VPN Speed Test Tool: Compare the Speed of 18 Popular VPNs

JP Jones - CTO @ Top10VPNHeadshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

JP is our CTO and with over 25 years of software engineering and networking experience oversees all technical aspects of our VPN testing process. Read full bio

Callum oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his advice about VPNs has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society. Read full bio

Our automated and independent VPN speed test tool runs 365 days a year, testing the speed of 18 very popular VPNs in 2020.

Even the fastest VPNs can struggle to maintain consistent speeds over time. Some review sites only update their figures a few times a year so by the time you read their review, the figures recorded could be long out of date.

Our automated VPN speed test tool provides up-to-date speed results for the most popular VPNs. Our tool displays a timeline of recorded speed data, updated every six hours, so you can see how reliably a VPN performs over time. You can therefore feel confident that you’re getting the fastest VPN for your location, with no surprises.

Overall, we found that Private Internet Access, NordVPN, Hotspot Shield, and ExpressVPN are currently the fastest and most consistent VPN services. To see what makes them so great, read our guide to the fastest VPNs of 2020.

Using the VPN speed test tool below, you can compare the speed and reliability of 18 popular VPN services when connected to 11 servers around the world. Further down the page you can read more about how our tool works, and how you can improve your VPN speeds at home.

Compare VPN Speeds

Summary (0 of 5 selected)

Data shown here is an average over past 8 weeks, calculated as average of 4 tests performed every 6 hours daily.

Period: Last 8 weeks

%

Click to show/hide graph

    How We Test VPN Speeds

    We test VPN speeds through two different methods. This page covers our automated speed test, which is what the tool above uses.

    Automated VPN Speed Tests

    We have servers set up in 11 cities around the world, with 18 of the most popular VPNs installed on them. These servers send data to one another around the clock, seven days a week, to create an accurate, long-term picture of how fast each VPN really is. We also test the servers with no VPN running at all.

    We’ve capped the speed at 100Mbps so that the numbers look similar to what you’d see with a home fibre optic broadband connection, and the data transfer has been designed to function as consistently as possible. The data we send is regulated, there’s no compression, and it’s free of any additional protocols or ports slowing it down. We run 121 tests every six hours per VPN and create an average, making sure to get rid of any glaring errors.

    The data you see on the graph above is a daily average of all those tests. It’s not perfect, but we think it’s the best tool on the internet for seeing how VPNs actually perform.

    Our speed test collects data every six hours

    We use average speed loss as our go-to statistic as it’s the most informative piece of data for VPN users at home. You might have different internet speeds at home compared to our 100Mbps servers. In that case, all you have to do is take the speed loss percentage for the VPN you’re interested in and apply it to your own speeds.

    For example, if a VPN takes 10% off our server’s speeds, you can presume that your home internet speeds of 50Mbps without VPN will reduce to 40Mbps while using it.

    It’s important to have the fastest VPN possible because everything you do while connected to your VPN is affected by it. Obvious speed-dependent tasks like gaming and torrenting will be affected most, but even everyday tasks like checking your social media or sending an email are affected by it, too. Take a look at the results of our testing and make your choice carefully.

    Which VPN Providers Do We Test?

    We use our tool to test 18 VPN providers. They are:

    • Astrill
    • CyberGhost
    • ExpressVPN
    • hide.me
    • HideMyAss!
    • Hotspot Shield
    • IPVanish
    • Mullvad
    • NordVPN
    • Private Internet Access
    • PrivateVPN
    • ProtonVPN
    • PureVPN
    • SaferVPN
    • Surfshark
    • TunnelBear
    • VyprVPN
    • Windscribe

    We’ve picked these providers as they’re some of the biggest and most popular names on the market. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, and we’re looking to add to it every chance we get. We’re restricted to VPNs that run the OpenVPN protocol – it’s the most widely-available VPN protocol out there, and we believe it’s the best. However, some popular VPNs don’t use it, which means that we can’t include them.

    Where Are Our Speed Test Servers Located?

