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The Best VPN Services of 2024

Illustration of a Podium Displaying First, Second and Third Place

Simon Migliano 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 and more.

Fact-checked by JP JonesAdditional Testing by Callum Tennent

With the increase of cyber crime, internet censorship, and content geo-blocking around the world, the use of a good VPN has become ever so important.

Sadly, hundreds of VPNs still available on the market don’t meet our high standards and in way too many instances are either ineffective, or worse, dangerous to use.

The 10 VPN providers we recommend below successfully change your IP address and help you better encrypt and anonymize your web traffic. Most of them can also unblock geo-restricted websites and apps.

Summary: The Best VPNs We Recommend

Out of 65 VPNs we’ve tested, these are our 10 most highly-rated ones:

  1. ExpressVPN: Best VPN Overall
  2. NordVPN: Best Runner-up
  3. Private Internet Access (PIA): Best Value for Your Money
  4. Surfshark: Affordable VPN with Many Extra Features
  5. PrivateVPN: Good VPN for Beginners
  6. IPVanish: Excellent VPN for Fire TV Stick
  7. CyberGhost: Best VPN Free Trial
  8. Hide.me: Useful for Bypassing Strict Web Censorship
  9. Proton VPN: Best Free VPN
  10. Windscribe: Unblocks the Most Netflix Regions

OUR VERDICT: The best VPN we’ve reviewed is ExpressVPN, with an outstanding 9.6/10 rating. It beat all other VPNs in almost every test, especially bypassing streaming geo-blocks. While it’s not cheap, ExpressVPN suits almost everyone: it’s fast, secure, and simple to use on all devices — even routers.

Our recommended VPNs performed exceptionally in our tests, offering excellent speeds and great usability on a wide range of devices, including computers, smartphones, and media streaming devices.

The Top 10 VPNs Compared

Quickly compare our chosen VPNs based on key research and test data, such as logging policy, download speed, simultaneous connections, number of Netflix regions unblocked, price, and free trial options.

If you’re short on time, the video below summarizes our 10 recommendations in less than three minutes:

Why Trust Us?

We’re fully independent and have been reviewing VPNs since 2016. Our ratings are based on our own testing results and are unaffected by financial incentives. Learn who we are and how we test VPNs.

VPNs Tested65
Total Hours of Testing30,000+
Combined Years of Experience50+

The Best VPNs Analzyed

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best VPN Overall

    Our top-rated VPN with excellent usability & streaming capabilities.

    Ranked #1 out of 65 VPNs
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devicesVisit ExpressVPN

    • Unblocks 95% of streaming platforms
    • Excellent usability & compatibility across platforms
    • Consistently fast speeds across any distance
    • Has never suffered any data leaks or breaches
    • Informed & highly responsive 24/7 live support
    • Full browser extensions linked to the main application

    • More expensive than its rivals
    • No multi-hop, dedicated IP or other advanced features
    • Search engine CAPTCHAs triggered using many servers
    • No split tunneling on macOS
    • No Linux graphical user interface (GUI)

    Overall Rating: 9.6/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.2/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.3/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.8/10

    ExpressVPN is our top VPN choice because it has excelled in almost every single test we’ve carried out in the past 8 years.

    Despite its higher price, ExpressVPN’s user-friendliness and versatility truly set it apart: it’s easy and effective to use for just about anything.

    We were especially impressed with the VPN’s excellent speeds, usability, and ability to unblock most websites and apps on our test devices.

    ExpressVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection97Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers106
    Servers3,000
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChromeOS
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid

    Excellent for Streaming Geo-Blocked Content

    Thousands of streaming tests confirm ExpressVPN is still the best VPN for streaming, unblocking 95% of the platforms we tested it with.

    Its ability to reliably unblock geo-restricted content in 106 countries, paired with exceptional streaming speeds, is unmatched.

    ExpressVPN’s US servers are great at unblocking the likes of HBO Max, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. They bypass NFL out-of-market restrictions and other US sports blackouts, too.

    These are the ExpressVPN servers we recently tested for unblocking popular content around the world:

    • For American content: USA - New Jersey - 1
    • For Australian content: Australia – Melbourne
    • For British content: UK – Docklands
    • For Canadian content: Canada – Toronto
    • For Japanese content: Japan – Tokyo

    ExpressVPN is also the best VPN for bypassing the Netflix VPN ban, with an astonishing 100% reliability score. Plus, it also unblocks 17 other Netflix regions.

    ExpressVPN working alongside Netflix

    ExpressVPN worked reliably with Netflix in all of our tests.

    On TVs specifically, we enjoyed using the VPN’s simple yet effective Fire TV app, as well as its MediaStreamer (Smart DNS) solution to unblock apps on Smart TV and games consoles.

    Be warned though, every once in a while a server will stop working with a streaming service.

    When this happened to us, we tried a different server in the same country, which often worked.

    Sometimes, we asked the 24/7 live chat support agents for an alternative server. They are formidably quick, and the servers they recommend almost always work.

    A VPN That Puts Security First

    ExpressVPN performed very well in a our security tests, too.

    The VPN routed our data transfers through secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN and Lightway) using AES-256 encryption and diskless (RAM-only) servers, which means the service physically can’t log any activity data.

    In fact, real-world tests – including server seizures and independent audits – have confirmed this fact several times.

    While ExpressVPN doesn’t offer many extra features, like multi-hop servers or GPS spoofing, it offers all the vital settings, especially a working VPN kill switch.

    An Incredibly User-friendly & Versatile VPN

    ExpressVPN is by far the easiest and most widely-compatible VPN we’ve used. It’s as close as you can get to a plug-and-play VPN.

    All the key preferences are preset for you on first load, including Automatic Protocol Selection (for best performance) and the VPN kill switch.

    All the apps, even the dedicated router app, are incredibly well-designed and homogeneous across all platforms.

    Testing ExpressVPN's apps for macOS & iOS

    Using it on your PC is the almost the same as on your mobile, which is ideal for VPN beginners.

    We found all the provider’s software extremely easy to set up, and connecting to a VPN server was almost instant.

    Out of all the VPNs we tested, ExpressVPN was the quickest (within 3 seconds) to connect to server locations, whether nearby or far away.

    Expensive but Worth the High Price

    ExpressVPN isn’t perfect, and its main drawback is its above-average subscription price.

    At its cheapest, the VPN service costs $6.67 per month on a 15-month contract.

    Despite the service being more expensive than many premium rivals, you get your money’s worth given its superior capabilities.

    If you want to try the VPN first, ExpressVPN offers 7- and 30-day free trials, too.

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best Runner-up

    A good alternative to ExpressVPN, with a wide range of advanced security features.

    NordVPN Mobile App ScreenshotVisit NordVPN

    • Very high security standards & encryption technology
    • Extra features like multihop & Threat Protection (ad & malware blocker)
    • Impressive speeds across short & long-distances
    • Cheaper than ExpressVPN on initial subscription
    • Bypasses most streaming geo-restrictions

    • Minor server breach in 2018
    • Servers in fewer countries than its main rivals
    • Doesn't accept PayPal
    • Retains connection timestamps for 15 minutes
    • Renews at a much higher annual subscription price

    Overall Rating: 9.4/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 8.8/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.8/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.5/10
    • 6.7/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 9.7/10

    NordVPN is almost as good as ExpressVPN, although it’s arguably more popular partly due to its greater advertising efforts.

