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The Fastest VPNs in 2021

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Fastest VPN
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
3 comments

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

Every VPN slow downs your internet speed to some extent due to the level of encryption involved. The fastest VPNs will minimize this impact, and the speed loss will be unnoticeable.

A fast VPN is essential for buffer-free streaming, quick torrent downloads, and lag-free gaming.

We conducted thousands of speed tests on 68 VPNs to find the fastest over short and long distances.

Based on recent speed tests, the five fastest VPN services are:

  1. Hotspot Shield: The fastest VPN service overall. Read summary or Visit Hotspot Shield
  2. ProtonVPN: Safe and secure quick VPN. Read summary or Visit ProtonVPN
  3. NordVPN: NordLynx protocol is safe and fast. Read summary or Visit NordVPN
  4. Mullvad: Speedy VPN for privacy-focused users. Read summary or Visit Mullvad
  5. ExpressVPN: The fastest VPN for streaming. Read summary or Visit ExpressVPN

All five VPNs we recommend have been tested and verified to meet the requirements for speed, security, and privacy.

Comparison of the 10 Fastest VPNs

Using the table below, compare the ten fastest VPNs based on categories including local speeds, international speeds, and price.

The Top VPNs for Speed: Performance Ratings

Use the table below to compare how the five fastest VPNs perform in each key testing category:

The 5 Fastest (and Secure) VPNs

  1. 1. Hotspot Shield: 0% Speed Loss

    The world's fastest VPN and winner of our 2021 speed test results.

    Ranked #1 out of 68 VPNs for Speed
    Hotspot Shield mobile screenshots
     88% 
    (5 user reviews)
    Visit Hotspot Shield

    Pros

    1. The fastest VPN available
    2. Works with US Netflix & Hulu
    3. Unrestricted torrenting on all servers
    4. Allows router-level installation for gaming
    5. Large server network in 82 countries

    Cons

    1. Less trustworthy VPN protocol
    2. Kill switch is only available on Windows

    Overall Speed Rating: 9.8/10

    This VPN's overall speed rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our full testing methodology.

    • 1010.0/10
    • 1010.0/10
    • 7.87.8/10

    Our October 2021 speed test results show that Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN available. It delivers the fastest connection speeds on both nearby and far-away servers, it doesn’t throttle or block torrenting traffic, and it streams US Netflix in 4K UHD.

    Local Speed100Mbps
    International Speed91Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolHydra
    Cheapest Price$2.99/mo over 36 Months See all plans
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    The fastest VPN across all locations

    Hotspot Shield’s speeds are unmatched — we recorded no impact on our download speeds when connected to most VPN servers.

    No other VPN service comes close to competing with Hotspot Shield’s lossless speed performance. It’s clear from our tests that if you want the very fastest speeds, you should get Hotspot Shield.

    We experienced the slowest speeds when connecting to South Africa, over 5,000 miles from our location. On average, our speeds dropped by 52% when connected to this server.

    This was much slower than other locations and stands out as an anomaly. We hope Hotspot Shield can fix this as soon as possible.

    Besides that, Hotspot Shield is able to achieve its fast speeds through a combination of its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol and the way it treats TCP traffic.

    A representative from Hotspot Shield told us that the VPN transmits TCP traffic via a transparent TCP proxy on a nearby internet device. The nearby device intercepts the connection between the VPN server and your device to prevent lost packets and to resolve slowdowns caused by congestion.

    For casual users, our tests show that this process makes Hotspot Shield much faster than standard VPN connections.

    Hotspot Shield speed test

    We found that Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN in every location.

    Hotspot Shield Speed Test Data

    Server Location
    Download Speed
    Percentage Speed Loss
    Starting Speed
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    UK
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    Germany
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    USA
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    Brazil
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    South Africa
    47.72Mbps
    52%
    Japan
    90.23Mbps
    10%
    Australia
    97.61Mbps
    2%

    Unblocks US Netflix, Hulu, and more

    Hotspot Shield’s fast speeds will allow you to stream content in HD without any buffering or lag. We found that Hotspot Shield works with most major streaming sites around the world, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, and Hulu.

    The VPN comes with an impressive app for Amazon Fire TV, too, so you can unblock your favorite TV shows and movies on your biggest screen. However, if you want to use a fast VPN primarily for streaming, there are better VPNs for streaming available.

    Other fast VPNs, like ExpressVPN, can stream over four times as many Netflix libraries as Hotspot Shield — giving you access to more TV shows and movies.

