10 Best VPN Services in 2022 – Our Experts Tested 300+ VPNs
- The Best VPNs — Full Analysis (Updated September 2022)
- ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for Speed, Security, and Reliability
- CyberGhost — Specialized Servers and Strong Privacy Protection
- Private Internet Access — Fully Customizable Security and Privacy Settings
- IPVanish — Decent Security Features with Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
- PrivateVPN — Solid VPN With a Small Server Network
- Best VPNs — Quick Comparison Table
- Why You Need a VPN
- How to Choose the Best VPN for You
- Research Methodology: How We Rank & Compare VPNs
ExpressVPN — The fastest VPN available. It's super secure, easy to use, great for streaming, and affordable. Get 49% off with this special discount.
Finding a great all-around VPN can feel impossible. Some VPNs are good for streaming, but lack strong security features. Others are super secure, but slow your connection down so much that even browsing becomes frustrating. Not to mention the dozens of untrustworthy VPNs that track your online movements or fail to encrypt your traffic properly.
To save you time and hassle, our team of cybersecurity experts spent months testing over 300 VPNs to determine which ones are the best overall.
These VPNs are all great for accessing geoblocked content, securing your connection without slowing you down, and keeping your online activity private. Some of them are even powerful enough to work in countries with strict internet censorship.
TLDR: Our top choice is ExpressVPN thanks to its industry-leading security features and impressive speeds for streaming, torrenting, and gaming. But it also stands out due to its strong commitment to keeping your online activity private.
You can try ExpressVPN risk-free thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not as impressed as we were, you can easily get a full refund.
Short on Time? Here Are the Best VPNs in September 2022
- ExpressVPN — Safe, fast, and reliable for everything you do online, including browsing, streaming, and torrenting
- CyberGhost — Good server coverage so you can easily get around geoblocks and enjoy the internet free from restrictions
- Private Internet Access — Lots of built-in security and privacy customization options
- IPVanish — Basic features with unlimited simultaneous device connections
- PrivateVPN — Small but reliable network with decent speeds and features
Our team is spread across more than 40 countries around the world. Over the course of several months, we conducted hundreds of tests to find out which VPNs offer the best speeds, security, and reliability. We browsed, downloaded, streamed, and torrented for weeks on end to gather data on each VPN and bring you these results.
Tested September 2022 Try Risk-Free for 30 Days
- The fastest VPN we tested thanks to its proprietary Lightway protocol
- 3,000+ servers in 94 countries help you unblock tons of region-locked content
- 5 simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
ExpressVPN is the best all-around VPN I’ve tested, with incredibly fast speeds and strong security. This is thanks in large part to its proprietary Lightway protocol, which is faster and consumes fewer resources compared to others.
You can switch to Lightway in the app’s settings or let the VPN choose the best protocol for your network. OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec are also available.
I tested 5 nearby servers while using Lightway. My base speed was 53.34 Mbps, and my average speed while connected was 48.95 Mbps. That amounts to an 8% decrease in speed on average, which is significantly less than I recorded with any other VPN.
I was even more impressed when I tested a server in London; although it was thousands of miles away from me, my speed never dropped below 45 Mbps.
Perfect for Streaming on All Devices
ExpressVPN has 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, which means you can enjoy content from around the globe. This large network also prevents potential slowdowns caused by overcrowded servers.
I was able to access regional Netflix libraries for the 10 different countries I tested it with, including the US, the UK, Japan, and Australia. It worked just as well with the other sites I tried, including Disney+ — which is known for its super-tough geoblocks.
To help you stream on more devices, ExpressVPN offers a Smart DNS feature called MediaStreamer. This feature allows you to access streaming sites on devices that don’t usually support VPNs, like gaming consoles and smart TVs. It doesn’t encrypt your traffic or offer much security, but it’s super simple to set up. I got it working on my PlayStation in under 5 minutes, and was able to access Netflix US, Disney+, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
User-Friendly and Packed With Features
ExpressVPN’s apps are easy to use and install; it took less than a minute to set it up on my Windows PC. Once that was done, I literally just had to click “connect” to turn on the VPN. I also like how sleek and simple its browser extensions are — and the fact that they give you access to the full VPN, not just proxies (like most VPN browser extensions).
ExpressVPN’s split tunneling feature lets you select which apps use the VPN and which don’t. I tested it by using my regular connection to stream a movie from my local Netflix library, while making sure BitTorrent was set up to run through the VPN. It took only a moment to do this, and it helped me maximize my download speeds.
Speaking of torrenting, ExpressVPN supports P2P sharing across its entire network. I used its Houston server to download a 790MB movie in about 3 minutes. Since torrenting servers aren’t limited, you'll have no problem finding an uncongested server with a fast connection.
If there’s one area where ExpressVPN falls a bit short, it’s the number of simultaneous device connections. One subscription lets you connect 5 devices at once — but some other VPNs offer 10 or even unlimited connections. However, 5 is more than enough for most people. Even if you share an account with a friend or spouse, each of you can use the VPN on 2 or 3 devices at once.
Top-Notch Security and Privacy Protection
With its industry-leading security features, ExpressVPN keeps you safe from online threats. It offers protection against DNS, IP, and WebRTC leaks. I tested for leaks using an online tool, which verified that my traffic was successfully routed through the VPN, and my real location wasn’t exposed.
In case your connection fails, an automatic kill switch (Network Lock) prevents your data from leaking. It cuts you off from the network until you can restore your VPN connection.
ExpressVPN uses the strongest encryption available (AES 256-bit) paired with SHA512 hashing and a 4096-bit RSA key. This makes it nearly impossible for even the most skilled hacker to access your data. As an additional layer of security, it uses perfect forward secrecy with dynamic encryption keys. This means that even if an encryption key were discovered, none of your data would be compromised. You can rest assured that your personal information is safeguarded.
