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The Best VPN Services for 2020

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

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

A virtual private network (VPN) is a simple yet powerful tool that hides your IP address, spoofs your location, and improves your privacy and security online. The best VPN services will keep your web browsing traffic safe with strong encryption, no personal data logs, and fast speeds.

We’ve spent over 30,000 hours testing hundreds of VPNs on Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire OS to determine which providers offer the best security, streaming support, and connection speeds.

The best VPN service right now is ExpressVPN. With over 3,000 servers in 160+ locations globally, it’s the top overall option for reliably fast speeds, foolproof privacy, and consistent access to region-restricted streaming websites like Netflix, Disney+ and BBC iPlayer.

Based on our latest tests, the five best VPN services in September 2020 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The best VPN service in 2020. It’s secure, incredibly fast, and consistently unblocks Netflix. Read summary
  2. NordVPN: Fast, affordable, and very simple to use. Read summary
  3. CyberGhost: The best VPN for beginners, great for streaming video and unblocking websites. Read summary
  4. IPVanish: A great choice for Kodi users with a 100% no-logs policy and an excellent Firestick app. Read summary
  5. PrivateVPN: A budget VPN with a small server network but impressive streaming capabilities. Read summary

Compare these VPNs side-by-side with our tool.

Every VPN we review is put through the same rigorous and impartial testing. This means the VPNs we recommend on this page are the best available based on dozens of factors including: price, speed, security, ease of use, server locations, and customer support.

We test to make sure they can unblock a variety of streaming services including BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Netflix libraries from around the world. We also look into the company behind each service and read every privacy policy in depth to see what data is stored and whether it’s shared with third parties.

In short, we do the hard work so you can simply download a VPN and start using it immediately. To see exactly how we test and rate each VPN, you can read our full testing methodology.

Read on for a more in-depth look at each of 2020’s five best VPNs, as well as additional information about VPN services further below.

Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.

5 Best VPN Services of September 2020

1. ExpressVPN: Best Overall VPN

Exceptional VPN in all categories including speed, security & Netflix access.

  1. AES-256 encryption & no personal data logging
  2. Super-fast speeds, even on international connections
  3. Unblocks streaming services, including 19 Netflix libraries
  4. 3,000+ servers in 94 countries worldwide
  5. Intuitive & easy-to-use apps on all popular platforms
  6. Excellent 24/7 customer support with live chat
  1. One of the most expensive VPNs available
  2. No VPN kill switch on iOS
  3. Dated Amazon Fire TV Stick app
  4. No Linux GUI
  • Best Price

    $6.67/mo over 15 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    85Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    94 countries, 3,000+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Whatever your needs, ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market. Extremely fast connection speeds, industry-leading security, plus easy and unlimited access to streaming services and torrenting see ExpressVPN come out top in our testing yet again.

Security & Logging

ExpressVPN is highly secure, using all the best high-end protocols and security standards like OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), AES-256 encryption, and RSA-4096 key with SHA-512 HMAC authentication. Complex and unique technologies and encryption means that ExpressVPN even works to bypass censorship blocks in China.

The VPN service also doesn’t keep any logs that could be used to personally identify you. Your IP address stays hidden and there’s no record of the sites you’ve visited. Combine that with its home in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which we consider a privacy haven, and you have a VPN which you can trust.

Speeds

It’s also super fast. Our most recent speed tests recorded 85Mbps download speeds for ExpressVPN on a connection of 95Mbps without a VPN running – that’s a mere 11% loss in speed. In fact, if you want to connect to a server in another country then ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN you can get. Want proof? Take a look at the speeds we recorded while testing it:

Connection Download Speed % Speed Loss
London to London 87Mbps 10%
London to Frankfurt 79Mbps 17%
London to New York 77Mbps 19%
London to Singapore 73Mbps 23%
London to Sydney 59Mbps 38%
London to Vancouver 57Mbps 40%

Unblocking Streaming & Torrenting

Those speeds will be especially important if you use ExpressVPN to watch streaming services from other countries. We’ve found it to be the most consistent VPN for unblocking Netflix (both for the US and the 18 other international libraries it unlocks), plus it works for Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more. It also lets you torrent on any server, with no restrictions.

Price & Support

At its cheapest, ExpressVPN still costs $6.67 per month on a 15-month contract – it’s definitely expensive, but you certainly get your money’s worth. All of its apps are easy to use, whether you’re on Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android, and if you need any help then live chat is available 24/7. It’s still missing a kill switch on iOS, though, and the lack of a fully-featured, bespoke application for Linux is disappointing.

If you’re new to VPNs we understand why you might want to go with a cheaper VPN, and all the other options on this list are excellent choices in that case. But if money is no object, ExpressVPN has proven itself to be the best of the best.

For a more in-depth look, read our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN: Best Alternative

Superb speeds, strong security and many advanced features for an affordable price.

  1. Top security with no IP or DNS leaks
  2. No activity logs kept
  3. Over 5,000 high-speed servers in 59 countries
  4. Unblocks Netflix, P2P-optimized servers & Tor support
  5. Easy-to-use apps & 24/7 live chat support
  6. Lots of extra features like DoubleVPN & adblock
  1. Poor response to server breach
  2. Limited VPN protocol choice on Windows & Android
  3. Fire TV Stick app doesn't work with Netflix
  4. No Smart DNS feature for Apple TV & game consoles
  5. Manual setup required to work in China
  • Best Price

    $3.71/mo over 24 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    93Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 5,394 servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Even if you’ve never used a VPN before you’ve probably heard of NordVPN. It may be one of the most popular VPNs in the world, but our testing has confirmed that it’s also one of the best. It’s significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN but offers speeds, easy-to-use apps, customer support, and security at a level that very few can match.

