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The Best VPN Services of 2022

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Simon Migliano
32 Comments

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.

The best VPN services hide your IP address, bypass internet geo-blocks at high speed, and encrypt your internet traffic on free public WiFi.

Since 2016, our VPN experts have reviewed 56 VPN services to help you choose the best VPN for your internet security, privacy, and freedom.

What Is the Best VPN in 2022?

Based on our latest tests, the 10 best VPN services are:

  1. ExpressVPN – Best VPN for Streaming & Gaming
  2. NordVPN – Fastest VPN
  3. PIA VPN – Best VPN for Privacy
  4. Surfshark VPN – Best Cheap VPN
  5. IPVanish VPN – Best VPN for Firestick
  6. CyberGhost VPN – Best VPN Free Trial
  7. PrivateVPN – Best VPN for Public WiFi
  8. Proton VPN – Best VPN for Security
  9. Windscribe VPN – Best Free VPN
  10. Astrill VPN – Best VPN for China

ExpressVPN is the best all-round VPN in December 2022. It’s fast, highly secure, and it outperforms all other VPN services in most testing categories. ExpressVPN is our top choice for unblocking websites, gaming, and general use – although it’s more expensive than its rivals.

Comparison of the 10 Best VPN Services

The table below compares the 10 best VPN services we’ve reviewed based on logging policy, speed, US Netflix access, torrenting policy, price, and more.

The VPNs we recommend in this guide are the best available for desktops, laptops, smartphones, media streaming devices, and even games consoles.

With thousands of secure servers located around the world, these VPNs are suitable for global internet users, including in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Further below, you’ll find the top VPNs for each category we test for, as well as the detailed analysis of the best VPN services.

We’ll also explain why you need a VPN, and how to choose the best VPN service.

Why Trust Top10VPN.com?

Unlike many review websites, we’re completely independent and focused on VPN software. We’ve spent thousands of hours testing and reviewing VPNs using our unbiased VPN review process to recommend the best ones.

Here are some of our key VPN testing statistics:

Total Hours of Testing30,000+
Weekly Speed Tests3,000+
VPN Services Reviewed56
Streaming Platforms Tested Daily12
IP & DNS Leak Tests Performed9,500+
How Much We've Spent On Testing$25,000+

Best VPNs: Summary Test Ratings

Use the table below to see how the 10 highest-rated VPN services performed in our most important testing categories:

DID YOU KNOW? You can add any VPN we recommend to our side-by-side VPN comparison tool. Simply tick ‘Add to compare’ to add a VPN to the Comparison Tool Preview.

Top VPN Services by Category

We rate the 10 VPN services in this guide extremely highly, but the truth is there is no definitive ‘best VPN’. The right VPN depends on your specific needs.

Do you want to unblock Netflix libraries? Torrent anonymously? Or simply stay safe on public WiFi?

Follow the links below to see which VPNs we recommend for popular categories we test for.

Best VPNs for Streaming

Best VPNs by Device

The right VPN depends on the device and OS you're using. Find the best VPNs for iPhone, Android, PC, macOS, and more.

  1. Best VPN for Windows
  2. Best VPN for Mac
  3. Best VPN for Linux
  4. Best VPN for iPhone & iPad
  5. Best VPN for Android
  6. Best VPN for Fire TV Stick
  7. Best VPN for Apple TV

Best VPNs for Privacy, Torrenting & Gaming

See our VPN recommendations for internet privacy, anonymous torrenting and file-sharing, and gaming.

  1. Best VPN for Torrenting
  2. Best No-Logs VPN
  3. Best VPN for Gaming

Best VPNs by Price & Speed

VPNs vary when it comes to their speeds and subscription costs. Find the fastest and cheapest VPN services here.

  1. Fastest VPNs
  2. Best Cheap VPNs
  3. Best VPN Free Trials

Best VPNs by Browser

Some VPNs only offer extensions for certain web browsers. Find the best VPN add-ons for specific browsers here.

  1. Best VPN for Chrome
  2. Best VPN for Firefox

Best VPNs by Country

Detailed Analysis of the 10 Best VPN Services

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best VPN for Streaming & Gaming

    The best VPN overall, excellent for streaming, gaming and torrenting.

    Ranked #1 out of 56 VPN services
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     Rated 4.8 out of 5 
    (1,813 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    • Consistently fast speeds across any distance
    • Unblocks 10 Netflix regions, DAZN, HBO & more
    • No-logs policy, AES-256 encryption & RAM-based diskless servers
    • Privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands (BVI) jurisdiction
    • Fire TV app, Smart DNS for Apple TV & gaming consoles
    • Responsive & knowledgeable 24/7 live customer support

    • More expensive than its rivals
    • No Linux general user interface
    • No split tunneling on macOS
    • No port forwarding for torrenters

    Overall Rating: 9.7/10

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

    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.29.2/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.99.9/10

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN service of 2022, excelling in all our testing categories. It’s highly secure, consistently fast, and it works smoothly on all devices.

    The VPN service is particularly suited for fast HD/4K streaming, lag-free gaming, and anonymous torrenting around the world.

    If you experience technical issues, ExpressVPN’s excellent customer support is knowledgeable and available 24/7 via live chat.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection92Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries94
    Servers3,000
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChrome OS
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid

    Excellent for streaming US Netflix

    After thousands of streaming tests, ExpressVPN remains our highest-rated VPN for streaming.

    More specifically, it’s the best VPN to unblock US Netflix and nine other Netflix regions.

    The video below is real footage of our testing, showing you just how easy it is to access US Netflix with ExpressVPN:

    There’s no extra settings or features needed – just connect to a US ExpressVPN server and start watching Netflix.

    The VPN can also bypass DAZN, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video geo-blocks.

    You can also stream using ExpressVPN’s VPN extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. These are full VPN extensions, and not simple proxies (which don’t encrypt internet traffic).

    ExpressVPN also comes with a very good Fire TV app, and MediaStreamer, its Smart DNS tool. This lets you use ExpressVPN on Apple TV, Roku, and games consoles.

    A highly-secure VPN for torrenting

    All 3,000 ExpressVPN servers allow P2P traffic, without tracking or logging your data transfers.

