 locations. you’re looking to use a VPN that works well with Firestick or Kodi, IPVanish is a great choice.

    Cheapest Price$2.40/mo for 12 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    US NetflixYes
    Works in ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. routerRouter

    Strong encryption and zero-logs privacy policy

    As its name suggests, IPVanish puts security first. Its range of encryption protocols (including OpenVPN and IKEv2) is exemplary. AES 256-bit encryption will also secure your data transfers across public WiFi networks.

    IPVanish is also completely zero-logs. It doesn’t monitor or store a single piece of data. This is important, because the company is based in the privacy-unfriendly United States.

    Combined with a kill switch this makes IPVanish excellent for torrenting and P2P, which is supported on every server.

    Self-owned servers and 40,000 IP addresses

    IPVanish has 1,400 first-party servers, with access to over 40,000 IP addresses in 57 countries.

    The spread and quality of these servers is the reason behind IPVanish’s speeds.

    Its fast download and upload speeds are impressive on nearby servers. In recent tests we only registered a 10% loss in download speed.

    It’s different on longer distance connections, though. Speeds did drop connecting overseas, for example from the UK to the US.

    Great Fire TV Stick app optimized for Kodi

    IPVanish’s Firestick app is the best we’ve used. It’s one of the fastest and most secure, ideal for anonymous Kodi streaming.

    It also has VPN apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac devices. There’s also an APK file for Android devices with no access to Google Play Store. Sadly, there’s no Smart DNS tool, though. This means you won’t be able to easily use IPVanish on your games console.

    Not recommended for streaming or censorship

    Despite its fast speeds, IPVanish isn’t a good streaming VPN. It works with Netflix in the USA and Japan, but it doesn’t unblock BBC iPlayer, Disney+, or Hulu.

    In fact, IPVanish struggles to bypass aggressive web blocks. This is why it won’t work in countries like China or Turkey, either.

  5. 5. Surfshark: The Best Value VPN

    At just $2.21 per month, Surfshark is an excellent value VPN.

    Surfshark app
    (102 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark
    1. Unbeatable price on a two-year plan
    2. Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and more
    3. Supports torrenting on every server
    4. Advanced features & fast protocols
    5. Sensible British Virgin Islands jurisdiction
    6. Unlimited device connections
    1. Connecting to some servers can be slow
    2. No port forwarding
    3. Logging policy is not audited

    Overall Rating: 9.0/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.7
    • 8.6
    • 9.8
    • 9.2
    • 9.4
    • 8.5

    Surfshark competes with the very best VPNs, but for a much lower price. There’s no compromise on quality, either. It offers unlimited device connections and unblocks Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services without a problem.

    Its speeds are consistently fast and it supports torrenting on all servers. Overall, Surfshark has an unbeatable price for the quality of the VPN service it offers.

    Cheapest Price$2.49/mo over 24 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    US NetflixYes
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. androidtvAndroid TV
    9. chromecastChromecast
    10. rokuRoku
    11. xboxXbox
    12. playstationPlayStation
    13. chromeChrome
    14. firefoxFirefox
    15. routerRouter

    An excellent VPN available for a very low price

    The most obvious benefit of Surfshark is its price: it’s extremely cheap. At its cheapest, the VPN costs just $2.21 per month on a two-year subscription plan. Even when paying upfront, this is still very affordable.

    When a VPN costs as little as this, often you won’t be getting a good product. In this case, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs we’ve tested.

    Streams 15 Netflix libraries, Disney+, and more

    What do you get for that cheap subscription? Reliable access to a huge range of streaming services, for starters.

    Surfshark unblocks 15 Netflix libraries – only three other VPNs unblock more Netflix libraries than this. It also works with Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Sky, and more.

    It’s also the best Disney+ VPN you can get. That’s because it can unblock the service on every server, regardless of location.

    You can also stream with Surfshark on as many devices as you want. There is no simultaneous connection limit, which is rare among top VPN services.

    Fast speeds and no-logs server network

    Surfshark has a global network of 3,200+. Every server is zero-logs and uses the same connection protocols (namely OpenVPN and WireGuard).

    Every server we’ve tested is fast, too. We recorded a speed loss of just 15% on nearby servers, with an average download speed of 85Mbps.

    Plenty of extra security tools

    Camouflage Mode is available on every Surfshark server. This is an obfuscation tool that makes your VPN traffic even harder to detect. It’s especially useful for unblocking websites.