    We have speed test servers located in 11 cities around the world:

    • Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • Frankfurt, Germany
    • London, UK
    • New York, US
    • Paris, France
    • San Francisco, US
    • Singapore
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Tokyo, Japan
    • Toronto, Canada
    • Vancouver, Canada

    While your city may not be on this list, we hope that the global spread is wide enough that you can find one near enough to you to estimate what your own speeds might be like.

    Manual VPN Speed Tests

    When reviewing the VPNs on our website we also carry out a manual speed test. This test is completely different to our automated tool. We use the results of this test to decide how we’ll score a VPN for speed and consistency, and it’s been designed to be identical to how you’d test your VPN’s speed at home.

    There’s nothing too complicated to it: we simply connect to the VPN we’re testing and then browse to speedtest.net. We run the test three times, then take an average of the numbers it shows us. If any of them seem like massive outliers, we try it again until it gains some consistency.

    We test four major server locations: a local one (which for us is London, UK), one in Western Europe (somewhere like Germany that’s a little further away from us, but not too far), one on the East Coast of the US (usually New York, a popular location for anyone using a VPN for streaming), and Australia (which is the farthest possible location from us that’s usually catered to by VPN providers).

    You can look at the distance each of those countries is from our location and apply it to your own situation.

    We ensure consistency by using the same computers for testing. These computers are connected via ethernet cable to a dedicated 100Mbps router in our office which isn’t used by any other devices.

    Each VPN we test is installed on a clean virtual machine. This means that they essentially have a completely clean, unused operating system to themselves – no chance of clashing or interfering with each other. You can see these results in every single VPN review on our site – click here to see the full list.

    How to Test Your VPN Speed at Home

    ExpressVPN speed testing with speedtest.net

    There are two ways you can test your VPN speed yourself: with a tool built in to your VPN, or with a speed testing website.

    Some VPNs come with their own speed testing tool within its apps. They may not be available on all platforms, but they can be a quick and useful way of finding out how your VPN is performing. Some, like the one on ExpressVPN, show you how fast the connection is on servers you aren’t even connected to.

    If your VPN doesn’t have a speed tester of its own, then you can use an internet speed testing website or app instead. Just because you’re connected to a VPN doesn’t mean that you need to do anything different – if you’ve ever tested your internet speed before it’s the exact same process. In fact, it’s exactly what we do when testing a VPN in our office. Here’s how to test your VPN’s speed:

    1Connect to a VPN server of your choice

    It makes sense to connect to the server that you’re likely to use the most frequently if you’re just doing this out of curiosity. Alternatively, if you’re troubleshooting a slow server, make sure you’re connected to exactly the one that’s giving you difficulties (lots of VPNs let you select a general location, like New York, but connect you to one of dozens of servers in that city at random).

    2Browse to a speed testing website

    We use speedtest.net when performing our VPN speed tests in the Top10VPN.com offices. It’s independently owned, meaning that it won’t favor any particular ISP or VPN.

    3Make sure it’s got the right server selected

    It’s important to connect to your VPN first and then open up the speed test in a fresh window or tab, as otherwise it might try to connect to a server near your real-world location. Double check that’s not the case.

    4Make sure the speed test connection is set to ‘multi’

    Some sites (like speedtest.net) allow you to choose between a ‘single’ or ‘multi’ connection test. We always make sure to choose ‘multi’ – not just for consistency, but because it gives you the most accurate results over fast connections.

    5Click ‘GO’

    You’re all set. Get the test underway and make a note of the numbers it shows you. Now you can compare those to the speeds you get when not running a VPN.

    Why Does a VPN Slow Your Internet Speed?

    It may not be something that VPN providers want you to know, but the truth is that every single VPN will slow down your internet.

    This is due to the nature of how VPNs work. Ordinarily your internet traffic travels from your device to the website or service you’re using and then back again – a straight line for maximum speeds.