For ultimate privacy protection, ExpressVPN uses TrustedServer technology. This means it has RAM-only servers that wipe your data after every reboot. Most VPNs store user information on hard drives, which require information to be manually erased. Regular servers are also more difficult to keep up to date with the latest security software. TrustedServer technology ensures that each of ExpressVPN’s servers is automatically updated, greatly reducing security risks.
What's more, ExpressVPN follows a strict no-logs policy that's been verified by third-party auditors. This ensures that you'll never have to worry about it storing or handing over your data. Plus, the company is based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, outside the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Alliances. This means it isn’t required by law to store your data.
Our researchers in Asia also tested its ability to work in strictly censored regions. I was impressed to learn that unlike many VPNs, ExpressVPN works reliably in China. That being said, we don't condone any illegal activity — so be sure to read up on the relevant laws in your country.
Great Discounts and a Reliable Guarantee
The only downside of ExpressVPN is that it’s a bit more expensive than some competitors. The yearly plan is the cheapest at $6.67/month. The monthly and 6-month plans include all the same features, but at a higher price. However, ExpressVPN usually offers discounts — and sometimes even free months of service. When I signed up for its 1-year plan, I got an additional 3 months for free.
You can try ExpressVPN for yourself risk-free thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee. If you find it’s not for you, it’s easy to get a refund. After 27 days of testing, I requested my money back using its 24/7 live chat feature. The process was simple; the agent asked me a few questions about my experience, then instantly approved the refund. The money was back in my account 2 days later.
- Dozens of specialty servers for fast and reliable streaming, torrenting, and gaming
- 9,294+ servers in 91 countries so you can easily access global content
- 7 simultaneous device connections
- 45-day money-back guarantee on longer plans
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
CyberGhost is one of the best all-around VPNs on the market — and its specially optimized servers make it particularly good for accessing streaming sites. Each of these servers is labeled according to the platform it works best with. You can find them in the left-hand panel of the app under “For Streaming.”
During my tests, I used CyberGhost’s Netflix US server, which allowed me to access Netflix without getting blocked. I watched 3 episodes of Ozark with a stable connection and zero buffering. Our reviewers have found that CyberGhost’s optimized servers for Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and other platforms also work seamlessly.
On top of this, CyberGhost offers specialized servers for gaming and torrenting. The gaming servers are optimized for low ping and reliable speeds, while the torrenting servers guarantee strong security and fast downloads.
Each of the torrenting servers displays its distance from your location, making it easy to find a nearby option. I used the Panama server location (the closest to me) to download a 600MB file in just a couple of minutes.
Industry-Leading Privacy and Security
CyberGhost ensures that your data stays private. First of all, it's based in Romania — outside of the 5,9, and 14 Eyes Alliances’ jurisdiction — where local laws don’t require it to gather your data. On top of that, it follows a strict no-logs policy to ensure your information is never stored. It also has its own private NoSpy servers, which are located in Romania and managed solely by CyberGhost employees. Using these makes it even less likely for your data to be exposed or intercepted.
In addition, it offers a strong combination of security features to protect you from cybercriminals and other threats. This includes AES 256-bit encryption with perfect forward secrecy, plus DNS/IP leak protection and a kill switch.
I tested the kill switch by changing servers while streaming a YouTube video. As soon as my connection to the VPN was interrupted, I was disconnected from the network. I got a notification telling me that CyberGhost was temporarily blocking my traffic until my VPN connection was restored. This feature makes sure your data won’t be leaked — even accidentally.
CyberGhost offers industry-leading security protocols, including OpenVPN and WireGuard. OpenVPN is the most popular protocol, with a great balance of security and speed that makes it ideal for most purposes. That said, WireGuard has emerged as a strong alternative, with even faster speeds and more modern encryption. It’s my personal favorite, so I like that it’s an option.
Easy-to-Use Apps and Speedy Connections
CyberGhost has user-friendly apps for the most popular operating systems. Each one has features you can tweak to get the exact level of security you need. For example, there’s a built-in content blocker that prevents malicious ads and trackers from compromising your device.
I also found the Smart Rules feature particularly helpful; it lets you customize how and when the app protects your traffic. For instance, I enabled a setting that automatically turns the VPN on when I join an unsecured network. Smart Rules also allows you to set “exceptions,” which essentially serves the same purpose as split tunneling.
CyberGhost is super fast, allowing you to stream, game, and torrent without interruptions. When I tested 3 relatively nearby servers (in Miami, Atlanta, and Chicago), I got an average connection speed of 45 Mbps. I even used a server in Miami to play Call of Duty online, and I didn't experience any lag during the entire hour I played.
Next, I tested 3 faraway server locations in Germany, Australia, and Japan. While the ones in Japan and Germany maintained speeds above 39 Mbps, the Australia server dropped to 18 Mbps, which is a significant speed loss. Luckily CyberGhost has more than 150 servers in Australia, so I was able to switch servers and find a faster connection.
One minor con is that CyberGhost doesn’t work in some countries with strict online censorship, like China and the UAE. However, this is only a point to consider if you live in or plan to visit one of these countries.
Affordable Plans and Extra-Long Guarantee
Subscriptions are affordable; you can sign up for CyberGhost for as low as $2.29/month with its longest plan. It offers shorter plans including the same features, but they’re a bit more expensive per month. I recommend going with the 3-year subscription to save as much as possible.
The 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plans all include a generous 45-day money-back guarantee — and it’s one you can trust. I made sure by using the live chat feature to request a refund after 30 days. The support rep wasn’t pushy, and only asked a couple of quick questions about my experience. Right after that, they approved the request, and the money was back in my account in 4 days.
- Built-in MACE malware blocker for extra protection
- 29,650+ servers in 84 countries that let you overcome geoblocks worldwide
- 10 simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO GO, HBO Now, Showtime, Crunchyroll, and SkyTV
Private Internet Access (or PIA for short) offers exceptional security for a low price, which has made it an increasingly popular VPN in recent years.
