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The Best VPN Services of 2021

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

The best VPN services encrypt your web traffic, hide your IP address and give you access to geo-restricted websites at high speed.

We tested and reviewed 68 virtual private network applications using our impartial review process. The services below are the best VPNs to excel in our tests.

Based on speed, security, and streaming capabilities, the five best VPNs of 2021 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The overall best VPN service for speed, security, and streaming. Read summary
  2. NordVPN: A top VPN service for additional settings and features. Read summary
  3. CyberGhost: The best choice for beginners. Read summary
  4. IPVanish: The best VPN for Firestick, Kodi and safe torrenting. Read summary
  5. Surfshark: The most affordable premium VPN. Read summary

Read why the top five VPNs above are the best we reviewed further down the page. Alternatively, compare the top 10 VPN services side by side.

While the VPN services above score highly across the board, the truth is there is no definitive ‘best VPN.’ The right VPN software for you depends on your specific needs.

For example, do you want to stream international Netflix libraries? Torrent anonymously? Or simply to stay safe on public WiFi?

Discover our top recommendations for each VPN category below.

If you’re not ready to pay for a VPN subscription just yet, consult our list of the best free VPNs, instead.

The Best VPNs of 2021: Performance Ratings

The table below shows how each VPN on this page performs in our most important testing areas:

The Best VPN Services By Category

Find our expert VPN recommendations for each key category below, including streaming, price and speed.

The Best VPNs for Streaming

Find the top VPNs for watching geo-restricted content on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and other popular streaming platforms.

The Best VPNs for Entertainment

Not all VPNs have native applications for platforms like Firestick or Apple TV. Not every VPN supports P2P traffic, either.

If you're looking for a secure VPN for torrenting, or native support for your games console, find our recommendations here.

The Best VPNs by Price and Speed

VPNs vary considerably when it comes to average speed and subscription cost.

Find the top VPN services in each of these categories here – whether you want the fastest speeds, the lowest price, or the best free trial.

The Best VPNs by Device

The right VPN depends on the device and operating system you're using. Some have more features on Windows, for example, and some cater better to iOS.

Find our recommendations for popular devices like iPhone, Android, Windows, and Mac here.

The Best VPNs by Browser

Some VPNs only offer extensions for certain web browsers. Find the best add-ons for specific browsers on these pages.

The Best VPNs by Country

A VPN's quality depends on the country you're connecting to. Do you need to beat censorship, or simply to connect to a server in a specific city?

Discover our VPN choices to bypass censorship or connect to a specific country.

The 5 Overall Best VPNs (Tested in July 2021)

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: The Best VPN Overall

    Excellent for speed, security, streaming and torrenting.

    Ranked #1 out of 68 VPN services
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     96% 
    (1,765 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    Pros

    1. Fast local and international speeds
    2. Unblocks streaming platforms, including 19 Netflix regions
    3. AES-256 encryption & no logging of personal web data
    4. 3,000 servers in 94 countries
    5. Easy-to-use apps & Smart DNS for high compatibility
    6. Excellent 24/7 live customer support
    Cons
    1. More expensive than its rivals
    2. BBC iPlayer streaming issues
    3. No VPN kill switch on iOS
    4. No Linux user interface

    Overall Rating: 9.7/10

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

    • 9.6
    • 9.2
    • 9.7
    • 9.6
    • 9.8
    • 9.9

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN service of 2021, whatever your needs. It’s consistently fast, highly secure, and works well on all devices.

    The service provides user-friendly apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Fire TV. MediaStreamer, its Smart DNS tool, works well on Apple TV, Roku and games consoles.

    The VPN easily unblocks websites and popular content platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and HBO Max.

    And if you experience technical issues, the VPN’s excellent customer support is available 24/7.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    88Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Countries94
    Servers3,000
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. chromeosChromeos
    5. iosiOS
    6. androidAndroid
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. appletvApple TV
    9. androidtvAndroid TV
    10. chromecastChromecast
    11. rokuRoku
    12. xboxXbox
    13. playstationPlayStation
    14. chromeChrome
    15. edgeEdge
    16. firefoxFirefox
    17. routerRouter

    A highly-secure zero-logs VPN

    ExpressVPN is a very secure and private VPN. It uses high-grade encryption, and offers a wide range of secure connection protocols including OpenVPN.