Security & Logging

NordVPN offers all the latest high-end security features and encryption protocols, with AES-256 encryption, and RSA-4096 key with SHA-512 HMAC authentication as standard, plus our personal favorite protocol OpenVPN (although it uses IKEv2 by default, which is also a safe choice).

NordVPN is also a no-logs VPN provider. That means that nothing that could be used to identify you is collected by the service: no IP address, no browser history, and no bandwidth. The only bits of information collected are anonymized, meaning that nothing you do while using NordVPN could ever be traced back to you.

What really sets NordVPN apart from its rivals is its extra features. DoubleVPN makes you even harder to track by pinging your traffic through an extra VPN server, while Onion Over VPN can make your traffic virtually untraceable, or let you browse the deep web safely. It even has CyberSec, NordVPN’s own advanced ad-blocker, built-in.

Speeds & Servers

None of that stands in the way of speed, though. NordVPN has consistently proven itself as one of the fastest VPNs on the market – its huge server network spread across 59 countries helps make sure of that. With 650 servers in the British Isles alone, NordVPN is also the best VPN for the UK.

Curious as to how NordVPN’s server network compares to its top VPN rivals? Here’s the total number versus nine of its most popular rivals:

VPN Service Server Count
NordVPN 5,500+
CyberGhost 6,400
PIA 12,000+
ExpressVPN 3,000+
Surfshark 1,800+
IPVanish 1,400+
ProtonVPN 800+
PrivateVPN 150+
VPNArea 144

NordVPN is currently taking steps to make those servers more secure and reliable than ever, after it suffered a server breach in 2018. Its delayed response to the hack is one of our main criticisms of the service – it was disappointing to see such an otherwise reliable VPN respond so poorly. Still, we believe that NordVPN is trustworthy and, while they may be taking place for the wrong reasons, these ongoing server improvements will make it stronger than ever.

Unblocking Streaming & Torrenting

You can unlock all of your favorite streaming services (including Netflix) in a range of countries (nine that we could find for Netflix alone), and there are NordVPN servers specially optimized for P2P activity and torrenting – that excellent logging policy we talked about, which doesn’t retain any personal data, means that all your streams and downloads are kept strictly confidential.

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs in the world, as confirmed by our technical testing. All those secure torrents are sure to complete in record time, and you can be sure of buffer-free streaming while you’re connected to the service: our 94Mbps office connection speed dropped just 1% when we switched on NordVPN.

Price & Support

Perhaps the biggest selling point, though, is that NordVPN offers all this for a price much cheaper than ExpressVPN on a long-term subscription: NordVPN costs $3.49 per month on a three-year contract – that’s almost half the price of ExpressVPN’s cheapest deal. There’s no catch, live chat is available 24/7 to help you should you need it, and you can get your money back within 30 days if you’re at all unsatisfied.

We may have placed it second in our list, but there’s no simple verdict as to which is better, NordVPN or ExpressVPN. To find out which provider will suit you best, check out our in-depth comparison guide: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN.

For a more in-depth look, read our full NordVPN review.

3. CyberGhost: Best for Ease of Use

A beginner-friendly VPN optimized for worldwide streaming.

  1. Totally secure, leak-free encryption
  2. Only logs anonymous metadata (100% safe)
  3. Very reliable for unblocking iPlayer, Netflix & more
  4. Huge 6,400 server network across 89 countries
  5. Affordable & easy to use on all your devices
  6. 24/7 support & 45-day money-back guarantee
  1. Not as fast as rivals over long distances
  2. Mobile & MacOS apps missing some features
  3. Doesn’t work in China, Turkey & UAE
  4. Won’t work on Chromebook
  • Best Price

    $2.75/mo over 3 years

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    87Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    90 countries, 6,400+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

CyberGhost was founded almost 10 years ago, and has proven to be one of the most accessible, affordable, and reliable VPNs on the market ever since.

Streaming Servers & Apps

CyberGhost’s main draw is how excellently it works with streaming services. The VPN app is perfect for TV and movie fans as it puts its 46 streaming-optimized servers front-and-centre, with different locations labelled for different services, including Netflix, HBO, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, and more.

With apps not just available for all the usual popular platforms (like Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS) but also Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Linux, and router, all your devices should be covered – and seven can connect to one account simultaneously, which is a pretty generous allowance.

Torrenting & Speeds

CyberGhost also has P2P servers optimized for torrenting placed all over the world, so you should never be too far from one, plus there’s the kill switch to keep your IP address hidden. You don’t need to worry about logs, either – the minimal data collected by CyberGhost can’t be used to identify you, and its NoSpy servers are extra secure and based in Romania, just like the company itself.

Romania is an EU nation, which isn’t great for privacy, but it is at least safely distanced from the Five Eyes and other related intelligence-sharing organizations.

It’s not quite as fast as the two choices above it on this list when it comes to long-distance connections, but CyberGhost is still one of the very fastest VPNs over shorter-distances: 83Mbps download speeds on a 93Mbps broadband line is excellent.