    Less secure VPN protocol

    The drawback to using Hotspot Shield is that it uses a closed-source VPN protocol that is not as reputable as open-sourced and established protocols, like OpenVPN or WireGuard.

    Catapult Hydra is a VPN protocol developed by AnchorFree, the company that founded Hotspot Shield.

    Catapult Hydra is based on TLS 1.2, it uses 128-bit AES encryption, and it incorporates Perfect Forward Secrecy. In this way, its encryption matches other leading VPN protocols.

    However, technology developed by VPN services themselves cannot be error-checked by security experts and enthusiasts. Open-source VPN protocols, like OpenVPN, have been built upon for over 18 years by a large community of contributors.

    On the other hand, Hotspot Shield claims Catapult Hydra has been audited by “third-party security experts,” but gives no further details on how frequent or how rigorous these examinations are.

    To summarize, Hotspot Shield is undoubtedly the fastest VPN in 2021. It is fast enough to  download torrent files in seconds, stream Netflix buffer-free, and have a minimal impact on all browsing activity. Although the VPN uses a less-reputable protocol than other VPNs, it’s still the number one choice if speed is your priority.

  2. 2. ProtonVPN: 5% Speed Loss

    The safest and most secure fast VPN.

    ProtonVPN Mobile Screenshot
     100% 
    (3 user reviews)
    Visit ProtonVPN

    Pros

    1. Fast speeds on every server
    2. Reliable & consistent speed performance
    3. Uses OpenVPN & WireGuard
    4. Works with streaming sites
    5. Great for torrenting
    6. Secure & private VPN service

    Cons

    1. Expensive
    2. Unattractive apps
    3. No 24/7 live chat customer support

    Overall Speed Rating: 9.6/10

    This VPN's overall speed rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our full testing methodology.

    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 1010.0/10

    Our research found that ProtonVPN is the second-fastest VPN on the market. Its download speeds are fast on both nearby and far away servers, making it an excellent choice for all web activities. Unlike Hotspot Shield, ProtonVPN uses trusted VPN protocols, giving it the advantage for security-focused users.

    Local Speed95Mbps
    International Speed81Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolWireGuard
    Cheapest Price$6.63/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Improved speeds

    Prior to our most recent tests, ProtonVPN was among the slowest top VPNs. It has significantly improved the VPN’s speed performance by adding its proprietary VPN Accelerator technology, which includes several optimizations that increase the speeds and reliability of the VPN.

    With this setting enabled, ProtonVPN came second on both our local and international speed tests. When connecting to a UK server from our location in London, we saw an average speed loss of just 5%, which is unnoticeable in normal use.

    When connecting to the US, our speed dropped by just 10%, and by 30% when connecting to Japan. These results are much faster than most of the other VPNs we tested.

    ProtonVPN speed test

    ProtonVPN recorded download speeds of over 95Mbps.

    ProtonVPN Speed Test Data

    Server Location
    Download Speed
    Percentage Speed Loss
    Starting Speed
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    UK
    95.33Mbps
    5%
    Germany
    95.12Mbps
    5%
    USA
    89.63Mbps
    10%
    Brazil
    78.47Mbps
    22%
    South Africa
    82.27Mbps
    18%
    Japan
    71.00Mbps
    29%
    Australia
    67.04Mbps
    33%

    Great VPN for streaming and torrenting

    ProtonVPN works with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and DAZN. With the VPN’s excellent international speed performance, you can stream services from around the world easily.

    In fact, we were able to watch geo-restricted content in HD and 4K. This is in contrast to some other services we tested, like CyberGhost and Private Internet Access, which caused our streams to buffer and lag.

    Surfshark is also a top VPN for quick P2P file-sharing. It has optimized servers for fast torrent downloads and its private logging policy and strong encryption will keep your activity anonymous, too.

    Subpar customer support & app interface

    ProtonVPN is one of the fastest VPNs, but there are a few drawbacks that prevent it from being one of the best VPNs overall.

    Firstly, ProtonVPN’s apps are not as attractive or user-friendly as the other VPNs in this list. The interface is dark and could be intimidating to inexperienced users. It also uses a map interface, which we don’t like. We’d rather have a simple server list, with servers organized into subsections.

    ProtonVPN also doesn’t offer 24/7 live chat customer support. Live chat is a convenient feature for small questions, such as finding a VPN server that’s working with Netflix. However, if you experience any issues with ProtonVPN outside of operating times, you may have to wait over three days for a reply.

