5 Fastest VPNs of March 2020: VPN Speed Test & Comparison
How many VPN vendor sites have you been on and seen the claim: ‘fastest speeds of any vendor’? I’d bet a lot.
But how do you know which service is actually the fastest on the market?
Vendors might say they’re super-fast, but there are only a handful that truly live up to their claims. And while some might be fast at first, it’s only when you start speed intensive activities like gaming and streaming that you see the true performance of a VPN.
I put the top VPNs through extensive tests to find out which providers offer the highest speeds, and which VPNs you should avoid. Of all the VPNs I tested (and I tested a lot), only five came out top.
Read on to find out if you’re getting the best speeds and value from your VPN, plus what other exciting features each vendor offers, or whether it’s time to change providers.
Quick Guide: VPN Speed Test
- NordVPN: The clear winner. NordVPN has the fastest speeds on the market, increasing my speed by 25%.
- ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is a close second, also increasing my speeds, reliable for super-fast streaming, browsing, and gaming.
- Hotspot Shield: Only slightly slower than ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Hotspot Shield zooms along for streaming, downloading, and browsing.
- Surfshark: Surfshark is dedicated to service and speed, and it really showed during our tests.
- CyberGhost: Although it’s last on our list, CyberGhost doesn’t disappoint. It’s incredibly fast, and a perfect match for your everyday needs.
Why is Speed an Issue for VPNs?
Using a VPN improves your online security, but the time it takes to encrypt your data can affect your internet speed, especially if you plan on connecting to a server on the other side of the globe.
If you use a quality VPN, you shouldn’t notice any difference, no matter if you’re browsing and sending emails, or streaming and gaming. But not every provider can guarantee fast speeds.
Sometimes it comes down to compromising for security over speed, which causes lagging, buffering, and all-round frustrating experience. And no one likes compromising, do they? Well, with a quality VPN, you don’t need to.
Which Factors Affect Your Internet Speed?
Server location: The farther your data has to travel to the server, the slower your connection will be. If your VPN server is on the other side of the world, your connection will be slower. This is why I recommend choosing a server in your country unless you’re using your VPN to bypass geoblocks and censorship.
Your line speed: The connection speed, or line speed, set by your ISP affects your VPN connection.
Most connections can handle 10Mbps-1GBps, so if you’re using high-speed internet, this shouldn’t slow you down. But if you’re using dial-up or 3G, you may experience some issues.
Your line speed can also be slowed down by poor infrastructure, faults on the line, and your internet plan.
Can a VPN Increase Your Internet Speed?
Yes and no. For most people, a VPN won’t improve their connection speed, assuming they have a high-quality, rock-steady connection from a reputable ISP. However, more and more users are being subjected to bandwidth throttling – without even being aware of it!
Many ISPs shape or throttle bandwidth, slowing specific types of traffic, like video streaming and large file downloads. Or they’ll throttle bandwidth at busy times of the day. Then they’ll offer a subscription for “fast lane” or unlimited bandwidth – if you pay them a higher fee. Annoying, right?
That’s where the VPN comes in. Once you connect via a decent VPN, your traffic is encrypted, so what you’re doing is hidden from your ISP. If, for example, your ISP regularly slows video streaming traffic, but you’re streaming your favorite show via your VPN, your ISP can’t detect that you’re streaming and therefore won’t slow you down.
How I Tested Each VPN
Our speed tests use three main criteria to determine which service is the fastest:
- Download speed tells us how fast data travels from the server to your device. This is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Most of your online activity involves downloading, so the higher this number is, the faster your connection.
- Upload speed shows how fast data travels from your device to others. It is measured in Mbps, and affects things like the rate at which your email attachments will upload, and the quality of your video calls.
- Ping shows us how fast you get a response from a web page after your device sends out a request. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). The lower this number is, the faster your connection.
I used the same ISP and computer for each of my tests. Before testing each VPN, I connected it to a server in the US. Because of this, my data had to travel all the way from the UK to the US. If you use a server that is close to your physical location, you can expect your connection to be even faster.
I measured the connection speeds using three different testing services: speedtest.net, fast.com, and broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk.
I also measured my connection speed before connecting to a VPN. This gave me a base speed to compare my VPNs’ results to.
Our base connection speed before connecting to a VPN.
NordVPN is one of the most reliable VPNs available, and it’s my speed test champion!
Its download speed was 92.4 Mbps, which is a 25% increase in my overall speed. In fact, the speeds are so good it’s hard to believe I was even connected to a VPN at all.
My data had to travel across the world from the UK to its US server. With that in mind, NordVPN’s 92.4 Mbps download speed was incredible.
While its ping was slightly high, the results are brilliant. It’s 92.4 Mbps upload speed was capable of just about anything, from video chats to sending large downloads.
