Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts | Security.org

Our experts did the heavy lifting of testing and rating dozens of VPNs, and these VPN services worked best.

When it comes to VPNs, there are plenty of good services out there. The flipside of that, though, is that there are just as many bad ones. And we should know — we’ve personally tested over 50 VPNs over the years.

If you’re wondering what the very best VPN is, you’ve come to the right place. But these services don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, so which VPN will work best for you is a matter of preference and your specific needs. That’s why we rounded up our highest-rated VPNs based on factors like user experience, speed, features, cost, and performance for your review.

What’s a VPN? A VPN is a digital tool for improving online anonymity and privacy. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel through which all of your internet traffic is routed. It bypasses monitoring tools such as the ones used by ISPs, government agencies, and hackers. So when you use a VPN, no one besides you will know what you’re doing online.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing a VPN. How many servers does it have? What type of encryption does it use? On which devices does it work? Does it log or record browsing history? Can it hide IP addresses well? We consider all those things when comparing VPNs. When it comes to finding the best VPNs, it all boils down to just three crucial factors: privacy, speed, and security.

As we discuss our recommended VPNs, we’ll give you an overview and rate how each of them did in those three areas (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Bad). We’ll also relay our user experience and detail why we picked each option. To start with, check out the comparison chart below.

We picked NordVPN for its overall reliability, ease of use, and privacy-focused approach. It provided us with a secure channel right after installation; no special setup required. We also appreciated NordVPN’s useful extra features. Those made our NordVPN subscription all the more worth it. We particularly liked Threat Protection, which automatically blocked malicious sites and ads. That’s by no means a unique feature – Surfshark (2nd pick) and Private Internet Access (3rd pick) both have a similar function – but it goes to show NordVPN’s commitment to digital safety.

NordVPN didn’t log any of our IP addresses and usage data (visited sites, downloaded files, etc.). We didn’t need to adjust any settings or manually opt out of data logging either. It was a ‘no-logs’ VPN right from the start.

Feature-wise, NordVPN gave us everything we needed to protect our privacy. We liked the automatic kill switch feature in particular. It paused our internet connection when NordVPN disconnected unexpectedly twice during our testing. It made sure we didn’t accidentally access the internet without NordVPN’s cloak of privacy.

We also liked that there was a Double VPN option, also known as multi-hop. With this option, NordVPN doubled our encryption for additional security. It slowed down our internet and it required some setup, but it was a breeze to use overall for a feature that greatly boosts online privacy.

Our NordVPN speed tests averaged 225 Mbps for downloads and 218 Mbps for uploads. Those were about 90-percent of our 250 Mbps connection. So overall, NordVPN was fast. It was also reliable and consistent. We didn’t notice any abrupt speed drops or delays. At times, it didn’t even feel like we were using a VPN because of its speed. It’s thanks to that and NordVPN’s consistency that we consider it one of the fastest VPNs.

Just like the privacy features, we didn’t have to tinker with NordVPN’s settings to enjoy fast speeds. Any of the nearby servers we connected to gave us good results. Even distant servers gave us stable speeds, although the exact readings understandably dipped at times (see the screenshot below).

NordVPN offers industry standard 256-bit AES like the rest of the VPNs on this list, but it also gives users access to a private DNS server. We used a DNS checker tool to confirm this. A private DNS protects you from DNS leaks, a critical security flaw that could reveal your real IP address when using a VPN. Those NordVPN security features (encryption and private DNS) work in the background. You never really see them in action. Having done our own tests, though, we can confirm that they work.

Pro Tip: You can check if a VPN has a private DNS server using a DNS leak test tool. Those tools will try to retrieve your IP address from your DNS queries. If the detected IP address matches your real IP address, your VPN doesn’t have a private DNS. That also means your connection is not secure. NordVPN passed our DNS leak test.

NordVPN offers two of the fastest, most reliable, and most secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard in the form of NordLynx. Here’s a quick comparison, and for a more in-depth look, here’s our comparison of the top VPN protocols.