    We’ve ranked it second-best because of its excellent security attributes, speeds, and range of extra features. NordVPN is worth paying attention to, but its usability and unblocking capabilities are marginally inferior than ExpressVPN’s. In fact, ExpressVPN performed better in 70% of our testing categories.

    Despite falling ever so slightly short of top spot, NordVPN is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN on an initial two-year subscription. This can be the deciding factor for more price-sensitive consumers.

    NordVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$3.29/mo over 2 years See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection95Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers111
    Servers6,328
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChromeOS
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid

    Exceptional Security Standards & Features

    What we love about NordVPN is how much it has improved its security standards since a very small server breach in 2018.

    All apps now use NordLynx, a variation of the WireGuard protocol, and traffic is encrypted through the ChaCha20 cipher.

    We analyzed the packets passing through our network using Wireshark, and NordVPN made all our traffic data completely illegible:

    NordVPN with Wireshark on macOS

    We used Wireshark to verify that NordVPN encrypted our internet traffic.

    Alongside the mandatory kill switch (which successfully passed our penetration testing), NordVPN also offers a rare multi-hop (double VPN) feature, which routed our web traffic through two separate VPN servers and encrypting it twice.

    And just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN uses RAM-only (diskless) servers, making it almost impossible for a third-party to extract user data from the server.

    NordVPN doesn’t log any web activity data for that matter. It doesn’t record your IP address, browsing history, or bandwidth used.

    However, it does keep a log of your username and the last connection date for 15 minutes after each session.

    While we trust NordVPN, its logging policy hasn’t been categorically proven through a public court case or law enforcement request.

    Barely Any Speed Loss Around the World

    NordVPN continues to deliver very fast VPN speeds.

    Across same-country connections, speeds only dropped by 5%, which was almost as good as ExpressVPN’s 3% slowdown.

    On international connections, NordVPN roughly matched ExpressVPN, with an average download speed of 86Mbps (on a fixed 100Mbps base connection).

    Connecting to specific locations, NordVPN did beat ExpressVPN for speed. For instance, speeds into its UK VPN servers and Canada VPN locations were superb and easily unblocked local TV services.

    Not as User-friendly as ExpressVPN

    While we rate NordVPN very highly, we felt let down by the VPN’s less user-friendly and intuitive apps.

    The VPN apps for Mac and Windows need particular design improvements, although they are by no means hard to use.

    NordVPN's Windows and macOS apps side-by-side

    NordVPN’s Mac app (bottom) is more user-friendly than its Windows app (top).

    We enjoyed using NordVPN’s mobile apps a lot more, although on Android we found that the kill switch requires irritating configuration.

  3. 3. PIA VPN: Best Value for Your Money

    Very affordable no-logs VPN with impressive privacy & torrenting test results.

    Private Internet AccessVisit PIA VPN

    • Largest network of servers: 18,651 in 91 countries
    • Verified no-logs VPN with torrenting allowed on all servers
    • The cheapest top-rated VPN available
    • The only VPN with servers in 50 US states to easily bypass US blackouts
    • Built-in ad blocker (MACE) blocked 90% of ads & trackers
    • Unlimited device policy

    • Could be confusing for VPN beginners
    • macOS app has usability issues
    • Smart DNS doesn't work with streaming apps
    • Firestick app is less reliable than regular apps
    • Headquartered in the USA (FVEY jurisdiction)

    Overall Rating : 9.3/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.7/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.3/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 8.1/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.2/10

    Private Internet Access (PIA) performed extremely well in many of our tests, and came close to out-ranking NordVPN. If you need an affordable no-logs VPN, then PIA is probably for you.

    You can use any of its 18,651 servers with complete confidence your IP address and browsing activity aren’t monitored or linked back to you — all for just $2.03 per month.

    While PIA’s apps aren’t quite as well-designed as ExpressVPN’s, and it’s less suited for streaming on Smart TVs, it remains an excellent budget VPN that’s worth considering.

    the Private Internet Access iOS app

    Cheapest Price$2.03/mo over 28 months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection95Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Countries with Servers91
    Servers18,651
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five Eyes Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    No-logs VPN Excellent for Torrenting

    There are very few verified no-logs VPNs on the market, but PIA is one of them.

    The provider’s logging policy has been externally verified several times, and the company releases regular transparency reports to support this.

    Thanks to its strict no-logs policy and powerful security, Private Internet Access easily outperformed its rivals for anonymous torrenting.

    Torrenting while connected to a PIA UK server.

    We tested PIA with multiple torrenting clients, including qBittorrent.

    We were even able to torrent on all of PIA’s servers, including US ones. This is refreshing, considering many VPNs often exclude servers from P2P activity for dubious reasons.

    And unlike most VPNs, PIA also comes with port forwarding. This feature is useful to increase the number of peers you ‘talk with,’ which speeds up torrent speeds.

    Using qBittorrent, we downloaded a file at a rate of 9.6MiB/s — a formidable download speed even faster than ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

    VPN Servers in 50 US States

    Not only does PIA run the most servers, it’s also the only VPN covering every single US state.

    PIA Servers on iOS

    Some of PIA’s server locations on its iOS app.

    Offering the largest pool of American IP addresses allows PIA’s American users to easily bypass sports blackouts or access local TV news within the US.

    Usability Needs Improvements

    While PIA’s privacy and torrenting test results are unrivalled, and its subscription price very appealing, its usability needs work.

    Simply put, PIA is not as nicely designed as ExpressVPN, and it’s not the easiest VPN to use. There are too many settings to tinker with for the typical VPN beginner.

    The macOS software in particular was frustrating to use, taking over three seconds to load as a windowed app.

    More usability woes included 75% of US server locations not working with streaming apps on Firestick, and the Smart DNS solution unblocking none.

    On the plus side, PIA’s mobile apps are probably the nicest-looking and easiest to use in its arsenal.

  4. 4. Surfshark: Offers Many Extra Features

    A very secure & affordable VPN with a wide range of additional functions.

    Surfshark appVisit Surfshark

    • Many advanced security features & settings
    • Ability to spoof GPS coordinates on Android devices
    • Audited logging policy, diskless servers & Double VPN
    • Affordable price of $2.29 on a two-year subscription plan
    • Unlimited device connections

    • Kill switch not enabled by default & leaks on macOS
    • No IPv6 leak protection
    • NoBorders mode is disappointing
    • Slower than ExpressVPN & NordVPN

    Overall Rating: 9.2/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 8.7/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 8.6/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 8.5/10

    Surfshark challenges the best VPNs, and for a low monthly price of $2.29 on a two-year plan.

    Despite its affordability, the VPN has outstanding security credentials, an audited no-logs policy, and numerous features such as GPS spoofing, multi-hop servers, and rotating IP addresses.