NordVPN’s speed increases are quite new, and I’ve been testing them regularly to make sure the spike in speeds remains consistent. The verdict? NordVPN’s speeds have officially knocked ExpressVPN off top spot. The speeds are remarkable and consistent, too.
What’s So Great About NordVPN?
I recommend NordVPN if you’re looking for a speedy and reliable VPN for streaming, torrenting, and browsing. With over 5,600 servers across 58 countries, it’s a great choice for bypassing geoblocks.
Are you wanting to stream Netflix? Or maybe BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO GO…the list is endless. With NordVPN, you have access to any streaming site you need.
NordVPN has user-friendly apps for most popular devices, with a Quick Connect feature to find you the best server. This guarantees you the fastest possible speeds at the click of a single button.
It also has top-notch security, including 256-bit AES encryption, a strict no-logs policy, and an automatic kill switch.
There’s a built-in ad-blocker, CyberSec, which closes down annoying popups and stops malware infecting your device. You can read more about this feature, and everything else NordVPN has to offer, in our detailed review.
Want fast speeds on all your devices? NordVPN offers up to six simultaneous connections.
It has a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out risk-free. We also have an exclusive discount you can use to cut the cost of your subscription.
NordVPN’s Key Features
- 5,500+ servers in 58 countries
- The fastest speeds of any vendor
- Supports torrenting
- Six simultaneous connections
- Military-grade encryption
- Zero-logging policy
- Works with: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, SHOWTIME, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV
- Compatible with: Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Android TV, Linux, browsers
ExpressVPN is my runner up. Its download speed was 77.4 Mbps, which although not quite as fast as NordVPN, is still an incredible result.
Although I expected to see some speed loss due to the distance my data had to travel, ExpressVPN actually increased my connection speed by 6%.
Its upload speed is remarkable too. I could easily upload large email attachments and even YouTube videos. It even improved the quality of my video calls on Skype.
What’s So Great About ExpressVPN?
If you plan to watch live video streams or download torrents, this would be a top choice. Aside from its amazing speeds, it has an impressive global network of over 3,000 servers in 90+ countries. You can use any of ExpressVPN’s servers to torrent or stream geoblocked content.
If you want to test out ExpressVPN’s speeds for yourself, use the built-in speed test in the app.
Don’t like the idea of encrypting all your apps? Well, ExpressVPN gives you added flexibility so you don’t have to. It has a split tunneling feature, so you can choose which apps you use encrypted through the VPN and which you use with your local IP address.
It allows up to five simultaneous connections with apps for all popular devices.
Now onto security. ExpressVPN offers multiple security protocols alongside 256-bit encryption. It also has a strict zero-logging policy and automatic kill switch.
Interested? Check out our review of ExpressVPN to learn more.
ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee for you try out its premium features risk-free. Of course, we have a coupon you can use to save even more money with your subscription.
ExpressVPN’s Key Features
- 3,000+ servers in over 90 countries
- Lightning-fast speeds
- Five simultaneous connections
- Split tunneling feature
- 256-bit AES encryption and automatic kill switch
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, DAZN, BBC iPlayer, HBO
- Compatible with: macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, routers, Chrome, Firefox
Sitting at a solid #3 with a 66.5 Mbps download speed is user-favorite, Hotspot Shield. My speed only decreased by 7%, which was barely noticeable.
Although it was no match for ExpressVPN or NordVPN, I was still impressed by its quick connection speeds.
Even more impressive is the 74.2 Mbps upload speed, which was capable of anything I needed to do – uploading large email attachments, long video calls, and uploading lengthy videos to YouTube. My upload speed actually increased by 45% – some of the best results I’ve seen.
What’s So Great About Hotspot Shield?
Hotspot Shield has a global network of high-speed servers, and I recommend it if you’re looking to bypass geoblocks and censorship.
It has over 3,200 servers in 70+ countries around the globe, including the UK, US, Canada, and Netherlands, to name a few.
It has optimized servers for BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and more, making it ideal for streaming.
If you’re like me, anything with unlimited next to it sounds great. And Hotspot Shield offers unlimited data and bandwidth so there are no restrictions on speeds or how much you can watch, game, or torrent.
Hotspot Shield allows up to five simultaneous connections, all of which are secured with 256-bit AES encryption, malware protection, and a strict no-logs policy.
Want to find out more? Check out our detailed Hotspot Shield review.
If you want to test it out yourself risk-free, take advantage of Hotspot Shield’s 45-day money-back guarantee (you’ll struggle to find a more generous one elsewhere). Remember to use our coupon for a discount on your subscription.