NordVPN worked well with OpenVPN and NordLynx. We used OpenVPN mostly for privacy-sensitive tasks because of its more robust encryption. On the other hand, we used NordLynx mostly on mobile devices. It was more lightweight than OpenVPN, which means our phones’ batteries lasted longer while connected. It was also faster than OpenVPN. Our average download speed on Android was 225 Mbps with NordLynx and 216 Mbps with OpenVPN.

FYI: Keeping a mobile device connected to a VPN will drain your batteries faster than normal. That’s more true with OpenVPN than any other VPN protocols because it has to keep some network ports open to maintain a VPN connection.

NordVPN isn’t exactly cheap. It costs about a dollar more per month than Surfshark (our #2 pick) if we compare their best prices. However, NordVPN has a good price-to-feature ratio. It’s a little more expensive than others, but it offers more features as well. Some of those features are also quite rare, like Double VPN and Onion over VPN (VPN for Tor). We’d happily pay the $1 per month extra cost to get access to those features.

FYI: NordVPN occasionally includes free months with its one-year and two-year subscriptions. Check out our page on NordVPN deals to learn about any on-going deals and upcoming sales.

NordVPN is a good all-around VPN if you want to prioritize privacy and security. It works exactly as a VPN should. It also provides additional safety features to further boost your online security. Threat Protection blocks harmful sites and ads, Meshnet enables secure file-sharing, and Dark Web Monitor checks for personal information leaks on the dark web. You don’t get those features from run-of-the-mill VPNs. On top of all that, NordVPN’s performance is high-grade. You can get good speeds wherever you are thanks to it having over 6,000 servers in 60 countries around the globe.

With its feature-set, NordVPN is a powerful VPN for power users – those who need endless customizations and access to a rich catalog of features. Even so, it’s easy to use. Even novice and casual VPN users can benefit from NordVPN.

Surfshark made this list not just because it’s a feature-rich VPN, but because of the whole Surfshark One bundle. Surfshark One is a collection of useful digital security tools offered under one bundle. It includes the VPN itself, the Surfshark antivirus software, an identity monitoring system, a secure search engine, webcam protection, and more. Even just the antivirus software is great. It made our list of the best antivirus software of the year. Combined with the highly-rated Surfshark VPN, it can really take your digital security to the next level. Read our Surfshark One review for more information.

Surfshark’s practice of logging IP addresses at the beginning of each session and its Netherlands location might raise some eyebrows. The Netherlands isn’t the ideal homebase for a VPN company because it has laws that could undermine VPN confidentiality. Truth be told, we were skeptical about Surfshark because of that, especially after testing NordVPN – a true “no-logs” VPN based in the privacy-friendly country, Panama.

Actually testing Surfshark cleared our doubts. We saw features similar to NordVPN. Surfshark has an automatic kill switch and a multihop feature. We also learned that logged IP addresses are removed after 15 minutes. This was later confirmed by Cure53 through an independent audit report. They also use RAM-Only servers, which means even if they wanted to log our data, they couldn’t. Surfshark isn’t the most ideal privacy-wise, but it’s far from bad.

The speed we got from Surfshark was a mixed bag. The download speed was excellent. It averaged 228 Mbps on our 250 Mbps network. However, the upload speed dipped to as low as 91 Mbps on one occasion. That’s only about a third of our network upload speed. Most times, though, Surfshark’s upload speed was fairly decent. It averaged 167 Mbps. We’d say that Surfshark is fast, but not always stable.

Surfshark made sure to keep our VPN use covert through Camouflage Mode. It was a feature enabled automatically on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Camouflage Mode made our encrypted traffic seem like normal traffic. That’s handy if you’re in a country like China and Russia that restricts or monitors VPN usage. A colleague traveled to China recently and used Surfshark with no issues, despite it not being a government-approved VPN. We should mention that Surfshark is one of the best VPNs that work in China because of that.

We appreciated Surfshark’s usability despite its long list of features. It makes connecting to a VPN a simple task. The Fastest Server option in the server list automatically finds the fastest server near you. On the other hand, the Nearest Country option connects you to the fastest server outside your location if you need to unblock a website.

We also liked how all the VPN features were neatly tucked away in the settings menu, unlike the Total VPN app we tested recently that had features all over the place. If you need to use a specific Surfshark feature, you’ll know where to find it.