    Its advanced AES-256 encryption and obfuscation technologies even allow ExpressVPN to beat aggressive web censorship in China.

    As for privacy, the VPN doesn’t record or store personal web usage logs. Also, it always masks your IP address while running.

    There’s also a huge range of additional security features including a vital VPN kill switch.

    The company is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is commonly considered a privacy haven, and an ideal jurisdiction for a VPN company.

    Excellent for streaming Netflix and for torrenting

    ExpressVPN is our highest-rated VPN for streaming, especially for unblocking US Netflix. It also unblocks 18 other Netflix regions.

    All its VPN apps stream Hulu, HBO, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, too. They also stream BBC iPlayer, but it requires a little tinkering.

    P2P traffic is fully supported, so you torrent safely on any ExpressVPN server, without restrictions.

    3,000 fast VPN servers

    Fast speeds are crucial when streaming, especially when you’re watching content from other countries.

    ExpressVPN is extremely fast. We recorded a mere 8% loss in average download speed on short-distance connections.

    Moreover, ExpressVPN is very fast connecting to distant servers. Here are the latest international speeds we registered:

    Connection Download Speed % Speed Loss
    UK to UK 88Mbps 8%
    UK to USA (New Jersey) 79Mbps 17%
    UK to Singapore 73Mbps 24%
    UK to Australia (Sydney) 69Mbps 27%

    Expensive but worth the higher price

    At its cheapest, ExpressVPN costs $6.67 per month on a 15-month contract. The service is more expensive than many premium rivals, but you get your money’s worth in terms of quality.

    Despite the higher subscription cost, we confidently recommend using ExpressVPN.

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

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best for Extra Features

    High speeds and advanced security features for an affordable price.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
     94% 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    Pros

    1. Very fast speeds across its entire network
    2. 5,247 servers in 59 countries
    3. P2P-optimized servers & unblocks Netflix
    4. Verified zero-logs policy & no IP or DNS leaks
    5. Easy-to-use apps & 24/7 live chat support
    6. Many extra features like DoubleVPN & an ad blocker
    Cons
    1. Limited VPN protocol choice on Windows & Android
    2. Fire TV Stick app doesn't work as well with Netflix
    3. Hulu doesn't work on desktop apps
    4. No longer works in China

    Overall Rating: 9.5/10

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

    • 9.5
    • 9.5
    • 9.8
    • 9.5
    • 9.5
    • 9.5

    NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in the world, and it’s also one of the best.

    It’s cheaper than ExpressVPN, and almost as good. It provides high speeds, strong security, easy-to-use apps, and great customer support. Very few VPN services can match NordVPN’s offering.

    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    93Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Countries59
    Servers5,247
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. chromecastChromecast
    9. rokuRoku
    10. xboxXbox
    11. playstationPlayStation
    12. chromeChrome
    13. firefoxFirefox
    14. routerRouter

    Strong security features & verified no-logs policy

    What sets NordVPN apart from its rivals is its wide range of high-end security features.

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

    Extra features include DoubleVPN, which routes your traffic through an extra VPN server for increased anonymity. The service even comes with a built-in ad-blocker called CyberSec.

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

    The VPN service only collects extremely minimal data, which is hashed and completely anonymized.

    Excellent speeds across 5,247 servers

    NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, and that is across its huge network of over 5,453 VPN servers.

    In our latest speed tests, we recorded short-distance speed losses as low as 1%.

    NordVPN’s servers are also RAM-based, just like ExpressVPN. In other words, the servers don’t store any data locally.

    Optimal for overseas streaming and P2P traffic

    NordVPN works with all popular streaming services including BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

    It also streams Hulu, but only using the VPN service’s Smart DNS tool, at the moment.

    The VPN is also a strong choice for torrenting. It has a no-logs policy, and hundreds of dedicated P2P servers specially built for anonymous file-sharing.

    Cheaper than ExpressVPN

    Compared to ExpressVPN, NordVPN is much cheaper on a long-term subscription.

