A good VPN service encrypts your internet connection to make it more secure, private, and usable.
A good VPN service encrypts your internet connection to make it more secure, private, and usable.
There used to be a time, when privacy and security were a given.
That time is over.
Today, websites are interested in where you live so that they can limit or alter the content you can access. Your internet provider can (and does) track your every move. Your internet connection is not always secure, which makes online shopping risky at best.
A good VPN can take care of all this in one fell swoop.
But how to find a reliable service? Is there such a thing as the best VPN service at all? Aren’t they all just supposed to do their job? In theory – yes. Unfortunately, in the real world, that’s not always the case.
We tested more than 10 VPNs to assemble this list. Turns out not all VPNs are created equal – especially if you take into account different use cases.
We can tell you what’s the best VPN for torrenting, which is the top choice for the privacy-minded, and the best option for users who put emphasis on top security.
Through rigorous testing and meticulous comparison, here’s what we got:
Early on in our testing it became clear that some VPNs are optimized for impregnable security. Others gain your trust by refusing to record any logs and user activities. Finally, there are VPNs that go for maximum speed so you can download even huge torrents with ease.
Because of these innate difference and because different people use VPN services for entirely different reasons, it made sense to divide them into five major categories:
Regardless of this division, each VPN we investigate undergoes the same detailed, objective methodology.
Our approach is simple, yet comprehensive. We sign up for each and every VPN you see reviewed here and then put it through real-life scenarios and benchmark testing.
It goes like this:
All raw data we collect is stored in our database. You can see the average values based on months of benchmark testing here.
These are the short and sweet overviews of the best VPN services of 2019. At a glance, you can discover their main strengths and weaknesses, then read the full reviews of those that catch your attention.
NordVPN possesses infrastructure like no other. More than 5,000 servers in over 60 countries make it probably the largest private network in existence. It is certainly the VPN provider with the most servers, if not the most locations.
Other private network services don’t come even close.
NordVPN takes privacy very seriously and follows a strict no logging policy. You can visit any site you wish and download whatever files come your way in perfect privacy. What is more, you can do that on an incredibly stable connection, as NordVPN has a well-optimized global network.
This global network is protected by one of the most secure protocols. NordVPN uses its servers to create double encryption of all traffic. Throw in the mix a reliable kill switch and you can put all your fears aside.
Now, this is not the fastest service out there, but it ranks high enough to make all other features shine.
NordVPN is available on all major operating systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, but also Android and iOS.
As is the case with most VPN services, the longer you prepay for, the lower your monthly fee.
User-friendly and cool, ExpressVPN is an excellent channel for any online activity. With over 2,000 servers spread across 148 cities, ExpressVPN is fast, secure, and reliable.
Our extensive testing detected no DNS leaks, and our research online backed this up.
Performance, pricing, and stability are not the only strengths of ExpressVPN. The service logs no user activity whatsoever, allows torrenting and Netflix access without any issue.
You can connect up to three devices at the same time. ExpressVPN supports all popular operating systems and platforms and even some less popular ones like Blackberry. For real. Blackberry.
ExpressVPN puts a massive emphasis on cross-platform accessibility, as you can install it on routers and smart devices for streaming media directly.
Chrome, Safari, and Firefox can all be enhanced with the functional ExpressVPN extension.
Regardless of your device of choice, getting started with ExpressVPN is super easy thanks to its excellent UI.
Admittedly, ExpressVPN is not the cheapest option, but for about $100 you can enjoy stellar VPN service for 12 months straight.
Perfect Privacy has it all. The lack of logging goes without saying, but that’s not the only feature that ensures private, secure, and speedy connection.
This VPN service deploys Stealth VPN Technology, which masks the encrypted VPN data packets as regular web traffic. Such camouflage is able to bypass firewalls configured to block regular VPN connections.
The Perfect Privacy network performed superbly under scrutiny. We didn’t encounter any DNS leaks while testing it. We connected multiple devices, browsed torrent sites, switched several Netflix geolocations, and even messed around with different encryption protocols.
Perfect Privacy went through all of it smoothly.
This is one of the few VPN service providers that allows unlimited simultaneous connections. Given that it can be used on Linux, Mac, and Windows, but also iOS, Android, and web routers, this is certainly an awesome feature.
And while the monthly fees, even when prepaid, lean toward the high end of the spectrum, countless simultaneous connections open up the possibility for more users to chip in.