Fully Customizable Security Features
PIA is a pretty simple VPN, but it stands out by giving you complete control over your privacy and security settings. It supports multiple security protocols, including WireGuard, and uses military-grade encryption, keeping your data safe from hackers and other third parties.
It also lets you choose your preferred level of encryption, with options such as 256-bit AES for maximum security, and 128-bit AES or no encryption for better speeds.
In addition, PIA has a built-in malware blocker called MACE, which promises to protect against adware and viruses. I tested it by visiting some ad-heavy torrenting sites and other sketchy spots, and I’m happy to report that MACE worked beautifully.
One thing to note is that PIA is headquartered in the US, which isn’t ideal from a privacy perspective — but it does have a reliable no-logs policy. In fact, PIA has been asked to hand over user data multiple times, and has never complied.
Fast Speeds for Streaming and Downloading
While we were testing the ad blocker on torrenting sites, we also tested the VPN’s torrenting capabilities. PIA allows P2P sharing on all servers, and has a built-in multi-hop, SOCKS5 setup that’ll keep you extra safe while torrenting.
Since it advertises a network of nearly 30,000 self-owned servers equipped with the latest tech, we expected fast speeds. Private Internet Access delivered.
Not only are PIA’s speeds high enough for swift downloads, but they’re also fast enough to stream in HD with little to no buffering or lag. Its geoblock-busting technology allowed me to access Netflix US and UK, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and several other streaming sites.
You can connect up to 10 devices at once with a Private Internet Access subscription, and it’s compatible with all major platforms. Split tunneling is also available, but only on desktops and Android (not iOS).
Great Customer Support and Resources
PIA’s apps are very user-friendly, but if you do need any extra help, you can contact customer support via live chat. Every time I asked a question, I got a prompt and helpful answer from a support agent. If you’d rather figure it out on your own, there’s also a huge knowledge base of FAQs, tutorials, and setup guides.
Overall, Private Internet Access provides excellent value for money and is a great VPN for the privacy-conscious. It’s super affordable even without any discounts with plans starting at $2.19/month. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can try PIA risk-free for a full month.
- Unlimited simultaneous device connections to cover your entire household
- 2,000 servers in over 75 countries that access region-locked sites and platforms
- 30-day money-back guarantee on yearly plan
- Can access: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and more
IPVanish has top-of-the-line security features, which makes it a great choice if you’re concerned about staying safe and anonymous online. It’s also a solid option for streaming, gaming, torrenting, and more – although it does have some limitations when it comes to entertainment.
IPVanish secures your data with the strongest encryption standards available. The type of encryption depends on which protocol you choose: OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, L2TP, IPSec, or PPTP. Each of these protocols has pros and cons for different purposes, but OpenVPN and WireGuard usually provide the best combination of security and speed.
It also has a reliable kill switch, DNS/IP leak protection, and split tunneling — although the latter is only available on the Android app. If you’re trying to get past censorship, you can use the Scramble feature to obfuscate your traffic and hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. Unfortunately, IPVanish doesn’t have malware protection, an ad-blocker, or a multi-hop feature available.
Find the Best City and Server Automatically
IPVanish isn’t a complex VPN and has limited customizable settings — but that also means it’s very easy to use. I especially like the “Best Available Server” feature; all you have to do is choose a city, and IPVanish will find you the best server there. If you don’t have a specific city in mind, you can use the “Best Available City” option to find the fastest server in any given country.
IPVanish has more than 2,000 servers across the world; I did speed tests on 7 of them, and the results were impressive. The lowest speed I got was 10 Mbps, which is more than enough to stream in HD without buffering.
Each of the servers I tested allowed me to access regional streaming sites that would otherwise be blocked, like Netflix Canada and Disney+. IPVanish had no problem bypassing geoblocks on the most popular streaming services out there.
Connect All Your Devices at Once
One of IPVanish’s biggest benefits is that it includes an unlimited number of simultaneous device connections. This means you can use the VPN on as many devices as you want at the same time, which is ideal if you have a big family or want to share one account with your whole household. It’s also compatible with all common operating systems and devices.
Since IPVanish is fairly simple, it’s unlikely that you’ll run into any problems. But if you do, you can contact customer support through live chat, via email, or by phone. The live chat feature is available 24/7, and although you’ll have to talk to a bot before reaching a real person, we’ve found it to be a super helpful resource.
Along with high speeds, strong security, and helpful features, it also offers great prices (with plans starting from $3.33/month) — plus a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can sign up for IPVanish with peace of mind.
- 200+ servers in 63 countries
- 10 simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Sling TV, and Fox Go
PrivateVPN has a relatively small network — but with server locations in 63 countries, it’s still an excellent choice for accessing content from around the world.
Decent Speeds for Streaming
My team and I tested servers in the US, the UK, Italy, and Australia to see if PrivateVPN could bypass geoblocks on popular streaming sites. We tried Netflix US, Sling TV, and BBC iPlayer, and it let us access them all.
When we ran speed tests, we found that PrivateVPN was pretty fast when connected to nearby servers. As you’d expect with any VPN, it caused a bigger drop in speed when we tested faraway servers. But even then, our connections were still fast enough for smooth browsing and streaming in HD. I also noticed that the apps are intuitively designed and easy to use.
PrivateVPN is based in Sweden, and is clearly committed to ensuring your privacy and security. Although it’s headquartered within the 14-Eyes jurisdiction, it follows a strict no-logs policy. This means it can’t turn over your data, because it doesn’t log any in the first place. It also has great security features, with AES 256-bit encryption and 5 different security protocols to choose from.
To further protect your privacy, PrivateVPN offers a kill switch and IPv6 and DNS leak protection. It also has a Stealth VPN mode designed to bypass VPN blocks and DPI firewalls. We know the Stealth mode works because our researchers in China confirmed it.