Price, Support & Ease of Use

At  $2.75 per month over three years it’s very affordable, and has both a one-day trial and 45-day money-back-guarantee so you have nothing to lose by trying it.

We think it’s one of the simplest, easiest to use VPNs out there, but if you have any issues you can always get in touch with a support agent via 24/7 live chat. Here’s a list of CyberGhost’s handy extra features:

Feature What Does it Do?
Dedicated Torrenting Servers All servers optimized for P2P are listed in a menu on the home screen
Dedicated Streaning Servers All servers optimized for streaming are listed in a menu on the home screen, along with their location and what service they unblock
Ad-Block Built-in ad-block ensures that not only are ads within your browsers blocked while you’re connected, but also ads shown within apps and other programs
Malicious Content Filter Helps block potentially harmful websites before you can access them
Tracker Blocking Blocks any attempts from sites or sevices to track you around the internet, keeping your behavior even more private
Automated HTTPS Redirect If you click a link or a website tries to direct you to an unsecure HTTP page, CyberGhost will force you back towards an HTTPS version of the same page
Data Compression If you’re on mobile or a metered connection and worried about data use, this feature will compress web pages and objects to use less data
Exceptions This is CyberGhost’s name for split-tunneling, allowing apps of your choosing to be excluded from VPN coverage
App Protection CyberGhost will automatically connect if you open any apps added to this feature
Kill Switch Not unique to CyberGhost, but still super important, this setting automatically severs your internet connection if the VPN drops (it’s enabled by default)

For a more in-depth look, read our full CyberGhost review.

4. IPVanish: Best for Firestick & Kodi

No-logs VPN with the best Amazon Fire TV Stick app we’ve tested.

  1. Advanced security & encryption
  2. No logs kept whatsoever
  3. Lightning-fast speeds on most connections
  4. Over 40,000 IP addresses across 75 locations
  5. The best Fire TV Stick VPN app you can get
  6. Successfully unblocks US Netflix
  1. Doesn’t unblock BBC iPlayer or Disney+
  2. Based in the privacy-unfriendly US
  3. Can’t beat censorship in China
  4. Submitted information to the FBI in 2016
  • Best Price

    $3.25 over 12 months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    84Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    57 countries, 1,400+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Fast, secure, easy to use, and completely trustworthy, IPVanish is one of the best VPNs you can get in 2020.

Security & Logging

As its name suggests, IPVanish puts security first. Its wide range of encryption protocols (including OpenVPN and IKEv2) are as good as it gets when it comes to hiding your IP, while AES-256 encryption makes your data all but uncrackable.

IPVanish is also one of very few reputable VPNs to keep absolutely no logs whatsoever. It doesn’t monitor or store a single bit of data relating to its users. That makes its US jurisdiction a lot more bearable: the government can force IPVanish to hand over data that it never had in the first place. This helps make it an excellent VPN for torrenting, which you can do with no limitations on any server you like.

Servers & Speeds

IPVanish has a whole lot of servers, too – 1,400 in fact, utilizing over 40,000 IP addresses in 75 locations worldwide. It’s that vast network which helps deliver such fast download and upload speeds most of the time: 84Mbps in our latest test is just a 10% loss in download speed. We have noticed a bit of slowdown in our testing when trying out longer distance connections, like from the UK to the US, though

Amazon Fire TV App & Streaming

One area IPVanish is untouchable, though, is its app for the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It has apps for all the most popular platforms (like iOS, Android, Windows, and MacOS) but its Amazon Fire TV app is way ahead of the competition. Here’s how it fares versus its rivals:

VPN App Friendly Design Kill Switch Split Tunneling Obfusc-ation Protocol Choice
IPVanish Yes No Yes Yes Yes
PrivateVPN Yes No No Yes No
ExpressVPN No Yes Yes No Yes
Surfshark Yes Yes Yes No Yes
CyberGhost No Yes Yes No Yes

It’s a shame that despite having such an excellent app for streaming devices, IPVanish isn’t as much of a streaming VPN as its rivals in this list. It can only unlock two Netflix libraries (US and Japan), and it can’t unblock BBC iPlayer or Disney+.

Logging Controversy

There’s also a historical controversy that we think you should know about: in 2016 IPVanish was involved in a court case and ended up supplying logs of a user to the United States FBI. While we absolutely condemn the crimes committed by the offender, we also cannot condone a VPN for surrendering logs. That said, this all happened under a different owner. IPVanish is essentially a different company now, and we are extremely confident that such a scenario would be impossible now due to its excellent no-logs policy.

For a more in-depth look, read our full IPVanish review.

5. PrivateVPN: Best Budget VPN

A very good streaming VPN at an unbeatable price.

  1. Extra secure encryption & no personal logs
  2. All the speed you’ll ever need on local connections
  3. Dedicated Netflix servers in 32 countries
  4. Easy-to-use VPN apps on desktop & mobile
  5. Likely to work in China
  6. Unbeatable value on a long-term deal
  1. Fairly small network of 150 servers
  2. No app for Linux or smart DNS for games consoles
  3. Some speed loss on longer-distance connections
  • Best PriceExtra 12 months free

    $1.89/mo over 24 months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    94Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    60 countries, 150+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Reputation and experience may be two of the most important factors when shopping for a VPN, but PrivateVPN is so good that it’s already established itself as one of the very best VPNs on the market in the short time it’s existed.

