How We Interpret Our Data
We test dozens of VPNs each year and have to winnow down the glut of data this testing produces. Above all, our final list should be meaningful and easy to understand. To do this, we looked at each category and took each product that met or exceeded the median result for each. We then ranked each product based on the number of categories where they beat the median. Finally, we organized them by overall download performance, and then took just the top ten performers.
Here’s the breakdown of all the products:
Private Internet Access VPN, CyberGhost VPN, Mullvad VPN, and NordVPN did better than the median in all three categories.
TorGuard VPN, IVPN, Mozilla VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, and Malwarebytes VPN all beat the median in two categories.
Bitdefender Premium VPN, HMA VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN all beat the median in one category.
Note that we have yet to publish our review of Malwarebytes VPN and, as such, we left it off the final list. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN did not clear the top-10 requirement.
While a lot of things have changed in the last year, we’re confident that whatever criteria we use will be in line with previous years. We’ll update this article as necessary.
Who Needs A VPN
Anyone who uses the Internet on a public Wi-Fi network needs a VPN. Theyre also ideal for anyone traveling internationally who needs to access a private network in another location, or anyone that wants to bypass government, school or work restrictions on Internet usage. VPNs are ideal for journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and anyone else that wants to be as anonymous as possible online.
Whats The Fastest VPN
In our experience performing speed tests on all of our VPNs, the fastest options were:
- IPVanish: We saw super quick download speeds with IPVanish.
- Private Internet Access: Private Internet Access is a great option for Windows-users in terms of speed.
- Hotspot Shield: Whether we were doing speed tests on our Windows or Mac computers, Hotspot Shield performed well.
- ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN also had really fast speeds on our Windows computer.
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Use A VPN To Bypass Georestrictions
Among the many reasons to use a VPN, streaming stands out the most, the most important services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. As explained above, a VPN can assign you an IP address in a different location. That means in the eyes of online services, youre actually located wherever your IP is registered.
So, if you want to stream BBC iPlayer from the U.S., you can, so long as you connect to a server in the UK. Beyond accessing region-specific platforms, you can also access region-specific content. Streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have distribution agreements with production studios all around the world, and they block users from accessing content in certain regions. That leads to wildly different libraries depending on your country.
For example, the trippy sci-fi thriller Annihilation released in theaters in the U.S. On the release day, it also debuted on Netflix, but only in the UK and Australia. With a VPN, you dont need a movie ticket. Simply connect to a server where the connect is available and get to streaming.
Tunnelbear Best Free VPN If Youre Looking For Many Server Locations
Roar! TunnelBear is one of the most reliable providers offering a free VPN solution.
|Visit TunnelBear website|
What benefits does the free TunnelBear VPN application provide?
TunnelBear is another good option if youre looking for a free VPN. The interface is clear, fun, and easy to use. The visual style is unique and very recognizable. The website is easy to navigate and the installation of TunnelBear software is quick and simple.
Additionally, security and encryption are up to par, and the free version of TunnelBear doesnt cap speeds.
Even with its free version, TunnelBear allows you to choose from all of its available servers. This means there are over 26 servers available to you. You can choose servers in countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Brazil, India, and Italy.
Various server locations of TunnelBear
TunnelBear is available for Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS. Moreover, their free VPN can be used on multiple devices at the same time, just like their paid one. This VPN provider has some limitations but is still a very good free VPN. If you want to download the free version, click Pricing at the top of their website. Then select the free subscription.
Downsides of the free version of TunnelBear
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The Downside: Stumbles Over Some Blocks
This is a little unfortunate, given how well it does overall. Sadly, I did note that certain websites are especially sensitive to their technology and tend to block access. To their credit, they do try to resolve this, but it takes really long.
Find out more at our in-depth ProtonVPN review!
FastestVPN, honestly speaking, is kind of an outsider on this list. Compared to most of the other top-tier service providers, it does pale in comparison. The main reasons it is here is because of two things. The first is that its quite new, and the second is that theyve improved remarkably in a short span of time.
Whats to like about FastestVPN:
Check Which Devices Are Compatible
Although most VPNs support the main platforms of Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS, some VPNs are not available on all platforms.