If you’re looking for a provider with great deals on both short- and long-term plans, you might want to consider PrivateVPN (long-term plans are only $2/month). Plus, its 30-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
- 1,746+ servers in 64 countries
- 10 simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer
ProtonVPN is a basic provider with more than 1,746+ servers in 64 countries. It can unblock a few of the most common geoblocked streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. However, it failed to unblock Disney+ and ESPN in our tests.
Strong Privacy and Security Measures
ProtonVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol and AES 256-bit encryption. It’s also based in Switzerland and has a strict no-logs policy. This means it doesn’t store any information about you or your online activity — and even if it did, the government wouldn’t be able to request any info due to the country’s data protection laws.
One unique aspect of ProtonVPN is its Secure Core servers, which we investigated for our ProtonVPN review. These are super-safe servers located at highly secure locations in Iceland, Switzerland, and Sweden — all of which have favorable privacy laws.
ProtonVPN gives you the option of routing your traffic through a Secure Core server first, and then another VPN server, before it reaches its destination. This is essentially a multi-hop feature, but it’s enhanced by the extra physical security of the Secure Core servers. The only downside is that this will slow your connection down significantly.
Useful Features and a Limited Free Plan
With the Plus plan you can connect up to 10 devices at once on the same account, which is more than enough for most people. ProtonVPN has a unique connection profile setup that allows you to personalize your VPN connections how you want. For example, you can choose one of its many P2P-optimized servers, the protocol you want, and label a “torrenting” connection for whenever you want to download files.
You can give ProtonVPN a try using its free version — it has unlimited data, and you don’t need to watch ads to use it. But the free plan doesn’t support torrenting, and won’t allow you to access most geoblocked sites (in addition, its connection speeds aren’t great). I would suggest opting for the paid plan instead.
The Plus plan comes with everything ProtonVPN has to offer, including Secure Core servers, Tor support, and access to its 10 Gbps network. For the VPN alone, your best option is a long-term subscription, which starts at $4.99/month. You can bundle ProtonVPN with other Proton services, like its encrypted email, calendar, and cloud services for an extra fee.
Overall, ProtonVPN is a stable service that provides strong encryption and unblocks a handful of streaming platforms. You can give it a try risk-free, thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- More than 4,900 servers in 81+ countries
- Unlimited simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
ZenMate has 4,900+ servers in more than 81 countries, which means you can use it to access content from all around the world. Plus, it offers specialized servers for certain streaming sites and torrenting. If you click "For Streaming" in the app, you'll see a list of servers for the most popular platforms.
When I tested the Netflix US server, it allowed me to access the US content library within seconds. It also worked with all of the other 5 Netflix libraries I tried it with, including the UK and Japan. And if Netflix isn’t your thing, you can also use ZenMate to access Disney+, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer.
ZenMate’s torrenting servers are displayed with their distance and load percentage, so you can easily find a fast connection (closer and less-crowded servers tend to be faster). Each one is optimized for safe and speedy downloads. I tested out its US torrenting server by downloading Night of the Living Dead from uTorrent. The file was 1.2GB and it only took about 9 minutes.
Speedy Connections and Unlimited Devices
Another feature that makes ZenMate good for streaming (and torrenting) is its fast speeds. First, I tested a couple of nearby servers in the US and Canada and got an average speed of 32 Mbps. Predictably, the farther-away servers I tested were slightly slower, averaging about 23 Mbps. While they’re not as fast as those of ExpressVPN, these speeds will still allow you to stream in HD.
Also, ZenMate is a great option for large households since it includes unlimited simultaneous device connections. During my tests, I had my PC, tablet, and smartphone connected to ZenMate at once. I watched Netflix on my tablet while torrenting a file on my laptop and browsing on my phone. The entire time, I didn't encounter any lag or interruptions.
Top-Notch Security and Support
With AES 256-bit encryption, DNS/IP leak protection, and a kill switch, your personal data will be protected no matter what. While conducting research for our ZenMate review, we used an online leak detection tool to test its reliability — and we found no security vulnerabilities at all.
ZenMate has a built-in malware blocker on its browser extensions, which prevents malicious attacks and keeps websites from recording your activity. Even the VPN itself won't record your data, since it follows a strict no-logs policy.
Unfortunately, ZenMate doesn't offer 24/7 live chat support. However, I found that its website has a very helpful FAQ and several support articles. You can also send a contact form with your questions or concerns — when I sent a question, I received an answer within 24 hours.
Subscriptions are very affordable; you can sign up for ZenMate for as low as $1.99/month. All plans also include a reliable 30-day money-back guarantee, which I can personally vouch for. I tested it and was able to get a refund quickly and easily.
- 1,800+ servers in more than 80 countries
- 5 simultaneous device connections
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Vudu, Sky Go, and more
Hotspot Shield is known for its ultra-fast speeds, which are partly the result of its proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra. Like OpenVPN, it uses AES 256-bit encryption, but I found it to be significantly faster. When I tested it, I started with a base speed of 57 Mbps. After connecting to a nearby server using Catapult Hydra, my speed only dropped to 54 Mbps. I didn't notice any effect on my connection.
Even its distant servers maintained impressive speeds. I tested 4 global servers — in Germany, Japan, Australia, and the US — and got an average speed of 49 Mbps. Even though these locations are thousands of miles from me, my connection was still fast enough to stream in Ultra HD.
Hotspot Shield uses strong security features to protect your personal data. These include DNS/IP leak protection and a kill switch to help keep your information hidden under any circumstances. Keep in mind that you have to manually enable the kill switch in the app's security settings, but this is super easy to do. Plus, it comes with built-in malware and phishing protection.
Hotspot Shield also has perfect forward secrecy. This prevents even your past and future data from being decrypted, in the extremely rare event that your current session key is compromised.