  3. 3. NordVPN: 5% Speed Loss

    Fast speeds for secure browsing and buffer-free streaming.

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

    Pros

    1. Exceptional speeds across most locations
    2. The fastest implementation of WireGuard
    3. Torrenting permitted on most servers
    4. Unblocks all major streaming services
    5. Fully-featured app for Fire TV Stick
    6. Low ping for gaming

    Cons

    1. Slower speeds on far-away servers

    Overall Speed Rating: 8.8/10

    This VPN's overall speed rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our full testing methodology.

    • 8.58.5/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 9.59.5/10

    NordVPN is a well-rounded and extremely fast VPN. Although slightly slower than Hotspot Shield and Surfshark, NordVPN has many advanced features. These include Double VPN, Smart DNS support, and the ability to unblock lots of Netflix libraries.

    Local Speed95Mbps
    International Speed83Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolNordLynx
    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Average download speeds of 95Mbps

    We found that NordVPN is fast on both local and international connections. On the whole, the reduction in our internet speed was unnoticeable.

    When connecting to a nearby server in the UK, we recorded an average speed of 95Mbps — which is faster than most other top VPNs.

    The VPN’s performance was even more impressive on international connections. We recorded a speed loss result of 17% when connecting to the US and a speed of 71Mbps when connecting to Japan.

    NordVPN also scored the highest of any VPN service for reliability. This means you can count on the VPN to deliver fast and consistent speeds, no matter the server location.

    NordVPN speed test

    NordVPN’s speeds were reliable and quick.

    NordVPN Speed Test Data

    Server Location
    Download Speed
    Percentage Speed Loss
    Starting Speed
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    UK
    94.74Mbps
    5%
    Germany
    91.25Mbps
    9%
    USA
    83.07Mbps
    17%
    Brazil
    80.58Mbps
    19%
    South Africa
    81.64Mbps
    18%
    Japan
    70.96Mbps
    29%
    Australia
    68.76Mbps
    31%

    NordLynx is highly-secure and speedy

    NordVPN can achieve these impressive speed results due to the NordLynx protocol, which is its implementation of WireGuard. NordLynx allows for much faster connections compared to UDP OpenVPN connections, without sacrificing privacy or security.

    WireGuard is also open-source, which means anyone can view and inspect the mechanics of the codebase. This is in contrast to Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra, which is a closed-source protocol that has only been viewed by certain parties.

    Ultimately, this transparency makes WireGuard more trustworthy and will allow it to improve over time from the contributions of a large error-checking community.

    Great for torrenting & Netflix

    NordVPN provides lots of great VPN features that take full advantage of its fast speeds. The VPN unblocks 15 different Netflix libraries from around the world in 4K UHD.

    It also comes with a fully-featured app for Amazon Fire TV, and a Smart DNS feature — so you can unblock geo-blocked content on all of your devices.

    In addition, torrenting is permitted on over 85% of NordVPN’s servers. The app conveniently lists these in the ‘P2P’ section under ‘Specialty Servers’.

    Alternatively, you can use NordVPN’s server recommendation feature to find the best torrenting server based on your location. After connecting to our recommended server, we were able to download a legal torrent in seconds.

    The only drawback to NordVPN’s performance is that its speeds drop noticeably on long-distance connections. That said, it’s still incredibly fast and is only beaten by Hotspot Shield.

    Overall, NordVPN is a superb, fast VPN that is a great choice for most users. It’s the best WireGuard VPN and includes more advanced VPN features than almost all other top VPNs. Although it misses out on the number one spot based on raw speed performance, it’s a terrific and highly-secure service.

  4. 4. Mullvad: 6% Speed Loss

    WireGuard VPN with robust privacy and security features.

    Mullvad mobile app
     100% 
    (1 user reviews)
    Visit Mullvad

    Pros

    1. Fast on close by servers
    2. P2P traffic allowed on all servers
    3. Cheap monthly price
    4. Private logging policy

    Cons

    1. Slower speeds on far-away servers
    2. Doesn't work with Netflix
    3. Small server network

    Overall Speed Rating: 8.3/10

    This VPN's overall speed rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our full testing methodology.

    • 88.0/10
    • 8.58.5/10
    • 8.88.8/10

    Mullvad runs on the WireGuard protocol, making it a fast and secure VPN. It can be installed on routers for gaming purposes and it’s a great choice for torrenting and anonymous web browsing.

