The best VPN Service
VPN short for ‘virtual private network’ – is software traditionally used to keep your online activity private and virtually change your location. However, the top services today can do so much more than that. What’s more, as many of us are still working and learning from home, more people than ever are enjoying the benefits VPNs can bring.
From securing your sensitive information and avoiding trackers to circumventing content blocks put in place by streaming providers like Netflix, there’s more to the best VPN than meets the eye. Plus, the top providers have apps for just about any device, so whatever you use the most, you can stay secure.
However, there are countless options to pick from, so making sure your chosen VPN can access your favorite streaming sites, works on all your devices, and won’t slow down your Internet connection is absolutely crucial.
The best VPN works by tunneling your connection through its own encrypted servers, which hides your activity from your ISP and anyone else who might be watching – including the government and nefarious hackers. This also allows you to access restricted sites, stream a wider range of shows, and avoid network throttling.
What’s the best VPN service?
The competition to be crowned best VPN gets tougher every day, but there’s still a clear winner that’s head and shoulders above the rest – ExpressVPN.
One of ExpressVPN’s main assets is that it’s incredibly easy to use on any platform – be it your phone, PC, or even PlayStation. It also performed well in our streaming tests, easily getting around the geo-restrictions of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video – and, because it provides such swift connections, you’ll be able to watch in HD or 4K just like usual.
To top it off, you’ll also be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee which means you can effectively test-drive the service and its 3,000+ servers for a whole month before you buy – you can find out all the details in our full independent ExpressVPN review.
The best VPN services today
The best VPN for streaming, privacy and speed
Number of servers: 3,000+ | Speeds: Unlimited | VPN locations: 160 in 94 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
Based in the British Virgin Islands – a favourite location for businesses that want to keep their data private for a variety of reasons, ExpressVPN is among the handful of VPN services with a no-logging policy that’s been proven as a result of legal action, following a seizure of the company’s Turkish servers by law enforcement. The service’s no-logging policy has also been independently audited.
Although it’s not always the fastest VPN provider around, ExpressVPN’s performance in our speed tests is consistently good, with reliably fast HTTP download speeds via UK, Netherlands and US endpoints. ExpressVPN consistently provides seamless, undetected streaming of region-locked Netflix and Disney+ content in the US and BBC iPlayer in the UK, and is generally a top-notch choice if streaming support is a priority. We also tried out the beta of the company’s new Lightway protocol. Performance was just as good, with slight performance differences within the standard variation we expect to see between different endpoint servers.
The world’s most famous VPN is also among the best
Number of servers: 5,400+ | Server locations: 80+ in 59 countries | Maximum devices supported: 6 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
Headquartered in data protection friendly Panama, NordVPN has a longstanding reputation as a privacy-focused VPN provider. The company’s initially brash handling and slow disclosure of a 2018 breach left a lot to be desired, although the company has impressed us by following through on its commitment to improve its security, communication and transparency since Autumn 2019.
NordVPN’s logging policy is already transparent and is regularly audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG in Switzerland, which confirmed the company’s claim that it keeps no logs.
NordVPN has once again reworked its pricing to cost less all round. A subscription will cost £8.84 per month, £43.66 a year and £65.86 for two years: the longer you subscribe for, the better value you get. Keep an eye out for renewals though, as subscription will renew at whatever the current price is, whether that’s lower or higher than what you originally paid. Anonymous payment options are available – sadly only through cryptocurrency – and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Clients are available for a wide range of platforms and NordVPN is actively testing and implementing new protocols as they emerge. Although it’s not yet the default setting for the client, the NordLynx protocol, launched for Linux and more recently rolled out to Windows users, is a secured version of the fast and increasingly popular WireGuard protocol.
Performance was generally good in our latest tests but its US speeds took a marked slump, in common with many of its rivals during this particular block of testing. However, over years of historic results, it’s only rarely disappointed us when it comes to speed tests. It’s also one of the most reliable services for international streaming video enthusiasts, providing access to region-restricted US Netflix and Disney+ content, as well as iPlayer in the UK, among other services. We’re also huge fans of its convenient browser plugins, which are particularly handy for streaming.
Fast, affordable, and super simple to use
Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 100+ in 65 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
In our Surfshark review, we found that the BVI-based VPN delivered a seriously powerful product for less than half the price of some leading competitors. No, you won’t have every single bell and whistle, but for those that just want reliable internet security and speeds good enough to stream with, it’s got all you need.
While they’re not incredibly in-depth, Surfshark’s apps look great and are easy to use. All you need to do is tap the quick connect button and you’re off. You’ll also be able to get apps for plenty of devices including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux.
