A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is your ticket to anonymous internet browsing, greater online security and the key to watching geo restricted content like Netflix or BBC iPlayer while in another country. By firing up a VPN you can unlock everything you need online without having to divulge your precious personal information. Yes, this applies to your laptop, but also to smartphones, tablets, consoles, smart TVs and beyond. A VPN will make you appear to be in one location when actually you are somewhere else, thereby masking your identity and ensuring privacy.
A VPN is ideal for those who travel and use different network Wi-Fi as it offers a consistent layer of security that will keep you anonymous and safe no matter how insecure the public network might be. VPNs also allow you to access a bevy of streaming content that might not normally be available in your area, such as sporting events and region-specific television programs. But what is the best VPN out there right now?
In our extensive testing we've found that the best of the VPN bunch right now has to be ExpressVPN. The service offers a super simple-to-use platform that makes operating the VPN easy, combined with a huge selection of servers spread across many countries. This all results in a stable and speedy connection, too. There are more complex options for those that need them and all that is supported by round-the-clock customer support making this a great product no matter what happens.
But there are plenty more VPNs to pick from any one of which may offer a specific feature that you need, read on to find out the best VPN for you.
Best all-around VPN for privacy, speed and unblocking
Pros: Simple and easy to use interface; Fast and stable connection across 94 countries; 24/7 customer support; Enterprise level encryption
Cons: Max 3 simultaneous connections
ExpressVPN is the best VPN because it offers everything a virtual private network should do while delivering those features in their most useful form. That means a whopping 90+ countries are covered with over 3,000 servers across 160 locations, which you can appear to be online from. And it's not just physical locations that are plentiful, the client (or app) works across lots of devices including iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, BlackBerry and even some routers using DNS content-unblocking, so you can use this on your smart TV, too.
ExpressVPN will unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world, can be paid for anonymously using Bitcoin, offers P2P support for torrenting, uses enterprise level encryption, has a kill switch, uses DNS leak protection and has a clear no logging policy. Yup, Express seems to have it all.
On top of all that ExpressVPN also offers 24/7 live chat customer support which is quickly accessible. So any issues, even like advice on the best server for the fastest connection to suit what you're doing, can be attained by quickly asking a real person. With some great deals, 30-day money back guarantee and 3 months free when you subscribe to an annual plan this is one to be tried without a doubt.
Security at its best
Pros: Excellent speeds; 6 connections at a time; Double encryption
Cons: Easier to use options are out there
This VPN service offers one of the most impressive security features on any VPN, a double encryption. That means NordVPN can claim to have an above military grade 2048-bit encryption that works on its 5,300+ servers which are dotted across 60 countries. On top of that you're backed by two kill switches, strong DNS leak protection and can pay anonymously using Bitcoin or PayPal.
Beyond security, the features keep coming with support for up to six devices at once and proxy extensions so you can use this in Chrome and Firefox browsers. If it's streaming service unblocking you're after then the SmartPlay feature is ideal as this gets around geo-restrictions with simplicity.
This all sounds perfect, so why isn't it number one? Unfortunately, NordVPN just has a few niggles that we didn’t witness with ExpressVPN above. The user interface isn’t always as intuitive as the competition and the more in-depth features can be hard to fathom.
A torrenting delight
Pros: Owned and managed servers; Configurable apps; Excellent speeds
Cons: Apps aren’t the best; Can’t pay with Bitcoin
If you're in the market for a VPN to make sure all your torrenting needs are met securely then IPVanish is a fantastic candidate for you. The company owns and manages its own servers for superb security and they number over 1,200 across 40,000+ shared IPs in more than 60 countries. You get unlimited P2P traffic across 10 simultaneous connections at once which is actually useful since this works on the likes of Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and even Fire TV. So that means there’s a lot of IPVanish to go around.
While this is great for high-speed torrenting it also unblocks the likes of Netflix (but not BBC iPlayer, weirdly) with great speeds. The 24/7 customer support is a really nice addition also. While there isn't a free trial as such, you do get a 7-day money back guarantee so this is well worth a try.
Pros: Free plan with 10GB; Clear privacy; Loads of convenient payment options
Cons: Average speeds; No longer has unlimited connections
Windscribe is the best option for a VPN service that lets you access its owers across lots of devices. In fact, this is the only VPN on the list which offers unlimited device connections at once.
Enjoy the Windscribe client on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and even Chrome, Firefox and Opera plus Kodi. Speeds could be faster but generally this service is undoubtedly impressive, boasting servers across 60 locations and 110 cities.
Our only niggle? Well Windscribe used to give unlimited connections that you could use across all your devices. That little perk has now come to an end, alas. But five simultaneous connections is still better than some. And the best bit about Windscribe is now that its free version gives you 10GB’s worth of VPN access per month. So this one is worth a free look for sure.