    Local Speed94Mbps
    International Speed75Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolWireGuard
    Cheapest Price$5.95/mo See all plans
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter

    Fast local, but slower international speeds

    After putting Mullvad through our speed testing process, we found that although it’s a very fast VPN on nearby servers, its speeds noticeably slow down on long-distance connections.

    When connecting to a local server in the UK, our internet speed fell by just 6%, meaning we could torrent, download files, and browse the web without any slowdowns. We recorded similarly impressive results when connected to a Mullvad server in Germany, with the VPN again only slowing our connection down by 10% on average.

    Our internet speed fell by 39% when connected to an Australian VPN server, though, and 38% on a Japan server. These results are worse than other VPNs in this list, so if you expect to frequently connect to international locations, you should avoid Mullvad.

    Mullvad speed test

    Mullvad is very fast on local connections.

    Mullvad Speed Test Data

    Server Location
    Download Speed
    Percentage Speed Loss
    Starting Speed
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    UK
    93.85Mbps
    6%
    Germany
    89.99Mbps
    10%
    USA
    83Mbps
    17%
    Brazil
    79.52Mbps
    20%
    Japan
    62.48Mbps
    38%
    Australia
    61.48Mbps
    39%

    Note: Mullvad doesn’t have any servers in South Africa.

    Cheap & P2P allowed on all servers

    Mullvad permits torrenting traffic on all of its servers. This, coupled with Mullvad’s fast local speeds and its minimal-logs policy makes it a great VPN for fast and private torrenting. Although not as fast as some other VPNs in this list, we were able to torrent a file in minutes with Mullvad.

    The VPN is also unique in that it only offers one price tier. Mullvad is available for a flat monthly fee of $5.80, with no options to pay for a long-term subscription. Although this does limit flexibility, it means that Mullvad is available for a much cheaper monthly price than other fast VPNs. In fact, it’s at least $6.15 cheaper when paying monthly than all other VPNs on this page.

    Small server network & no streaming

    Although cheap, Mullvad suffers from too many drawbacks to make it one of the very best fast VPNs.

    The VPN only has servers in 35 countries, with the vast majority of these located in Europe. If you’re in Asia, South America, or Africa — you’ll be forced to connect to a far away server, which will slow down your internet speed. This is particularly a problem with Mullvad, given its relatively poor international performance.

    Mullvad also doesn’t work reliably with any streaming sites and it doesn’t have apps for Amazon Fire TV or Smart TVs. This means that you won’t be able to take advantage of Mullvad’s fast speeds for unblocking geo-restricted content.

    In general, Mullvad is a capable fast VPN that’s perfect for users who prioritize privacy and anonymity. However, the VPN is not fast enough over long-distance connections and its lack of Android app, poor streaming ability, and non-existent support for TVs means there are better options available.

  5. 5. ExpressVPN: 12% Speed Loss

    Well-rounded VPN that's perfect for torrenting and streaming.

    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     96% 
    (1,773 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    Pros

    1. Excellent long-distance speed performance
    2. Consistent and reliable speeds
    3. Works with all streaming services
    4. App for Fire TV Stick and Smart TVs
    5. Includes Smart DNS functionality

    Cons

    1. Slower on local connections
    2. More expensive

    Overall Speed Rating: 7.0/10

    This VPN's overall speed rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our full testing methodology.

    • 66.0/10
    • 88.0/10
    • 77.0/10

    ExpressVPN is a fully-featured service that is one of the fastest VPNs on international connections but performs poorly over short distances. It’s also the most expensive VPN on the market, but its unrivaled streaming and torrenting support make it worth the extra cost.

    Local Speed88Mbps
    International Speed74Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolLightway
    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Very fast international speeds

    ExpressVPN makes it in the top five fastest VPNs due to its impressive performance when connected to far-away servers. Our speed tests showed that ExpressVPN is the fourth-fastest VPN over international connections, with an average speed loss of 26% across our six test locations.

    Results were particularly impressive when connected to a US server. ExpressVPN kept our internet speed at a fast 85Mbps, which was more than fast enough for HD streaming and uninterrupted gaming sessions.

    The disadvantage to ExpressVPN, though, is its relatively poor local speed performance. Our results show it is the ninth-fastest VPN when connected to a nearby server, beaten by typically slower VPNs, like IPVanish and PrivateVPN.