If you have a Windows computer but use an iPhone, then you want to ensure your VPN has a platform and app for both.
Its also a good idea to see how many devices you can connect to at once. Some VPNs allow unlimited devices, while others only let you connect up to three.
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Protonvpn Plans + Pricing
ProtonVPNs free version allows you to connect just 1 device and it gives you access to only 3 server locations . But unlike many free VPNs, ProtonVPNs free plan includes unlimited browsing data .
ProtonVPN has 3 premium plans, including Basic, Plus, and Visionary. ProtonVPN Basic includes 2 VPN connections, access to servers in 40+ countries, torrenting support, and an ad blocker. ProtonVPN Plus adds up to 10 VPN connections, Secure Core and TOR servers, as well as access to streaming services. ProtonVPN Visionary is the same, but it adds a ProtonMail account.
ProtonVPNs plans start at , and they are all backed by a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.
Who Should Use A VPN
It is not only conspiracy nuts and people preparing for the apocalypse who need a VPN. For regular people there are three main reasons:
In recent years there has been a lot of talk about hackers from all over the world getting their hands on private information. Cybercrime, in general, is on the rise so in Europe and the US there is a tendency towards letting law enforcement agencies have access to data from and to citizens not suspected of any crimes.
A VPN connection encrypts the information, so it remains private from hackers and any other that might try to intercept your data.
The third main argument is that a VPN can be used to bypass geo-restrictions by giving your device an IP address that appears to originate from another country. That way you can enjoy content on streaming services not normally available to you such as US Netflixor some of the best British tv on the free BBC iPlayer
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Ipvanish Streaming Torrenting + Government Bypassing
Streaming: Mostly Weak
IPVanish unblocked Netflix, but it was unable to unblock Hulu, Disney+, and other streaming sites in my tests. There are many other VPNs on this list that do a much better job at unlocking streaming services.
All of IPVanishs 1,900+ servers are P2P friendly. IPVanish also has SOCKS5 proxy servers that give you an even faster download speed because they dont encrypt your data. But I didnt need to use a SOCKS5 server IPVanishs servers in many countries provided me with plenty of fast speed for torrenting.
Government Bypassing: Weak
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
Mullvads phone apps are new, and the Android app is still in beta as of this writing. But its available in the Google Play store, and in our tests it was just as stable as the app was on iOS. You cant pay for additional months from the Android app instead, to do so you have to log in from a browser or in one of the other apps.
Its unfortunate that Mullvad doesnt offer a free trial of any sort, but its 30-day money-back guarantee is a longer guarantee than many of its competitors offer. We prefer free trials because they make the process of verifying speeds before subscribing to a service so much easier.
Although Mullvad does not have a bug bounty program, it does have a dedicated PGP address for security researchers to report vulnerabilities, and it says it has rewarded findings in the past.
If you need to contact support, you have to go through email, as Mullvad doesnt offer chat or phone support and does not use any third-party vendors for ticketing. When we checked in 2019, the company responded quickly to a support email during the weekend and provided clear and informative responses. Its team operates support during weekday office hours in Central European time. Mullvad provides clear setup and anonymity guides.
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What Is A VPN And Why Do I Need It
Breaking down its abbreviation, VPN stands for ‘virtual private network’, acting as a private, encrypted tunnel between you and the internet.
In practice, this means it adds an extra layer of security as you browse online, better concealing your identity by making you completely anonymous. This is especially useful when utilising public Wi-Fi where the connection is less secure, carrying out particularly sensitive tasks like online shopping where you want to keep your card details safely under lock and key, or when accessing geo-restricted content.
Connecting to a VPN gives you complete anonymity, changing your IP address and opening up the gates of the Internet to you.
As previously mentioned, VPN offers extra layers of security. While each provider may have a host of differing features, many include the likes of a kill switch, preventing any data leaks if and when a connection is lost. They also have auto-connect features, hooking you up with the best available server, with many VPNs providing thousands of servers to choose from locations around the world.
VPN can also boost your speed and overall performance of your Internet. Simply hop on a server and you could benefit from better loading and download speeds.