While it may not have the big-name appeal of the more established names on this page, PrivateVPN stands up to them in almost every category.

Security, Speeds & Servers

PrivateVPN has the same high-tech encryption and security protocols as you’d expect from any top-quality VPN: military-grade AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit encryption code with 2048-bit DH key, combined with OpenVPN (UDP and TCP) or IKEv2 to help you hide your IP and protect your identity online.

PrivateVPN is fast, too. Despite a small server network of 150 servers in 60 countries, our testing has found PrivateVPN’s speeds to be highly competitive, particularly on shorter-distance connections (like if you’re connecting to a server based in the same country as you are). Our experts clocked speeds on a London to London PrivateVPN connection of 87Mbps – that was a loss of just 7% from our fibre broadband line’s speed without any VPN running.

Streaming, Torrenting & Logging

A great deal of those servers are dedicated to Netflix, too. PrivateVPN is an excellent choice if you love streaming movies and TV shows, as you can use it to access Netflix libraries from a massive 32 different countries – in addition to other services like BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime TV, Disney+, and more.

Whatever you choose to do while connected you can be sure that you’re anonymous while you do it, because PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any logs. Its logging policy states: “PrivateVPN does not collect or log any traffic or use of its service.”

That one line is, however, just about all the policy says. While we want to see some more details, we also have seen no reason not to trust PrivateVPN in all our years of testing it. Combine that no-logs policy with 17 P2P-optimized servers and a VPN kill switch and PrivateVPN is also a great choice for torrenting.

Price

The biggest draw of all, though, is PrivateVPN’s price. Using the link on our website to sign up makes PrivateVPN the cheapest service you can subscribe to without compromising on quality. Here’s how it compares to some of its most popular rivals in a selection of popular currencies:

VPN Service Cheapest Monthly Price (USD) Price in EUR Price in GBP Price in JPY Price in INR
PrivateVPN $1.89 €1.67 £1.50 ¥203 ₹141
Surfshark $1.94 €1.72 £1.54 ¥208 ₹145
PIA $2.69 €2.38 £2.14 ¥289 ₹201
CyberGhost $2.75 €2.43 £2.19 ¥295 ₹205
VPNArea $2.99 €2.64 £2.38 ¥321 ₹223
NordVPN $3.49 €3.09 £2.78 ¥375 ₹261
ProtonVPN $4.00 €3.54 £3.18 ¥430 ₹299
IPVanish $5.20 €4.60 £4.13 ¥559 ₹389
ExpressVPN $6.67 €5.90 £5.30 ¥717 ₹499
Astrill $10.00 €8.85 £7.95 ¥1,074 ₹748

For a more in-depth look, read our full PrivateVPN review.

The Best VPN Services Compared

The Best VPNs by Category

Category Our Recommendation
Best Overall VPN ExpressVPN
Best Free VPN Windscribe
Best Cheap VPN NordVPN
Fastest VPN Private Internet Access
Best VPN for Netflix ExpressVPN
Best VPN for BBC iPlayer CyberGhost
Best VPN for Torrenting ExpressVPN
Best VPN for Gaming ExpressVPN
Best VPN for Fire TV Stick IPVanish
Best VPN for Android ExpressVPN
Best VPN for iPhone ExpressVPN

What About Other Popular VPN Services?

Perhaps you’ve seen, read about, or even used another popular VPN not featured in our top five and you’re wondering why it’s not here. There are plenty of other VPNs out there, some which come close to entering this list and some which are nowhere near it – here’s a look at some of the big names that missed out:

Surfshark


Surfshark is an excellent VPN that very narrowly misses out on our top five. While it’s still fast (our tests recorded 84Mbps on a short-range connection) it just lacks the unbeatable speed of some of its competitors which place above it.

It does almost everything else very well, though: Surfshark has a no-logs policy, excellent encryption and security, loads of extra features like Camouflage Mode and multi-hop, and unlocks 15 different Netflix libraries – all for $1.94 per month, too.

Read our full Surfshark Review

Private Internet Access

Image showing the light and dark mode available in the Private Internet Access applications.
Private Internet Access (also known as PIA VPN) is one of the fastest and most trusted VPN services, and it’s very popular in the United States. It also recently started consistently unblocking US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.

Despite being a very good service, PIA VPN misses out on our top five because, compared to its top rivals, its desktop apps aren’t as user-friendly, it’s long-distance connection speeds weren’t as fast and it doesn’t unblock as many streaming services. However, if you’re a keen torrenter, then PIA VPN is excellent for P2P traffic.

Read our full Private Internet Access Review

HideMyAss

Screenshot of the newly updated HMA Version 5 app.
HideMyAss is one of the oldest and best-known VPNs around, which makes it all the more important to know that it’s not been in our top five all this time because of trust.

HMA previously had a terrible logging policy that was nowhere near as strict as competitors’. It finally righted this early in 2020 by massively cutting back on what it logs, but given its history of logging users and cooperating with police (plus its UK jurisdiction) we can’t recommend it too highly just yet.

Read our full HideMyAss Review

Hotspot Shield

Screenshot of Hotspot Shield Windows app
Hotspot Shield suffers from a similar issue to HMA: while it may provide extremely fast download speeds, totally unrestricted torrenting, and servers in 108 cities around the globe, we still can’t trust it as much as our top five providers.

