To ensure our VPN speed test findings are as accurate as possible, we follow a strict and scientific process. This has been refined over many years from our team of VPN experts.
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.
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.
Although we have taken steps at every stage to keep our speed test results as accurate as possible, there are still some limitations to our research that may result in a VPN performing differently when you test it yourself. These include:
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 guides for the best VPNs for gaming and torrenting.
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 and run a different operating system, 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.