A nice little side-effect of using a VPN is gaining access to streaming content available outside your country. For instance, you can use it to unblock Hulu if you’re outside the U.S. or access Disney+ shows not available in your region. Surfshark made both our lists of the best Disney+ VPNs and best Hulu VPNs. It also worked well with other streaming services we tested, like Netflix, Max, Spotify, and even YouTube. So if you’re shopping for a VPN for any streaming service, consider taking a look at Surfshark.

FYI: Learn more about the best VPNs for Youtube TV. Surfshark is also great for streaming devices. It’s one of the best VPNs for Apple TV and a highly-rated VPN for Fire TV.

Surfshark offers a long list of security features that are readily available to any user. CleanWeb blocks malicious sites and pesky ads just like NordVPN does; there’s an IP rotator feature that changes the VPN address every five to 10 minutes for extra security; you can make your device invisible to other devices in your networks (useful on public Wi-Fi); you can even override your device’s GPS location if you’re using an Android, a feature unique only to Surfshark.

If you’re willing to splurge a little more on Surfshark One, you can also get a full-featured antivirus software plus additional premium features like webcam protection and a secure search engine.

Surfshark’s numerous security features makes it a great VPN for users who want to overhaul their online and digital security. It’s also highly-recommended for users living in restrictive countries thanks to Camouflage Mode.

Private Internet Access’ speed on Windows was one of the reasons we considered it one of the best VPNs for Windows. We enjoyed nearly loss-less speeds.

We also really liked the customizability of PIA’s Windows client. There were nearly endless options of how the VPN could be connected, how it encrypted the data, and how it tunneled our traffic. This meant that we could optimize the connection for different activities like day-to-day browsing, streaming content, or online gaming.

Private Internet Access is based in the U.S.. That’s arguably worse than Surfshark’s location in the Netherlands. The U.S. is far from privacy-friendly. Unlike Surfshark, though, PIA doesn’t log IP addresses.

We also liked that Private Internet Access doesn’t automatically log usage metrics. Most VPNs log anonymized data like device identifiers and connection timestamps to improve their services. Even NordVPN does that, and it’s our top-pick no-logs VPN.  With PIA, usage metrics are not recorded by default. You’d have to go to the settings to allow it to log that information. But our advice? Don’t. While usage metrics are usually harmless, the less data collected by the VPN, the better.

FYI: VPNs collect usage metrics to gather data like peak VPN usage hours and amount of bandwidth used in a certain time frame. That information helps them improve their services, so we’re not completely against logging usage metrics as long as IP addresses and websites visited are not logged.

Private Internet Access’ Windows speeds were fast during our tests, averaging 236 Mbps for downloads and 223 Mbps for uploads. It’s one of the fastest VPNs for Windows. Its macOS and smartphone connections were also decent (200+ Mbps average). Overall, we’re happy with how PIA’s speed turned out. Here’s our PIA speed test results:

Private Internet Access used MACE to help enhance our online security. It worked pretty much like NordVPN’s Threat Protection, but it was notably better at blocking ads. We’d say it’s about as good as the AdBlocker extension we use on Chrome, but it works faster because MACE is built into the PIA app. That meant our browser wasn’t using extra memory to check each URL.

Besides MACE, Private Internet Access offers an optional Secure Socket Layer (SSL) feature. Enabling it obfuscated our VPN connection, much like Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode. It’s an extra layer of security if you want to hide your VPN use from your network admin or the government.

One of our favorite things about Private Internet Access was that it let us adjust our encryption. No other VPN on this list has that option. PIA let us choose between 256-bit AES encryption (the default after VPN installation) and 128-bit AES. You can find that option in the settings under the ‘General’ menu. But why would you lower your encryption standard to 128-bit AES?

128-bit AES is less secure than 256-bit AES, but it tends to be faster. According to our measurements, it’s about four-percent faster. That’s why we prefer 128-bit AES for less privacy-demanding tasks like streaming Netflix and online gaming. There’s also an option to turn off encryption altogether (proxy mode), which came in handy when we just wanted to change our IP address location to the Netherlands.