Hotspot Shield’s logging policy is simply too complex. In some way or another it logs: Your IP address, your approximate geographical location, connection timestamps, bandwidth used per user and per session, device-specific information, and non-personal logs of websites. While most of this is aggregated or anonymized, it’s still far more than we think necessary – you can do better.

Read our full Hotspot Shield Review

Windscribe

Screenshots of the Windscribe browser extension
Windscribe is one of the best VPNs available for streaming, unblocking loads of Netflix libraries from around the world, plus Hulu, Disney+ and more. It’s also super-secure and has a very minimal, trustworthy logging policy. So what’s the issue?

With Windscribe there is no one major downside – it’s just that it falls short of its rivals in a number of areas, but only by the smallest amount. It’s not quite as fast, doesn’t have quite as many features, and is slightly lacking in quality support when compared to the best VPNs available. Windscribe is still a great VPN, it’s just that some others are even better.

Read our full Windscribe Review

TunnelBear

TunnelBear PC app
TunnelBear is a very popular VPN, and one which you might have seen recommended all over the internet by other VPN comparison websites, but there is one key reason why we don’t like it as much.

Our testing has found that TunnelBear simply cannot be used as a streaming VPN. Our latest in-depth set of streaming tests found that TunnelBear only unlocks one Netflix library – Netflix Japan. If you want to unblock anything else (including any other streaming service), TunnelBear won’t work.

Read our full TunnelBear Review

Methodology: How We Test & Review VPNs

Our experts test every aspect of a VPN when they write their reviews. What you need from a VPN might differ from what the next person needs, but we make sure to balance all of our scores according to what users want and what we, as professionals, think you should be looking out for.

Privacy & Security

Privacy is a key part of anything you do with a VPN. Even if you don’t use a VPN to stay secure online, everything else you do use it for won’t work without the right technologies.

A no-logs policy to keep your data private, no DNS or IP leaks to keep you hidden, and secure protocols with proper encryption to keep you safe all come first when we score a VPN, and we think they should come first for you too.

Connection Speeds

VPN speeds are all-important as everything you do online depends on them. Speed loss can be frustrating if you’re on a high-speed fibre optic broadband line, but it can be disastrous if you’re on a much slower connection, or on a mobile device with weak data signal.

Be sure to choose a VPN that’s fast – whether its on local connections (if you only use your VPN to encrypt your web traffic) or internationally (if you use your VPN to unblock content on foreign sites and services).

Unblocking Streaming & Unlimited Torrenting

Watching foreign movies and TV shows on services like Netflix is one of the biggest reasons to use a VPN, but not every VPN is capable of unblocking them. Our testing lets you know what streaming apps a VPN will easily unblock, along with how many different countries it can reveal shows and movies from (the current record holder is Windscribe, which unblocks 42 different Netflix libraries).

Torrenting via VPN is also very popular but, unlike watching TV, torrenting is something you should never do without a VPN. Look for a VPN our experts have confirmed has no limits on the amount you can download – some VPNs even have servers dedicated to P2P traffic.

Customer Support

24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week live chat support is what we believe every VPN should aim for, and the very best manage to achieve it.

We also look for comprehensive knowledge bases, informative FAQs, and some VPNs even have their own forums where users can help each other out.

Ease of Use

Most consumer VPNs work in largely the same way, and even look quite similar. But it can be surprising just how much little details can make a big difference.

You shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll feel comfortable using your VPN, which is why we download and test every VPN we review on Microsoft Windows, Google Android, Apple iOS and MacOS, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV Stick, so that there are no nasty surprises.

We also look out for extra features like an ad-blocker, kill switch, dedicated server lists, split-tunneling, and more – those little added touches can make a big difference.

Bypassing Censorship

If you’re based in, or planning on traveling to, a country which censors the internet then a VPN is essential – but it’s not as simple as just downloading the first one you find.

Beating censorship blocks like the Great Firewall of China or those in Russia and the UAE is the hardest task of all for a VPN. Very few manage it successfully, and even fewer can provide consistent access to the unfiltered world wide web.

Overcoming web blocks can be a very serious issue, which is why we always try our hardest to say with confidence which VPNs will work and which won’t. Be sure to check our reviews and to download the VPN before heading to the censored country (if possible).

Our 10-Step VPN Review Process

We take great pride in the impartiality of our VPN testing. Our dedicated team of VPN experts are 100% independent, and rigorously review every VPN using the same precise VPN testing program. Here are the 10 steps we follow when testing a VPN:

  1. Purchasing the VPN.

    We buy every single VPN we test. We pay the full-price subscription fee and never take any handouts, freebies, or test copies from providers. It’s the exact same VPN you’ll use if you end up buying it, too.

  2. Installing and testing on multiple devices.

    The best VPNs run on loads of different platforms. We don’t know whether you’re a Mac user or a PC geek, an iPhone devotee or an Android fanboy, so the only proper way to test a VPN is to do so on all the devices available.

  3. Can we quickly find what we want?

    Or, essentially, how easy is the VPN to use? Are the buttons labelled properly, is everything where it should be, and do all the options and toggles do what you expect them to do?

  4. Does it have all the necessary features?

    The kill switch, fastest server location option, protocol select, split tunneling, and other vital features aren’t yet standard on every single VPN. We make sure that you know what you’re getting before you buy.