5. Hotspot Shield
Online browsing privacy VPN specialist
Pros: Affordable; Good speeds; Simplicity
Cons: Limited app access
Hotspot Shield VPN uses its own Catapult Hydra protocol to make sure its 2500+ servers across 25 countries deliver the best possible speeds to you and this really worked well in our tests. All that raw speed can be used across up to 5 devices at once and you get 24/7 customer support. While you're limited to Windows, Mac, Android and iOS apps, they run so fast that should keep you happy. You get this service for cheap, can enjoy a 7-day free trial and have the option to try a free limited version first if you really want to ease in gently.
Superb clients with lots of features
Pros: Smart features; Great performance; Torrent support
Cons: Interface issues; Not the best support options
CyberGhost is a great VPN for those that want an excellent client which is not only simple to use but has more complex features too. This client is backed by 3,700 servers across more than 50 countries and works on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac. Support for torrents is standard as unblocking streaming content like Netflix or BBC iPlayer has dedicated tools within the app making getting at geo restricted content as easy as a click.
You also get ad blocking, auto HTTPS redirection, malicious site blocking and even optional data compression for data saving on the go. Stick to US and European sites for the best speeds and don't expect great support from the site but do expect a very fair price.
A simple and easy to use VPN service
Cons: Long distance speed issues
TunnelBear is a superb VPN for anyone that just wants a quick and easy service which simply works. The Canadian-based service (now owned by McAfee) is secure with a clear logging policy, clients for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac plus support for torrents and Netflix. UK and US servers offer superb speeds and you even get a free trial with up to 500MB of traffic per month before you need to start paying.
TunnelBear’s VPN is simple but that also means you're limited to just 20-odd location options, Netflix and BBC iPlayer geo-restrictions appeared to remain in place during our testing and settings options are very minimal. But for the price and all the positives this is still a compelling option.
Privacy and security focused
Pros: Great connections speeds; Clear no logging policy; Loads of connections possible
Cons: Server limitations; Will be too basic for some
As the StrongVPN name suggests this service is all about being secure to give you maximum privacy. As such there is a clear no-logs policy, minimal personal information is needed at sign-up and no information is shared with third parties. You can connect up to 12 devices to this service at once - one of the most simultaneous connections of any premium VPN service out there - which gets access to over 650+ servers across 26 countries and 46 cities. These are all apparently really well connected as you get some superb speeds from this VPN. That's ideal for streaming fans as this works well to unblock both BBC iPlayer and Netflix while still offering speeds to support 4K video. The 30-day money-back guarantee makes this a safe option to try before you buy.
Performance and security combo
Pros: Fast download speeds; Personalisable clients; Zero-knowledge DNS
Cons: A bit pricey with no free trial
VyprVPN brings you zero-knowledge DNS security from a Swiss-based service that spans over 700 servers in 70 locations with more than 200,000 IP addresses. They’re some really solid statistics to get started with. The proprietary Chameleon protocol means you can get online anywhere even in VPN blocking countries like China and Iran. Clients are highly configurable and work across iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Android TV, routers, QNAP, Blackphone, Anonabox and more.
Download speeds are fast, unblocking Netflix and BBC iPlayer is simple but there are some issues with the odd server fail and the fact that some session logging for connection times, IP address and so on are kept for 30 days. If none of that bothers you this is a worthy entry to any VPN best list.
Super speedy service
Pros: Unlimited device connections; Very fast; Good price
Cons: Basic app
The Surfshark VPN is, like its name suggests, a real killer when it comes to speeds. It's also very secure thanks to the likes of OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 security protocols, AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, a double VPN hop and a private DNS. The logging policy is clear with just your email and billing information stored, speeds are excellent and unblocking Netflix is easy. The Surfshark interface is lovely and simple to use - although that can actually mean it’s a bit too basic at times. And probably the thing we like most about this VPN service is the fact that you get unlimited connections too as many laptops and other devices as you can manage.
How we test VPNs
Our testing process is a rigorous one that has narrowed the list down to just ten of the best VPN options out there right now from more than 100. We look at features, value, performance, clients and security before we decide if this VPN deserves to make the list.
We delve deep into the terms & conditions so you don't have to worry about being caught out by the small print. That means we can be sure your security is being taken care of with things like logging clearly stated.
Performance is another big factor so we carry out lots of speed tests across servers and locations to make sure you're going to get good bandwidth. We use speedtest.net to measure latency as well as upload and download rates.
The clients themselves are put through their paces too so you know that apps, across platforms, work well and offer all the features you want.
Finally we tally up all those points with a score for each to get an overall score which helps us place the best VPNs in the list you can see here.