    We found Surfshark’s apps intuitive to use, too. Choosing from its 100 server locations, changing protocols, and customizing security settings was all straightforward to do.

    But, using Surfshark has its drawbacks. It’s slower on long-distance connections, it sometimes suffers IPv6 leaks, and its kill switch isn’t activated by default, which is an oversight.

    Surfshark VPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$2.29/mo over 26 months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection95Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers100
    Servers3,200
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionNetherlands (EU Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Many Settings for Added Security & Privacy

    Surshark is very secure, offering many of the essential security features we expect from high-quality VPN providers.

    All its applications use ChaCha20 encryption, WireGuard as the default protocol, and include a VPN kill switch.

    Of slight concern is the fact that the kill switch isn’t enabled by default. At least, you can easily turn it on from the settings menu. On macOS, the kill switch leaked our IP address when changing servers.

    On the plus side, the VPN logs almost nothing about its users. Similarly to ExpressVPN, Surfshark’s servers are RAM-only, meaning no data can be extracted from them in the event of a breach or server seizure.

    Additionally, Surfshark has introduced a ‘Rotating IP’ feature. When enabled, the VPN changes your IP address every five to 10 minutes without changing the server location you’re connected to.

    Surfshark VPN Settings on iOS

    The Rotating IP function, which worked smoothly for us, further increases your anonymity and security online without ever revealing your true location.

    Rare Ability to Spoof GPS Data

    What is rare about Surfshark is its ability to spoof your GPS location on Android phones. Windscribe is the only other VPN able to do this.

    The ‘GPS Override’ function prevents Android mobile applications using GPS to detect your real location. It’s very simple to use, and works as intended.

    Surfsharks GPS Override feature

    You can override your GPS location with Surfshark VPN.

    When activated, the integrated function spoofed our GPS coordinates on our Android mobile device to match our VPN server location.

    This helps Surfshark bypass geo-restrictions on apps using GPS to detect your location, like ESPN+. Not even ExpressVPN or NordVPN offer this technology.

    Slow Server Connections and Moderate Speeds

    The issues we faced testing Surfshark revolve around its disappointing server connection times and speeds.

    We often found ourselves waiting several seconds trying to connect to popular servers. Once connected, the speeds weren’t as fast as ExpressVPN’s or NordVPN’s.

    On short-distance connections, our internet speed dropped by 5%. This isn’t bad by any means, but it’s worse than ExpressVPN’s 3%.

  5. 5. PrivateVPN: Good VPN for Beginners

    A user-friendly VPN ideal for VPN newbies just getting started.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobileVisit PrivateVPN

    • Easy-to-use apps suitable for beginners
    • Strong encryption & no-logs policy
    • Fast connections to nearby servers
    • Costs only $2.00/month on a 3-year plan
    • Unblocks 10 Netflix regions
    • Still works in China & other highly-censored countries

    • Small network of 200 servers
    • Slower speeds on long-distance connections
    • No WireGuard protocol or Smart DNS tool
    • 24/7 live support not always available
    • Logging policy lacks important details
    • No RAM-only servers, multi-hop & other advanced features

    Overall Rating : 9.1/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.3/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.8/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 8.3/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 8.5/10
    • 8.3/10

    PrivateVPN is an affordable, no-logs VPN with user-friendly applications that make it easy to secure your connection on free public WiFi.

    This Sweden-based VPN provider is a great choice if you can’t afford one of the very best VPNs — its basic but functional apps will satisfy most beginner or casual users.

    However, if you want a fully-featured VPN with plenty of server locations, advanced settings, and the fastest speeds, PrivateVPN isn’t the best VPN to choose.

    PrivateVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$2.00/mo over 3 years See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection95Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Countries with Servers62
    Servers200
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSweden (14 Eyes Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Advanced WiFi Protection on Insecure Networks

    PrivateVPN’s applications are not only beginner-friendly, they’re also very secure.

    Through a very simple interface, the VPN software encrypts internet connections using the AES-256 cipher and a 2048-bit RSA handshake.

    By combining simplicity with good security, PrivateVPN is ideal for securing free public WiFi in airports, hotels, and coffee shops, where the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks is heightened.

    The lack of advanced features compared to other top VPNs is very evident, though. For example, there’s no option to use multi-hop servers or split tunneling.

    PrivateVPN is also the only VPN in our top 10 list that doesn’t use some form of the WireGuard protocol.

    Easily Beats Streaming Geo-Restrictions

    PrivateVPN is surprisingly good at unblocking websites and applications, despite its limited server park.

    The VPN currently unblocks 10 Netflix regions as well as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu, to name a few.

    Testing PrivateVPN with Netflix on macOS

    At least one PrivateVPN server could stream US Netflix in our tests.

    Compatibility is limited, though. There is no Smart DNS tool so you’ll have to set up PrivateVPN on your router to use it with devices like games consoles, which don’t allow direct VPN app installs.

    Small Server Network & Slower International Speeds

    PrivateVPN’s main drawback is its small network of servers. It only offers 200 servers compared to ExpressVPN’s 3,000.

    This limited server network often causes congestion issues on the network, which is why PrivateVPN’s long-distance connections are often slower than its competitors.

    As an indication, we experienced speed losses of 39% and 24% connecting to South Africa and Australia respectively.

    As a result, you can’t always expect 4K quality when streaming foreign video content.

  6. 6. IPVanish: Excellent VPN for Fire TV Stick

    A secure no-logs VPN well-suited for private streaming on Fire TV devices.

    IPVanish VPNVisit IPVanish

    • Excellent app for Fire TV devices & Kodi
    • Fast short-distance download speeds
    • No-logs policy & first-party DNS servers
    • apk file for side loading on Android boxes
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections

    • Doesn't unblock as many streaming services
    • Apps aren't as well-designed
    • Kill switch not enabled by default & leaks on macOS
    • Kill switch on Fire TV is hosted on separate app
    • No browser extensions, Smart DNS or router app

    Overall Rating: 9.1/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 8.8/10
    • 9.8/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.2/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 6.0/10
    • 8.9/10
    • 9.0/10

    IPVanish’s unique selling point is its VPN app for Fire TV Stick. It’s fast and doesn’t keep streaming logs.

    By virtue of its robust security and no-logs privacy policy, IPVanish is also particularly suitable for anonymous streaming using Kodi and IPTV apps.

    IPVanish would rank higher on our list if it wasn’t for two key shortcomings: its unblocking deficiencies and underwhelming ease-of-use.

    IPVanish's VPN app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$2.19/mo over 27 months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection95Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Countries with Servers53
    Servers2,200
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five Eyes Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChromeOS
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid

    A Great Fire TV Application

    IPVanish remains our highest-rated VPN for the very popular Amazon Fire TV Stick, and other Fire TV devices.

    The app is very simple to use, and it records fast speeds connecting to nearby VPN servers. In recent tests, we only registered a 5% loss in our download speeds.

    IPVanish Fire TV Stick App

    The IPVanish homescreen on Amazon Fire TV Stick.

    We found that the VPN works well with Kodi and IPTV apps.