  5. Does it protect your privacy and security?

    Jargon terms like AES-256, RSA-4096, and SHA-512 may sound confusing, but they’re vital to keeping your data fully encrypted. We also check for IP leaks, DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, and viruses. Only when a VPN passes all those tests do we feel we can safely recommend it.

  6. How fast is it?

    Speeds may be the easiest numbers to understand when it comes to VPNs, but testing for them is complex. We test in two different methods – manually and with our automated testing tool. We’re based in the UK, but we make sure that you can get a good idea of what a VPN’s speeds will look like for you no matter where you are in the world.

  7. Does it work with popular web services?

    Unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, WhatsApp, Wikipedia, torrenting, and more: these are some of the most popular reasons people subscribe to a VPN, which means it’s super important that we test them all consistently over time and on a multitude of devices.

  8. Can it bypass censorship?

    In countries like China the internet is harshly censored, and a VPN can be one of the only effective ways to access it freely. It’s a hard task, though, even for the very best VPNs, which is why we go to great lengths to find out whether or not it can be relied upon to beat the censors.

  9. What is its privacy and logging policy like?

    It’s absolutely vital that a VPN does not collect or store any logs that could be used to personally identify you, the user. That means we check every VPN’s privacy policy to make sure it isn’t storing your IP address, DNS requests, browser history, or anything else like that. We also check to see where the VPN is based and who owns it, as both can play important roles should the government ever demand data from it.

  10. How good is the customer support?

    Ideally your VPN will be simple and reliable to use, but things occasionally go wrong. We spend a great deal of time talking with each VPN’s customer support team to make sure that they’re punctual, knowledgeable, friendly, and available when you need them.

    1. You can read more about how we test VPNs here.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

1 Hide your browsing activity from ISPs, governments & snoopers

Illustration showing a blurred man hidden behind a magnifying glass.

Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) is able to monitor and log everything you do online.

In certain countries, like Canada, ISPs are even forced to track and store customers’ online activities and hand it over to the authorities if asked to.

In the United States, ISPs are also allowed to collect, share, and sell your personal data and information about your online habits to third parties, including advertisers.

They can do this without your explicit consent. We believe that’s a huge infringement of your privacy. If you want to prevent this from happening you need to use a trusted VPN service.

When you connect to a VPN server, your web traffic is rerouted through that secure server and your internet provider is unable to see beyond it. Therefore, it can’t track what you’re doing online. Proper encryption (AES-256 is standard for any good VPN) means that the data, even if intercepted, is practically uncrackable. No, really, when we say uncrackable we mean it.

2 Protect your data on public WiFi

Illustration of a man connected to public wifi while traveling.

Free public WiFi hotspots in restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels are dangerous. They often use unsecured connections, which are vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.

In fact, hackers can carry out a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, which allows them to either eavesdrop, manipulate, or steal your private communications. MITM attacks can also be used to carry out phishing scams.

Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks, since a VPN adds a layer of encryption (often, AES 256-bit encryption) to any unsecured internet connection. This means you can use the internet in public places without the worry of being spied on, or having your personal data stolen.

3 Beat online censorship imposed by governments, workplaces, or schools

a man sitting at his computer, but the computer screen is blocked off by a brick wall

Censorship is certainly no longer restricted to authoritarian regimes like China or the UAE. The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are governments blocking piracy sites like the Pirate Bay. Web blocks also occur in the workplace, schools, or libraries.

In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands more websites are all blocked. The best and most effective way to get around these censorship blocks is to use a good VPN. However, only a few VPNs can beat China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus.

It’s easier to bypass website blocks in workplaces and schools, but you can’t always install VPN software on a workplace or school device. When that happens, you can install a VPN browser extension onto your web browser instead.

Here are the best Chrome VPN extensions and the best Firefox VPN add-ons.

What Are the Limitations of Using a VPN?

Using a VPN is essential for your online security and privacy, but even the best VPNs come with limits. Here are some things that a VPN can’t do:

  • Provide complete antivirus/malware protection. Always install trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN has a malware-blocking feature (like Hotspot Shield).
  • Store all of your passwords together securely. You should use a good password manager like LastPass or 1Password.
  • Increase your maximum internet speed. The only exception is if your ISP is throttling your connection.
  • Block ads. Some VPNs come with an ad-blocker, but if yours doesn’t then it’s definitely worth getting one. We recommend uBlock Origin (currently available on Chrome, Chromium, Edge, Firefox, and Opera).

VPN FAQs

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is a simple piece of software that encrypts your internet traffic and forms a secure connection between your device and the website it’s visiting.

It also hides your true IP address and replaces it with a different one. This makes it appear as if you’re in a different location to where you really are, and can even be somewhere on the complete opposite side of the world.

This makes a VPN perfect for securing yourself on public WiFi, preventing your ISP from tracking you when you’re at home, and unblocking websites and apps that only work in certain parts of the world.

It also means that you need to have 100% trust and confidence in your VPN, as not only can it see everything you do online but is also solely responsible for making sure it stays secured, encrypted, and private.

What Is the Best VPN?

Our testing has determined that ExpressVPN is the best VPN available in 2020.

ExpressVPN is a superb all-round product with no real weak spots. It has an excellent no-logs privacy policy and jurisdiction in the secure British Virgin Islands, its AES-256 encryption and VPN kill switch will keep you safe, and its extremely fast download speeds (both locally and internationally) are perfect for secure torrenting and unblocking Netflix – and it even beats censorship in China.

Can You Trust Your VPN Service?