    Our speeds slowed to 88Mbps when connected to a local VPN server. While still fast enough for most uses, this isn’t competitive with the very fastest VPNs.

    ExpressVPN speed test

    ExpressVPN’s local speeds are disappointing.

    ExpressVPN Speed Test Data

    Server Location
    Download Speed
    Percentage Speed Loss
    Starting Speed
    100.00Mbps
    0%
    UK
    88.34Mbps
    12%
    Germany
    90.56Mbps
    9%
    USA
    85.01Mbps
    15%
    Brazil
    77.23Mbps
    23%
    South Africa
    81.54Mbps
    18%
    Japan
    66.64Mbps
    33%
    Australia
    48.81Mbps
    52%

    Lightway protocol is safe and fast

    ExpressVPN has recently improved its speeds thanks to the introduction of its proprietary Lightway VPN protocol. Lightway has been developed in-house by ExpressVPN, and our test results have shown it to be faster than OpenVPN.

    It also uses wolfSSL encryption, which is widely regarded to be safe and secure.

    Although we typically prefer for VPN providers to adopt established protocols, ExpressVPN has open-sourced the Lightway codebase. By contrast, Hotspot Shield only provides Catapult Hydra’s code to third-party security companies.

    Lightway is slightly less proven than the very best protocols right now, but we expect it to challenge WireGuard soon.

    The best VPN for streaming

    ExpressVPN’s fast international speeds are put to good use, too, as it is the very best VPN available for streaming. It unblocks every streaming site including Hulu and BBC iPlayer, as well as 19 different Netflix libraries. For each of these services, our speeds remained fast enough to stream in HD without any buffering.

    Unlike most other VPNs, ExpressVPN also comes with a Smart DNS feature. This will allow you to unblock geo-blocked content on devices that don’t support VPNs, so you can stream on PS4, Apple TV, and Smart TVs.

    All this functionality does come at a cost, though, as ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN on this list. The cheapest price is on the fifteen-month plan, which works out to $6.67 a month. You do get plenty of features for that price, so it’s worth the extra cost.

    Overall, ExpressVPN is a great choice if you want a VPN for more than just raw speed. It beats out every other VPN on this list when it comes to general use, but it doesn’t match them when it comes to pure speed results.

October's VPN Speed Test Results

All our findings on this page are from our manual tests, which involve physically using and speed testing VPNs, just like you would at home.

This gives us findings that mirror your experience as closely as possible. You can read more about our process and its limitations in our speed testing methodology.

Local VPN Speed Test Results

Here are our VPN speed test results when connecting to a local server with our 100Mbps internet connection:

Only three VPNs recorded a download speed loss of below 5%.

As the graph above shows, Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN on local connections. 80% of VPNs sustained speeds of over 90Mbps, though, which is an extremely impressive result.

CyberGhost performed the worst — registering slowdowns of up to 15%. This is still fast enough for most tasks, but you may struggle to perform high-bandwidth activities with this VPN.

International VPN Speed Test Results

Here are the results when connecting to international servers with our 100Mbps internet connection:

Only two VPNs recorded an international download speed loss of below 20%.

The results from our speed tests are clear: Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN service.

Hotspot Shield is faster than all other VPNs, on both nearby and far-away servers. With this VPN you can stream, torrent, and game without worrying about your network speed slowing down.

How We Test VPN Speed

To ensure our VPN speed test findings are as accurate as possible, we follow a strict scientific process refined over many years.

Our methodology is designed to extract just raw data, to remove any risk of bias or human error in our results.

To find the fastest VPNs, we measure:

  • A VPN’s average download speed when connected to a nearby server.
  • A VPN’s speed performance when connected to multiple far-away locations.
  • How reliable and consistent a VPN’s speed results are.

Here’s a more in-depth overview of the measurements we take when finding the fastest VPN, along with how much of our overall rating they make up:

1. Local Download Speed: 45%

Minimum Requirement: Speed loss of 20% or less.
We Recommend: Speed loss of 10% or less.

As you’ll be connecting to a local VPN server most often, we prioritize short-distance speeds in our tests.

We’ve developed a test to measure the average local download speed of every VPN.