    The main downside of using IPVanish is that it can only unblock 4 Netflix regions, and it doesn’t work with HBO Max.

    Zero-Logs Servers & 40,000 IP Addresses

    While IPVanish struggles to unblock streaming apps, we trust it a lot more for keeping internet data transfers private.

    All 2,200 physical servers, entirely owned by IPVanish, are completely no-logs. They don’t monitor or store any of your internet activity.

    What’s more, you’ll get access to over 40,000 anonymous IP addresses – a staggering number very rare among VPN companies.

    In our security tests, we’ve never suffered an IP or DNS address leak using IPVanish, unless we were switching servers on the Mac app. The company needs to fix this small yet important issue.

    Additionally, IPVanish needs to rectify the fact that the VPN kill switch isn’t enabled by default.

    Device Compatibility Is an Issue

    IPVanish’s Fire TV software works great but in general the service’s apps, especially those for desktop computers, suffer from an out-dated design.

    Despite a redesign in 2023, the Windows and macOS apps still don’t look as pleasant and user-friendly as ExpressVPN’s.

    There’s a lot of clutter on the homescreens such as a very prominent data waveform, which isn’t particularly useful and takes up a lot of space.

    IPVanish's PC and macOS app side-by-side

    IPVanish’s macOS app (bottom) now uses the same design as Windows.

    More frustrating is the fact there are no web browser extensions, Smart DNS, or a router app. The latter two omissions complicate unblocking content on Roku and games consoles considerably.

    Not all is bad, though. We love that IPVanish was one of the first VPNs to release a rare app for Apple TV.

    There’s also an apk file you can use to side load IPVanish on Android devices with no access to Google Play Store (e.g. Android boxes).

  7. 7. CyberGhost: Best VPN Free Trial

    Offers the best VPN free trial with no registration required.

    CyberGhost appVisit CyberGhost

    • 24-hour, three-day & seven-day free trials
    • Trials don't require payment or credit card details
    • Has the most effective Smart DNS tool
    • Neatly-designed apps for popular devices
    • Dedicated IPs available in various countries
    • Rare 45-day money-back guarantee

    • Not as fast as its rivals over long distances
    • Browser extensions only cover four countries
    • Mobile & macOS apps lack important settings
    • BBC iPlayer & HBO Max servers are unreliable

    Overall Rating: 9.1/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 8.6/10
    • 8.5/10
    • 9.5/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 8.6/10
    • 9.5/10
    • 8.0/10
    • 9.9/10
    • 9.5/10

    CyberGhost offers an excellent VPN free trial, allowing you to try a quality paid VPN without submitting any payment details.

    In general, CyberGhost is a very good all-round VPN that does the basics very well. It’s very easy to use and has been designed with user experience in mind.

    The VPN has improved significantly in terms of access to geo-blocked services, and its Smart DNS tool is particularly good since it’s the only one to unblock apps in countries like the Netherlands and Japan.

    Areas for improvement remain, though. In particular, we’ve found CyberGhost’s speeds to be inconsistent and on the slower side connecting internationally, compared to other top VPNs.

    Cyberghost's VPN app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$2.19/mo over 26 months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection94Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers100
    Servers12,000
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionRomania (EU Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Genuine Free Trials with No Payment Details Needed

    CyberGhost is the only top VPN to offer VPN free trials that don’t require upfront submission of payment details.

    There are two free trials available: a 24-hour free trial on desktops and laptops, a seven-day free trial on iPhone/iPad, and a three-day trial on Android devices.

    You can even combine these free trial periods with the VPN’s 45-day refund guarantee to use CyberGhost for free for over 50 days.

    Much Improved for Streaming

    CyberGhost’s dedicated streaming servers are a lot more successful at unblocking streaming platforms than in the past.

    CyberGhost’s past inconsistencies are now gone and it now unblocks all streaming services we tested it with, including 10 Netflix regions, Disney+, Prime Video, and Hulu.

    CyberGhost on macOS Streaming Vidio

    The service’s Smart DNS tool is what really stood out in our tests, though.

    In our experience, it’s the most effective DNS tool offered by a VPN, unblocking content in Germany, Japan, Netherlands, UK and US.

    The tool even has specific configurations for Hulu as well as the American and British Netflix libraries.

    Dedicated IPs that Don't Compromise Your Privacy

    CyberGhost’s features aren’t quite as plentiful as PIA’s or NordVPN’s, but they are sufficient for the average VPN user.

    CyberGhost's Windows and macOS apps side by side

    CyberGhost’s apps for Windows (top) and macOS (bottom) are virtually identical.

    The most notable feature is the VPN’s dedicated IP offering. These single-user static IPs are available in Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US, but the cost extra.

    These IPs allow you to use the same anonymous IP address every time. Thanks to a token-based system, the IP isn’t linked to your account to preserve your internet privacy.

    Underwhelming International Speeds

    One of CyberGhost’s main drawbacks is its speed inconsistencies, especially connecting to far-away servers.

    CyberGhost Speed Test on macOS

    We tested CyberGhost’s VPN speeds on our own dedicated server.

    CyberGhost’s international download speed of 81Mbps trails ExpressVPN’s 85Mbps and NordVPN’s 86Mbps by some margin.

    International slowdowns have been happening for a few years now, but we haven’t seen much improvement on this front, sadly.

  8. 8. Hide.me: Good for Beating Web Censorship

    An exceptionally fast VPN that works in high-censorship regions.

    Hide.me mobile screenshotsVisit Hide.me

    • Works well in countries like China & Russia
    • Huge improvement in speed & unblocking performance
    • Rare full IPv6 connection support
    • Dedicated & effective streaming servers
    • Port forwarding setting for torrenters
    • 10 simultaneous connections

    • Ugly & outdated apps
    • Lacks user-friendliness of its rivals
    • Windows software is overly-complex
    • Kill switch isn't automatically active
    • No Smart DNS solution

    Overall Rating: 9.0/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 8.9/10
    • 9.8/10
    • 9.2/10
    • 9.4/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 7.5/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 8.1/10

    Hide.me VPN has made huge strides to become a really good VPN — as long as you can get over its ugly and outdated-looking apps.

    What stands out with Hide.me is the software’s ability to run smoothly on both IPv4 and IPv6 connections. This is a rare feature, with most other VPNs either blocking IPv6 connections, or leaking your IPv6 location.

    Hide.me is also exceptionally fast, and it even bypasses internet restrictions inside China, Russia, and other highly-censored countries.

    Hide Me VPN on iOS

    Cheapest Price$3.45/mo over 26 months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection96Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers55
    Servers1,800
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionMalaysia (Privacy Haven)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Incredibly Fast & Reliable Global Speeds

    Hide.me isn’t the fastest VPN we’ve tested, but it’s tied with IPVanish as the fastest VPN in our top 10 VPN recommendations.

    Wherever you are in the world, Hide.me delivers VPN connections fast enough for you to not even notice you’re using a VPN.

    We were especially impressed with the VPN’s upload speeds, which resulted in lag-free video calling and improved P2P file sharing in our tests.