When you use a VPN, all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. That means it’s really important you use a VPN you can really trust. Therefore, the question is: how do you know if you can trust your VPN?

Here are the four main factors we look at to determine whether or not a VPN is trustworthy:

  1. Who owns the VPN?

    This is a question easier asked than answered. A lot of VPNs go to great lengths to protect their privacy – sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes for more dubious ones.

    Ideally a VPN will be either independently owned or owned by a company with a history of standing up for digital rights and privacy. Being able to put a name and face to the leadership is reassuring, too.

  2. Where is the VPN based?

    Jurisdictions matter. It’s obvious that you don’t want to subscribe to a VPN based in somewhere like Russia or China, where the government has total control over such companies, but it goes a little deeper than that.

    There’s a number of countries that make for a poor base of operations that you perhaps wouldn’t expect. Any member of Five Eyes is a very poor choice – that’s the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The related Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes are also less than ideal, as is any EU member state.

    Map of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Countries.

    It’s much easier to trust a VPN if it’s based in a country without any intrusive data laws or data sharing agreements with other nations.

  3. What is its logging policy like?
    The logging policy is the most important attribute of all. You should aim for a zero-logs VPN, or at least one which doesn’t collect any personally-identifiable data.

    A great logging policy can make the jurisdiction irrelevant, as the government cannot seize data which was never collected. There are only a handful of excellent VPNs which don’t store any logs at all, but there are plenty more which only collect aggregated metadata – or, in other words, broad usage statistics that are combined from every active user (for example the total amount of data transferred, or the total number of accounts connected to a server simultaneously).

    Never settle for a VPN which logs your IP address or browsing activity.

  4. Has the VPN been audited and how transparent is it?
    Ultimately, for all of the above you are forced to take the VPN for its word. It’s highly unlikely that a company would lie on a legally-binding privacy policy, but you can never say for sure.

    Unless the VPN is audited, that is. We’re seeing an increasing number of services opening up their company to external, independent auditing firms who examine the inner workings of the VPN to make sure that its privacy policy is accurate.

    Even better than this is a VPN which is open source. This means the software it uses is shared online in its entirety, and is completely open for anyone with the technical knowhow to look over. By allowing potentially thousands of eagle-eyed tech geeks to look over every line of code, you can be sure that these VPNs are 100% truthful and doing exactly as they promise.

    ProtonVPN and Private Internet Access are our two favorite open source VPNs.

  5. Are VPNs Legal?

    VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they legal? The answer is yes, VPN services are legal in almost every country except for a handful listed below.

    Country VPN Status Social Media Blocks Censorship Surveillance
    Belarus Illegal Moderate Extensive Extensive
    China Restricted Extensive Extensive Extensive
    Iran Restricted Moderate Extensive Extensive
    Iraq Illegal Moderate Moderate Minor
    North Korea Illegal Extensive Extensive Extensive
    Oman Restricted Minor Extensive Moderate
    Russia Restricted Moderate Extensive Moderate
    Turkey Restricted Moderate Extensive Extensive
    Turkmenistan Illegal Extensive Extensive Extensive
    UAE Restricted Moderate Extensive Moderate

     

    If you’re located outside of the above countries, you can download and use a VPN without any legal worries.

    To know more about the legality of using VPNs, read our ‘Are VPNs Legal?’ guide.

    Are Free VPNs Safe?

    Often, when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse. Sadly, this is definitely the case with VPNs. Many free VPNs are limited by:

    • Limited data allowances
    • Slower (capped) speeds
    • Limited server locations
    • No Netflix support
    • Intrusive advertising

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. A worryingly high number of free VPNs pose serious security risks to whoever uses them. We recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps and uncovered that over 85% were potentially unsafe.

    How Much Do VPNs Cost?

    A one month subscription to a VPN service costs, on average, around $10 – but that’s never the best price. VPN subscriptions are usually charged monthly, annually, every two years, or occasionally every three years. A rare few even offer lifetime subscriptions.

    The longer the subscription plan, the cheaper the equivalent monthly cost.

    Take Surfshark, for example. Right now you can pay $11.95 for a one-month subscription. Alternatively, you could pay $71.88 for a year’s subscription, which is equal to $5.99 per month. Or, you could use our special coupon code and pay $69.99 for a three-year subscription, which brings the monthly cost all the way down to just $1.94.

    Surfshark is comfortably one of the cheapest VPNs on the market, but it illustrates perfectly how you only get real value for money when you purchase a long-term subscription. Try not to pay month-by-month if you can help it.

    You can also try a number of VPNs before you buy – you can see our favorite VPN free trials here.

    EXPERT TIP: If you really don’t want to spend any money, there are ways that you can use paid VPNs for free.

    If you’re hesitant to commit to a whole subscription, try a VPN that offers a money-back guarantee. We’ve put together a detailed list of our favorites here – our number one recommendation is ExpressVPN. You can use it for up to 30 days and then get a full refund, no-questions-asked.

    Alternatively, you can look for a VPN with a genuine free trial. Astrill VPN lets you use its full VPN service for seven days, and you don’t even have to enter payment details.

    Are VPNs Easy to Use?

    The short answer is yes, VPNs are so easy to use that even someone with no experience will be able to use them comfortably and confidently.

    Most VPNs work in largely the same way: you download and install the app or program with a few clicks or taps, pick a server, and then hit the big button labelled ‘Connect’.