Here’s how we test for a VPN’s local speed performance:

  1. We perform this test every Friday of each month.
  2. We use a virtual machine with just the VPN we’re testing installed.
  3. Using Ookla’s Speedtest app, we record our download speed three times without the VPN running.
  4. We launch the VPN and connect to the nearest server location. We record our download speeds three times.
  5. We repeat the above steps for every VPN.
  6. At the end of the month, we work out the mean result without the VPN running and while connected to the nearest server location.
  7. We calculate the download speed loss for each VPN. The lower the speed loss, the better.
  8. The top-performing VPNs are ranked from 1-10. Depending on their position, each VPN service is given a rating from 5.5 to 10, with each position being a difference of 0.5.
  9. We update this page with our new findings.

2. International Download Speed: 45%

Minimum Requirement: Speed loss of 50% or less.
We Recommend: Speed loss of 20% or less.

VPNs can be used to watch geo-restricted Netflix libraries and play games on servers from the other side of the world. Because of this, it’s important that a VPN also has fast international speeds.

The extra distance traveled will have an impact on your download speeds. Generally speaking, the further a VPN server is from your physical location, the slower your speeds will be.

We’ve formulated a standardized and unbiased test to calculate the average international download speed of every VPN.

Here’s how we test for a VPN’s international speed performance:

  1. We perform this test every Friday of each month.
  2. We use a virtual machine with just the VPN we’re testing installed.
  3. Using Ookla’s Speedtest app, we record our download speed three times without the VPN running.
  4. We launch the VPN and connect to seven server locations from across all five inhabited continents of the world — Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America.
  5. We record our download speeds from each location three times.
  6. We repeat the above steps for every VPN.
  7. At the end of the month, we work out the mean result without the VPN running and while connected to all far-away locations.
  8. We calculate the download speed loss for each VPN. The lower the speed loss, the better.
  9. The top-performing VPNs are ranked from 1-10. Depending on their position, each VPN service is given a rating from 5.5 to 10, with each position being a difference of 0.5.
  10. We update this page with our new findings.

3. Consistency: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Difference of up to 10Mbps on local speed tests and 40Mbps on international results.
We Recommend: Difference of up to 3Mbps on local speed tests and 10Mbps on international results.

It’s not enough for a VPN just to have fast peak performance. It needs to deliver fast speeds reliably, across every server location.

We’ve developed a method to calculate every VPN’s consistency. The more fluctuation present in a VPN’s speed test results, the lower we rate it in this category.

Here’s how we test for a VPN’s speed reliability:

  1. We complete this calculation on the final Friday of every month after all speed test results have been completed.
  2. We work out the standard deviation of each VPN’s local download speeds. A lower standard deviation means more reliable speed performance.
  3. Each VPN is ranked from 1-10. Depending on their position, each VPN service is given a rating from 5.5 to 10, with each position being a difference of 0.5. This constitutes 5% of the overall consistency rating.
  4. We repeat the above steps for each VPN’s international speed results. This tells us how reliable a VPN’s speeds are across every global server location, not just the consistency per country. This constitutes 5% of the overall consistency rating.
  5. We update this page with our new findings.

Control Variables

Here are the steps we have in place to ensure our speed test results are the most reliable findings available:

Dedicated 100Mbps Broadband Line

We have a dedicated 100Mbps fiber-optic broadband line that is only used for conducting our VPN speed tests. This means that our speed is not slowed down by any external factors, like bandwidth-consuming activities from anyone else on the network. Any drops in speed are a direct result of the VPN running.

Consistent Infrastructure & Equipment

All of our speed tests are done using a Lenovo ThinkPad PC running Windows 10 and on an iMac running MacOS Big Sur. These devices are connected to the broadband line using a Cat7 ethernet cable.
By keeping all of our equipment consistent, we can always conclude that any speed changes are as a result of the VPN, and not any issues with our test devices.

Only Use the VPN’s Preferred Protocol

For our speed tests, we use the VPN with the fastest protocol available. This allows us to give an accurate representation of the speeds you can expect while using the VPN.

For the tests on this page, the protocols used were as follows:

  • CyberGhost, Mullvad, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, Surfshark — WireGuard
  • ExpressVPN — Lightway
  • Hotspot Shield — Catapult Hydra
  • HideMyAss, IPVanish, PrivateVPN — OpenVPN (UDP)

Same Speed Testing Tool

We use Ookla’s popular speed test tool for all of our tests. We elected to use this because a representative from Ookla assured us that it has “strong mitigations in place to prevent such behavior [VPNs prioritizing traffic to Ookla].”