    Its download speeds on close connections are also fantastic, losing just 4% connecting to the closest VPN server.

    As a result, Hide.me is a good choice if you want VPN protection without having to frequently configure it. You can simply connect once and leave your VPN running 24/7 without any noticeable downsides.

    Effective at Beating Strict Censorship

    In the past 12 months of testing, Hide.me’s premium version has been able to unblock international websites from China 84% of the time.

    The VPN’s obfuscation and multi-hop tools now work to bypass strict web censorship, but you have request custom multi-hop servers from customer support.

    Hide.me Bypassing Censorship

    We used Hide.me’s multihop feature to bypass the Great Firewall in our tests.

    If you connect to standard VPN servers then the VPN won’t bypass aggressive internet filters.

    Usability Remains an Issue

    In terms of basic functionality, Hide.me is a good VPN. Having tested Hide.me for years, we particularly appreciate how much it has improved in recent years.

    In the past, Hide.me’s apps suffered from regular crashes and abrupt disconnections, but they now offer a reliable experience.

    They’re still not the best-looking apps, though, and they’re not as easy to use as we’d like them to be.

    The Windows client in particular is overly-complex, with unnecessary protocols (SSTP) and adapter configuration options.

  9. 9. Proton VPN: Best Free VPN

    The best free VPN with an unlimited data usage allowance.

    Screenshot of Proton VPN's mobile appVisit Proton VPN

    • Free plan has no data usage limits
    • Verified privacy-first logging policy
    • Impressive speeds on free servers
    • All apps are open-source & independently audited
    • IPv6 leak blocking capabilities
    • Secure Core technology provides stronger encryption

    • No 24/7 live chat support
    • Free version doesn't unblock streaming services
    • Torrenting traffic blocked on free servers
    • Paid VPN speeds have slowed down recently
    • No Smart DNS for unblocking apps

    Overall Rating : 9.0/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.5/10
    • 8.6/10
    • 9.0/10
    • 9.5/10
    • 9.2/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 6.5/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 8.6/10

    Proton VPN is a well-rounded service, with both a free and paid version. The free software is the best free VPN we’ve reviewed, while the paid version is particularly good for security.

    Both versions of Proton VPN have been independently-audited, are enjoyable to use, and are proven to not store session logs.

    While the paid product is expensive, the free version offers outstanding value: it’s 100% safe to use, extremely fast, and with no data restrictions. It doesn’t work with Netflix or torrenting, though.

    Proton VPN Free on iOS

    Cheapest Price$4.99/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection87Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Countries with Servers91
    Servers4,874
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSwitzerland (Privacy Haven)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Our Most Highly-Rated Free VPN

    The free version of Proton VPN is the best free VPN we’ve tested. Thanks to its unlimited bandwidth policy, you can leave it running all the time.

    In our latest tests we recorded impressive speeds connecting to all 3 free server locations. With just 8% average speed loss it even beats some paid VPNs.

    Proton VPN Free's Server Locations

    Proton VPN Free only offers three server locations.

    However, we found 3 free server locations rather limiting, compared to 91 using the paid plan.

    The free servers also block you from torrenting and unblocking streaming websites, as confirmed by our tests. For these activities, Windscribe Free is a much better choice.

    Exemplary Encryption & Security Settings

    Proton VPN is synonymous with highly-secure and encrypted VPN connections.

    You have the choice of using either OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols (hence AES-256 or ChaCha20 encryption), and it enforces Forward Secrecy (FS).

    The VPN’s paid plan also includes Secure Core technology. Used on 40 of its servers, it further enhances security by tunneling traffic through servers in its own data center.

    None of these security credentials impact Proton VPN’s usability, either. We found that the VPN’s apps look great on every platform, and even its most advanced features feel easy to use.

    Proton VPN Secure Core Servers on iOS

    Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers in the iOS app.

    Speeds Have Slowed Down

    Though it’s still fast, the paid version of Proton VPN has fallen behind its main rivals in our latest speed tests.

    Even using WireGuard, its local download speeds are consistently slower than ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA, IPVanish, and several other providers.

    We’ve noticed speed deceleration connecting to both nearby and distant VPN servers. It’s unclear what’s caused this downtrend, but it’s affecting the VPN’s performance.

    While Proton VPN is a very good VPN in general, it sadly doesn’t represent as good value for your money as the other paid VPNs ranked higher.

  10. 10. Windscribe: Unblocks the Most Netflix Regions

    A very dependable VPN that unblocks 32 Netflix libraries.

    The Windscribe VPN app running on two mobiles; one displaying connection options, the other connected to a New York server.Visit Windscribe

    • Windscribe Pro works with 32 Netflix regions
    • Doesn't collect personal internet traffic logs
    • Extra features include multi-hop servers & diskless servers
    • Desktop apps are open-source
    • Bypasses content filters in China
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections

    • Slow long-distance speeds & server connection times
    • No independent no-logs audit
    • No human live chat support
    • Smart DNS requires an additional subscription
    • Fewer server locations than competitors

    Overall Rating : 9.0/10

    To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.3/10
    • 9.3/10
    • 8.1/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 8.5/10
    • 8.9/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 8.9/10
    • 8.0/10

    Like Proton VPN, Windscribe comes in two versions: free and paid (known as Windscribe Pro). Windscribe Pro’s stand-out attribute is its ability to bypass streaming geo-blocks and aggressive web filters — almost without fail.

    For a free VPN, Windscribe Free is great at unblocking, too. It works with many popular content platforms, and it bypasses internet filters in China.

    Sadly, slow international speeds, poor server connection times, and inconsistent customer support let this otherwise great VPN down.

    Windscribe VPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$5.75/mo over 12 Months See all plans
    Download SpeediDownload SpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection96Mbps
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Countries with Servers69
    Servers120+
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionCanada (Five Eyes Member)
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosmacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Unblocks 32 Netflix Libraries

    What sets Windscribe apart is how easily the VPN beats Netflix geo-restrictions around the world.

    Our tests confirm that Windscribe unblocks 32 Netflix regions, including:

    • Australia
    • Brazil
    • Germany
    • India
    • Italy
    • Mexico
    • Netherlands
    • South Korea
    • Thailand
    • Turkey
    • UK
    • US
    Windscribe with Netflix on macOS

    We unblocked 32 Netflix libraries using Windscribe.

    The VPN also works with BBC iPlayer and popular platforms like HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.

    While the free VPN no longer unblocks US Netflix, it still works with 6 other Netflix regions, HBO Max, Hulu, and more — a huge achievement for a free software product.

    Keep in mind that Windscribe Free is limited by a 10GB monthly data cap, which equates to roughly four hours of HD streaming.

    Slow International Speeds & Connection Times

    Windscribe’s great streaming capabilities are sadly hindered by its disappointing international speeds, which are much slower than ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

    For instance, we measured losses of up to 20% and 16% when connecting to South Africa and Australia.

    These slower speeds visibly affect the quality of the picture. We experienced a blurry broadcast several times in our recent tests.