    When you connect with a VPN, though, the traffic is diverted. It goes from your device to a VPN server, then on to the site or service you want, before being sent back to you. That extra distance travelled means slower speeds than normal – it also explains why your speeds get slower the further the VPN server is from your real location.

    The goal when choosing a VPN isn’t to find one that doesn’t slow down your internet – there’s no such thing. What you should be looking out for is the VPN which slows it the least. That’s why we talk about speed loss percentages, both on this page and in our reviews: it’s the best way to measure the performance of a VPN, plus you can take the number and apply it to your own home internet to get an idea of how the VPN might affect you.

    How to Increase Your VPN Speed

    A diagram explaining how to increase your VPN's speeds

    A diagram explaining how to increase your VPN’s speeds

    If you’ve found a VPN you like but aren’t entirely happy with it’s speeds, it’s not too late – there are a handful of things you can still try to boost your VPN’s speed:

    Use a VPN Router

    As the name suggests, VPN routers are designed specifically to work with VPNs. You can even buy them pre-configured so you’re guaranteed to get the best speeds possible.

    Every device that connects to its network will be automatically protected – be sure to check that your VPN is compatible with routers before you buy, though, as they’re quite expensive.

    Choose the correct VPN protocol

    Different VPN protocols deliver different speeds, even if you’re connected to the same server location.

    We always recommend OpenVPN as we believe it to be the most secure, but within OpenVPN you have the choice of UDP or TCP. UDP is the faster of the two, while TCP is more reliable – they’re both just as secure.

    If you’re still struggling you can try changing your VPN’s protocol to IKEv2. It’s still secure (we would never recommend anything that isn’t) but it’s often faster than OpenVPN.

    Connect to a nearby server

    It’s simple: the closer the VPN server is to you, the quicker your connection will be.

    Of course this isn’t always possible – if you need to connect to a certain country then you’ll often have no choice in changing the server, but even then you can still check you’re connecting to the closest one possible.

    For example if you’re in Western Europe and you need a US server, make sure it’s on the East Coast (like New York or Boston). Similarly, if you’re in East Asia and you need a US server, make sure it’s one on the West Coast (like Seattle or San Francisco).

    If you’re just using your VPN for security reasons and not to geo-spoof or unblock content, then there’s no reason not to connect to the nearest server to you possible. Your VPN’s automatic choice will usually be the best.

    Try split-tunnelling

    Split-tunneling is a feature offered by lots of VPNs that lets you choose certain apps to be ignored by the VPN.

    Rather than travelling through the secure VPN connection, they simply operate as if you weren’t connected to your VPN at all.

    This can be very useful when you need to boost the speeds for a certain task – streaming a movie, playing an online game, things of that nature.

    Of course the downside to that is that when an app is split-tunneled it is not encrypted. If security doesn’t matter that much for what you’re using it for, though, then it’s a very useful solution to poor speeds.

    How Fast Does Your VPN Need to Be to Watch Netflix?

    A sample result from fast.com, an internet speed testing site owned by Netflix

    A sample result from fast.com, an internet speed testing site owned by Netflix.

    It’s always important to have a fast VPN, but when streaming with services like Netflix it’s absolutely vital.

    Netflix can stream in 4K UHD, Full-HD, HD, or standard definition. The lower the picture quality, the slower your VPN can be while still giving you a smooth, buffer-free streaming experience.

    Here are the minimum internet speeds Netflix says you need for streaming:

    3Mbps – Recommended for SD quality

    5Mbps – Recommended for Full-HD quality

    25Mbps – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

    In our experience these numbers are roughly accurate, although Netflix is definitely being a little generous – we strongly recommend you aim for slightly higher speeds, unless you like waiting an age for content to load and buffer.

    Those numbers will be roughly accurate for other popular streaming services like BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+, too.

    Reliability is more important than speed when streaming with a VPN, though. If your VPN swings between fast and not-so-fast, the quality of the picture will keep changing. Our speed testing tool will show you how some of the most popular VPNs available perform over the long term, so that you can see which will deliver you the best streaming experience.

    You can see our best VPN picks for Netflix here.