What’s The Fastest VPN
When a VPN is active, your web traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in sluggish download and upload speeds as well as increased latency. The good news is that using a VPN probably isn’t going to remind you of the dial-up days of yore.
Most services provide perfectly adequate internet speed when in use, and they can even handle streaming HD video. However, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks like gaming over a VPN are another story.
When we test VPNs, we use the Ookla speed test tool. This test provides metrics for latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. Any one of these can be an important measurement depending on your needs, but we tend to view the download speed as the most important. After all, we live in an age of digital consumption.
To evaluate VPNs, we first run several speed tests without the VPN. Then, we compare that figure to speed tests taken with the VPN active and find a percent change. Our speed tests stress comparison and reproducibility. That means we stand by our work, but your individual results may vary. After all, perhaps you live on top of a VPN server, or just happen to have a super-high bandwidth connection. Please read our feature, conveniently named How We Test VPNs, if you want the full details.
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Secure VPNs Don’t Keep Logs
In our opinion, a VPN cannot be considered secure if it keeps logs of your connection and traffic. This is because a VPN that keeps logs of your activity is liable to hand that data over to authorities at a moment’s notice. This is not at all something you’d want your VPN provider doing, especially if you’re using your VPN to download torrents.
Because of this, all of the secure VPN providers we recommend in this guide have strict no-logs policies to ensure that none of your online activity while connected to their networks is ever logged. Since a secure, no-logs VPN provider will never have any data related to what you get up to on its network, it will have literally nothing whatsoever to hand over to authorities, even if served with a warrant. This means that you can rest assured that your online privacy will be fully protected by a VPN that doesn’t keep logs.
Can You Trust Your VPN Service
If you’re using a service to route all your internet traffic through its servers, you have to be able to trust that service. It’s easier to trust companies that have been around longer, simply because their reputation is likely to be known. The trouble is that the VPN industry is very young, and some VPN companies have been playing dirty. In this environment, figuring out who to trust is very difficult.
At PCMag, we give special attention to the privacy practices of VPN companies and not just the technology they provide. In our testing, we read through the privacy policies and discuss company practices with VPN company representatives. We look for a commitment to protecting user information, and practices that gather and retain as little user information as possible.
As part of our research, we also make sure to find out where the company is based and under what legal framework it operates. Some countries don’t have data-retention laws, making it easier to keep a promise of “We don’t keep any logs.” It’s also useful to know under what circumstances a VPN company will hand over information to law enforcement and what information it would have to provide if that should happen.
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Can A VPN Track You Online
The entire point of downloading a VPN in the first place is to ensure your online anonymity, but some VPNs save more of your data than others. While we havent reviewed many VPNs aside from Encrypt.me that save user data, many VPNs will save other information about their users, which can include:
- The time and duration the user connected to the VPN
- The users IP address
- The amount of data the user used while connected to the VPN
- The users personal information like their name, address, payment information, email, etc.
What’s The Best VPN For Gaming
Most VPNs are chosen based on having a good balance of speed, security and cost. But if you want a VPN specifically to connect to game servers in another country, speed is everything. Free VPNs won’t be fast enough, but, fortunately, high-end security won’t be a cost driver, which gives you more options at modest prices. Since all VPNs reduce speed — most by half or more — that means picking one from the set that performed best in our speed tests. In 2021 tests, Surfshark managed to win our speed race while still being one of the least expensive VPNs we’ve seen. If you’re focused on VPNs for game consoles, have a look at our best VPNs for Xbox and our primer on installing them.
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How To Choose A VPN Provider
There are many VPN providers out there that will try to get you to subscribe to them. Therefore, most people have considerable difficulty picking a good service. There are just so many to choose from, and they all claim theyre the best. To make things a bit easier, weve summed up some of the most important considerations we made when creating this list. You might want to take these into account when choosing a VPN for yourself as well.
Should You Use A Free VPN Or Buy One
Weve narrowed down the very best VPN service options above, but thanks to frequent deals and discounts, youll find that even the best services dont cost that much. The small savings you get by using a free VPN really arent worth the trade-off in performance and protection. Check out our guide to are free VPNs are safe for more in-depth info about the risks and compromises involved with these.
Shopping on a budget? Weve also rounded up all the best VPN deals.
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