    All file transfer data travels through secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Lightway) and diskless (RAM-only) servers, with AES-256 encryption.

    Lightway in particular delivered an excellent download bitrate of 9.4MiB/s in our VPN torrenting tests. Only Astrill (10.0MiB/s) and PIA VPN (9.6MiB/s registered faster torrent speeds.

    Using ExpressVPN with the qBittorrent torrent client

    ExpressVPN is fully compatible with BitTorrent clients.

    The VPN also has a wide range of additional security features, including a VPN kill switch, which prevented our IP address leaking on rare instances our VPN connection dropped.

    Thanks to these security safeguards, you can torrent safely with ExpressVPN without restrictions.

    Expensive but worth the higher price

    ExpressVPN isn’t perfect, though, 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.

    Who is ExpressVPN best for?

    You should use ExpressVPN if:

    • You want to unblock streaming services. ExpressVPN unblocks most content platforms including HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and 10 Netflix libraries.
    • You want a VPN that excels in all areas. ExpressVPN performs exceptionally in most testing categories, including privacy, security, speed, streaming, and ease-of-use.

    You should not use ExpressVPN if:

    • You’re on a small budget. ExpressVPN’s cheapest subscription plan costs $6.67 per month over 15 months. This is more expensive than most competitors.
    • You’re a Linux user. While Linux-compatible, ExpressVPN’s client offers no user-friendly interface.
  2. 2. NordVPN: Fastest VPN

    Very fast global speeds across a wide network of secure servers.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
     Rated 4.7 out of 5 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    • Exceptional speeds across short & long-distances
    • WireGuard (NordLynx) protocol in use across its network
    • Streams US Netflix & allows P2P traffic on many servers
    • Verified zero-logs policy & no IP or DNS leaks
    • Extra security features like multihop & diskless servers
    • Helpful 24/7 live chat support

    • PC & Mac applications can't be resized
    • Less reliable for Netflix on Fire TV devices
    • Unreliable at bypassing web blocks in China
    • Doesn't accept PayPal
    • Minor server breach in 2018
    • Renews at a much higher annual subscription price

    Overall Rating: 9.5/10

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

    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.59.5/10

    NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in the world, and it’s currently the best when it comes to VPN speed.

    NordVPN is almost as good as ExpressVPN and it’s significantly cheaper. It also unblocks many streaming services, and uses strong encryption to your secure internet traffic.

    Cheapest Price$3.29/mo over 2 years See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection98Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries59
    Servers5,613
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Works In ChinaUnreliable
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Stable connections with barely any speed loss

    NordVPN delivers the fastest VPN speeds we’ve tested across the entirety of its global network of 5,613 servers.

    In our most recent VPN speed tests, we recorded short-distance internet speed losses as low as 1%. In comparison, ExpressVPN lost 8% across the same distance while Private Internet Access 6%.

    NordVPN speed test results

    NordVPN is extremely fast on short-distance connections.

    On international connections, NordVPN recorded an average download speed of 83.2Mbps (on a 100Mbps base connection). ExpressVPN’s average speed was 79.8Mbps, while PIA’s was 58.6Mbps.

    Advanced security settings and a verified no-logs policy

    The NordVPN applications include a wide range of high-end security features. Many were improved after a minor server breach in 2018.

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

    Extra features include a kill switch and Double (multihop) VPN, which routes your traffic through an extra VPN server for increased anonymity.

    NordVPN doesn’t collect any personal web logs, either. It doesn’t record your IP address, browser history, or bandwidth usage data.

    Moreover, the VPN service uses diskless servers, just like ExpressVPN, which never record any data locally.

    The service even comes with a built-in ad and malware blocker called CyberSec.

    Not as user-friendly as ExpressVPN

    We rate NordVPN very highly, however the design of the Windows and macOS applications needs improving.

    The desktop and laptop clients are by no means hard to use, but we don’t find NordVPN’s VPN software for Windows and macOS as user-friendly and intuitive as ExpressVPN’s.

    Home screen of the NordVPN client on Windows

    The home screen of the NordVPN Windows client.

    As the screenshot above shows, displaying the location of servers on a map is unnecessary. It makes the VPN client interface very big, and moreover it can’t be resized.

    Who is NordVPN best for?

    You should use NordVPN if:

    • You want a very fast VPN. NordVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested, with short-distance speed losses as low as 1%.
    • You need an affordable alternative to ExpressVPN. NordVPN is almost as good as ExpressVPN, and it’s significantly cheaper for the initial subscription length.

    You should not use NordVPN if:

    • You need a VPN for Fire TV. While NordVPN’s Fire TV app works, it’s more difficult to use with Netflix and other streaming apps than ExpressVPN.
    • You’re an Android user. NordVPN’s Android app is good, but the kill switch can be complicated to configure.
  3. 3. PIA VPN: Best VPN for Privacy

    The best VPN for privacy, excellent for anonymous torrenting and file-sharing.

    Private Internet Access
     Rated 4.3 out of 5 
    (29 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN

    • Fast P2P-enabled 17,087 servers in 84 countries
    • Verified zero-logs logging policy
    • Effective VPN kill switch & port forwarding
    • Streams US Netflix & BBC iPlayer
    • Servers in 50 US states to bypass US blackouts
    • Excellent native Linux application

    • Mac client has usability issues
    • Smart DNS doesn't work with streaming apps
    • Firestick app needs improvements
    • Headquartered in the USA (FVEY jurisdiction)

    Overall Rating : 9.3/10

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

    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.39.3/10
    • 9.39.3/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 8.38.3/10
    • 9.49.4/10

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a highly private and secure zero-logs VPN with the largest server network available. All servers deliver fast connection speeds, especially when file-sharing.

    The American-based VPN also comes with many advanced security settings, as well as a rare native application for Linux, to keep your internet activity private and secure.

    Cheapest Price$2.03/mo over 28 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection93Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries84
    Servers17,087
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five Eyes Member)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Extremely private VPN suited for torrenting

    Private Internet Access is currently the best VPN for anonymous file-sharing and torrenting.

    The VPN outperforms the competition thanks to its no-logs policy, a very effective kill switch, and exceptional P2P download bitrates.