    Furthermore, connecting to certain Windscribe servers took many seconds at best, but many minutes at worst. Sometimes we couldn’t even connect at all.

    Because of the lack of 24/7 live chat support, when we couldn’t connect to a server, we had to wait over 24 hours for a support agent to help fix issue.

    To put that into perspective, with providers like ExpressVPN and PIA, our issues are typically resolved in under 10 minutes.

    Residential IPs Available in the US & Canada

    Windscribe is also one of the rare VPNs to offer American (Chicago, Dallas) and Canadian (Toronto) residential IPs. The US IP addresses are provided by AT&T.

    Residential IP addresses make your VPN connection appear as a typical household/cellular one, so they’re far less likely to be detected and blocked by streaming services.

    Since these IP addresses are static and never change, they’re ideal if you need to keep using the same IP address. They do cost an extra $8.00 per month, though.

    Remember, these IPs are allocated to a handful of users (not just you), so you won’t be as private as using the dynamic IP addresses (shared by many customers) of the standard servers.

VPNs by Purpose & Device

We rate our recommended VPN services extremely highly, but the truth is there is no definitive ‘best VPN’. The right VPN depends on your specific needs and requirements.

Follow the links below to see our recommendations by purpose, device or country.

Performance Data Comparison

We summarized how our most highly-rated VPNs performed in key test categories in the table below:

The ratings show you how good or badly a VPN performed overall, and in the nine specific areas we assess them on.

You can also see a quick summary of our findings in the chart below:

Bar chart showing a comparison of the best vpns and how they scored in various testing categories

How the five top-rated VPNs performed in our nine testing categories.

If you want to buy a VPN, the right one is very likely in this list. However, there is no perfect VPN. The table below summarizes the best and worst parts of each VPN:

VPN Speed Test Results

We’ve published below the speed test results of the top 10 VPN providers. You can compare each VPN’s average download speeds, average speed loss, and average ping times.

For consistency and fairer comparison between VPNs, we capped our dedicated internet test connection at 100Mbps.

Remember, your VPN speeds will depend on the quality and type of your internet connection.

Cost Analysis: Does Price Affect Performance?

It’s not always easy to understand how a VPN’s subscription price corresponds to its quality.

In the chart below, we’ve compared the cheapest monthly price of each top-rated VPN against its overall rating.

The VPNs towards the top-left of the chart provide the worst value, whilst those towards the bottom-right offer the best value.

A scatter plot showing the cheapest monthly price and overall rating of various VPNs. These include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA VPN, Surfshark VPN, PrivateVPN, IPVanish, CyberGhost, Hide.me, Proton VPN and Windscribe. NordVPN offers the best value (3.29 dollars) for money as well a high overall rating of 9.4 out of 10. ExpressVPN has the highest overall rating at 9.6, however it comes at a monthly cost of 6.67 dollars

As the chart illustrates, there is a strong correlation between price and performance, particularly among the top five VPNs. The more expensive the VPN, the better it performs overall.

Popular VPNs That Didn't Make the Cut

Of the 65 VPNs we’ve reviewed, many popular ones didn’t make our recommendations list for various reasons.

Many of the excluded services had their own strengths in our tests, but they struggled to compete with the best VPN software in relation to speed, server coverage, or unblocking capabilities.

Below are some of the most popular VPNs that fell short of appearing on our top 10 list:

Atlas VPN

Atlas VPN's security features menu

The free version of Atlas VPN is excellent, and its paid apps fall only just short of our top 10 recommendations. However, it fails to match the best VPNs when it comes to additional features like Smart DNS, split tunneling, and browser extensions.

Astrill VPN

Testing Astrill VPN with HBO Max

Astrill is an exceptional VPN for bypassing censorship in regions like China, but it’s just not good enough for other use-cases. In our testing, it performed poorly for streaming and it’s super expensive.

Mullvad VPN

Testing Mullvad VPN with BBC iPlayer

Mullvad VPN is very secure, but it’s not able to bypass geo-restrictions. It doesn’t unblock most streaming platforms, and it doesn’t work in high-censorship countries.

Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield's logging policy

Hotspot Shield logs too much information. This includes your IP address, approximate geolocation, connection timestamps, bandwidth used, device information, and non-personal logs of the websites you visit.

HideMyAss

Testing HideMyAss' VPN kill switch

We have privacy concerns surrounding HideMyAss VPN. It currently has a broken kill switch, it had an invasive logging policy not long ago, and it has handed over user data to law enforcement in the past.

IVPN

IVPN's server menu

IVPN has a small server network with few available IP addresses. While its speeds have improved recently, it’s still mostly incapable of unblocking streaming services.

TunnelBear

TunnelBear VPN's server menu

TunnelBear has a very limited server network and it can’t beat most geo-restrictions. This means it doesn’t work well for streaming or for use in high-censorship countries.

PureVPN

Testing PureVPN with US Netflix

PureVPN can’t unblock US Netflix, it can’t bypass strict web blocks, and its logging policy isn’t privacy-focused enough.

Avast Secureline

Avast Secureline's logging policy

Avast VPN offers basic security, is poor at bypassing geo-restrictions, and it logs too much sensitive data. Put simply, it does not perform well compared to the top VPN services.

Norton Secure VPN

Torrenting with Norton VPN

Norton VPN doesn’t unblock websites, and it only allows torrenting on its server locations in the Netherlands.

Risky VPNs You Must Avoid

During the course of our testing, we discovered many risky VPNs that we firmly recommend you avoid using.

These VPNs don’t just fall short of our strict approval criteria, they’re downright invasive, ineffective, and in some cases actively dangerous to use.

Below are some of the worst VPNs we’ve tested and why you must avoid using them:

VPN Buying Advice: How to Choose a VPN

You must do your own research before deciding which VPN service provider is right for you.

Spend time reading up-to-date reviews, analyses, and advice from trustworthy and independent VPN experts before subscribing to a VPN service.

It’s very important that you trust the publication(s) giving you advice. Some websites don’t properly test VPNs and sometimes even recommend mediocre products. Others are owned by VPN providers and will mostly recommend their own products.

When it comes to the actual VPN software, we’ve outlined below important features and attributes for you to consider prior to purchase.

Features to Consider When Choosing a VPN

Here’s a detailed list of the features and factors to look for when choosing a VPN:

Here’s a list of important features to look out for when choosing a VPN:

Security

If you want a VPN to protect your internet traffic at home, on public WiFi, and on cellular networks, look for the following features:

  • Secure connection protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard, and AES-256 encryption.
  • A VPN kill switch to protect your real IP address in the event the VPN connection drops.
  • Specialized servers that allow multi-hop, obfuscation, and even Tor over VPN.
  • Leak protection for your IP address, DNS requests, WebRTC, and IPv6 traffic (since most VPNs don’t work on IPv6 connections).

Privacy

To anonymize your browsing activity with a VPN, look for these key attributes:

  • A no-logs privacy policy to prevent your internet activity being linked back to you.
  • Company headquarters in a country with no data retention laws (i.e. a privacy-friendly jurisdiction).
  • ‘RAM-only’ servers that never write data to hard disks.
  • Independent audits of the VPN’s logging and security practices, or a real-world case that verifies the VPN’s claims.