This is a relatively small company, especially when compared to the first three entries on this list. With just over 200 servers, nicely distributed around the globe, VPNArea is nowhere near the biggest players in the field. Fortunately, this company focuses on quality over quantity.
If you are looking for a fast service, VPNArea is the obvious choice. The company website touts its speed-optimized infrastructure.
The company keeps its servers relatively uncluttered, i.e., doesn’t put too many users on them and also uses IKEv2 protocol for maximum performance.
Besides top speed, VPNArea features a strong DNS-leak protection and a kill switch. There is a neat automatic IP changer too; you can decide how often you want your IP address changed.
VPNArea supports up to six simultaneous connections, but it can also run on a router. You can watch Netflix freely without any bandwidth restrictions and also access torrent sites.
Mind, not all VPNArea servers support torrenting, but some 86% of them do.
While VPNArea cannot be called a cheap VPN, it certainly offers very competitive prices.
Another relatively small VPN provider, Trust.Zone has servers scattered across all continents. With 142 machines in 32 countries, Trust.Zone provides a decent coverage.
No bandwidth restrictions mean that you can enjoy as much Netflix as your heart desires, together with free torrenting, as download and upload speeds are decent.
However, browsing speed is somewhat lackluster.
Trust.Zone collects no logs and is very easy to use. Sadly, the supported devices are not that many, but the main operating systems are covered. You can run it easily on Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android and iOS.
As for configuring it on a router, there is a manual that can walk you through the process.
Trust.Zone doesn’t keep any logs and maintains a stable network, without any leaks or viruses. It deploys the OpenVPN protocol, which is complemented by AES-256 to provide stellar encryption.
More than anything, this is a VPN provider that instills trust through good practices.
PureVPN boasts a large network that spans over 140 countries and relies on more than 2,000 servers. Somewhat naturally, this expansive infrastructure supports all major VPN protocols, as well as the most popular operating systems.
PureVPN can be easily configured on a router, allowing multiple devices to access its encrypted goodness.
Its user-friendly interface allows even the most technically unskilled users to configure it within minutes and to start enjoying unlimited torrenting. Speed could be an issue with the latter, though.
Now, the PureVPN network is stable and reliable. It boasts being log-free, which privacy-minded users will enjoy. The company states it monitors bandwidth usage to provide seamless service to all its users, but that’s about it.
PureVPN has a cool feature called split tunneling which allows you to use both your regular ISP and the private connection at the same time. Given that the PureVPN speeds are not the greatest, this is a potential workaround.
CyberGhost is one of the largest top tier VPN services. With over 3,000 servers in 60 countries, the company claims that it has served over 20 million users since 2011, when it came into existence.
CyberGhost offers a very attractive package at a very reasonable price. No logs whatsoever are kept, the private connection is secure and stable (read: no leaks). The interface couldn’t be catchier, and torrenting is allowed.
Netflix has received special attention from the CyberGhost devs, as they have deployed a special streaming server that actively avoids the Netflix IP blockages.
Compatible with all major operating systems, CyberGhost can run on seven devices at the same time. It can be installed on routers too, though, so this number can grow.
CyberGhost passed our security tests with flying colors, but its speed is nothing to write home about. Still, both download and upload bandwidth are acceptable.
Over 1,100 servers across 60 countries and five continents make IPVanish a mighty VPN provider. The company’s been around for almost two decades, setting the standard many other VPN providers have followed throughout the years.
Up to 10 simultaneous connections, completely log-free, and several encryption protocols make it one of the strongest virtual private networks in existence. It can be configured on all major operating systems, as well as routers, Windows phones, and Amazon Fire TV.
IPVanish deals masterfully with Netflix geolocation filters and supports torrenting, but speed could be an issue.
Naturally, the IPVanish suite includes a kill switch and a very intuitive interface which can get you going within minutes.
Hotspot Shield is another behemoth among the leading VPN services. With over 2,500 servers scattered across 25 countries, Hotspot Shield is a very interesting company.
For one, the service is extremely easy to use. Smooth, intuitive interface, simple layout, and easy navigation between server locations ensure that anyone can enjoy the Hotspot Shield private network within minutes on up to five devices simultaneously.
What sets it apart is the proprietary tech called Catapult Hydra, which boosts the overall speed nicely. As a result, Hotspot Shield is among the world’s fastest VPN services.