    Using Private Internet Access to download a torrent file

    Your IP address is anonymized when torrenting with PIA.

    PIA VPN also includes port forwarding, which improves torrenting speeds and helps with seeding files. Sadly, it’s not allowed on US servers.

    Huge server network with very good speeds

    PIA’s VPN server network is not only the largest there is, but it’s also one of the most secure we’ve tested.

    The service provides access to 17,087 no-logs VPN servers in 84.

    The impact of the VPN’s server size on short-distance speeds is significant: we recorded an internet speed loss of just 6% connecting to nearby server locations.

    Furthermore, PIA is the only VPN with servers in 50 US states. This deep coverage in America allows the VPN to easily bypass US sports blackouts.

    Mac client could be more user friendly

    While PIA is a great VPN for privacy, security, and streaming, it’s not the easiest VPN to use on MacBooks and iMacs.

    The main issue we have with the macOS software is the very slow loading times. It can take three seconds to load, if you’re running the VPN as a windowed app.

    The other issue is that the app launches as a menu bar app by default. Therefore, you can’t place the VPN app in the dock, or launch it from Spotlight.

    Who is Private Internet Access best for?

    You should use PIA if:

    • You want to torrent files securely. PIA’s fast P2P servers, port forwarding, and verified zero-logs policy are ideal for anonymous file-sharing.
    • You want to bypass US sports blackouts. PIA’s server coverage in America is the best there is, giving you access to US IP addresses from 50 US states.

    You should not use PIA if:

    • You’re a new VPN user. Despite its strong security credentials, PIA’s advanced features and customization settings may be off-putting for VPN beginners.
    • You’re a macOS or Firestick user. PIA’s Mac app is slow to load and frustrating to use. On Fire TV, our tests found that 75% of PIA’s US servers don’t unblock Netflix.
  4. 4. Surfshark: Best Cheap VPN

    At just $1.99 per month, Surfshark represents excellent value.

    Surfshark app
     Rated 4.1 out of 5 
    (131 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

    • Very affordable on a two-year subscription plan
    • 7-day free trial available via mobile
    • Streams Netflix, HBO Max and more
    • GPS spoofing setting on Android app
    • Unlimited device connections
    • Advanced features and extra settings

    • Kill switch not enabled by default
    • Unaudited logging policy
    • No IPv6 leak protection
    • Doesn't work with Hulu
    • NoBorders mode not consistent in China
    • No OpenVPN on macOS

    Overall Rating: 9.2/10

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

    • 9.79.7/10
    • 8.68.6/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 8.68.6/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 8.58.5/10

    Surfshark competes with the very best VPNs, and at a much lower price. There’s no compromise on quality, either.

    The VPN offers unlimited device connections, and it unblocks Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services with ease.

    Overall, Surfshark represents excellent value given the quality of its service.

    Cheapest Price$1.99/mo over 26 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection85Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries100
    Servers3,200+
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionNetherlands (EU Member)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    An excellent VPN available for a very low price

    The most obvious benefit of Surfshark is its price: it’s extremely affordable. More than that, it’s the best cheap VPN we recommend.

    At its cheapest, the VPN costs just $1.99 per month on a two-year subscription plan. Even when paying the $59.76 upfront, this is still very affordable.

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

    Effective at bypassing IP and GPS blocks

    Surfshark is very effective at bypassing IP-based geo-blocks from services like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max.

    But what sets Surfshark apart is it’s ability to spoof your GPS location on Android phones.

    The ‘Override GPS location’ function prevents Android mobile applications using GPS to detect your real location.

    GPS Override feature in the Surfshark Android app

    The GPS Override feature in Surfshark Android.

    Slow server connections and moderate speeds

    The issues we’ve faced testing Surfshark revolve around server connection times and speed.

    Often we find ourselves waiting several seconds before connecting to popular servers. And once we’re connected, the speeds are not as fast those from ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

    On short-distance connections, Surfshark VPN reduced our internet speed by 15%. This is isn’t bad by any means, but it’s significantly worse than NordVPN’s 1%.

    Who is Surfshark best for?

    You should use Surfshark if:

    • You want a cheap VPN. Surfshark’s two-year subscription plan costs just $1.99 per month, which represents excellent value.
    • You need unlimited simultaneous connections. Unlike many top VPN services, you can use a single Surfshark subscription with an unlimited number of devices at once.

    You should not use Surfshark if:

    • You need a VPN to beat strict web censorship. Surfshark’s ‘NoBorders’ obfuscation mode doesn’t consistently work in China.
    • You’re a regular torrenting user. Surfshark allows P2P traffic, but it doesn’t include port forwarding or IPv6 protection. Also, its kill switch isn’t enabled by default.
  5. 5. IPVanish: Best VPN for Firestick

    A private, no-logs VPN especially suited for Firestick and Kodi users.

    IPVanish VPN
     Rated 4.8 out of 5 
    (175 user reviews)
    Visit IPVanish

    • Excellent app for Fire TV Stick
    • .apk file for side loading on Android boxes
    • Fast short-distance download speeds
    • No-logs first-party DNS servers
    • SOCKS5 proxy for torrent clients
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections

    • Doesn't unblock many streaming apps
    • No VPN browser extensions
    • No Smart DNS for Apple TV & games consoles
    • Can’t bypass strict web censorship
    • Kill switch not enabled by default
    • No kill switch in the iOS app

    Overall Rating: 9.1/10

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

    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.19.1/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 77.0/10
    • 9.19.1/10
    • 8.68.6/10
    • 9.59.5/10

    IPVanish has the best VPN app for Amazon Fire TV Stick. It’s fast, secure and doesn’t keep streaming activity logs.

    By virtue of its several privacy and security tools, IPVanish is particularly suitable for anonymous streaming using Kodi and IPTV apps.

    Cheapest Price$3.19/mo over 15 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection84Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries50
    Servers2,000
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five Eyes Member)
    Works In ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChrome OS
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid

    A private application for Fire TV devices

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

    The app is very simple to use, and records high speeds connecting to nearby VPN servers.

    The IPVanish homescreen on Amazon Fire TV Stick

    The IPVanish homescreen on Amazon Fire TV Stick.