Private Internet Access’ app is hands-down one of the most user-friendly out there. It’s easy to learn to use. Even our office intern who was new to VPNs when he started learned to use it in no time. And the app’s ratings back up its user-friendliness.

More than that, Private Internet Access’ app provides flexibility. We got the most out of our Private Internet Access subscription because of that. Just take a look at the split tunneling feature for example. PIA offers standard split tunneling and the less common inverse split tunneling (see our split tunneling guide for a detailed explanation). We used the former to exclude apps and URLs from our VPN connection – like Zoom to improve video call quality. As for inverse split tunneling, we used it to set apps that could connect to the internet only via PIA. For this, we set apps like browsers to make sure we’re always on a secure line whenever we’re browsing.

Private Internet Access’ advanced customizability was on full display during our tests. The adjustable encryption and the standard and inverse split tunneling options were the main highlights. There were other convenient features too. For example, you can automate the app. You can set it to connect to the fastest server or a specific server as soon as you turn on your desktop. You can also set it to connect to the VPN when you’re on a public or unrecognized Wi-Fi network. Minor but thoughtful features like that make PIA one of the most user-friendly VPNs.

We recommend Private Internet Access to folks who mostly use desktops, either for work or play. You can tailor it to how you use your desktop, especially if you’re a Windows user.

One of the main reasons we picked Hotspot Shield is its proprietary Hydra protocol. This is a lightweight, performance-enhanced protocol that comes in handy when you’re trying to get around the VPN blockers deployed by some modern streaming services. If you’re looking to stream Netflix in other countries, this might be the right service for you.

Of course, Hotspot Shield is more than just for entertainment. Our DNS and WebRTC leak tests proved that it’s secure. On top of security, our IP address test showed us that it can hide IP addresses well.

Money Saver: To get discounts, sign up for long term lengths. One-year and two-year plans are typically cheaper than monthly plans.

A lot of VPNs say they have a “no-logs” policy but with no data to back it up. Hotspot Shield actually has proof in the form of a transparency report. That report shows how many subpoenas and government requests Hotspot Shield receives. It received 56 in 2018, for example. The report also says how many times it released requested data. For the 56 requests in 2018, it released none. That because, again, it doesn’t log VPN usage and IP address information.

Hotspot Shield was one of the fastest VPNs we tested with average download speeds of around 242 Mbps on our 250 Mbps network. That’s what we like to call a near loss-less VPN speed, as the drop was kept to around three-percent. That said, Hotspot Shield’s upload speed didn’t do that well. It averaged 50 Mbps, only 20-percent of our network speed. It’s great for downloads, but not so much for uploading to the web.

Hotspot Shield delivers security through a number of built-in app features. For one, it has IP leak protection that prevents DNS and WebRTC leaks by offering a private DNS. This was enabled by default. As soon as we connected to Hotspot Shield, it kept our IP address private.

The protocol also plays a big role in Hotspot Shield’s security. It offers Hydra to all platforms (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android), but it also offers WireGuard to Android users. We’d still recommend Hydra in this case though. While WireGuard is secure, it doesn’t support 256-bit AES encryption (it uses the not-as-proven ChaCha20). Hydra does.

These days, we see a lot of proprietary VPN protocols — VPN protocols made and developed by a VPN company — from the best VPN brands. Not many of them, however, can claim to be as fast as Hotspot Shield’s Hydra Catapult VPN protocol. Thanks to Hydra, we notched record-high download speeds during our recent VPN speed testing (more on that below).

Hydra is also plenty secure. It’s based on OpenVPN, one of the most secure VPN protocols. With a few tweaks, Hotspot Shield made it into a speedy protocol without compromising security.

Hotspot Shield’s speed was right up there with our fastest VPNs. We were particularly impressed by the download speed. We lost only 3.17 percent of our regular internet speed after connecting to the VPN. The upload speed was abysmal, though. It averaged just 20-percent of our network speed, so using Hotspot Shield to upload YouTube videos was a no-go.