All major OS are supported.
Add to this a very decent support team and industry-leading 45-day money-back guarantee, and you have yourself a stellar package.
Based in Switzerland, this European VPN service maintains a network of over 700 servers in 70 countries.
A strong proponent of privacy, VyprVPN utilizes a proprietary technology called Chameleon which masks all VPN traffic, efficiently making it look like a regular traffic. This allows users to bypass VPN firewalls and usage restrictions.
Now, the service does keep certain logs for 30 days: the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used, when the connection started and stopped, and the total bandwidth used. These metrics serve to improve the service and are the only pieces of data collected.
VyprVPN bypasses Netflix geo-restrictions easily, can do torrenting, and maintains reasonable, albeit not stellar, speeds.
The user interface is quite nice and the VPN can be configured on multiple devices, including web routers. While the service in general works on iOS, the Chameleon masking doesn’t function on such devices yet.
Before we can brag about our testing process, let’s define what a quality VPN really is.
Turns out there isn’t one straight answer. At the end of the day, what you’d be using your VPN for matters a lot, doesn’t it? Different use cases have different criteria for quality.
So we determine what makes a VPN great for a certain use case, and then test if those aspects are really up to snuff. The better they perform in our testing, the higher we value the service for the given purpose.
Now, VPN stands for a virtual private network. Fundamentally, the technology was designed to create secure working environment among remote machines/users through encryption protocols.
Therefore, top-notch security would be one reason to consider a VPN. To determine whether a VPN is secure enough, we look at two things. One, we see if it uses proven encryption protocols. And two, we check if it has the necessary infrastructure that doesn’t compromise speed.
Now, top notch security might not be that important to some. For some users, speed is the crucial factor to consider. On average, even with the best VPN service providers you can expect 25%-35% decrease in network speed. Unfortunately, security always comes at a price. Otherwise, VPN would be the standard across the web.
To achieve consistently good speeds, a VPN provider must have enough quality servers to deliver the same speed across the board, to all its users at the same time.
A technically challenging task to be sure.
Finally, there’s the matter of privacy. Secure connections keep you hidden from the prying electronic eyes (e-eyes?) across the web. But what about the information that your own VPN service provider collects? And whom do they share it with? Ideally, a VPN provider should collect little to no information, and should only use it internally to improve their service.
As you can already guess, that’s not always the case.
So far, so good – security, speed, and privacy are all important factors for a top-rated VPN, and fortunately – they can be measured easily.
The three main aspects of a good VPN service are easy to quantify. However, they don’t paint the full picture.
There are two more subjective factors that can also affect your experience with any VPN network.
Namely, user interface and customer support. Glitchy or overly complicated interface is an impediment, while an inadequate support team could ruin an otherwise positive experience within seconds.
Judging the interface layout can be subjective. What some find pretty and easy to use, others might find ugly and confusing. All the same, there are some design principles, which are universally appealing.
The interface functionality can also be measured with reasonable precision. Bugs and glitches are indisputably bad for any user, and so are any missing basic controls.
When testing support, things become less straightforward. Our reviewers might luck into several experienced support agents, while many users might end up dealing with incompetent newbies who can’t resolve anything.
That’s why we ask our readers who have hands-on experience with VPNs to give feedback and share their experience with the service provider.
This feedback is key to building the reliable and objective resource we are trying to create here. We also take our time to check VPN reviews on Reddit (r/VPN and not only), as well as end-user comments from across the web.
In conclusion, the perfect VPN service provider must balance speed and security, protect user privacy, be easy to use, and have staff ready to help 24/7.
These five factors are undeniably the bedrock of any good VPN.
But there are also many other aspects worth considering, like price, number of servers, kill switch availability, payment methods, and legality, among others.
Only six countries have full ban on VPN services:
Iran, Oman, and the UAE have certain restrictions in place, but VPNs are not completely outlawed there.
You might see a common theme here, as neither of these countries is considered as a flagship of democracy, freedom of speech, and human rights.
If you plan to visit any of those countries, it is best to avoid using a VPN. No need to risk a hefty fine or other legal repercussions.
In case you are reading this from outside any of these nine nations, go right ahead, check our detailed VPN reviews that rely on real-time data and find your favorite secure network.
Now, while watching Netflix shows is an effortless experience, not all shows are available in all locations at all times.
