We’ve developed an in-house methodology for testing router VPNs, covering several key parameters.
Primarily, we evaluate how easy it is to install and use the VPN on a WiFi router.
Additional consideration is given to the VPN’s overall performance and quality, including its average connection speeds, spread of server locations, and whether it can unblock geo-restricted streaming platforms.
For router VPNs specifically, we test for:
- A dedicated, intuitive router app.
- Varied setup methods including manual installation and pre-flashed.
- Secure & trustworthy encryption.
- Fast connection speeds for all devices.
- Multiple server locations to connect to.
- Unblocked streaming platforms and libraries.
1. Router App: 30%
Minimum Requirement: A user interface with basic VPN functionality.
We Recommend: An easy-to-use, dedicated app for routers with multiple advanced features.
As a bare minimum, you should be able to access an interface to connect and disconnect your VPN connection. It should integrate seamlessly into your router settings and be easy to use.
For the best router VPNs, we expect an app specifically designed for routers. Whether that’s through a third-party, like FlashRouters, or through the VPN’s own software.
The app should be fully-featured with options to change VPN servers, enable a VPN kill switch, and configure split tunneling.
We also reward router apps that are easy to use, ideally its user experience and graphical interface should be identical to that of a desktop or mobile app.
2. Setup Difficulty: 25%
Minimum Requirement: Easy to understand instructions for popular router models.
We Recommend: Detailed installation guides for multiple router models as well as support for alternate setup methods.
VPN router setup can be a long and difficult process that can risk breaking your router if performed incorrectly.
We look for VPN services that provide well-written and easy to understand installation guides for a variety of router brands. The best VPNs go a step further and write instructions tailored to specific router models for each brand.
We also factor in the quality and availability of a VPN’s customer support as part of the setup difficulty score. The top-rated router VPNs provide multiple channels of support to assist every step of the setup process.
3. Security & Encryption: 15%
Minimum Requirement: AES-128 or equivalent encryption.
We Recommend: AES-256 or Cha-Cha encryption.
Without sufficient encryption, your VPN router would function in the exact same way as a standard router or Smart DNS service.
Your VPN should use AES-256 or equivalent ciphers to encrypt the traffic of all devices connected to your router.
This protection extends to devices that can’t support native VPN software such as video game consoles, Smart TVs, and IoT devices.
4. Speed: 15%
Minimum Requirement: An average download speed loss of less than 20% on all connected devices.
We Recommend: An average download speed loss of less than 10% on all devices connected to the router.
A VPN service installed at router-level affects the download speed of every connected device.
Therefore, it’s essential you use a VPN service with the necessary infrastructure and performance to provide fast connection speeds and accommodate multiple devices.
A poorly-built VPN won’t be able to handle the demand of multiple devices which can impact your connection speeds.
5. Server Locations: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Multiple servers in your local region and neighboring ones.
We Recommend: Full access to the VPN’s server network.
We reward VPN services that make their entire server network compatible with router software.
Widespread server coverage ensures that you’ll always have a server nearby to connect to. This guarantees the fastest possible connection speeds by mitigating any speed loss caused by distance.
Having a greater number of server locations also increases your options for unblocking geo-restricted content. For example, having access to a single VPN server in the US means you can, in theory, unblock US Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu.
6. Streaming: 5%
Minimum Requirement: Unblocks several Netflix libraries and Disney+.
We Recommend: Reliably unblocks US Netflix, your local Netflix library, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max.
Every device connected to your router is assigned the IP address and geo-location of your VPN’s server.
This means any streaming service your router-level VPN can unblock is also accessible by your connected devices, too.
The very best VPNs for routers can unblock multiple Netflix libraries (including US Netflix), HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
We also take into account how consistently a VPN can unblock a specific streaming platform over time to assess its reliability.
Lastly, we consider the time taken to load the video content and its overall picture quality.