Hotspot Shield provides useful security and privacy features via its apps. It has IP leak protection, auto-connect, and the Always-On feature on iOS. IP leak protection prevents IP address leakage due to DNS or WebRTC leaks. This ensures your IP address is always private when connected to the VPN. Auto-connect lets you establish rules that, when triggered, will force the VPN to connect. For example, when you connect to a public Wi-Fi or when you connect to mobile data. Lastly, the Always-On feature on iOS is one we’ve rarely seen. It prompts the VPN to reconnect automatically when disconnected unexpectedly.

Hotspot Shield has strong streaming potential. Plus, Hotspot Shield is affordable. It’s best for folks looking to expand their entertainment options without spending much.

Norton is most famous for its Norton antivirus software and LifeLock. (LifeLock is one of the best identity protection services; read more in our LifeLock review). Adding the Norton Secure VPN to the mix makes it even better. It’s not just a VPN app, but an all-in-one digital security app.

We particularly liked the VPN’s dynamic shared IP addresses, which are more preferable than static IP addresses. Dynamic shared IP addresses are shared among multiple users. They also change every time you connect to the VPN. Both of those can give you more online anonymity.

We bought out Norton Secure VPN subscription as part of our Norton antivirus bundle (we also tested the Norton antivirus). We loved that we could access both products through the same app. Unfortunately, that also made it more difficult to nail down Norton Secure VPN’s privacy policy. The privacy policy within the app didn’t explain separately what the VPN logs and what the antivirus logs.

Digging deeper though, we found Norton Secure VPN’s logging policy. We found that it collects more information from users compared to other VPNs. For example, it logs mobile device data and aggregate bandwidth usage. It’s still a “no-logs” VPN. It doesn’t log IP addresses and websites, but it collects aggregate data.

Norton Secure VPN ranked 12th in our VPN speed comparison, which is still decent considering we tested over 50 VPNs. The download speed was impressive. It kept the speed loss to less than 12-percent. However, the upload speed (averaged 84 Mbps) and latency (averaged 120 ms) were abysmal. We wouldn’t recommend Norton Secure for activities that require a fast and steady upstream of data, like video conferencing and online gaming.

Norton’s app improved our digital security in more ways than one, but we liked one nifty security feature in particular. The app automatically detects if we’re connected to a suspicious Wi-Fi network, such as password-less coffee shop Wi-Fi. It then automatically connects the VPN to the fastest available server.

We do have to point out that Norton Secure VPN doesn’t offer as many servers as other VPNs. It has servers in only 29 countries. That’s less than a third of ExpressVPN’s 105 countries and Surfshark’s 100 countries. Just something to keep in mind.

How much does the Norton Secure VPN cost? Well, that depends. The VPN comes complimentary with most Norton antivirus subscriptions. The cheapest antivirus subscription costs $49.99 for the first year, or about $4 per month. That’s one of the best VPN deals we’ve seen.

You can also buy a subscription to just the VPN, but it can be pricey. Weirdly, it costs more to buy just the VPN than to bundle it with other Norton products. One month of Norton Secure for one device costs $4.99. We strongly recommend going for the 10-device plan for one year though. It costs $59.99 in total or about $5 per month.

Norton Secure VPN encrypted our web activity and hid our IP address using 256-bit AES. But that’s nothing new. Most VPNs use that same encryption standard.

What we really loved was the fact that Norton Secure offers multi-hop – a feature only the top-tier VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark offer. By connecting to a multi-hop server pair, Norton Secure encrypted our traffic and changed our IP addresses twice. It’s impressive that Norton Secure even has this feature, considering how small its server network is.

You get the most benefit from Norton Secure VPN if you get it as a part of Norton’s antivirus bundles. That way, you enjoy all-around digital protections. And really, that’s the only way we recommend using Norton Secure. By itself, it’s not a feature-rich VPN. It offers split tunneling and a kill switch (Windows and Android only), but not much else. If you use it through an Antivirus subscription, you can also keep your devices malware-free.

Norton Secure is best for those who are just starting to utilize cybersecurity tools to protect themselves online. Besides being easy to use, Norton Secure is from a brand most famous for its antivirus software.