None of the other speed test tools would provide this guarantee. In turn, this rules out the possibility of a VPN speeding up its service when it detects a speed test, which would give unreliable results.

Tested Over a Long-period

To minimize the risk of random and anomalous results, our final speed test result is the average from a series of tests, performed over a month. We tested all VPNs at regular six-hour intervals, equaling four different times per day. In total, we manually undertook thousands of VPN speed tests, ensuring our results most accurately represent the speeds of the fastest VPNs.

Research Limitations

Although we have taken steps at every stage to keep our speed test results as accurate as possible, there are still some unavoidable limitations to our research.

These limitations may result in a VPN performing differently when you test it yourself. These include:

Speed Fluctuations

To quantify speeds and account for speed fluctuations, we would have to test every single VPN server during every second of the day.

To counter this, we pace our testing out throughout the day. Tests are performed four times a day, with a six-hour break between each test. Although not perfect, this allows us to test each VPN during both peak and quiet hours of the day, giving us an accurate, but not perfect, representation of typical speeds.

Upload Speed & Ping

The fastest VPN is not necessarily the fastest VPN for all activities. For example, a VPN with fast download speeds but slow ping time will be great for streaming, but poor for online gaming.

For this page, we’ve chosen to focus solely on download speed. This is because the vast majority of online activities rely on a fast download speed, and fewer need a speedy upload speed or ping rate.

If download speed is less important for your use case, you can read our dedicated recommendations for the best VPNs for gaming and best torrenting VPNs.

Varying Device Performance

Different devices, with different network cards and performance capabilities, can yield dramatically different speed test results. For example, desktop PCs will often have larger and faster wireless cards than mobile devices. This means that you may not always experience the same results as us, depending on your device.

To address this, we use two different test devices — one Lenovo ThinkPad and one Apple iMac. These devices are made by different manufacturers, which gives us speed test data from the two major desktop operating systems.

Overall, we have tried our best to eliminate all possible factors that could hold back our investigation into the fastest VPNs. However, with the VPN industry constantly changing, just keep in mind that we can only ever provide a snapshot and not an absolute answer for the fastest VPN.

How to Test VPN Speed at Home

To test your VPN speed at home, you’ll need to perform two separate tests — one while disconnected from the VPN, and one while connected to the VPN.

This first stage will give you your baseline internet speed. From this, you can calculate how much your VPN impacts your speed.

How to test VPN speed

You can test internet speed by using Speedtest by Ookla.

To test VPN speed, just follow the steps below:

Testing Internet Speed Without a VPN:

  1. Make sure that you are disconnected from your VPN.
  2. Ensure no other apps are running in the background.
  3. Visit speedtest.net and click ‘Go’ to start your speed test.
  4. Note your results for download, upload, and ping.

Testing Internet Speed With a VPN:

  1. Ensure no other apps are running in the background.
  2. Open your VPN app and connect to your chosen location.
  3. Visit speedtest.net and click ‘Go’ to start your speed test.
  4. Compare these results to the results you got when disconnected to the VPN.

EXPERT TIP: Your ISP will often exaggerate your baseline internet speed. Make sure to test your speeds while disconnected from the VPN before testing VPN speed.

For download and upload speeds, the smaller the difference between your original result and your VPN result, the better. Generally speaking, less than a 10% loss in speed is a great result for a local server, and under 40% loss in speed is a good result for a server in a different continent.

To compare the speeds of popular VPNs on servers around the world, use our automated VPN speed testing tool.

How to Speed Up Your VPN

How to speed up a VPN connection

Although some loss in performance is inevitable when running a VPN, there are a few things you can do to make this unnoticeable.

Here are four ways to speed up your VPN:

1Use one of the VPNs we recommend

All of the services on this page have been verified by our team of experts as the fastest VPNs on the market. If you instead choose a slow VPN service, there is nothing else you can do to boost speed performance.

2Use WireGuard or the VPN’s proprietary protocol

Although secure, our tests have found that OpenVPN is noticeably slower than WireGuard and proprietary VPN protocols, like Catapult Hydra. If your VPN app allows you to choose, make sure to use WireGuard or the VPN’s custom protocol.

3Connect to the server closest to you

In general, connecting to a closer VPN server to your location will give you faster speeds. This is because your traffic takes a shorter route, allowing the packets to be delivered at a much faster rate.

4Connect using an ethernet cable

Due to channel interference, WiFi connections are less efficient than wired connections. Connecting your device directly to your router with an ethernet cable will give you faster and more reliable speeds.