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

    While IPVanish won’t unblock Netflix and other popular streaming apps, we found the VPN works well with Kodi and IPTV streaming apps.

    There’s even an Android .APK file to use the VPN on Android devices with no access to Google Play Store (e.g. Android boxes).

    Encrypted zero-logs servers and 40,000 IP addresses

    IPVanish is one of the most private VPN services we’ve tested.

    All 2,000 servers, entirely owned by IPVanish, are completely no-logs. They don’t monitor or store any of your internet activity.

    Moreover, we have never suffered an IP or DNS address leak using the service’s VPN clients.

    You can safely protect your IP location with one of the service’s 40,000 IP addresses.

    Don't use it for bypassing geo-restrictions

    While IPVanish is great for anonymous Kodi and IPTV streaming, it’s poor at beating video geo-restrictions.

    The VPN simply can’t bypass geo-blocks imposed by Netflix, BBC iPlayer and several other content platforms.

    There is also no Smart DNS functionality, which makes streaming geo-blocked content on Apple TV and games consoles more complicated.

    The same applies for bypassing strict internet filters in China, which IPVanish can’t do. For beating internet censorship, we recommend using Astrill instead.

    Who is IPVanish best for?

    You should use IPVanish if:

    • You need a VPN for Fire TV Stick or Kodi. IPVanish is highly-compatible with Android-based Kodi devices, and it has an excellent native app for Fire TV Stick.
    • You want to use a SOCKS5 proxy. Though its core VPN servers are fast, IPVanish also includes access to a SOCKS5 proxy server for torrent clients.

    You should not use IPVanish if:

    • You want to stream geo-restricted content. IPVanish doesn’t work with many streaming services. It also doesn’t have Smart DNS functionality.
    • You need to bypass web censorship. IPVanish fails to circumvent strict internet censorship in heavily-restricted countries like China.
  6. 6. CyberGhost: Best VPN Free Trial

    Offers the best VPN free trial with no payment details required.

    CyberGhost app
     Rated 4.7 out of 5 
    (338 user reviews)
    Visit CyberGhost

    • 24-hour, three-day & seven-day free trials
    • Trials don't require payment or credit card details
    • Long 45-day refund guarantee & 24/7 live support
    • 8,800 servers across 91 countries
    • Doesn't log personal usage data
    • Smart DNS tool for increased device compatibility

    • Not as fast as its rivals over long distances
    • Browser extensions only cover four countries
    • Mobile and macOS apps lack important settings
    • No port forwarding setting
    • No OpenVPN option on Mac and iOS
    • Doesn’t work in China, Turkey or the UAE

    Overall Rating: 9.0/10

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

    • 9.69.6/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 6.86.8/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10

    We recommend CyberGhost to those wishing to trial a high-performing VPN without submitting payment or credit card details.

    In fact, CyberGhost offers the absolute best VPN free trial available right now.

    Cheapest Price$2.03/mo over 28 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection89Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries91
    Servers8,800
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionRomania (EU Member)
    Works In ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    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.

    Dedicated IPs and 8,800 servers worldwide

    One of the reasons why CyberGhost is popular with remote workers and travelers is its wide network of 8,800 servers.

    With so many servers available in 91 countries, connecting to a nearby server is quick and with little traffic congestion.

    Additionally, CyberGhost’s Dedicated IP is ideal for users that need to connect to specific web services using the same private dedicated IP address.

    Dedicated IPs cost extra, though, and are only available in Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US.

    CyberGhost's Dedicated IP setting on Android

    CyberGhost’s Dedicated IP setting on Android.

    Slower international speeds

    The main drawback of using CyberGhost is the speed inconsistencies across distances.

    Over thousands of speed tests, the VPN’s speeds have kept fluctuating noticeably, particularly over long distances.

    Compared to ExpressVPN and NordVPN, CyberGhost is typically slower and less reliable on international connections.

    In other words, we don’t rate the VPN as highly for high bandwidth activities like HD streaming and torrenting.

    Who is CyberGhost best for?

    You should use CyberGhost if:

    • You want a free trial without submitting payment details. CyberGhost offers a 24-hour, three-day and seven-day free trial across different devices.
    • You want a diverse choice of server locations. Cyberghost’s network includes 8,800 servers in 91 countries.

    You should not use CyberGhost if:

    • Fast speeds are a priority. CyberGhost’s speeds have been inconsistent lately, especially over long-distance connections.
    • You’re primarily a macOS or Chromebook user. CyberGhost is incompatible with Chromebooks, and missing key features on macOS, including the OpenVPN protocol.
  7. 7. PrivateVPN: Best VPN for Public WiFi

    A user-friendly VPN ideal for securing free public WiFi connections.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobile
     Rated 4.9 out of 5 
    (1,735 user reviews)
    Visit PrivateVPN

    • Easy-to-use apps suitable for beginners
    • High level of encryption and no-logs servers
    • Fast and secure short-distance connections
    • Costs only $2.00/month on a 3-year plan
    • Unblocks 14 Netflix regions
    • Bypasses internet filters in China

    • Small network of 200 servers
    • Slower speeds on long-distance connections
    • No VPN browser extensions & no Smart DNS
    • No WireGuard protocol
    • 24/7 live support not always available
    • Logging policy lacks important details

    Overall Rating : 8.9/10

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

    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 9.19.1/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 8.38.3/10
    • 8.38.3/10

    PrivateVPN is a no-logs VPN with easy-to-use applications suitable for securing free public WiFi connections.

    The VPN is also highly reliable at unblocking many streaming websites and apps, despite having a smaller server network than higher-ranked VPNs.

    Cheapest Price$2.00/mo over 3 years See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection94Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries63
    Servers200
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSweden (14-Eyes Member)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Advanced WiFi protection on insecure networks

    PrivateVPN’s applications are not only beginner-friendly, but highly secure.

    The software encrypts internet connections using the AES-256 cipher and a 2048-bit RSA handshake.

    Furthermore, the no-logs VPN includes a working VPN kill switch to protect from unexpected IP address leaks (which we’ve never detected in our tests).