What sets IPVanish apart from other companies is its commitment to customer service. We can’t tell you how much trouble we have sometimes getting companies to respond to our technical questions. Many VPNs don’t offer phone support, and a fair number don’t provide answers 24/7.

IPVanish has friendly customer service agents you can talk to any time, via both phone and online chat. Yet, the company doesn’t charge any more than other VPNs. A one-year subscription, for example, is just $2.99 a month.

Back in 2016, IPVanish faced backlash after providing the U.S. government with data that helped in the arrest of a child predator. Nobody’s saying the company should have helped a criminal. We just want to be clear about that. But the data IPVanish provided showed that it was, at the time, making records of user activity.

Fortunately, IPVanish has updated its privacy policy since then. It now says that it doesn’t log IP addresses, connection timestamps, and browsing histories. IPVanish also enlisted the help of independent firms to audit and verify its privacy policy. The results have been positive.

IPVanish was the second fastest VPN we’ve tested overall. It had impressive upload and download speeds plus a very low latency that was kept below 80 ms. We measured a decrease of only four to five-percent in download and upload speeds. We tested IPVanish on a Windows laptop and subsequently named it one of the best Windows VPN because of its speed.

IPVanish security doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but it’s admirable that it comes complete with all the features we’re looking for in a secure VPN. It has a kill switch, it offers several VPN protocol options, it uses 256-bit AES encryption, and it passed our DNS and WebRTC leak tests. All things considered, it’s a solid and secure VPN.

All VPNs can fail at any time without warning; that’s just the reality. That’s also why we recommend looking for a VPN with a kill switch just like IPVanish. It’s not that IPVanish is unreliable. It only ever got disconnected unexpectedly once due to server maintenance. But thanks to that, we saw the kill switch in action.

Our internet stopped working right after the VPN got disconnected. That alerted us that something was wrong, so we immediately checked and reconnected IPVanish. If our internet had continued working, we wouldn’t have known we’re no longer secure.

Most VPNs have privacy policies that outline the types of data they collect, why they collect them, and how they use them. Not all VPNs, though, have been audited like IPVanish.

The Leviathan Security Group audited IPVanish’s privacy and security practices just this year. They’ve found that IPVanish’s claim that it doesn’t log browsing and usage data is true. The firm also determined that IPVanish is non-invasive to its users’ privacy, making it a solid VPN for privacy-conscious users.

IPVanish includes thoughtful features that make the app easy and convenient to use. For example, the server menu on Windows shows the speed (measured in latency) of each server location. That can make it easier to pick a fast server when you’re gaming or streaming. Speaking of streaming, you can also connect to streaming-optimized servers, like to access a different Netflix region. You won’t see a lot of features from IPVanish, but those that it does include are designed with user experience in mind.

IPVanish has great mobile apps and it’s also affordable. Students looking to improve their digital security and privacy and access blocked sites on their school’s network, could benefit from this VPN.

Privacy is ExpressVPN’s main focus. It has invested in state-of-the-art technology, like RAM-based servers that offer better privacy than traditional VPN servers. Very few VPNs offer RAM-based servers, NordVPN and Surfshark being two of them. That puts ExpressVPN in an elite group.

FYI: RAM-based servers are physical VPN servers that run purely on RAM, unlike traditional servers that use hard drives. RAM-based servers don’t store long-term memory. They are wiped after every reboot, which is what makes them more private.

Privacy is ExpressVPN’s main focus. It has invested in state-of-the-art technology, like RAM-based servers that offer better privacy than traditional VPN servers. Very few VPNs offer RAM-based servers, NordVPN and Surfshark being two of them. That puts ExpressVPN in an elite group.

FYI: RAM-based servers are physical VPN servers that run purely on RAM, unlike traditional servers that use hard drives. RAM-based servers don’t store long-term memory. They are wiped after every reboot, which is what makes them more private.

ExpressVPN was middle-of-the-pack in terms of speed. It wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t bad. It was speedy enough to let us stream movies in 4K resolution. Our download speed averaged 230 Mbps while our upload speed averaged around 210 Mbps.