On that note, with Surfshark you really will be able to protect every device you own, because it offers unlimited simultaneous connections with a single subscription. That means you can cover 10, 20, even 50 devices with one plan.
Surfshark’s no slouch in the privacy department, with a kill switch, split tunneling and AES-256 encryption. If you want seriously powerful configuration in your VPN then it’s probably not for you, but it’ll keep you secure – it wouldn’t be on this list if it wouldn’t.
Value is what makes Surfshark really shine, though. Right now, signing up to a 24-month plan will get you an extra three free, which works out at just $2.21 a month – and you can cover everything you own with one plan. It’s that simple.
4. Hotspot Shield
Incredible speeds and excellent clients
Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 130+ in 80+ countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45 day money back guarantee: Yes (Plus limited free version)
While it’s probably best-known for its free VPN, our Hotspot Shield review found that its paid-for VPN really delivers the goods. It offers incredibly fast VPN speeds available for a fair price, and it’s pretty easy to use as well.
While those maximum speeds come with a few drawbacks – namely the fact that Hotspot’s proprietary protocol Catapult Hydra can’t be manually set up on routers like OpenVPN can – the service has really improved since we last tested it and has now become one of our most highly recommended VPNs.
Improvements include the addition of a Linux app, a tasty price-cut for the annual plan, and a boost in the number of countries covered (up to over 80, now). You’ll also get some freebies – 1Password being the best.
There are still a few issues with logging, but if we’re honest they’re not huge. While more data is collected than with, say, ExpressVPN, there’s still nothing here that could potentially link you to your activity – and that’s a compromise many people will be willing to make for speeds of over 400Mbps.
So, if you’re after seriously fast streaming in just about any service, or want to download torrents in safety as quickly as possible, Hotspot Shield is definitely one to watch.
Loads of servers for an excellent price
Number of servers: 6,100+ | Server locations: 111 in 90 countries | Maximum devices supported: 7 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45 day money back guarantee: Yes
CyberGhost has a feature-loaded, user-friendly interface, with convenient buttons in the Windows client software for streaming media, torrenting files, protecting your Wi-Fi transmissions and evading censorship – read our CyberGhost VPN review for more info.
Those streaming and torrenting features are really useful, as it takes out the trial-and-error of testing individual servers to see if they work with Netflix and the like (although iPlayer still poses a problem). While ExpressVPN’s just always seems to work, individual servers of many other providers can drop Netflix support as they get detected, so CyberGhost makes it super easy to get streaming.
And, on that note, there are over 6,100 CyberGhost servers in around 90 countries worldwide, so there’s always a great selection to choose from.
CyberGhost is also transparent about its company structure, posting photos and bios on its website of everyone from the CEO to the cleaning person, and privacy fanatics will like that the company is based in Romania rather than in the US. Plus, you don’t need to provide your real name to sign up – all you need is a working email address, and you can pay in Bitcoin to remain nearly anonymous.
While CyberGhost’s short plans are amongst the most expensive on the market, it’s three-year plan has recently dropped to a record low of just $2.25 a month.
CyberGhost’s performance isn’t quite up there with the best, and the apps are a little fickle at times, but it’s still a top-tier VPN that we strongly recommend.
Unlimited simultaneous connections from US-based service
Number of servers: 1,500+ | Server locations: 75+ in 52 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
IPVanish is good VPN service that boasts over 1,500 servers in more than 75 locations and 24/7 customer service, However, one of the biggest selling points is that IPVanish has recently adjusted its policy to allow unlimited simultaneous connections – along with Surfshark, it’s one of the only VPNs on this list to offer that.
Those connections could come in handy, too. As you’ll discover in our IPVanish review, the service works on lots of devices, including Mac, Windows, Android and iOS. The desktop apps offer plenty of options that will keep the pros happy, while the just-work simplicity is also there for everyone else. That it all functions with far above average speeds is a nice bonus.
The aesthetic of the apps is similar across all devices – read: very techy – and while some might appreciate rolling graphs and an interface full of data, for those less interested in all that it could seem a little intimidating. It need not, though, because, as we mentioned, it’s all very simple to use.
However, one of the biggest selling points for VPNs is unblocking streaming content, and while IPVanish can get you access to Netflix, it unfortunately struggles with Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer. If you regularly use these, then it might be best to look elsewhere.
But, if you’re just after a cheap monthly VPN, IPVanish might be a strong contender – its introductory offers are seriously good value, and great for the short-term.
7. Private Internet Access (PIA)
Basic cover at a reasonable cost
Number of servers: 17,300+ | Server locations: 97 in 76 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
Private Internet Access (PIA) has been around for some time, and it’s built a dedicated following of users that appreciate its reliability and dedication to privacy – check out our PIA review for more.