    PrivateVPN’s security is optimal for securing free public WiFi in airports, hotels and coffee shops, where the risk of data profiling and MitM (man-in-the-middle) attacks is heightened.

    Easily beats streaming geo-restrictions

    PrivateVPN is very good at unblocking websites and applications.

    The VPN can in fact unblock 14 Netflix regions as well as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, and many more platforms.

    PrivateVPN working with US Netflix.

    PrivateVPN always works with US Netflix.

    However, there is no Smart DNS feature. You’ll have to set up PrivateVPN on your router to use it with devices like Apple TV and games consoles.

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

    Therefore, don’t always expect HD quality when streaming American Netflix or HBO Max from outside the US.

    Who is PrivateVPN best for?

    You should use PrivateVPN if:

    • You need an affordable VPN for public WiFi. PrivateVPN uses industry-standard AES-256 encryption and costs just $2.00 per month on a 3-year plan.
    • You’re new to VPN services. In addition to its low monthly price, PrivateVPN’s apps are very simple to use and ideal for beginners.

    You should not use PrivateVPN if:

    • You want a large server network. With just 200 servers in total, PrivateVPN’s network is significantly smaller than its competitors.
    • You need to connect to far-away servers. Our VPN speed tests have recorded slow speeds when connecting to PrivateVPN servers in distant locations.
  8. 8. Proton VPN: Best VPN for Security

    A highly secure VPN with bank-grade encryption features.

    Screenshot of Proton VPN's mobile app
     Rated 5 out of 5 
    (3 user reviews)
    Visit Proton VPN

    • AES 256-bit cipherage & privacy-first logging policy
    • Secure Core technology provides higher encryption
    • IPv6 leak blocking capabilities
    • TOR via VPN server tool
    • All apps are open-source & independently audited
    • Free plan has no data usage caps

    • No 24/7 live chat support
    • No Smart DNS for unblocking apps
    • No VPN browser extensions
    • Doesn't work in China
    • Almost as expensive as ExpressVPN

    Overall Rating : 8.7/10

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

    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 9.19.1/10
    • 8.68.6/10

    Proton VPN was created by the team behind the private email service ProtonMail. It’s no surprise privacy and security are at the heart of the software.

    The VPN service comes in both a free and paid version. All apps are open-source, and the VPN connections use robust encryption technology.

    Cheapest Price$4.99/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection96Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries66
    Servers1,888
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSwitzerland (Privacy Haven)
    Works In ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Uses encryption of the highest level

    Proton VPN is currently the most secure VPN we’ve reviewed. The service is synonymous with highly secure and encrypted VPN connections.

    The software uses the OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, the AES-256 cipher, and Forward Secrecy (FS).

    Proton VPN creates a unique set of encryption keys in frequent intervals, limiting the amount of data in each key.

    Like all the other VPNs we recommend in this guide, Proton VPN has a working kill switch to protect against unexpected VPN connection failures.

    Proton VPN's AES-256 encryption

    Proton VPN uses the most secure encryption protocols and ciphers.

    Secure Core technology

    Secure Core is a further layer of security Proton VPN has developed and used on 40 of its servers.

    Proton VPN's Secure Core connection toggle in the Proton VPN app

    Proton VPN’s Secure Core connection toggle in the Proton VPN app.

    The technology bounces traffic via multiple servers before relaying it onto the destination app or website.

    Secure Core is comparable to the Multihop setting used by NordVPN and Surfshark.

    Not the best value for your money

    While Proton VPN is a very good VPN, it doesn’t represent as good value for your money as other highly-rated services.

    The best price you can get is $4.99 per month with a two-year subscription. While it may not seem that expensive, Proton VPN lacks important features.

    The VPN service lacks browser extensions, a native Fire TV application, Smart DNS functionality, and 24/7 live chat support.

    Who is Proton VPN best for?

    You should use Proton VPN if:

    • You need industry-leading VPN security. Proton VPN’s apps are open-source, independently-audited, and use AES-256 bit encryption with Secure Core technology for increased security.
    • You regularly use Tor with a VPN. Proton VPN offers ‘Tor via VPN’ servers for quick and easy connections to the Tor network.

    You should not use Proton VPN if:

    • You want to stream on Apple TV and games consoles. Proton VPN doesn’t come with Smart DN, making it difficult to unblock content on Apple TV and games consoles.
    • You want to use VPN browser extensions. Proton VPN doesn’t offer any browser extensions for quick in-browser IP location changes.
  9. 9. Windscribe: Best Free VPN

    A secure free and premium VPN that does most things well.

    Windscribe mobile screenshots
     Rated 5 out of 5 
    (3 user reviews)
    Visit Windscribe

    • Free version unblocks many streaming services
    • Allows torrenting on all free servers
    • Doesn't collect personal internet traffic logs
    • Bypasses content filters in China
    • US & Canadian residential IPs available
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections

    • 10GB monthly data allowance (free plan)
    • Free plan doesn't unblock US Netflix
    • Slow international speeds & server connection times
    • No independent no-logs audit
    • No human live chat support
    • No Smart DNS functionality

    Overall Rating : 8.6/10

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

    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 8.18.1/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 8.68.6/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 8.18.1/10

    Like Proton VPN, Windscribe VPN comes in two versions: free and paid.

    The free software version is the best free VPN we’ve reviewed, while the paid version is particularly good at bypassing streaming blocks.

    Cheapest Price$5.75/mo over 12 Months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection94Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries68
    Servers110
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionCanada (Five Eyes Member)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Optimized for worldwide streaming

    What sets Windscribe apart is how easily the VPN beats streaming blocks.

    The paid version can access 32 Netflix regions including the US, UK, Brazil, Italy, and Germany.

    The free VPN no longer accesses the US Netflix library, but it can unblock 6
    other international libraries, HBO Max, Hulu, DAZN, and more. You are limited by the 10GB monthly data allowance, though.

    Windscribe is also a great VPN to stream DAZN and a solid VPN choice for BBC iPlayer.

    Residential IPs available in USA and Canada

    Windscribe is one of the few VPN services to provide residential IP addresses located in the United States (Chicago, Dallas) and Canada (Toronto).

