We measure several key decision-making factors when testing VPNs. These individual factors are different for every use case, and combine to create an overall use case rating.
In this section, we’ll detail our exact testing process when reviewing the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer.
For BBC iPlayer specifically, we test:
- Whether the VPN consistently works to access BBC iPlayer from abroad.
- Average download speeds on a UK VPN server.
- How many UK VPN servers are available.
- The VPN app’s price, ease of use, and customer support.
- Additional features like Smart DNS, browser extensions, and native apps.
Here’s a complete list of the factors we test when recommending VPNs for BBC iPlayer, along with how much of our overall rating they make up:
1. BBC iPlayer Access: 30%
Minimum Requirement: Access to BBC iPlayer on some UK servers.
We Recommend: Consistent access to BBC iPlayer on all UK servers.
The ability to reliably and consistently unblock BBC iPlayer is of course the most important factor here, so it makes up the majority of our rating.
We regularly test every VPN service on multiple devices and navigate to BBC iPlayer ourselves. We use this first-hand testing to record the number of times a VPN can unblock BBC iPlayer in a given period, and on how many servers.
The most effective VPNs will work on the majority of their UK servers, and will also work to access other streaming services like Netflix.
2. Average Speed: 20%
Minimum Requirement: Less than 40% speed loss on UK connections.
We Recommend: Less than 10% speed loss on international connections.
Connection speeds are especially important for streaming because it is a high-bandwidth activity. To stream in HD without buffering, you’ll need unlimited bandwidth and as little speed loss as possible.
Our experts routinely test every VPN to measure its average download speed when connected to servers in London. We also test long-distance speeds connecting from Australia, Europe, and the US to a UK server.
This gives us accurate data that reflects the speeds you’ll get using a VPN to stream BBC iPlayer from abroad.
3. No. of UK Servers: 20%
Minimum Requirement: A good selection of UK servers.
We Recommend: A large selection servers in UK cities, with dedicated streaming servers.
The top iPlayer VPNs will invest significant resources into unblocking the streaming service.
That means they’ll have lots of UK VPN servers with thousands of IP addresses, or dedicated streaming servers that are regularly refreshed to avoid VPN bans.
The fewer VPN servers there are, the more congested the network will be – which means slower speeds.
A large number of servers also means more IP addresses, which means it’s much harder for the BBC to detect and block your VPN.
4. Logging Policy: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Only anonymised connection logs collected.
The collection of identifying or unnecessary data – such as your IP address or browsing activity – is immediately penalized.
By contrast, VPNs that log the least amount of data possible are rewarded. Typically, this includes both strict zero-logs policies as well as anonymised data collection.
5. Streaming Device Support: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Native applications for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac.
We Recommend: Native applications for all the devices above, as well as compatibility with Smart TVs, Firestick, and Smart DNS.
Device compatibility is also a key part of our rating – offering lots of native applications means you can watch BBC iPlayer wherever you are, on any device.
The top-rated VPNs are available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and additional devices like home routers, Smart TVs, and Firestick.
We also test for useful additional features like split tunneling, browser extensions, and other bespoke tools like Smart DNS. This allows you to bypass geo-blocks on your Smart TV and games console.
6. Customer Support: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Email support and an online knowledge-base.
We Recommend: Useful 24/7 live chat and email support.
Customer support is also important, particularly for temperamental streaming services like BBC iPlayer.
We use email and live-chat to test the quality of assistance on offer from every VPN provider.
This is to make sure you’ll be able to get the technical help you need if your VPN stops working with BBC iPlayer.
Live chat or responsive email support are both rewarded, while slow and ineffective customer support are rated lower.
Other Key Testing Areas
Though they are not always part of our overall rating, there are certain indicators of quality that we factor into every VPN recommendation.
Our researchers expect every VPN to offer basic levels of security including AES-256 encryption, IP and DNS leak protection, and the OpenVPN protocol.
It’s also important that every service is simple to use for beginners and experts.
We analyse every VPN application in-depth to make sure it has a user-friendly interface and settings. We reward customization and configuration options, as long as they come in an easily-understood format.
Finally we consider the price of the service. A VPN that offers valuable features for a below-average price will be rewarded in our ratings.