    Camouflage Mode (combined with No Borders mode) also works well to bypass censorship in countries like China – something very few VPNs can do.

    Finally, Surfshark is the only VPN that can spoof GPS. This feature prevents mobile applications using GPS to detect your real location.

The Top 10 VPN Services Compared

To help you compare the best VPNs overall, we’ve created a table comparing the 10 most popular choices. You’ll find all of the important information you need to decide which is the best VPN for you.

In the table below, you can compare average local speeds, server networks, logging policies, and each VPN’s security offering.

You can also compare which VPNs can unblock US Netflix, support torrenting traffic, and have money-back guarantees.

To keep reading, skip this table and find out why you need a VPN.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

using a VPN to hide an IP address.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a simple software used to connect your device to a secure server in a remote location. This serves two main functions: to hide your public IP address and encrypt your web traffic.

Encrypting your data and changing your IP address opens up lots of possibilities for improving your privacy and security online. It also helps you access websites and services that are usually unavailable in your location.

For more detailed information on VPN software and its uses, read our complete guide to Virtual Private Networks. For now, here’s a summary of why you need a VPN.

VPNs are typically used for:

  • Protecting sensitive data on public WiFi networks.
  • Hiding your web traffic from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
  • Unblocking websites and international streaming content.
  • Safeguarding your identity and activity while torrenting.
  • Bypassing government censorship and internet shutdowns.

1. Encrypt Data on Public WiFi Networks

Cybercriminals take advantage of public WiFi networks without password protection to steal sensitive data like your bank details, passwords, and personal information.

if you use a public WiFi connection that doesn’t require a password, you are putting your sensitive data at risk.

VPN software can be used to protect your web traffic from hackers and other third parties. It encrypts your browsing activity and makes it almost impossible for criminals to intercept and exploit your data.

2. Hide Your Web Activity From Your ISP

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can monitor every website you visit and every message you send.

Depending on where you live, your ISP will almost certainly be required to record your browsing history for one year or more.

A VPN encrypts your website requests as they travel from your device to the VPN server. This means your ISP will find it much harder to track your activity and browsing history on the web.

By changing your IP address, VPN services also make it much harder for the websites you visit to identify you.

3. Unblock Geo-Blocked Streaming Content

Streaming websites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer use your public IP address to limit the number of movies and TV shows you’re able to watch.

Every country has a different content library, and some streaming services are limited to users in one country altogether.

You can use a VPN to switch your usual IP address with an IP address from another country. This means you can ‘trick’ streaming services and unblock the full international catalog of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and more.

4. Secure Your Connection While Torrenting

P2P file-sharing without protection can be dangerous. Your personal IP address is available to everyone you’re sharing files with, and your ISP can see everything you’re downloading.

A VPN works to hide your IP address, activity, and identity from both your ISP and other users. This protects you from all of the dangers associated with torrenting unprotected.

5. Circumvent Government Censorship

Governments around the world choose to censor what you can and cannot see online. Some governments even choose to shut down certain online services altogether in times of political unrest.

The best VPN services offer obfuscation tools, which is a special type of technology designed to evade sophisticated systems of censorship.

By scrambling your web traffic and changing your IP address, VPNs allow you to bypass government website blocks and access the global internet safely.

How We Test VPN Services

This page contains the very best VPNs as determined by our VPN reviews. Our experts test every VPN in several key areas and combine this data to calculate an overall rating.

We test every top VPN for:

  • A no-logs or similar privacy policy.
  • Fast upload speeds, download speeds, and latency around the world.
  • AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN functionality, and additional security.
  • Streaming capabilities and torrenting support.
  • How easy the app is to set up and use on a range of devices.
  • The quality of the customer support and online help guides.

In our reviews, you may have also noticed ratings awarded in two other areas: ‘Price & Value for Money’ and ‘Bypassing Censorship’.

Price & Value for money is not a factor on this page. We consider overall quality regardless of price – you can decide for yourself whether it’s one you’re happy to pay.

Bypassing Censorship makes up a small portion of the ‘Features, Encryption & Security’ category. You can learn exactly how this process works by reading our full VPN testing process.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the categories we test for when recommending the best VPNs, and how much of the overall rating they account for:

1. Privacy & Logging Policy: 30%

Minimum Requirement: Retains no identifying data, with servers regularly wiped.
We Recommend: No logs retained whatsoever. Truly ‘zero logs’.

You should not use a VPN that logs anything that could identify you or tie you to your internet activity.

