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.
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.
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.
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.
We have a dedicated server near Shanghai, China, which we use weekly to test how effective VPNs are at overcoming censorship.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. We use our Shanghai server to get accurate and up-to-date data on which VPNs do and don’t work.
- 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.
You can read more about how we test VPNs here.