    The service costs $3.30 per month on a two-year contract, versus ExpressVPN’s $6.67 per month on a 15-month plan.

    With a NordVPN subscription you also get 24/7 live chat support. If you’re unhappy with the service, you can get your money back within 30 days.

    Overall, NordVPN ranks a close second to ExpressVPN. It’s very close, so we created a NordVPN versus ExpressVPN guide to compare the two VPN services head-to-head.

  3. 3. CyberGhost: Best for Ease of Use

    A beginner-friendly VPN optimized for streaming.

    CyberGhost app
     94% 
    (312 user reviews)
    Visit CyberGhost

    Pros

    1. Streams Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ & more
    2. Secure VPN with IP leak-free encryption
    3. Doesn't log personal usage data
    4. Huge 6,900 server network across 91 countries
    5. Affordable & easy to use on all your devices
    6. 24/7 support & 45-day money-back guarantee
    Cons
    1. Not as fast as its rivals over long distances
    2. Mobile & macOS apps missing some features
    3. Inconsistent access to BBC iPlayer
    4. Doesn’t work in China, Turkey or the UAE
    5. Incompatible with Chromebooks
    6. Ad-blocker doesn't work very well

    Overall Rating: 9.2/10

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

    • 9.6
    • 8.8
    • 9.5
    • 9.3
    • 9.8
    • 9.5

    CyberGhost is one of the most accessible, affordable, and reliable VPN services there are. It’s cheap, very easy to use and optimized for streaming.

    Cheapest Price$2.25/mo over 3 years See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    89Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionRomania (EU Member)
    Countries91
    Servers6,900
    Works in ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. chromecastChromecast
    9. rokuRoku
    10. xboxXbox
    11. playstationPlayStation
    12. chromeChrome
    13. firefoxFirefox
    14. routerRouter

    Built for streaming on multiple devices

    The main benefit of CyberGhost is how well it unblocks streaming websites and apps.

    There are 46 VPN servers specifically optimized for streaming, with labels for each streaming platform. These include Netflix, HBO, YouTube, and more.

    CyberGhost offers apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. It also works on Fire TV Stick, Smart TV, Linux, and routers.

    There’s even Smart DNS functionality for use on devices that don’t support native VPN applications. For example, Apple TV, PlayStation and Xbox.

    You can use CyberGhost on up to seven devices at once, which is higher than ExpressVPN’s (five devices) and NordVPN’s (six devices) allowance.

    Fast and no-logs torrenting servers

    CyberGhost has servers optimized for torrenting all over the world, so you should never be too far from a P2P server.

    The VPN’s speeds are good on nearby connections, with a speed loss of 13%. However, CyberGhost’s speeds don’t match ExpressVPN’s or NordVPN’s, especially over long distances.

    CyberGhost doesn’t log any web activity apart from anonymous server usage data. It even has “NoSpy” servers in a secure data center in Romania, where CyberGhost is based.

    In addition, there is a VPN kill switch that ensures your IP address isn’t exposed in the unlikely event of a VPN connection failure.

    Many extra features for an affordable price

    At $2.25 per month over three years, CyberGhost is very affordable.

    You can also take advantage of a one-day trial and a 45-day risk-free refund guarantee.

    The service’s VPN apps are some of the easiest to use. And if you do have issues using them, experienced support agents are available via 24/7 live chat.

    The various CyberGhost VPN apps come with a long list of additional features. Here’s a list of the most important:

    Feature What Does it Do?
    Dedicated Torrenting Servers Servers optimized for P2P traffic. Listed in a menu on the home screen.
    Dedicated Streaming Servers Servers optimized for streaming. Labeled with their location and the platform they unblock.
    Ad-Block Built-in ad-blocker that blocks in-browser and in-app ads.
    Malicious Content Filter Blocks potentially harmful websites before you access them.
    Tracker Blocking Blocks web tracking attempts from websites and services.
    Automated HTTPS Redirect Secures HTTP web pages with HTTPS encryption.
    Data Compression Compression tool to save data on mobile and metered connections.
    Exceptions This is CyberGhost’s name for split tunneling. Choose which apps and programs to exclude from VPN protection.
    App Protection CyberGhost automatically connects if you open any apps added to this feature.
    Kill Switch Automatically interrupts your internet connection if the VPN drops (enabled by default).
  4. 4. IPVanish: Best for Firestick & Kodi

    A secure, no-logs VPN well-suited to Firestick and Kodi users.