We take a very harsh stance against any VPNs that admit to logging your IP address, DNS requests, or connection metadata.

Anonymous or aggregated usage data is acceptable. This can include the total data used in a month, your total number of monthly logins, or the number of users concurrently connected to a server.

No matter what the data collected is, VPNs are rewarded if it is deleted as soon as possible – ideally at the end of your session.

We analyze every VPN’s privacy policy in-depth to find out exactly how it treats your data. We also look at a VPN’s history and ownership to determine whether or not you should trust it.

2. Speed & Reliability: 25%

Minimum Requirement: Fast enough for HD streaming on local connections.
We Recommend: Less than 20% speed loss on local connections or 40% on distant ones.

We use two different types of speed test to work out how fast a VPN is: manual and automatic.

Our manual tests involve running the VPN on a controlled, dedicated testing network. We connect to several servers around the world and record how much they reduce our connection speed.

Our automated tests involve a custom-built tool running on 11 of our own servers located all around the world. The tool is constantly testing 16 of the most popular VPNs, updating its data every six hours. While these numbers aren’t as relatable, they’re more consistent due to their frequency.

We look at the download speeds, upload speeds, and ping from both sets of tests before we apply our formula and award a speed rating.

3. Features, Encryption & Security: 20%

Minimum Requirement: AES-128 encryption, 100 servers, and an internet kill switch.
We Recommend: AES-256, OpenVPN or similar, and obfuscation tools.

Almost every VPN we test uses some form of AES cipher for encryption. AES-128 is perfectly secure, but we test for AES-256 for maximum security.

Most VPNs will offer OpenVPN as a default protocol choice, as it best balances speed with security. Other VPNs choose to offer WireGuard or their own bespoke protocol, both of which are also rated highly (we never recommend a proprietary protocol without inspecting and testing it first).

It’s hard to say exactly how many VPN servers is the right number. We check every VPN and find out if there are enough servers to ensure that the most popular locations do not experience any lag even under high load.

We also check to make sure a VPN has a diverse global spread of servers before recommending it.

The very best VPNs also offer some form of obfuscation. This is essential technology if you’re looking to bypass censorship, whether it’s from your employer, school, or government.

We own a server located in China which we access regularly to test each VPN’s ability to operate around censorship.

4. Streaming & Torrenting: 15%

Minimum Requirement: Can access US Netflix and allows torrenting on most servers.
We Recommend: Accesses multiple streaming libraries and permits P2P on all servers.

We have active subscriptions to all of the most popular streaming services, including Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer.

We spend hours each month testing every VPN by simply connecting to a VPN server and seeing whether we can stream the content we want. Every premium VPN should be able to access the US Netflix library, at least.

As for torrenting, a VPN you pay a monthly fee for should never restrict torrenting too harshly. You should be free to torrent on almost any server you choose.

We also test and record P2P bitrates for the best torrenting VPNs, to see if there’s any difference between that and regular download speeds.

5. Ease of Use: 5%

Minimum Requirement: Easy installation and intuitive apps across major platforms.
We Recommend: All of the above, plus clear in-app labels and apps for unusual platforms.

Unless specifically downloading a mobile-only VPN, we make sure every VPN we test offers a bespoke app for Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS and iOS, and Google Android at the very least.

These apps should be clearly labeled for beginners to better understand them. It should never take more than a few taps or clicks to connect to a server, and the server list should be well-organized and easy to navigate.

Our ratings award VPNs that offer a well-designed app for Amazon Fire TV, a GUI for Linux, or an effective Smart DNS system for streaming devices and consoles. Installation walkthroughs for these more niche platforms are also considered.

6. Customer Support: 5%

Minimum Requirement: A support email address and online troubleshooting guides.
We Recommend: All of the above, plus 24/7 live chat support and in-depth FAQs.

With years spent testing VPNs every single day, we’ve come to appreciate one thing: the very best VPNs separate themselves with the quality of their customer support.

As a paying customer you should accept no less than a prompt and helpful email support service, plus some basic online FAQs.

The top-rated VPNs will also offer 24/7 live chat support. More in-depth online guides, or even a user forum, can make troubleshooting a much less painful experience.

FAQs About VPNs

What Is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a type of software that forms an encrypted connection between your device and the websites you visit. It does this by connecting you to a secure VPN server.

When you connect to a VPN, your personal IP address is hidden and temporarily replaced with the IP address of the VPN server you’ve chosen. This can make it appear as if you’re browsing from a different city or country.