Unblocks All Major Streaming Sites — Except Hulu
Hotspot Shield is a solid option for streaming, since it works with (almost) all the most popular platforms. It offers 1,800+ servers in over 80 countries, so you'll have no problem finding a server to unblock virtually any content from around the world. During testing, I used it to access Netflix libraries from the US, the UK, and Japan. It also worked with Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. The only site I wasn’t able to unblock with it was Hulu.
You can also use Hotspot Shield on your smart TV or gaming console by setting it up on your router. I found some easy-to-follow instructions on its website — and within a few minutes, I had it set up on my ASUS router. This allowed me to use the VPN on my Apple TV so I could watch The Mandalorian on Disney+ on the big screen.
With P2P support on all of its servers, Hotspot Shield is a great option for torrenting. I tested it out and found that downloads were fast. I also didn't encounter any overcrowding, since I wasn’t limited to just a handful of P2P-friendly servers.
Super Affordable Long-Term Plans
If you sign up for a long-term subscription, you can get Hotspot Shield for just $2.99/month. There are also monthly and yearly plans offering the same features. But they're significantly more expensive; the 3-year plan is definitely the best deal. There’s also a free version, but it only gives you access to 1 server location in the US, and your data is limited to just 500MB per day.
If you want to try HotSpot Shield risk-free, you’ll be happy to know that it comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. That’s a much longer guarantee period than most VPNs on this list offer.
- 2,000+ servers at more than 75 different countries
- 10 simultaneous device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Showtime, and more
If you’re concerned about protecting your online privacy, hide.me is a good choice. Its entire network runs on privately managed DNS servers, which helps to ensure that your IP address won’t be leaked. It also adheres to a strict no-logs policy and uses AES 256-bit encryption to ensure that no third parties will ever be able to access your data.
Since hide.me is based in privacy-friendly Malaysia, it’s outside of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes jurisdictions. It allows you to pay with cryptocurrency if you want an extra level of anonymity.
It also has DNS and IP leak protection, plus a unique feature called Stealth Guard. This lets you set specific sites and apps to only be accessible when your VPN connection is active, to prevent you from accidentally revealing sensitive information.
Extra Fast Speeds for Streaming and More
If you’re mostly concerned about speeds, try the Bolt feature to give your connection a boost. When this is enabled, hide.me avoids the use of UDP for your TCP traffic — in other words, it helps prevent ISP throttling and slowdowns. I tested this feature while streaming Red Notice on Netflix and didn't encounter any lag or buffering the entire time.
Its fast speeds also make hide.me a great option for torrenting. You’re much less likely to have to deal with slow and overcrowded servers when downloading files, since P2P sharing is supported on all of its servers. Some of those servers are also specifically optimized for streaming; hide.me works great for Netflix US and Disney+, but I couldn’t get it to work with BBC iPlayer or HBO Max.
Easy to Use and Affordable
I found hide.me’s apps to be super easy to navigate, making it perfect for VPN beginners. Each of the security features can be enabled with one click, and it’s easy to switch protocols if you want. Plus, each setting is labeled with a clear and concise description to give you a better understanding of its purpose.
One downside of hide.me is that its short-term plans are pretty pricey. That said, its long-term plan is a great value at just $4.99/month. It also offers a free version that supports torrenting, but apart from that it’s fairly limited — you only get 10GB of data per month and access to 5 server locations.
Fortunately, hide.me offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with every plan. All I had to do was write an email to request my refund. There were no questions asked, and it was approved within 24 hours.
- More than 2,600 servers in 48+ countries
- 5 simultaneous device connections
- No money-back guarantee
- Can access: Netflix, Disney+, Vudu, Showtime, Discovery Plus, and more
TunnelBear may be the last VPN on this list, but I found that it maintained decent connection speeds on most of the servers I tested. Although there was a significant drop of around 60% when I connected to a server in the US, my speeds stayed above 5 Mbps. This is more than fast enough for lag-free browsing and smooth streaming in HD.
Not a Great Choice for Streaming
Unfortunately, you may not be able to put these speeds to good use, as I was unable to unblock most of the major streaming services with TunnelBear. The only platform I could access consistently was HBO Max. If this is your main concern, I recommend choosing ExpressVPN or CyberGhost instead.
The problem with streaming seems to have more to do with its ability to bypass blocks than its server locations. Tunnelbear has 2,600+ servers in 48 countries, which is a pretty sizable network. It doesn’t have specialized servers for streaming or torrenting, though.
Although TunnelBear doesn’t have the extensive device compatibility of some larger VPNs, it does offer browser extensions and apps for the most popular platforms. Its apps are also super easy to use and intuitive. One subscription includes 5 simultaneous device connections — not a lot, but enough for most people.
Strong Security and Ad-Blocker
TunnelBear is independently audited, employs virtually unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption, and has a strict no-logs policy. Plus, it offers an ad-blocker as a free browser extension, which proved effective in eliminating banner ads and pop-ups.
TunnelBear doesn’t currently offer a money-back guarantee on its paid plans, but it does have a limited free version that allows you to test out the service. However, you’re limited to just 500MB of data a month, which is only enough for 30 minutes of standard-definition streaming. If you want an extra GB of data, you can tag TunnelBear on Twitter — but this is just a one-time deal.
Although TunnelBear does have some drawbacks, it’s easy to use, has great connection speeds, and includes a useful ad blocker. If you’re looking for a basic VPN that gets the job done, it’s a decent choice.
Best VPNs — Quick Comparison Table
In today’s world, online safety can’t be taken for granted. Every time you use the internet, you could be risking your privacy and making yourself vulnerable to shady cybercriminals or greedy companies. You could also be submitting yourself to the whims of your ISP and government authorities, who might throttle your speeds or censor certain websites to serve their own interests.