    IPVanish VPN
     96% 
    (175 user reviews)
    Visit IPVanish

    Pros

    1. Great Fire TV Stick VPN app
    2. Excellent short-distance speeds
    3. Doesn't store web activity logs
    4. Unblocks US Netflix
    5. Over 40,000 IP addresses across 75 locations
    6. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    Cons
    1. Doesn’t stream BBC iPlayer or Disney+
    2. No VPN browser extensions
    3. No Smart DNS tool
    4. Can’t bypass strict web censorship
    5. Based in the privacy-unfriendly US

    Overall Rating: 9.1/10

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

    • 9.9
    • 9.1
    • 9.6
    • 8.5
    • 8.6
    • 9.5

    Despite a somewhat troubled past, IPVanish is still a very good VPN service in 2021. It’s fast, secure, and now completely trustworthy.

    It offers excellent speeds and over 40,000 VPN servers in 75 locations.

    IPVanish VPN is a particularly suitable for use with a Fire TV Stick or with Kodi.

    Cheapest Price$3.75/mo for 12 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    84Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
    Countries57
    Servers1,400
    Works in ChinaNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. routerRouter

    Strong encryption and zero-logs privacy policy

    As its name suggests, IPVanish puts security first.

    The VPN’s range of encryption protocols, including OpenVPN and IKEv2, is exemplary. The software also uses AES 256-bit encryption to secure data transfers on public WiFi networks.

    IPVanish is now completely zero-logs. It doesn’t monitor or store any web traffic activity. This is important, because the company is based in the privacy-unfriendly United States.

    Being a no-logs VPN, and possessing an effective kill switch, makes IPVanish excellent for torrenting and P2P traffic on every server.

    Self-owned servers and 40,000 IP addresses

    IPVanish has 1,400 first-party servers, with access to over 40,000 IP addresses in 57 countries.

    The spread and quality of these servers is one of the reasons behind IPVanish’s speeds.

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

    It’s different on longer distance connections, though. Speeds did drop connecting overseas, for example from the UK to the US.

    Great Fire TV Stick app optimized for Kodi

    IPVanish’s Firestick app is the best we’ve used. It’s one of the fastest and most secure, ideal for anonymous Kodi streaming.

    There are also native VPN apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac devices.

    There’s also an APK file for Android devices with no access to Google Play Store.

    Sadly, there’s no Smart DNS tool, though. This means you won’t be able to easily use IPVanish on your games console.

    Not recommended for streaming or censorship

    Despite its fast speeds, IPVanish isn’t a good streaming VPN.

    It works with Netflix in the USA and Japan, but it doesn’t stream BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu and many other content platforms.

    Equally, IPVanish struggles to bypass aggressive web blocks. This is why it won’t work in countries like China, Turkey, or the UAE.

  5. 5. Surfshark: The Best Value VPN

    At just $2.49 per month, Surfshark is great value for money.

    Surfshark app
     82% 
    (102 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

    Pros

    1. Excellent price on a two-year plan
    2. Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
    3. Supports torrenting on every server
    4. Advanced features & fast protocols
    5. Private British Virgin Islands jurisdiction
    6. Unlimited device connections
    Cons
    1. Connecting to some servers can be slow
    2. No port forwarding
    3. Un-audited logging policy

    Overall Rating: 9.0/10

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

    • 9.7
    • 8.6
    • 9.8
    • 9.2
    • 9.4
    • 8.5

    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 streams Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services with ease.

    Surfshark’s speeds are consistently fast, and it supports torrenting on all servers.

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

    Cheapest Price$2.49/mo over 24 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    85Mbps
    US NetflixYes
    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Countries66
    Servers3,200
    Works in ChinaYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. iosiOS
    5. androidAndroid
    6. amazon_firetvFire TV
    7. appletvApple TV
    8. androidtvAndroid TV
    9. chromecastChromecast
    10. rokuRoku
    11. xboxXbox
    12. playstationPlayStation
    13. chromeChrome
    14. firefoxFirefox
    15. routerRouter

    An excellent VPN available for a very low price

    The most obvious benefit of Surfshark is its price: it’s extremely cheap.