VPN services can help you watch a show that is, say, exclusive to Brazil from the comfort of your home in Canada.
By default, virtual private networks rely on multiple server locations to function properly. As such, you could route your traffic toward a Brazilian VPN server and access Netflix through it. Netflix would read your Brazilian IP address and spill its Seleção-bound treasures for you to enjoy.
VPNs can be a way to access some peer-to-peer goodies without leaving a trail.
To ensure your safety, you must pick up a VPN service that doesn’t keep usage logs and allows torrenting.
Ideally, said service will be located in a jurisdiction where torrenting is legal and the speeds are good.
Mind, free VPN services are far from ideal for torrenting. More on that below.
Free virtual private networks are exactly what the name suggests – VPN services that collect no fees.
But are these free VPNs any good?
Some of them certainly are adequate. They provide decent speeds, a handful of locations, and excellent encryption.
The thing is that a service you don’t pay for directly still needs to turn a profit. As the common saying goes, if the product seems to be free, YOU are the product. Case in point, Facebook is free and is still one of the most profitable enterprises online.
Practically all free VPN services log your data carefully. Very carefully, as this is their gold.
If you consider using free VPNs, make sure to read in detail their privacy policies to see what you are getting into. Usually, this experience is sobering enough to make people consider a paid private network.
Some of the best VPN software can be easily installed on various devices. Many more offer a workaround.
The most immediate benefit from having your router configured to work exclusively through an encrypted connection is that all devices using this router will enjoy the benefits of VPN tunneling.
If you want to set up your router with a secure connection, purchasing a service that can run easily on network devices is the way to go.
All things considered, the search for the best VPN is not that easy.
It is an ongoing process, as we continue to test and analyze new providers, update existing VPN reviews, and revise our ranking of the best services.
Before you venture forth and read our comprehensive reviews or even test a VPN with free trial, make sure you know what you need it for. A clear goal in mind and, potentially, a defined budget will streamline your research big time.
Is it because of the enhanced security or are you looking for complete online anonymity? Are you interested in Netflix streaming or prefer torrent downloading?
Arm yourself with answers and start exploring the world on virtual private networks.
A: Most paid and all free VPN services log user activity. The real question is how detailed the logs are and what they are used for. A network that measures only bandwidth is fine as this data is necessary to provide adequate service. Logging in when you access the VPN service is much less innocent, while recording the websites you visit is already a serious privacy intrusion. To an extent, such logging defies the very principles of VPN usage.
A: Yes, it most definitely will. The best virtual private networks rely on network transfer protocols that encrypt all transmitted data. Even if your network traffic is intercepted, decoding the data contained therein is nigh impossible. Also, quality VPNs have secure infrastructure, reducing the chance of your internet connection being compromised in any way.
A: There are many free VPNs. Whether you should be using any of them is an entirely different matter, though. If you need VPN access for a brief period of time and don’t mind your activity being recorded, then free VPN services can be a solution. Some of them have decent speed and a reasonable number of locations around the globe to help you conduct your business without any complications. Be that as it may, paid VPN providers are always preferable for any usage.
A: Typically, there aren’t any major risks associated with using virtual networks. As long as your jurisdiction has not banned explicitly their usage, VPN services are safe to use. Certain risk factors include unreliable VPN providers who charge and deliver crappy service. Logging your activity is another thing to consider. Naturally, if you engage in illegal activities through a VPN, you are no less liable in the eyes of the law. Don’t do shady stuff.
A: Kill switch is an embedded protection that will hide your IP address in case the VPN connection drops. Specific implementations differ from one VPN service to another. Still, the main idea behind the technology remains the same; it will switch off your internet connection the moment the private network is compromised. Without a kill switch, your computer would try to connect to the internet the moment the VPN tunnel goes offline. If successful, such insecure connection can be a liability. With a kill switch in place, internet access will be turned off until the private connection recovers.
A: Our reviews can help you find the best virtual private network but only if you have an idea what you are looking for. Generally speaking, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are among the top premium VPN service providers, but they are not the most affordable options. So, they won’t be ideal for users with tight budget. By the same token, IPVanish is a very fast service, but it doesn’t work all that well with Netflix. This makes it ideal for some and completely useless for others. Consider the main reason why you want an encrypted connection and you’ll have much easier time finding the best VPN provider for you.