Hotspot Shield’s Key Features
- 3,200+ servers in over 70 countries
- Blazing speeds
- Servers optimized for streaming
- Five simultaneous connections
- 256-bit encryption and malware protection
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, HBO Now, DAZN, YouTube, Hulu
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Chromebook, Firefox
Surfshark may not be as well-known as big-name competitors like NordVPN, but it hasn’t let this hold it back. My download speed stayed at a steady 51.3 Mbps. Although a 32% decrease from my base speed, I could still browse and stream quickly and seamlessly.
Its ping was actually lower than ExpressVPN and NordVPN, so the websites I visited reacted a little faster when I opened them.
Its upload speed reached 24.8 Mbps. This is great for uploading photos and small email attachments. But I did notice a bit of a slow-down when we tried to attach videos and larger files, although it wasn’t too dissimilar from my base speed.
What’s So Great About Surfshark?
I recommend Surfshark if you’re hunting for a budget-friendly alternative for browsing and streaming. It allows unlimited simultaneous connections, so you can protect every device in your household.
Surfshark has a wide-spread global network of 1,000+ servers in 61+ countries.
Need a VPN for torrenting? All of Surfhshark’s servers allow P2P sharing, so download as much as you like. There’s unlimited data too, so no restrictions.
Surfshark has a split tunneling feature, so you have more flexibility about what does and doesn’t use the VPN. It also has a CleanWeb ad-blocking feature to protect your device from potential viruses and of course, block any annoying ads.
Surfshark has high-end encryption, a zero-logging policy, and DNS and IP leak protection for maximum privacy and security. There’s an automatic kill switch, too.
Try it out risk-free with Surfshark’s 30-day money-back guarantee, and use our coupon to save money when you sign up.
If you want to read more about Surfshark’s feature-rich packages, check out our detailed review.
Surfshark’s Key Features
- 1,040+ servers in 61+ countries
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Super-fast speeds
- Ad-blocker and malware protection
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Split tunneling
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, SHOWTIME, DAZN
- Compatible with: iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, Linux, Fire TV, browsers
Although it’s not the speediest VPN on my list, CyberGhost’s 25.7 Mbps download speed is more than enough for streaming and browsing. I was able to watch my favorite TV shows in HD quality, with no buffering or lagging.
I also recommend CyberGhost for its feature-rich apps. It’s perfect for beginners, and more advanced users can take advantage of its customization options to tailor it to their needs.
What’s So Great About CyberGhost?
Are you a VPN newbie? Whether you’re new to VPNs or not, you’ll appreciate CyberGhost’s simplicity. Its app is one of the easiest to use and set up, and connecting to a server is straightforward.
CyberGhost has an extensive network with over 5,500 servers in 90 countries, so you can connect all over the world.
Alongside its impressive server speeds, it has servers optimized for streaming, with dedicated profiles for Netflix, BBCiPlayer, Hulu, and many more. We put CyberGhost’s optimized servers to the test, and we’re impressed. Check out the results in our comprehensive review.
It offers military-grade encryption, access to NoSpy servers for more security, and an automatic kill switch. There’s a zero-logging policy, too, so no need to worry about any data or activity being left behind.
You can connect up to seven devices simultaneously with one subscription.
Want to sign up? Try it out risk-free with its 45-day money-back guarantee. Remember to use our exclusive discount when you sign up, because who doesn’t love a deal?
CyberGhost’s Key Features
- 5,500+ servers in 90 countries
- Fast, reliable speeds
- Servers optimized for streaming
- Seven simultaneous connections
- 256-bit AES encryption
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Comedy Central, ESPN, Eurosport
- Compatible with: iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV
Unfortunately, some VPNs failed my speed tests.
When your internet connection is slow, you will experience problems with streaming, such as buffering and low video quality. You’ll also notice that websites take a long time to load, and if you play games online, your connection will lag. If your speed drops too low, your browser will time out while it is trying to load websites and you won’t be able to access the internet.
During my tests, the three slowest VPNs were:
- Private Internet Access: Private Internet Access is the slowest VPN I tested. Streaming was nearly impossible at 2.1 Mbps, and its long loading times made it frustrating to browse the internet and send emails.
- PureVPN: PureVPN was fast enough for everyday browsing, but 4.4 Mbps was too slow for high-quality streaming and downloading files.
- ProtonVPN: Although faster than PureVPN, ProtonVPN still lags behind my top 5. When I tested it with Netflix, I was only able to stream in low definition and I experienced a lot of buffering.
The Bottom Line
Based on my tests, one thing is clear: NordVPN is officially the fastest VPN on the market.
A small amount of speed loss it to be expected when you connect to a VPN, but NordVPN actually increased my connection speed. As did ExpressVPN, but it was no match for NordVPN’s incredible speeds.
VPNs are powerful internet security tools, and speed isn’t everything when it comes to choosing the best service for you. You can read everything you need to know in our comprehensive VPN guide.
Our budget-savvy experts have compiled a list of the best VPN deals and coupons to save you money on your service.
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