    At its cheapest, the VPN costs just $2.49 per month on a two-year subscription plan. Even when paying 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.

    Streams 31 Netflix libraries

    Surfshark gives its users access to an extensive range of streaming services.

    In fact, Surfshark works with 31 Netflix libraries – only Windscribe VPN unlocks more regions.

    Furthermore, the VPN works smoothly with Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Sky, and more.

    It’s also the best Disney+ VPN you can get. That’s because it can unblock the service on every server, regardless of server location.

    You can also stream with Surfshark on as many devices as you want. There is no simultaneous connection limit, which is rare among top VPN services.

    Fast speeds and no-logs server network

    Surfshark has a global network of 3,200. Every server is zero-logs and uses secure connection protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard.

    Every server we’ve tested is fast, too. We experienced a speed loss of just 15% on nearby servers, with an average download speed of 85Mbps.

    Plenty of extra security tools

    Surfshark possesses a wide range of security tools.

    Camouflage Mode, available on every Surfshark server, is an obfuscation tool that makes your VPN traffic even harder to detect. It’s especially useful for unblocking websites.

    Camouflage Mode (combined with the enabled No Borders setting) often beats censorship in countries like China – something very few VPNs can do.

    Surfshark is also the only VPN that can spoof GPS on Android smartphones. This feature prevents mobile applications using GPS to detect your real location.

The Top 10 VPN Services Compared

To help you compare the overall best VPN services, we created a table comparing our 10 most highly-rated choices.

You can compare price, average local speeds, server networks, and logging policies.

You can also compare which VPNs work with US Netflix and support torrenting traffic.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

Using a VPN to hide an IP address.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is simple software that connects your device to a secure server in a remote location.

A VPN serves two main functions: to hide your public IP address and encrypt your web traffic.

Encrypting your data transfers and changing your IP address significantly improves your privacy and security online.

Using a top-rated VPN also helps you access websites and services unavailable in your location.

For detailed information on VPN software and its uses, read our guide to Virtual Private Networks.

Below is a summary of why you need a VPN.

VPNs are typically used for:

  • Protecting sensitive data on public WiFi networks.
  • Hiding your web traffic from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
  • Unblocking websites and international streaming content.
  • Safeguarding your identity and activity while torrenting.
  • Bypassing government censorship and internet shutdowns.

1. Encrypt Data 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.

2. Hide Your Web Activity From Your ISP

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

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

A VPN encrypts your website requests as they travel from your device to the VPN server. This means 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-Blocked Streaming Content

Streaming websites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer use your public IP address to limit the number of movies and TV shows you’re able to 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 to an IP address from another country. This way you can ‘trick’ streaming services, and unblock region-restricted content on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and more.

4. Secure Your Connection While Torrenting

P2P file-sharing without protection 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, web activity, and identity from both your ISP and other users. This protects you from the risks of torrenting with your real IP address.

5. Circumvent Government Censorship

Governments around the world choose to censor what you can and cannot view online.

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

The best VPN services come with obfuscation tools, which is a special type of technology designed to evade sophisticated systems of 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.

How We Test VPN Services

This article contains the very best VPNs based on our VPN reviews. We test every VPN in several key areas, and use this data to calculate an overall rating.

We test every top VPN for:

  • A no-logs or similar privacy policy.
  • Fast download speeds, upload speeds, and latency around the world.
  • AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN functionality, and additional security.
  • 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 reviews, you may have also noticed ratings awarded in two other areas: ‘Price & Value for Money’ and ‘Bypassing Censorship’.

We don’t factor in ‘Price & Value for Money’ on this page. 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 Censorship’ makes up a small portion of the ‘Features, Encryption & Security’ category. Learn exactly how this process works by reading our VPN testing process.