    These static IP addresses never change, and are useful if you want to keep using the same IP address in the US or in Canada.

    Windscribe’s residential IPs belong to internet service providers like AT&T. As such, they can bypass streaming geo-blocks. However, these IPs do cost an extra $8.00 per month.

    The residential IP section of the Windscribe app

    Our Windscribe’s residential IP address in Chicago always unblocks US Netflix.

    Moreover, while these IPs are allocated to a handful of users (not just you), they’re not as private as using the dynamic IP addresses shared among many more VPN customers.

    Slow international speeds and connection times

    The problem we found with Windscribe was the slower long-distance speeds compared to ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

    These slower speeds affect the quality of the picture when streaming overseas video content. We experienced a blurry broadcast several times while streaming a movie in our recent tests.

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

    Who is Windscribe best for?

    You should use Windscribe if:

    • You need a trustworthy free VPN. Windscribe is secure, supports torrenting, and doesn’t log your internet activity.
    • You want to unblock international Netflix libraries. Windscribe Free unblocks 6 Netflix regions, more than any other safe free VPN.

    You should not use Windscribe if:

    • You need fast international speeds. We recorded slow long-distance speeds and poor connection times in our Windscribe speed tests.
    • You want to unblock US Netflix. The free version of Windscribe no longer works with American Netflix.
  10. 10. Astrill: Best VPN for China

    The most reliable VPN to access blocked websites from China.

    Astrill mobile screenshots
     Rated 0 out of 5 
    No user reviews
    Visit Astrill

    • 100% reliability working in China
    • Very effective Stealth VPN protocol
    • Leak protection and kill switch
    • Multihop servers (at extra cost)
    • Based in privacy-friendly Seychelles

    • The most expensive VPN
    • No refund policy
    • Unblocks very few streaming platforms
    • No kill switch on Android & iOS
    • No Smart DNS, Firestick app or browser extensions
    • Collects minimal logs, with no logging policy or security audits

    Overall Rating : 8.5/10

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

    • 9.99.9/10
    • 8.58.5/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 9.49.4/10
    • 8.38.3/10
    • 9.49.4/10

    Astrill VPN has clearly been built to bypass the most aggressive internet censors in countries like the UAE, Turkey, and China.

    The software also comes with a wide range of advanced security settings for greater security on the web.

    Cheapest Price$12.50/mo over two years See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection81Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Countries55
    Servers107
    Logging PolicySome User Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSeychelles (Privacy Haven)
    Works In ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMac OS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid

    Works in China 100% of the time

    Astrill is by far the most reliable anti-censorship VPN service.

    By enabling the service’s Stealth VPN protocol, we have never failed to unblock a website in our China VPN tests.

    The video below demonstrates how we bypassed the Great Firewall of China from Shanghai using Stealth VPN:

    Accessing Netflix and Instagram from Shanghai with Astrill VPN.

    The only issue with Stealth VPN is it doesn’t work on iOS devices. ExpressVPN is the best choice of VPN for iPhone and iPad in China.

    Wide range of security features

    Astrill is also one the services that offers the most advanced security settings.

    Settings list in the Astrill VPN app

    The settings list inside the Astrill VPN app.

    There is a wide choice of VPN protocols to choose from, although we recommend sticking to OpenVPN, WireGuard and StealthVPN.

    You’ll also benefit from the use of first-party DNS servers, DNS and IPv6 leak blocking, and functioning kill switch for added IP address protection.

    Expensive with no money-back guarantee

    Astrill is very expensive compared to most VPN services we’ve reviewed. And if you’re not happy with the product, you can’t get your money back, either.

    If Astrill excelled in most areas, the higher price wouldn’t be problem, but the VPN service does have issues.

    For instance, it doesn’t unblock many video platforms, including BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video.

    The VPN also lacks browser extensions, a Smart DNS tool, and a kill switch on iPhone and Android phones.

    Who is Astrill VPN best for?

    You should use Astrill VPN if:

    • You need a VPN to bypass web censorship. Astrill’s ‘Stealth VPN’ protocol has a 100% success rate in highly-censored countries like China, the UAE, and Turkey.
    • You want advanced control over your VPN. Astrill offers many extra settings including custom connection protocols, multihop servers, and ad blocking.

    You should not use Astrill VPN if:

    • You’re on a limited budget. Astrill is the most expensive VPN on the market. Its cheapest price is $12.50 per month, and there’s no refund policy.
    • You mainly want a VPN for streaming. Astrill doesn’t unblock any major streaming platform, other than US Netflix. There’s no Smart DNS or Fire TV app, either.

Other VPNs We Reviewed

Since 2016, we’ve reviewed 56 VPN services in detail, testing over 200 applications in the process.

We’ve analyzed numerous popular VPN services, and many didn’t make our top 10 recommendations list for various reasons.

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

HMA VPN

Overall Ranking: #14 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 8.3/108.3

What we don’t like: We still have privacy concerns around HMA VPN. It currently has a broken kill switch, it had a very invasive logging policy not too long ago, and it handed over user data to law enforcement in the past.

Hotspot Shield

Overall Ranking: #16 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 8.2/108.2

What we don’t like: Hotspot Shield logs too much information. This includes your IP address, approximate geolocation, connection timestamps, bandwidth used per user and per session, device-specific information, and non-personal logs of the websites you visit.

Mullvad

Overall Ranking: #18 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 8.2/108.2

What we don’t like: 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.

PureVPN

Overall Ranking: #23 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 7.7/107.7

What we don’t like: PureVPN can’t unblock US Netflix, and it can’t bypass strict web blocks. Also, the VPN’s logging policy isn’t privacy-focused enough.

IVPN

Overall Ranking: #25 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 7.6/107.6

What we don’t like: IVPN has a small server network with few IP addresses. This contributes to the slow international speeds we experienced using the VPN.

TunnelBear

Overall Ranking: #29 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 5.3/105.3

What we don’t like: TunnelBear has a very limited server network and it can’t beat most geo-blocks. This means it’s no good for streaming or for use in high-censorship countries.

Avast SecurelineVPN

Overall Ranking: #32 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 7.0/107.0

What we don’t like: Avast VPN offers basic security, is poor at bypassing geo-blocks, and it logs too much data. Put simply, it does not perform well compared to leading VPN services.