Of course, it’s not realistic to just stop using the internet altogether — but it is possible to mitigate these risks. That’s where a VPN comes in. On top of increasing your online security and ensuring your privacy, a VPN can help you do all kinds of other things, from streaming international TV shows and movies to sharing files via P2P networks. Here are some of the main reasons to use a VPN:
- Encrypt your data to prevent cybercrime. VPNs use encryption to scramble your traffic so that no one can intercept and exploit it. Most of the best ones use AES 256-bit encryption, which is the same standard used by banks, governments, and militaries.
- Hide your IP address to stay anonymous. When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address is hidden behind a different one — which means no one can use it to determine who you are or where you’re located. This might not sound important, but keeping this information private has huge benefits, from avoiding dynamic pricing to preventing cyberattacks.
- Access content from around the world. Hiding your IP address has another benefit: You can choose the location of the one it’s masked with, which allows you to access geoblocked content that’s not available in your region. For example, a VPN allows you to watch all of the series and movies in every Netflix library around the world, instead of just the one for your country.
- Torrent files without security risks. Torrenting, or P2P sharing, allows internet users to share files directly with one another. Unfortunately, some people abuse this for illegal or unethical purposes, which can make it unsafe. A VPN will protect you while torrenting to ensure that you don’t run any unnecessary risks.
- Avoid ISP throttling. Sometimes your internet service provider might intentionally slow down your connection speeds to control bandwidth — especially if you’re doing a lot of data-heavy activities like streaming and torrenting. Since a VPN makes your activity private, your ISP can’t see what you’re doing, and can’t throttle your speeds accordingly.
Note: There are over 300 VPNs on the market. Many of them can do some of the things described above — and many others promise to, only to fall flat. Only the best VPNs can do it all.
How to Choose the Best VPN for You
We can give you all the research and test results in the world, but when it comes right down to it, you’re the one that has to choose a VPN. And while some are unquestionably better than others, the best VPN for each individual depends on their personal needs and preferences.
Here are some tips to help you choose a provider that will give you exactly what you’re looking for:
- Identify your priorities. Are you primarily concerned with keeping your information secure and your activity private? Or are you looking for a VPN that will let you access geoblocked streaming sites? Some VPNs are more security-focused, while others are all about access to entertainment — although our favorites offer the best of both worlds.
- Define your purpose. What exactly are you going to use the VPN for, and how often? Will you only use it to access certain websites while traveling? Or are you planning on using it to secure all your devices, all the time? Once you decide exactly why you want a VPN and how you’re planning to use it, you can focus on the features that relate directly to this purpose.
- Set your budget. Are you trying to save as much money as possible, or willing to invest a bit more? Would you consider opting for a longer-term plan to save money? It’s important to decide how much you’re willing to spend so that you can look for VPNs in this price range. Remember that a more expensive option doesn’t always translate to better quality — and that the top VPNs often have great deals available.
Research Methodology: How We Rank & Compare VPNs
With hundreds of VPNs all claiming to be the best, how do you choose the right one? It’s not realistic to research every VPN out there… unless you have a global team of experts ready to put them to the test. That’s exactly what we did to create the ranking above — and all our other reviews and lists.
We analyze each VPN based on a variety of factors, with a special focus on a few key aspects. Our goal is to determine which ones excel in each area, and which ones offer the best overall value. We conduct detailed speed tests, try to get past geoblocks and censorship, and do thorough research on every feature and claim. We also repeat these tests periodically to make sure the results are current.
Here are the main areas that we focus on in our research.
Privacy & Security
Two crucial aspects of any top VPN are privacy and security. Pretty much every provider promises them on paper — but things can be very different in reality.
Keep in mind that while some websites (and even VPNs) use these two terms interchangeably, they’re not the same thing! Whereas privacy has to do with who has access to your data, security deals with actually keeping that data protected through encryption and other related measures.
To ensure privacy, you’ll need a VPN with a verified no-logs policy. This means that it won’t record, store, or share any of your data. When you use a VPN, your personal information and online activity is hidden from everyone — except the VPN itself. This is why we only recommend VPNs that promise to keep that data private. Otherwise, it could be accidentally leaked, sold, or even handed over to law enforcement. But if it’s not logged in the first place, none of this can happen.
To ensure security, you’ll need a VPN that uses strong encryption. The industry standard is AES 256-bit encryption, which is virtually unbreakable. All the top VPNs use it, but some also offer alternatives. For example, PIA gives you the option to switch to AES 128-bit encryption, which is slightly less secure but can help to increase connection speeds.
Other VPNs use the WireGuard protocol, which combines a variety of encryption standards — arguably making it even more secure. One of the very first things we do when researching a VPN is check what kind(s) of encryption it uses.
No-logs policies and encryption standards aren’t the only things that determine each VPN’s level of privacy and security. Many providers also have other features that are dedicated to keeping your data as secure and private as possible.
This can include things like multi-hop (which routes your data through two servers instead of one), RAM-based servers (which erase all user data every time they reboot), and a kill switch (which automatically shuts off your internet connection if the VPN connection drops).
Privacy can also depend on where the VPN is headquartered; if it’s in a privacy-friendly country outside of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Alliances’ jurisdiction, that’s usually a good sign. However, a VPN can be located within this jurisdiction and still have strong privacy measures; PIA is a great example.
Of course, there are plenty of other elements that relate to privacy and security — way too many to cover here. Every time we evaluate a VPN, we’re on the lookout for relevant information and features in addition to the criteria above. We take all of this into account when deciding which VPNs do the best job of protecting your privacy and keeping your data secure.
When it comes to user experience, connection speeds are definitely one of the most important aspects to consider. First, keep in mind that every VPN will slow down your connection to some extent. This is a natural result of the time-consuming process of encrypting and decrypting your data, and routing it through a server somewhere else in the world.
When we say a VPN has “fast connection speeds,” we mean that it keeps this speed reduction to a minimum. The fastest VPNs have the smallest possible impact on your connection speed. They’ll let you browse, download, and stream without lag or buffering — the most common symptoms of a slow connection.