Streaming Capabilities

If you want to use a VPN to access geo-restricted streaming services, here are the features to look out for:

  • Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
  • Fast international speeds, especially into popular server locations like the US and UK.
  • Smart DNS, Fire TV, and Android TV apps, to unblock content on different streaming devices.
  • 24/7 live chat customer support to find working streaming servers more quickly.
  • A large network of VPN servers in a diverse range of global locations.

Speed

If you want a VPN with the fastest outright speed, here are the more important factors to consider:

  • Uses WireGuard or a proprietary VPN protocol optimized for speed.
  • Offers VPN servers with high bandwidth, such as 20Gbps, for optimum speed performance.
  • Operates a large server network with minimal congestion, so you can always connect to a nearby server for the quickest speeds.

Device Compatibility

If you own several computers and devices, consider the following compatibility criteria:

  • Native apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices.
  • Native app for Fire TV devices, and the option to set the VPN up on routers.
  • Smart DNS technology to use the VPN’s DNS credentials on Smart TV, PlayStation, and Xbox.
  • Chrome and Firefox VPN extensions for controlling the VPN at browser-level, and to use on Chromebooks.
  • Router compatibility for VPN use with Chromecast, Roku, and any other devices on your WiFi network.
  • Android APK file to sideload (install) the VPN on Android devices that don’t support native VPN applications.

Advanced Features

If you’re an advanced VPN user, here are some other important features to get the most from your VPN:

  • A high simultaneous connection limit, so you can use the VPN with every device you own on a single subscription.
  • Split tunneling, so you can configure certain devices or applications to travel outside the encrypted VPN tunnel.
  • An ad blocker to prevent adverts and trackers when you’re online.
  • Multi-hop servers, dedicated or residential IP addresses, port forwarding, GPS spoofing, Tor over VPN, or other additional features.

Price

The cost of a VPN varies according to its quality and the subscription length.

On average, the month-to-month price of a good VPN is $11.77, but subscribing to a yearly or a multi-year subscription reduces the monthly cost to $4.11 per month on average.

How We Test VPN Services

To choose the best VPNs our VPN experts put 65 services through our comprehensive and unbiased VPN review process.

We conduct all our tests in a consistent environment to minimize external influences and ensure that our recommendations are both fair and directly comparable.

Each VPN is tested on various devices and platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

We are independently-owned and entirely separate from any VPN service. To ensure complete impartiality, we purchase our own subscriptions to every VPN we test.

Our nine testing categories, each with its own weighting towards a VPN’s overall rating:

  1. Privacy & Logging Policy (20%)
  2. Speed (20%)
  3. Security & Technical Features (15%)
  4. Streaming (15%)
  5. Ease of Use (10%)
  6. Server Locations (5%)
  7. Torrenting (5%)
  8. Bypassing Censorship (5%)
  9. Customer Support (5%)

We assign every VPN a rating in each of these testing categories, which are then combined to produce an overall rating for each VPN.

Our list of VPN recommendations is continually updated as we test VPNs using this methodology. By following our process and using our data, you can reproduce our findings for yourself.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of the attributes we test each VPN for:

1. Privacy & Logging Policy

A VPN’s logging policy indicates the amount of data it monitors and stores about your online activity.

If a VPN logs excessive data, like your browsing history or IP address, this information could be accessed by a hacker or law enforcement.

To evaluate this, we study every VPN’s privacy policy in-depth to understand its data handling practices.

We also research its ownership, history, and any privacy-enhancing features, like diskless VPN servers.

Screenshot of CyberGhost Privacy Policy

We examine the VPN’s privacy policy and assess its approach to data retention.

Given its importance in protecting user privacy, a VPN’s logging policy takes up 20% of our overall rating. We further break down the rating into subcategories, to give us a more comprehensive view of the VPN’s performance.

Our privacy and logging policy rating is calculated by the following subcategories:

  • Data Logged: 60%
  • History: 20%
  • Jurisdiction: 10%
  • Trustworthiness: 5%
  • Privacy-enhancing Features: 5%

To ensure consistency and minimize bias, multiple testers review each VPN’s privacy policy to reach an agreed final rating.

2. Speed

Speed is a measurement of how fast a VPN can retrieve and transmit data to the internet. The primary benefit of a faster VPN is that you can access web pages quicker and stream geo-blocked videos in higher quality.

To measure each VPN’s speed, we conduct extensive speed tests by connecting to servers in five continents in a controlled testing environment.

To remove the possibility of inconsistencies, we manually conduct each test on our proprietary internet speed testing tool. No third-party software is used.

We use WireGuard, or the VPN’s fastest equivalent protocol, and perform these tests three times a week. We then calculate the VPN’s average speed, which reduces the impact of any anomalous results.

Our speed rating is calculated by the following subcategories:

  • Download Speed: 80%
  • Upload Speed: 10%
  • Ping: 10%

We input the VPN’s raw speed results into our custom-built calculator, which automatically produces a rating out of 10.

NordVPN speed test results.

We manually test every VPN’s connection performance using our proprietary speed test tool.

3. Security & Technical Features

Security measures the strength of the encrypted VPN tunnel while connected to a server. A secure VPN protects your data from potential threats, like hackers, that might attempt to intercept or steal it.

To measure a VPN’s performance in this category, we use a range of tests to evaluate the VPN’s technical features. Here’s a quick table of common technical features and how we evaluate them:

Technical Feature Evaluation Method
Encryption Analyzing web packets using Wireshark
Perfect Forward Secrecy Check VPN logs for evidence of Perfect Forward Secrecy
Kill Switch Detect any IP address leaks using our in-house kill switch testing tool
DNS Leaks Detect any IP address leaks using our in-house leak testing tool
Analyzing ExpressVPN's browser extension encryption using packet-sniffing software

We use packet-sniffing software to evaluate the strength of the VPN tunnel.

To score highly in this category, a VPN must offer many advanced technical features and pass stress tests proving their effectiveness.

While additional features are important, a VPN’s ability to adequately protect your data transfers is more important than the sheer number of features it has.

For this reason, a VPN that does the basics of securely encrypting web traffic using WireGuard or OpenVPN and the AES-256 cipher — even if it does not have advanced features — will score higher than a VPN with many features that don’t work effectively.

4. Streaming

Streaming is an evaluation of how well a VPN can access geo-blocked streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.

To measure this, we spend dozens of hours each week testing every VPN by connecting to a VPN server and seeing whether we can access 20 different international streaming services.

Surfshark Netflix Tests

We test all 65 VPNs with 97 different streaming services.

We’ve developed a system to rate each VPN’s ability to unblock streaming services:

  • 0.1: Doesn’t work with any streaming service
  • Up to 4.0: Works with US Netflix or BBC iPlayer
  • Up to 7.0: Works with both US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Up to 9.0: Works with multiple streaming services, such as Hulu, HBO Max, and Prime Video
  • Above 9.0: Works with all tested services
  • 9.9: Consistently works with every service

5. Ease of Use

Ease of use refers to how intuitive the VPN’s software is and how easily a typical user can interact with it and configure its settings. The easier it is to use, the higher the VPN will score.