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. Features, Encryption & Security: 20%

Minimum Requirement: AES-128 encryption, 100 servers, and an internet kill switch.
We Recommend: AES-256, OpenVPN 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 if you’re looking to bypass censorship, whether it’s from your employer, school, or government.

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

4. Streaming & Torrenting: 15%

Minimum Requirement: Can access US Netflix and allows torrenting on most servers.
We Recommend: Accesses multiple streaming libraries and allows P2P on all servers.

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

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

Every premium VPN should be able to access the US Netflix library, at least.

As for torrenting, 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 the best torrenting VPNs, to see if there’s any difference between that and regular download 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 unusual platforms.

Unless a VPN is mobile-only, we make sure every VPN we test has native apps 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 offer a well-designed app for Amazon Fire TV, a GUI for Linux, or an effective Smart DNS tool for streaming devices and consoles.

We also consider a service’s online installation manuals for more niche platforms in our evaluations.

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 of testing VPNs every single day, 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.

FAQs About VPNs

What Is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is software that forms an encrypted connection between your device and the websites and applications you use. It does this by connecting to a secure VPN server.

When you connect to a VPN server, your personal 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.

All your internet activity is also encrypted, making it unintelligible to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and anyone else monitoring your web traffic.

VPNs can significantly improve your online privacy, secure your data transfers on public WiFi networks, and access content restricted in your geographic location.

Find out precisely how a VPN works and why you need one in our detailed guide to understanding VPNs.

What Is the Best VPN?

The best overall VPN service of 2021 is ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN beats all the competition when it comes to average speeds, security, and privacy.

It’s a virtually no-logs VPN with a built-in kill switch and IP leak protection. It also uses disk-less RAM-based servers and gold-standard AES 256-bit encryption cipher on all its apps.

ExpressVPN also bypasses most web geo-blocks. It streams Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and many more platforms. It even works in China.

How Do I Install a VPN?

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

For most devices, sign up to the VPN service of your choice and you’ll be given a download link.

Once you’ve downloaded the VPN application on your device, sign in with your account details and begin using the VPN service.

Installing a VPN is as simple as that if you’re using a desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone.

However, setting up a VPN on other devices like a router, games console, or TV, can be more complicated.

For advice on installing VPN software, we recommend reading our VPN setup guides.

Can I Get a VPN for Free?

Most free VPNs aren’t particularly effective. At their very worst, some can even be dangerous.

We examined 150 free Android VPN apps and found that over 85% of free VPNs have serious security flaws.

Many free VPNs log and share data with third-parties. Others are infected with adware and malware. Some don’t even hide your IP address.

There are a few safe free VPNs available, but most of them have limited capabilities.

You’ll unlikely be able to torrent files or stream Netflix with a free VPN. Also, many cap your data usage unless you pay for a full subscription.

As well as using a completely free VPN, you can also use some paid VPNs for free by taking advantage of their free trials or money-back guarantee.

Do I Need a VPN for Torrenting?

We strongly recommend using a VPN if you’re torrenting large files or engaging in P2P activity.

When you’re a part of a torrent swarm (the group sharing parts of the torrent file between each other), your IP address is visible to everyone. That includes your internet service provider (ISP), and copyright trolls.

ISPs can log the files you download and share with them with content copyright holders.

ISPs can also throttle your download speeds. And they block thousands of file-sharing sites around the world.

A VPN masks your torrent IP and therefore your identity. It hides the contents of your data transfers, and disguises P2P traffic as regular web activity.

Sadly, not all VPNs are suited for anonymous torrenting. You’ll need a service with fast speeds, strong encryption, and no IP or DNS leaks.

Can I Use a VPN to Unblock Netflix?

You can use a VPN to stream movies and TV shows on Netflix that aren’t available in your country.

However, many VPNs can’t unblock Netflix because it is constantly blocking VPN IP addresses. This is commonly known as the Netflix VPN ban.

Some VPN services spend considerable resources making sure their product works with streaming services like Netflix.

The best VPNs for streaming can unblock many Netflix regions, including the US library, and other content platforms too.

What Are the Limitations of Using a VPN?

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

Below are some things that a VPN 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. Use a good password manager for that, 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.

Learn more about the limitations of VPN software in our VPN disadvantages guide.

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