Note: There is one situation in which using a VPN could actually increase your connection speeds. If your ISP is intentionally throttling you based on your activity, a VPN can help you avoid this. See the Why You Need a VPN section above for more information.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, how do we actually test connection speeds? This is a fairly simple — yet labor-intensive — part of the process. We perform rigorous speed tests on each VPN using the Ookla Speedtest tool. Our global team of researchers connects to servers all over the world, and creates situations with limited bandwidth and other challenges to really put each VPN to the test.
We’ve already explained how using a VPN can allow you to access all the content the world has to offer, regardless of your geographic location. But there are several factors that go into this.
First, a VPN has to have a large worldwide server network. Without servers in a certain country, you won’t be able to access streaming platforms from that country. Connecting to a local server is what allows you to view local content, so we pay close attention to the number and distribution of each VPN’s server locations.
Second, the VPN has to have the techniques and technology to get around VPN blocks. Many streaming sites try to identify traffic from VPN servers and block it accordingly. If you’ve ever seen an error message along the lines of “It looks like you’re using an unblocker or proxy,” then you’ve experienced VPN blocking. We evaluate each VPN’s ability to combat this, so that you’ll never be blocked from streaming sites.
Some VPNs are great for streaming in general; some are good for certain platforms but don’t work at all for others; and some can barely unblock any streaming sites at all. If you want to use a VPN to access a specific platform, check out our articles on the best VPNs for Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and more.
Note: Your overall streaming experience will also depend greatly on speeds (slow connections = buffering). But we try to assess these factors separately: a) whether the VPN will allow you to access streaming sites, and b) whether its speeds will be fast enough for high-quality streaming.
VPNs are incredibly useful for torrenting — especially in countries where P2P sharing is prohibited. But even if you follow all the rules (and we highly recommend that you do), torrenting without extra protection can make you vulnerable to greedy copyright trolls and hackers.
P2P connections aren’t secure on their own, but you can add a strong layer of security with a VPN that will mask your real IP address and encrypt your traffic. In our VPN research, we evaluate torrenting features like dedicated P2P profiles, SOCKS5 proxies, and easy setup with torrent clients. This allows us to identify the best VPNs for torrenting — and the ones that aren’t so great.
Ease of Use
A VPN might sound like a super complex tool. And it’s true that behind the scenes, there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on! But the best VPNs are designed to be accessible for everyone, whether or not you have any advanced technical knowledge.
When we test VPNs, we take note of how easy they are to use — all the way from setup to finding a server to adjusting settings. We also evaluate the interface and design of each app (the more intuitive, the better). This helps us to identify which VPNs are best for beginners.
But what about more experienced users? If you value customization options or advanced security settings over simplicity, ease of use might not seem like the most important factor to consider. However, truly user-friendly VPNs make it easy not only to do the basics (connect to a server, find a specific location, etc.) but also to use more complex features and settings. These are the ones that get the highest marks in this category.
Customer support is an incredibly important — yet often overlooked — aspect of evaluating VPNs. It would be great if you never had any questions or problems, but let’s be realistic: issues are bound to come up. And when they do, it’s important for your VPN to have top-notch customer support.
The first thing we look at is the variety of support channels available. Preferably, the VPN will have a 24/7 live chat feature; this is generally the easiest and fastest way to get help when you need it. Other options include email support (sometimes referred to as a ticket system) and phone support, which is usually only available during certain hours.
We also test these support channels to see how useful they actually are. We do this by starting a live chat, submitting a question via email, or making a phone call, and then assessing the quality and promptness of the support we receive. Our favorite VPNs offer super fast and helpful support; ideally, we’ll talk to a knowledgeable support agent and get a response that fully answers our question within just a few minutes.
First, it’s important to distinguish between geoblocking (specific restrictions put in place by certain websites and platforms) and censorship (broader restrictions instituted by governments to control their citizens’ online activity). Some of the countries with the strictest internet censorship also ban the use of VPNs, which poses a serious threat to online freedom. But some VPNs have advanced technology designed specifically to outsmart these systems.
When dealing with censorship, we look for settings and features that obfuscate your traffic. The purpose of obfuscation is to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN from all third parties, including your ISP and the government. This is what will allow you to fly under the radar in censorship-heavy countries like China, Iran, or the UAE.
Note: We never condone any illegal activities, and we always recommend that you check your local laws to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk. There are certain places where using a VPN could get you into trouble, so use your best judgment.
Last but not least, let’s talk numbers! You’ll notice that the vast majority of VPNs that we recommend are premium — meaning that you have to pay for a subscription. This is no coincidence; premium VPNs are almost always faster, safer, and more reliable than free ones.
That said, we understand that it can feel like a big financial commitment to pay for a VPN. We always look for the providers that offer the best ratio of price to quality, to ensure that you’re getting the most for your money. For example, if a VPN is relatively expensive, is it really worth the price? And will a cheaper one actually give you the features and functions you need?
In addition to answering these questions, we keep track of all the best deals and offers for each VPN. Most premium providers are constantly offering discounts and coupons.
Finally, we check each VPN’s money-back guarantee policy to make sure you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied after subscribing. Most top VPNs have a 30-day guarantee, but this can vary depending on the provider and plan.
If you’re really opposed to paying for a VPN, check out our list of the best free VPNs to make sure that you’re not losing out on important features or putting your privacy at risk.
What’s the best VPN?
Our extensive testing shows that ExpressVPN is the best all-around VPN for browsing, streaming, torrenting, and more. It offers the fastest connection speeds, the most reliable security and privacy measures, and the best overall user experience of any VPN on the market.
Which VPN is the fastest?
ExpressVPN consistently comes out on top in our speed tests. It has the fastest upload and download speeds and the lowest lag and ping rates. This means that you can use it to stream in super high quality without any buffering; to download torrents at lightning speed; and to play online games without slow connections tripping you up.