EXPERT TIP: Your VPN’s speed is dependent on your regular internet connection. The best way to maximize speed is to make sure you’re getting the fastest connection from your ISP.

What's the Fastest Free VPN?

The fastest free VPNs are:

  1. ProtonVPN
  2. Windscribe
  3. Hide.me

Free VPNs are typically much slower than paid options. This is primarily because free VPNs have more users, which results in server congestion and slowdowns.

Additionally, VPN services often provide better infrastructure for paying users while enforcing bandwidth caps on free servers.

There are a few free VPNs that deliver good speeds, though. After putting all the best free VPNs through our speed testing process, we found that ProtonVPN is the fastest free VPN.

We recorded just a 5% internet speed loss connecting to both a nearby and far-away ProtonVPN server. This level of speed performance matches results from some premium VPNs, so it’s very impressive.

ProtonVPN is the fastest free VPN

ProtonVPN is the fastest free VPN.

The reason ProtonVPN is able to maintain fast speeds is that it reroutes traffic to a pool of over 200 servers, far exceeding the amount offered from other free VPNs.

This minimizes server load and keeps connections fast. Moreover, ProtonVPN is the only safe free VPN without monthly data caps — so you can keep the VPN running at all times.

You won’t be able to use the VPN for streaming or torrenting, though, as both activities don’t work on ProtonVPN’s free tier.

Though slower, Windscribe streamed US Netflix and BBC iPlayer in our tests. We were also able to download torrent files quickly.

However, Windscribe limits usage to 10GB of bandwidth per month, which is not enough for many internet users.

Both free VPNs are useful if you’re on a budget, or just want to test what you can do with a VPN.

However, if you want the best and fastest VPN performance, it’s worth paying for a premium VPN service.

Additional research by Luke Williams

Fastest VPN FAQs

Which VPN protocol is fastest?

The fastest safe VPN protocol is WireGuard. Performance benchmarks have shown it to be as much as three times faster than OpenVPN.

Our speed test results have shown Catapult Hydra to be even faster than WireGuard, but this is a closed-source protocol and is only available on Hotspot Shield.

Although some older protocols, such as PPTP and L2TP, are faster than WireGuard, these should be avoided under all circumstances. These fast connection speeds are down to the protocol’s weak encryption, so they are useless as a tool for privacy and security.

Which VPN server is the fastest?

VPN server speed is dependent on proximity and server load. In general, the closest server to your physical location will be the fastest server for you. For example, if you’re in India, an India VPN server will be the fastest.

However, overly congested servers will be slower than servers with fewer active users. Because of this, popular locations, like New York and London, often perform worse than other servers in the same country. Many VPN apps indicate live server load information, so make sure to avoid busy servers.

For the very fastest speeds, we recommend connecting using your VPN’s ‘quick connect’ feature. This automatically connects you to the fastest server based on a calculation of your location and the relative server congestion.

Can VPN reduce ping?

A VPN won’t reduce your ping time. Ping is the amount of time it takes for a packet of data to travel from one point in a network to another. So, the closer you are to a server, the lower your ping time will be.

When you connect to a VPN that’s located anywhere other than the same city as you, your ping will increase, as your data is having to travel further before it reaches its destination.

To reduce the impact of your VPN on ping, make sure you choose one with city-level choice in your country, as this will allow you to connect to the nearest possible server and keep your connection as responsive as possible.

Will a VPN stop buffering?

A VPN will only prevent buffering if your ISP is throttling your data. ISP throttling is when your ISP intentionally slows down your internet speed, typically during high-bandwidth activities, like torrenting or streaming.

Using a VPN will hide your online activity from your ISP, preventing them from slowing down your connection during certain activities. The VPN will bypass any throttling measures, allowing you to benefit from continuous peak speeds and less buffering.

In general, though, ISP throttling is rare and the additional layer of VPN encryption is much more likely to slow down your connection. However, all the VPNs we recommend on this page will only reduce your speeds by a negligible amount.

Should you use UDP or TCP?

Your VPN app will often allow you to toggle between UDP and TCP. In general, you should use UDP for the very fastest speeds.

TCP is slightly slower because it uses error protection and guaranteed delivery, ensuring that each data packet is sent in the correct order. UDP doesn’t have these protections or verification steps, so it’s able to transmit data faster across the network — but don’t worry, it’s still perfectly safe.

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