    Some of the designs and labels vary, but VPNs are simple apps at their core, and any well-reviewed provider will offer a service that’s ready to go with zero calibration from you once it’s installed.

    That applies to both desktop and mobile VPNs (Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android), but other platforms can be a little more tricky.

    If you use Linux then you should pay close attention, as we’ve found many big-name VPN providers which haven’t created a proper GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Linux. This can mean spending time inside the Terminal running lines of code to use the VPN the way you want – it’s not too difficult, but it looks ugly and is far more time-consuming.

    Installing a VPN on games consoles and streaming devices (like AppleTV or a Roku device) also tends to be more difficult. It will usually involve manually configuring DNS settings – your VPN will provide you with instructions, but it can be a little intimidating.

    Dedicated VPN apps for the Amazon Fire TV range of devices (including the Firestick) are common, although ones that actually work well and are easy to use are rarer. That’s why we heap so much praise on the IPVanish Fire TV Stick app above.

    Finally, for covering everything on your home network all at once, there’s the option to install a VPN on your router. It can be quite complex, and it’s often not very easy to change servers and settings, however it does allow you to protect devices that are otherwise incapable of supporting a VPN. Read our guide on how to set up a VPN on a router for more details.

    Our testing has found that the settings and features offered by a VPN can vary depending on which of its apps you’re using. It’s alarmingly common to find things like the kill switch available on desktop but not on mobile, for example – be sure you read our reviews thoroughly to understand what you can and can’t do with your VPN.

    Which Devices Can I Use a VPN On?

    If you own a product that can connect to the internet, then you can protect it with a VPN. However, just how you can do that depends on what sort of device it is.

    Common, popular devices like your smartphone, tablet, computer, and laptop will all have what we call ‘fully-featured’ or ‘dedicated’ VPN apps. That means that they have the most features, the best interface, and are the easiest to set up and use.

    Coverage via DNS configuration means that you can input a specialized DNS server unique to your VPN provider which allows for the unblocking of streaming services. This will be done via inputting information and tinkering with settings on the device itself (like a games console or set-top box).

    Finally, router coverage only means that the sole way you can protect a device is by installing a VPN on your router and then connecting that device to it. This is how you give VPN coverage to anything which has no user interface or no way for you to tinker with its software – think along the lines of IoT devices like an Amazon Echo or smart versions or common domestic appliances like fridges and washing machines.

    Here’s a complete run-down of how you can cover every device in your home with a VPN:

    Fully-Featured Dedicated VPN App, DNS configuration, or router coverage:

    • Windows PC or laptop
    • Apple MacBook, iMac, or Mac Pro
    • Apple iPhone or iPad
    • Android smartphone or tablet
    • Ubuntu Linux computer
    • Amazon Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Box, or Fire TV Cube

    DNS configuration or router coverage only:

    • Microsoft Xbox One
    • Sony PlayStation 4
    • Nintendo Switch
    • Roku Express, Streaming Stick, or Ultra
    • Apple TV
    • Smart TV (including models made by Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG)

    Router Coverage Only

    • Digital assistants (including Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod)
    • Connected doorbell (including Ring and Google Nest)
    • Smart thermostat
    • Smart lighting (including Philips Hue)
    • Connected speakers (including Sonos)
    • Smart kitchen appliances

    Can You Use a VPN to Unblock Netflix?

    NordVPN American Netflix
    It’s no secret that there’s dozens of unique Netflix libraries all around the world that are kept off limits to paying subscribers. What you might not know, though, is that you can use a VPN to unblock them all, allowing you to watch whatever Netflix library you like, whenever you like.

    Unlocking Netflix libraries with a VPN is super easy, too. Simply choose a server in the country you wish to unblock, connect, and then either fire up the Netflix app or browse to netflix.com.

    At least, that’s all you have to do from a technical standpoint. What’s tricky is ensuring that you have a VPN that can actually bypass Netflix’s security checks and deliver you content undetected.

    Netflix is constantly working to block IP addresses that it believes are associated with VPNs. This means that only the best and most dedicated VPNs will be able to unblock the Netflix library you desire.

    Read our list of the top five VPNs for Netflix to see which ones performed best in our testing, as well as which libraries can be unblocked by the most popular VPNs. Our current number one recommendation is ExpressVPN.

    Why You Need a VPN for Torrenting

    Torrenting can be an incredibly fast way to download large files, but it can also be dangerous. Using a VPN can help mitigate some of those dangers.

    When you’re a part of a torrent swarm (the group which is sharing parts of the desired file between one another) your IP address is potentially exposed. Using a VPN will hide your IP and prevent other torrenters from removing your anonymity.

    A screenshot showing that PIA allowed us to torrenting and P2P share successfully.

    ISPs often dislike torrenting, too. Even though it can be completely legal, ISPs will often spy on the files you’re downloading and throttle your bandwidth if it suspects it is P2P traffic.

    Torrenting hides the contents of the data transfer and disguises P2P traffic as regular web activity – no one other than you will know what you’re downloading.

    Not all VPNs take an open approach to torrenting, though. Some don’t allow it on certain servers, while others don’t allow it at all. If you love to torrent, then make sure you subscribe to a VPN that understands that passion.

    We’ve listed the top five VPNs for torrenting here. Our favorite is ExpressVPN – you can torrent at high speed on any server you like, with no restrictions and no data caps.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

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