ExpressVPN’s balanced upload and download speed made it a great option for video conferencing. It kept our Zoom meetings flowing smoothly, unlike Hotspot Shield, which has lightning-fast download speed but very slow upload speed.

ExpressVPN combines its 256-bit AES encryption with its fast and lightweight protocol called Lightway. It’s a solid pairing. We found no IP address leaks when we did DNS and WebRTC leak tests. The Lightway protocol was also quick to establish VPN tunnels. It takes ExpressVPN less than five seconds to connect, which means you can connect to it anytime without hassle. It’s our favorite VPN to use when commuting because of its convenient quick-connect function.

ExpressVPN is at the forefront of VPN technology. It developed a proprietary protocol that is both secure and fast, called Lightway. This VPN protocol runs on only 2,000 lines of code, much less than protocols like OpenVPN. And as a result, it’s lightweight and it provides a smooth user-experience.

We’ve encountered more than a few VPNs that have an “IP leak protection” feature, and for some reason, you can turn it off. We’re not sure why that’s even an option. IP leak is something you’d want to avoid at all cost.

With ExpressVPN, though, all connections come with IP leak protection. It efficiently blocks DNS and WebRTC leaks. In fact, once you’re connected to ExpressVPN, you can go to its website to check if there are any WebRTC leaks. We did that, and found no leaks whatsoever – just the result we were hoping for.

ExpressVPN offers the most number of server locations, with servers in 105 countries. That alone is a huge benefit to users. It gives you access to numerous locations, making it easier to access content from all over the world. With its impressive speed, privacy features (RAM-based servers, LightWay and OpenVPN protocols, etc.), and encryption, can use ExpressVPN for pretty much any task. And of course, ExpressVPN is easy to use. The app works fresh off installation and you need not make any adjustments to make it secure.

ExpressVPN offers agile data protection, which is particularly ideal for frequent travelers. It has strong privacy features. Its lightweight proprietary VPN protocol also makes it a good travel companion, as it runs fast on most mobile devices and computers.

CyberGhost’s app excelled on Mac. It provided us easy access to top-quality features like split tunneling (Smart Rules), a kill switch, and several auto-connect options. It also features over 10,000 servers in 100 countries – one of the largest networks we’ve seen – to provide secure connections wherever you may be.

CyberGhost’s Mac speed also stands out, particularly the download speed. Our download speed on Mac remained above 230 Mbps after connecting to CyberGhost. That’s a speed loss of less than 10-percent, which is one of the best speeds we’ve seen on our Macbook.

In our previous tests of CyberGhost, we found that it logged IP addresses in an anonymized format. It logged IP addresses, but they weren’t tied to specific users. This raised concerns from us, but fortunately, CyberGhost adjusted its privacy policy. Last we checked, they no longer store IP addresses. They store only the country of origin of connection requests now. That’s an improvement.

CyberGhost provided fast download speeds but significantly slower upload speeds. It’s just like Hotspot Shield and Norton in that regard. Our upload speed went down by 70-percent, which meant we only got about 75 Mbps from our 250 Mbps network. Fortunately, the download speed remained high with an average reading of 223 Mbps. Both upload and download speeds are important, but the latter usually matters for for streaming and downloading.

In terms of security, we liked CyberGhost’s IP address masking in particular. Normally, when trying to access sites like Netflix and Disney+ that block VPNs, they’d occasionally detect that we’re using VPNs. For example, in our X-VPN review, Netflix detected two of the 10 servers we tested. With CyberGhost, we connected to 10 different servers in different locations, and all of them worked. That was, to some degree, proof that CyberGhost was hiding our IP address well.

CyberGhost offers a wide array of subscriptions to choose from, and this makes the VPN very flexible. You can sign up for a month subscription to try things out, or go all-in on a one-, two-, or three-year subscription. The best part is, you’ll get a discount depending on the length of your plan.

The highest discount is over 80-percent off, which you can get by signing a three-year subscription. All in all, you’ll pay only $56.94 every three years, which breaks down to just over $2 per month.

CyberGhost, like most of the VPNs we review, doesn’t keep logs of its users’ browsing data. Bur CyberGhost takes things up a notch with its NoSpy servers. These data centers operated by CyberGhost itself are located in Romania, which is outside the reach of the 14 Eyes alliance.