Norton Secure & 360 VPN

Overall Ranking: #41 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 4.5/104.5

What we don’t like: Norton VPN doesn’t unblock websites, and it doesn’t allow torrenting on any of its servers.

Betternet VPN

Overall Ranking: #46 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 2.6/102.6

What we don’t like: Betternet VPN is a bad VPN all-round. It lacks adequate security features, suffers from slow speeds, and it leaks DNS requests.

Hola VPN

Overall Ranking: #54 out of 56 VPNs Reviewed

Overall Rating: 1.5/101.5

What we don’t like: Hola VPN is one of the worst VPN services we’ve tested. It’s slow, doesn’t unblock Netflix, blocks BitTorrent traffic, and logs all your internet activity.

VPN Buying Guide: How to Find the Best VPN

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

Spend time reading up-to-date reviews, test results and advice from trustworthy and independent VPN review websites before subscribing to a VPN service.

Features to Consider When Choosing a VPN

We strongly advise you to consider the features and factors below when choosing a VPN.

Security

If you want a VPN to secure your internet traffic on public WiFi networks, look for the following features:

  • Secure 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.
  • IP leak blocking for 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.

Streaming Capabilities

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

  • Works with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, 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 streaming devices.
  • 24/7 live chat customer support to find working streaming servers more quickly.

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 that’s optimized for speed.
  • Offers VPN servers with high bandwidth, such as 20Gbps, for reliable speed performance.
  • Operates a large server network 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 (iPhone and iPad) and Android smartphones.
  • Native app for Fire TV devices, and the option to set the VPN up on routers.
  • Smart DNS technology to use the VPN service’s DNS credentials on Apple 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 important features to get the most from your VPN:

  • A high number of permitted simultaneous connections, so you can secure every device you own.
  • Split tunnelling, so you can configure certain devices or applications to use your standard internet connection.
  • An ad blocker to prevent adverts and trackers when you’re online.

Price

The cost of a VPN varies by quality and subscription length, but you can expect to spend between $2.00 to $13.00 per month for a paid-for VPN service.

Cheap: To get a good VPN for roughly $2.00 a month, you’ll have to pay for at least two years upfront. The main drawback is that if the product gets worse over time, you won’t be able to get your money back. While we do recommend some budget VPNs, many cheap VPNs come with fewer features and under perform in several testing areas.

Mid-Range: The majority of VPNs cost around $6.00 a month. For this price, you can either get a top VPN on a long-term plan, or a mediocre VPN on a short-term plan. If this is your budget, you’ll have to decide whether you can afford the expensive initial cost of a better VPN.

Expensive: Generally, the very best VPNs cost $12.00 or more per month. Paying each month lets you switch VPNs easily, with a smaller financial loss if your VPN is no longer satisfactory. The downside is the much higher cost over time. But, you can reduce the monthly price by paying an upfront yearly/multi-year subscription fee.

Can I Get a VPN for Free?

There are plenty of free VPNs out there. Just like paid VPN services, they come in a wide spectrum of quality.

You might get by with a free VPN if you’re only looking to use the service rarely and casually.

For example, if you want to use free public WiFi securely once or twice a month, then free VPNs like Windscribe Free and Proton VPN Free will work.

However, a free VPN won’t be enough to regularly hide your IP address and bypass geo-blocks at high speed.

Most safe free VPNs come with limited monthly data allowances, or they don’t work for streaming and torrenting.

You also need to be careful with which free VPN you use. Our research reveals how many free VPNs are ineffective and insecure.

How We Test VPN Services

In this guide we recommend the very best VPNs based on how we test and review VPNs.

We test every VPN in several key categories, and use this data to calculate an overall rating.

In every top VPN service, we look for:

  • A no-logs or similar privacy-focused logging policy.
  • Fast download speeds, upload speeds, and low latency around the world.
  • AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, and extra security settings.
  • Unblocking (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 VPN provider reviews, you will also notice ratings awarded in two other areas: ‘Price & Value’ and ‘Bypassing Web Censorship’.

We don’t specifically factor in ‘Price & Value’ in this guide. We consider overall quality regardless of price. You can decide for yourself if the price of a VPN is one you’re happy to pay.

‘Bypassing Web Censorship’ makes up a small portion of the ‘Security, Encryption & Extra Features’ category.

VPN Test Devices

We test VPN software on a wide range of devices, including:

  • Lenovo T480 & T480s (Windows 10 & Ubuntu Linux 20.04)
  • Apple iMac & MacBook Pro (macOS Monterey)
  • Apple iPhone 11 (iOS 16) & iPad Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 & Samsung Galaxy A8 (Android 12)
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Generation) & Apple TV 4K
  • Google Chromecast with Google TV & Sony KD65XE
  • Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch

Below is a more detailed breakdown of the VPN criteria we test, and how much of the overall rating each category accounts for:

1. Privacy & Logging Policy: 30%

Minimum Requirement: Doesn’t retain any identifying web data, with servers regularly wiped.
We Recommend: No logs retained whatsoever. Truly zero-logs.

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

We take a very harsh stance against 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.

We are more lenient towards VPN services that delete the data collected either at the end of your session or within 24 hours.

We study every VPN’s privacy policy in-depth to understand how it treats your data.

Moreover, we look at a VPN’s history and company 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 speed 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 are based on our in-house speed test tool, which runs on 11 of our own servers located around the world.

Each day, our automated speed test tool tests 16 of the most popular VPNs, updating speed data every six hours.

While our automated results are perhaps less relatable than our manual ones, they’re more consistent due to their frequency and scale.

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. Security, Encryption & Extra Features: 20%

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

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

VPN Protocols is another key security feature we factor in. Most VPNs offer OpenVPN as a default protocol choice, as it best balances speed with security.

More VPNs are now offering WireGuard, or their own bespoke protocol, both of which we rate highly. Don’t worry, we never recommend a proprietary protocol without inspecting and testing it first.

The number of servers a VPN service provides is also important. However, it’s hard to say exactly how many VPN servers is the right number.

We make sure a VPN has a wide and global spread of servers, before recommending it.