Are VPNs legal?
In the vast majority of countries, it’s completely legal to use a VPN. VPNs themselves are legitimate tools that promote privacy, security, and internet freedom. Their primary functions (encrypting data, bypassing restrictions, and ensuring privacy) are 100% acceptable under most legal systems.
There are a few places where VPNs are forbidden or occupy a legal gray area, like China, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Oman, and the UAE. If you’re located in a country with internet censorship, you should check to see what the local laws are regarding VPNs.
Sometimes people use VPNs for illegal purposes, which we don’t condone under any circumstances. Remember: anything that would be against the law without a VPN is still against the law with a VPN, and should always be avoided.
Are VPNs safe?
VPNs themselves are completely safe to use, and in fact they’re designed to make you even safer. However, it’s your responsibility to make sure that what you’re doing online doesn’t violate any laws or local regulations.
You may be putting yourself at risk if:
- You’re located in a country where the government only allows certain VPNs, and you use one that’s not officially approved.
- You download copyrighted material with a VPN that keeps logs or doesn’t have a kill switch.
Some free VPNs can also be unsafe in other ways; they might sell your data to third parties or make you vulnerable to malware. This is why it’s so important to choose a quality VPN that has strict security measures and trustworthy privacy policies.
Are VPNs hard to use?
The best VPNs are actually super easy to use. In most cases, you just need to download the right app for your device, install it, open it, and click “connect.” All of the services recommended above have user-friendly interfaces that even total beginners can easily figure out.
Many of them also feature a quick-connect button that allows you to instantly connect to a nearby server. If you’re trying to access content from a certain region, you just have to choose the relevant country from the list of server locations.
Tip: If you’re new to VPNs and want to learn more about them, check out our VPN guide for newbies — it’s packed with info about VPN features, uses, and benefits.
Will a VPN slow down your internet connection?
The reality is that all VPNs will slow down your internet connection to some extent. This is because they have to encrypt and decrypt your data, and route it through a server somewhere else in the world. All of that takes time, so it makes sense that VPN connections are slower than regular ones.
However, the best providers keep this speed loss to a minimum. With the fastest VPNs, you probably won’t even notice any difference from your regular connection. That means you won’t have to deal with buffering, lag, or long loading times while connected to the VPN.
Can a VPN track you online?
Technically, it’s possible for a VPN to track you — but the best ones won’t. When you use a VPN, you’re protecting your data and personal information from third parties like your ISP, hackers, advertisers, and the government, but the VPN itself still has access to everything. This is why VPNs have no-logs policies that promise they’ll never record or store your data.
Some VPNs also use technology like RAM-based servers to minimize the chance of your data ever falling into the wrong hands. These servers are wiped every time they reboot, so all your information is automatically erased.
How much does a VPN cost?
Prices vary between providers, but all of the VPNs recommended here are extremely affordable. Some of them even cost less than $2 per month! In general, long-term subscriptions tend to be cheaper overall than short-term plans; the longer your commitment, the lower your monthly price.
The best VPNs also offer money-back guarantees, which means that if you change your mind after subscribing, you can ask for a refund within a certain period (usually 30 days). This doesn’t change the price, but it does give you some added peace of mind in case you’re unsure about the expense.
If you’re ready to make a purchase, head to our coupons page for exclusive discounts on top VPNs.
Are there free VPNs?
There are free VPNs available, but our advice is simple: It’s best to stay away. Getting something for nothing sounds tempting, of course. But even if you pay nothing upfront, you might pay later — in the form of ridiculously slow connection speeds, a malware infection, or even a stolen identity.
That said, not all free VPNs are scams. We’ve also researched dozens of services to find the free VPNs that are actually legit. They all have limitations, such as data caps or restricted access to certain features, but they’re safe to use if you really need them.
Can I use Tor or a proxy instead of a VPN?
Tor, proxies, and VPNs are completely different types of software, but their uses do sometimes overlap. Let’s take a closer look.
Tor (short for The Onion Router) utilizes a volunteer-operated network that bounces your connection through several different servers, or “nodes.” While this process makes you (and your data) much harder to track, it also slows down your connection significantly. Tor is a very complex topic, so check out our ultimate guide to Tor if you want more info and tips.
Compared to VPNs, Tor has its drawbacks. Although it’s free to use, it provides weaker encryption and slower connections. The best solution is to use Tor and a VPN together, and reap all the benefits of both. A good VPN can address Tor’s security vulnerabilities, while Tor adds extra layers of privacy and anonymity.
Note that not all VPNs are compatible with Tor. To make it work, you need a VPN like ExpressVPN.
Proxy services have one advantage over VPNs: they offer faster speeds (while hiding your IP address). However, they don’t have any other security features, they don’t encrypt your data, and they don’t even offer a user interface. This means proxies are not very secure or user-friendly. However, they can be a good choice if you only care about speed and not security.
There are hundreds of proxies out there, so it’s important to choose the right one. Better yet, invest in a fast, affordable VPN and benefit from extra protection and privacy on top of great speeds.
Should I use a VPN on my phone?
Ideally, you should use a VPN on every internet-enabled device that you have — including your phone. Otherwise, every time you connect to the internet you’re putting yourself at risk of hacking, surveillance, and tracking.
Can I use a VPN for online banking?
Absolutely, but this can mean different things in different contexts. If you’re traveling outside of your home country and need to access your bank account, you can use a VPN to connect to a server in your country first. This way, your login attempt won’t be flagged as possible fraud (which can happen if your bank detects a foreign IP address).
Alternatively, you might be located in your home country and using a VPN for global websites. If you want to access your local bank account without turning off the VPN — or setting off any alarms — you’ll need to use a VPN with a split tunneling feature. This will allow you to use your local network to access your bank, without deactivating the VPN for your other traffic.