Our experts evaluate this category based on our experience with the product during testing, and how it relates to the other 64 VPNs we’ve tested.

ExpressVPN vs PIA Server Menus

We calculate a VPN’s ease of use rating by comparing the experience with every other VPN.

This assessment takes into consideration the VPN’s download and setup process, with higher ratings awarded to VPNs with a clear download link and a useful onboarding screen.

After installation, we give more points to VPNs with features that make it easier and more convenient to use. These include an automatic server selection feature, clearly labeled buttons, and a consistent interface across devices.

We also factor in how pleasant the VPN feels to use in everyday situations, rewarding those with a minimalist and well-designed app, while penalizing those that suffer from CAPTCHAs and connection drops.

6. Server Locations

The server locations category refers to the diversity of IP address locations you can get by using the VPN. A wider range of locations allows you to bypass more geo-restrictions and achieve better speeds.

To evaluate a VPN in this category, we analyze the number and spread of server locations listed on its website. We then verify this information by testing the available geographic locations in the VPN’s software.

VPN services with a larger server network and a global distribution of servers receive higher ratings in our recommendations.

PrivadoVPN Server List

We examine the VPN’s server list on its website and within its software.

We’ve developed a scoring system to quantitatively rate each VPN’s server network:

  • 0.1: Single fixed server location
  • Up to 1.5: Single dynamic server location
  • Up to 4.0: Up to 6 country locations
  • Up to 6.0: Up to 12 country locations
  • Up to 7.0: Up to 20 country locations
  • Up to 8.0: Up to 40 country locations
  • Up to 9.0: More than 40 countries, up to twenty city-level locations, up to 1,000 total servers
  • Above 9.0: More than 40 countries, more city-level locations, more than 1,000 total servers

7. Torrenting

A VPN excels at torrenting when it offers both anonymity and fast P2P speeds. This ensures it will hide your torrenting activity from ISPs while delivering quick downloads.

Using Windscribe to hide our tormenting activity

Each VPN is put through a standardized torrenting test.

We evaluate a VPN’s torrenting performance using a controlled test. This involves downloading a self-hosted 1GB torrent file from a private torrent tracker while connected to a local VPN server.

Our torrenting subcategories are as follows:

  • P2P Speed: 30%
  • Encryption & Security: 20%
  • Logging Policy: 20%
  • P2P Servers: 20%
  • Additional Torrenting Features: 10%

8. Bypassing Web Censorship

Bypassing censorship evaluates how well a VPN can circumvent web restrictions to access blocked websites, like Twitter in Russia and China.

To gather these results, we test each VPN using a server in China. We record the success rate of each VPN over the past three and 12 months, with each VPN tested weekly.

This gives us an accurate reflection of how reliably the VPN works to unblock websites in China and other high-censorship countries.

China tests with Psiphon proxy.

We test if a VPN can bypass the Great Firewall from within China.

Here are our bypassing censorship subcategories:

  • Success Rate in China: 80%
  • Nearby Servers to China: 10%
  • Obfuscation Technology: 10%

9. Customer Support

As VPNs are advanced and technical pieces of software, it’s important that your VPN provider can provide prompt and effective assistance if you need it.

To evaluate the quality of a VPN’s customer support, we contact their support team via all available channels and fact-check their recommendations.

Our customer support rating is an objective measure of how well a VPN’s support team can address and resolve issues, taking into account both accuracy and response time.

NordVPN customer service

We contact every VPN’s customer support department to assess its usefulness.

We rate each VPN’s customer support offering based on the availability of support and the quality of assistance:

  • 0.1 – 0.9: Doesn’t offer any support options.
  • 1.0 – 5.0: Support is available through a single channel, such as online resources, email, or telephone.
  • 5.1 – 8.5: Provides a combination of two support channels, such as online resources and email, or online resources and telephone.
  • 8.6 – 9.5: Offers live chat as well as a combination of two support channels, such as online resources, email, and telephone.
  • 9.6 – 9.9: Offers excellent support through online resources, email, and 24-hour live chat, with consistently knowledgeable and accurate agents.

FAQs

Are VPNs Legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

However, VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea and Turkmenistan. There are also government restrictions on VPN usage in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE — although they’re not banned completely.

Are VPNs Safe?

VPN software itself is completely safe to use. In fact, VPNs are actually designed to make using the internet even safer.

The problem is not all VPNs are trustworthy. When you connect to a VPN server, the responsibility for your data shifts from your ISP to the VPN company.

You’re trusting that the company’s claims about its logging policy are honest, and that the VPN itself truly encrypts your data and hides your IP address without leaks.

That’s why it’s so important to carefully research which VPN to choose, and to prioritize services with verified strong security measures and private logging policies.

Many free VPNs, for example, put users at greater risk than using no VPN at all. Some popular free services sell user data to third parties, leak your true IP address, and even make you vulnerable to malware.

Finally, even if you’re using a safe VPN, it’s your responsibility to ensure your activity doesn’t break laws or regulations in your jurisdiction.

Is It Worth Paying for a VPN?

Free VPNs come in a wide spectrum of quality, just like all VPN software. Some free VPNs are perfectly safe and capable of encrypting your data and hiding your IP address. However, even the best free VPNs are limited by data caps, slower speeds, torrenting restrictions, and inferior streaming capabilities.

It costs money to support a server network, maintain strong security, and constantly refresh IP addresses. Due to the extensive resources required, it simply isn’t possible to match premium VPN services completely for free.

While you can get some of the benefits of VPN software with a free service, it’s absolutely worth paying for a VPN subscription if you plan to use a VPN for streaming, torrenting, or handling sensitive data.

The top VPN services will cost you the equivalent of a few dollars every month, but it’s a small price to pay for improved privacy, security, and freedom online. They’ll also allow you to unlock a huge amount of value from your existing subscriptions, especially to streaming services.

What Are the Limitations of VPNs?

VPN services are great for improving your online security, privacy, and freedom. But even the best VPNs come with limitations.

Using a VPN doesn’t guarantee your online privacy, for example. By routing your traffic through a remote server, you move the burden of trust from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to your VPN service provider.

Below are some things that VPN software 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. Some VPNs now offer password managers, but we suggest using established ones like 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, 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.

How Do I Set Up and Use a VPN?

The process of setting up a VPN depends on the device you’re using it with.

To set up a VPN on a computer or smartphone, simply sign up to the VPN service on its website and use the download link to install the software on your device. Then, sign in to the application with your account details and you can begin to use the VPN.

To use a VPN on Fire TV devices, subscribe to a VPN with a Fire OS application and then search the Amazon App Store for the app. Install the app on your device, sign in with your account details, and then launch the application to start using it.

To use a VPN on devices like Apple TV and games consoles, you’ll need to subscribe to a VPN service with Smart DNS functionality. Once you’ve done so, use the DNS credentials provided by the VPN and then update your device’s DNS settings accordingly to start unblocking content.