Equally, we verify there are enough VPN servers in the most popular locations to avoid lag and traffic congestion even under high load.

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

We rent a VPN server located in China, which we use to test each VPN’s ability to beat the strictest of web censorship.

4. Streaming: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Unblocks the American Netflix library.
We Recommend: Unblocks multiple streaming libraries around the world.

We have active subscriptions to 12 of the most popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.

We spend hours each week testing every VPN by connecting to a VPN server, and seeing whether we can stream the geo-restricted content we want.

At the very least, every premium VPN should be able to access the US Netflix library.

Other streaming services we regularly test for include Hulu, DAZN, Channel 4, ITV and Hotstar.

5. Torrenting: 5%

Minimum Requirement: Allows private torrenting on many VPN servers.
We Recommend: Allows high-speed torrenting on all servers, with no data logging.

A paid-for VPN should never restrict torrenting too harshly. You should also be free to torrent on almost any server you choose.

We also test and record P2P bitrates for torrent VPNs, to see which VPN services have optimized for increased file-sharing 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 less-popular platforms.

Unless a VPN is mobile-only, we make sure every VPN we test has native applications for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS and iOS, and Google Android at the very least.

These apps should be clearly labeled for beginners. 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.

We highly rate VPNs that have developed a user-friendly app for Amazon Fire TV, a GUI for Linux, and an effective Smart DNS service for streaming devices and games consoles.

In our evaluations, we also consider a service’s online installation manuals for more niche platforms.

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.

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

The highest-rated VPNs offer 24/7 live chat support and in-depth how-to guides to make troubleshooting a much less painful experience.

At the very least, you should accept no less than a prompt and helpful email support service, plus some basic online FAQs.

What Is a VPN Service?

A VPN (virtual private network) service is a system that gives its users access to proxy servers in order to bypass internet geo-blocks.

VPN software also protects your internet data transfers from hacking attempts and unsolicited data profiling.

In essence, a VPN serves two main functions: to hide your public IP address and encrypt your internet traffic.

How a VPN Works

how a virtual private network (VPN) works

VPN software connects your device to a remote server through an encrypted tunnel.

VPN software forms an encrypted connection between your device and the websites, applications, and web services you use. It does this by connecting to a secure VPN server.

When you connect to a VPN server, your public IP address is replaced with the server’s IP address. This can make it appear as if you’re browsing from a different city or country.

Encrypting your data transfers and changing your IP address significantly improves your internet privacy, security and freedom.

What Is a VPN: Video Explainer

We made the short video below to explain in simple terms what a VPN service is, what it does, and how it works:

VPNs are not that complicated once you understand how they work.

Why You Need a VPN Service

There are several advantages to using a VPN service.

VPN services are typically used to:

  • Protect sensitive data transfers on public WiFi networks.
  • Hide your web traffic from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
  • Unblock websites and international streaming content.
  • Safeguard your identity and activity while torrenting.
  • Bypass web censorship and internet shutdowns.

We’ve explained each benefit in more detail below.

1. Encrypt Data Transfers on Public WiFi Networks

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

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

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

Testing Mullvad's encryption using Wireshark

Mullvad encrypted all of our internet traffic.

2. Hide Your Web Activity from Your ISP

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

An ISP can see any HTTPS web domain and any HTTP web page you visit.

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

A VPN encrypts your web requests as they travel from your device to the VPN server. Your ISP will know you’re using a VPN, but it won’t know what websites, applications and web services you’re accessing.

Therefore, 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-restricted Web (Video) Content

Streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer use your public IP address to limit the number of movies and TV shows you can watch.

Every country has a different content library, and some content platforms are only available in a specific country.

You can use a VPN to switch your real IP address with an IP address from another country. This way you can ‘trick’ streaming services, and unblock region-restricted content on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and more.

How to use Netflix with Private Internet Access

We easily unblocked US Netflix using Private Internet Access.

4. Hide Your IP Address While Torrenting

P2P file-sharing without a VPN or proxy can be dangerous. Your personal IP address is visible to everyone you’re sharing files with, and your ISP can track your download activity.

A VPN hides your IP address, your identity, and your file-sharing activity from both your ISP and other users. This protects you from the risks of torrenting with your real IP address.

CyberGhost qBittorrent test

We tested CyberGhost’s torrenting capabilities on qBittorrent.

5. Circumvent Government Censorship

Governments around the world choose to censor what you can view and do online.

Some governments even choose to shut down certain online services, like social media platforms, in times of political unrest.

The best anti-censorship VPN services use obfuscation technology, which is specifically designed to evade sophisticated internet censorship.

By scrambling your web traffic and changing your IP address, VPNs with obfuscation let you bypass aggressive web censorship and access the global internet safely.

Surfshark Unblocking YouTube in China

We accessed YouTube from China using Surfshark.

Limitations of VPN Services

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

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 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, 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.

FAQs

What Is the Best Free VPN?

The best free VPN is the free version of Windscribe. It’s secure, relatively fast, and doesn’t log personal web logs.

The free version of Windscribe unblocks BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Hulu, DAZN, and Disney+. It can also access 6 Netflix regions, but sadly not the US library.

Are VPN Services Legal?

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

However, VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea and Turkmenistan. Moreover, government restrictions to VPNs apply in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

How Do I Set Up & Use a VPN?

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

For computers and smartphones: sign up to the VPN service and use the download link to install the software. Then, sign in with your account details and you’re good to go.

For Fire TV devices: subscribe to a VPN with a Fire OS application, and search the Amazon App Store for the app. Install it, sign in, and launch the application.

For Apple TV and games consoles: subscribe to a VPN service with Smart DNS functionality, then use the DNS credentials provided and update your device’s DNS settings accordingly.

Are VPN Services Worth It?

Using a top-grade VPN service is worthwhile. It masks your IP address and protects your internet activity from snooping third-parties like your ISP, government agencies, and hackers.

With a VPN, you can also bypass geo-blocks to access region-locked websites and apps, even in highly-censored nations.

How Much Do VPN Services Cost?

On average, the month-to-month price of a VPN is $11.77. Subscribing to a yearly or a multi-year plan reduces the average monthly price to $4.11 per month.