All of your browsing activity is also encrypted, which makes it unintelligible to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and anyone else viewing your web traffic.

VPNs can completely change the way you use the internet. You’ll be able to protect your online privacy, secure your data on public WiFi networks, and unblock content that is restricted in your geographic location.

You can find out exactly how a VPN works, whether it is safe, and why you need one in our detailed guide to understanding VPNs.

How Do You Install a VPN?

The process of installing a VPN will depend on the device you’re using it with. For most devices, simply subscribe to the VPN service of your choice and you’ll be given a download link.

Once you’ve downloaded the VPN application on your device, you’ll be able to sign in with your account details and begin using the VPN service.

Installing a VPN is as simple as that if you’re using a computer, laptop, or phone. However, it can be more complicated if you need to install a VPN on other devices like a router, games console, or TV.

For detailed advice on VPN installation, we recommend reading our VPN setup guides.

What Is the Best VPN?

The best overall VPN service of 2021 is ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN beats all of the competition when it comes to average speeds, security, and privacy.

It’s a minimal logs service with built-in IP leak protection. It uses disk-less RAM-based servers and the unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption cipher on all its apps. With a kill switch on most apps, ExpressVPN is as private and secure as a VPN can get.

ExpressVPN also bypasses geographic restrictions on most streaming services. It works with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, and many more. The VPN’s obfuscation tools are also so good that it even works in China.

Overall, ExpressVPN is an expensive but outstanding VPN service that has very few disadvantages. We recommend it to both beginners and advanced VPN users.

Can I Get a VPN for Free?

Most free VPNs aren’t particularly effective. At their very worst, some can even be dangerous.

We examined 150 free Android VPN apps and found that over 85% of free VPNs had serious security flaws. Some logged and shared data with third-parties. Some were infected with adware and malware. Some didn’t even hide our IP address.

There are a few safe free VPNs available, but most of them have limited capabilities. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to torrent files or stream Netflix with a free VPN, and many will limit your data usage until you pay for a subscription.

As well as using a ‘truly’ free VPN, you can also use some paid VPNs for free by taking advantage of their free trial or money-back guarantee.

You can find out more about free VPN services and see our recommendations in this list of the best free VPNs.

Do I Need a VPN for Torrenting?

Using a VPN is absolutely recommended if you’re torrenting large files or engaging in P2P activity.

When you’re a part of a torrent swarm (the group sharing parts of the torrent file between each other), your IP address is visible to everyone. That includes your internet service provider (ISP), and copyright trolls.

ISPs dislike torrenting. They can log the files you download and share with them with content copyright holders. They can also throttle your download speeds. And they block thousands of file-sharing sites around the world.

A VPN masks your torrent IP and therefore your identity. It hides the contents of the data transfer and disguises P2P traffic as regular web activity.

Sadly, not all VPNs are suited for anonymous torrenting. To torrent privately, you’ll need to find a service with fast speeds, strong encryption, and no data leaks. For a list of VPNs that meet this criteria, see our VPN recommendations for torrenting.

Can I Use a VPN to Unblock Netflix?

You can use a VPN to stream movies and TV shows on Netflix that aren’t available in your country.

However, many VPNs struggle to unblock Netflix because the streaming website is constantly blocking VPN IP addresses. This is commonly known as the Netflix VPN ban.

Some VPN services spend a lot of resources making sure their product works with streaming services like Netflix. These VPNs can unblock up to 40 Netflix regions, and they work with other streaming websites too.

When you find a VPN that works, simply choose a server in the country you want to stream in, connect, and launch Netflix. For an updated list of suitable VPNs, read our list of VPNs that work with Netflix.

What Are the Limitations of Using a VPN?

VPNs are great tools for improving your online security, privacy, and freedom. But even the best VPN services come with limits. Here are some things that a VPN can’t do:

  • Provide complete virus and malware protection. Always use trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN has a malware-blocking tool.
  • Store all your passwords securely. Use a good password manager for that, like LastPass or 1Password.
  • Increase your internet speed. The only exception is if your ISP is throttling your connection.
  • Block ads. Some VPNs come with an ad-blocker. If yours doesn’t, then it’s worth getting one. We recommend uBlock Origin.
  • Make you completely anonymous. VPNs can improve your privacy, but they can’t make you completely anonymous. There are other ways to track your activity online including browser fingerprinting, tracking scripts, and traffic analysis.

You can find more details about the limitations of VPN software in our guide to VPN disadvantages.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio