To choose the best VPN services, our VPN experts put 65 popular VPNs through our comprehensive and unbiased VPN testing 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.
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.
We also research its ownership, history, and any privacy-enhancing features, like diskless VPN servers.
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%
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.
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:
||Analyzing web packets using Wireshark
|Perfect Forward Secrecy
||Check VPN logs for evidence of Perfect Forward Secrecy
||Detect any IP address leaks using our in-house kill switch testing tool
||Detect any IP address leaks using our in-house leak testing tool
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.