Recently PIA has undertaken a huge drive to expand its network and, somewhat under the radar, has amassed a gargantuan 19,000+ servers worldwide. That’s more than Express, Nord, Surfshark and CyberGhost put together.
Admittedly, almost 9,000 of these are in the US alone, and a fair few of the more exotic locations are virtual servers, but this expansion has addressed (and then some) a previous criticism that PIA’s network was a little restricted.
As you’d expect from any decent VPN, it has dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, and even Linux is among its line up. The mobile apps also don’t disappoint, providing great cover whether you’re at home or out and about. However, while PIA can get you access to Netflix abroad, it struggles with BBC iPlayer. That might not be a big loss, but for Brits abroad it may well influence your decision.
PIA offers 10 simultaneous connections which should be plenty to cover your household’s devices on one plan, and the introduction of WireGuard has seen speeds get a boost. Plus, if you go for the longer subscription, PIA offers great value, too.
While its support and unblocking capabilities aren’t up there with the best, if you’re looking for a simple, secure VPN to get you going with a minimum of fuss, PIA is certainly a good shout.
Unlimited connections plus useful free version
Number of servers: 400 | Server locations: 110 in 63 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: No
Our Windscribe review found the provider’s free service that gives users 10GB of data a month very useful, but it also offers a fairly-priced paid service that delivers unlimited data and lets you connect as many devices at once as you like. Most other VPN services permit only five to 10 at a time.
Windscribe is compatible with many platforms – including routers and Amazon Fire and Kodi TV set-top boxes. The service offers a great variety of connection options, has a wide geographic reach with hundreds of servers, and presents an appealing, if minimal, user interface. It’s also good for watching overseas Netflix, and has dedicated ‘Windflix servers’ to enable this.
The service’s Chrome VPN extension is a standout feature. As one of the best on the market, it offers tons of features and can be used without installing the desktop client – great for work computers of other devices you can’t install software on. However, Windscribe’s network performance wasn’t quite as impressive, and in our testing it delivered slower connection times than its competitors.
You can pay for a Windscribe subscription with Bitcoin, you don’t even have to provide an email address, and the service is based in Canada, which may appeal to users wary of US authorities. The only feature lacking is a kill switch to stop all internet activity if the VPN connection is lost while in use. But Windscribe argues that its built-in firewall prevents data leakage.
Overall, for those looking to test out a VPN with a free service and then sign up once you know it works, Windscribe is an excellent option.
Security and streaming prowess make ProtonVPN a contender
Number of servers: 800+ | Server locations: 50+ in 50 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live support: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
Thanks to improvements made that we outline in our ProtonVPN review, the Swiss service has come more and more to the forefront of our attention of late. It’s a good VPN provider with some real pros that make it a tempting option.
One of the standouts is how effective it is at unblocking the catalogues of TV streaming services when abroad. Netflix? No problem. Amazon Prime Video? Easy. BBC iPlayer? A doddle. So, if your main reason for being here is to find a good streaming VPN, then Proton is a decent fit.
However, streaming support is only available on the Plus plan which, to be honest, is a little expensive. On its longest-term contract (two years) you’ll be paying about the same as you would be for ExpressVPN, except you won’t get live chat support and you’ll miss out on over 2,000 servers worldwide.
If you just want to give it a go before buying, we’d thoroughly recommend its free version. If you like that, there’s not a huge amount of reasons not to upgrade.
A great option for total VPN newbies and technophobes
Number of servers: 1,000 | Server locations: 23 | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: No (but limited free version)
For those who’ve never used a VPN before – and perhaps are a little intimidated by the prospect – TunnelBear could be the perfect choice. You can start off with a limited free plan (which admittedly only gives you 500MB of data a month), or upgrade to the full service which gives access to over 1,000 servers in around 20 countries. Check out the full TunnelBear review for more detail.
TunnelBear’s simplicity, though, is also its downfall. While it’s easy to use, so are ExpressVPN and most of the other top-rated providers, but once you get used to using them, you’ll have the choice to explore in-depth options if you want to. No such luck with TunnelBear, though, as there’s a dearth of configuration.
You’ve also got no choice but to run TunnelBear’s client software – unless you use Linux – which may concern some privacy-minded users, and there’s no option to set up TunnelBear connections on routers or other devices. Finally, this tiny Canadian firm is now owned by US antivirus giant McAfee, which may mean TunnelBear is subject to US search warrants.
But, if you’re after a VPN to set and forget, TunnelBear’s not a bad option.
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