Romania’s laws also make it VPN-friendly. It doesn’t require data retention and mass surveillance tactics used by other countries. When you connect to one of CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers, you can rest assured that your data is safe.

CyberGhost offers several features designed to benefit users. It has RAM-based servers like ExpressVPN. It also provides NoSpy servers, as detailed above. It’s also worth noting that CyberGhost has a deep network. It has servers in 100 countries, almost the same as ExpressVPN 105 locations, but the total number of CyberGhost’s servers is over 10,000. A network that large gives CyberGhost users access to content, webpages, and services all around the globe.

It’s true that the longer subscriptions offer the best prices, but CyberGhost’s flexibility makes it a great-value VPN for pretty much anyone.

ProtonVPN is now Proton, which seems like an ignorable change, but is actually big for the VPN company. As Proton, it now includes the entire Proton suite of cybersecurity tools. That includes ProtonMail, ProtonCalendar, ProtonDrive, and ProtonVPN. As such, Proton is a good personal VPN to use at work.

Proton is a privacy-focused company. It offers privacy tools like a secure email (that detects phishing email well) and calendar, an encrypted cloud drive, a password manager. And of course, there’s Proton VPN.

The company Proton is also based in Switzerland. It’s a privacy-friendly country with no mandatory data retention. That means Proton can legally maintain a “no-logs” policy not just for its VPN, but all its privacy tools and products.

We’ve seen a fair share of VPNs with good download speed but disappointing upload speed. If you’re looking for a VPN with fast upload speeds, though, we can recommend Proton. It topped our ranking in terms of upload speed, notching just a four-percent decrease compared to our baseline speed. The average upload and download speed were both 240 Mbps. That’s why we used it a lot for Zoom meetings and other work tasks that require good upload and download speeds.

Though fast, Proton VPN was plenty secure as well. Notably, we discovered that it uses perfect forward secrecy encryption. VPNs use keys to decipher encrypted traffic as it passes through a server. If not secured, these keys can be stolen to decrypt subsequent traffic. With Proton VPN, it generated a different cipher key for every session. It’s unlikely, but even If a key is stolen, it can’t be used to decrypt future encrypted traffic. Another VPN that offers perfect forward secrecy is NordVPN, which as you might recall, is our top-pick for privacy.

Proton recently joined the growing number of VPNs with their proprietary VPN protocols. Proton’s VPN protocol is called Stealth, and it has one special feature: obfuscation. Basically, it encrypts your traffic, but it also makes it look like regular traffic, hiding it from network, ISP, and government filters. Obfuscation is particularly useful in countries where the use of VPNs is highly controlled or monitored.

Right now, Stealth is only available for Android, iOS, iPadOS, and macOS users. Windows support is still in the works.

At work, we need fast upload speeds and low latency so our meeting software works smoothly. There’s nothing more embarrassing than when you laugh at someone’s joke but they don’t hear it until two minutes later. ProtonVPN was one of the fastest VPNs we tested on our Windows and Mac computers when it came to both upload speeds and latency.

Proton’s main advantage for users is it being an all-around privacy solution. The VPN is just one of the many privacy-focused products from Proton. It also offers ProtonMail, Proton Drive, and Proton Pass. Focusing on just the VPN, Proton offers rarely-seen features such as NetShield (ad-blocker), private DNS, and Tor over VPN. Proton is one of the only two VPNs we tested with Tor over VPN, the other being NordVPN (our #1 pick). While Proton offers only a decent 3,000+ servers in 70+ countries, it more than makes up for that with its advanced security and privacy features.

Digital privacy is Proton’s main priority, with a whole suite of privacy-focused online tools. So if your profession calls for extra privacy, like if you’re a journalist, you should consider Proton.

VPNs don’t always need to be as feature-rich as NordVPN and Surfshark. Sometimes, a simple option is better as long as it can do the job of protecting your privacy. That’s UltraVPN’s advantage. It’s simple and affordable, making it a great day-to-day VPN for casual users.

While it lacked the advanced features and customizations we saw from Private Internet Access, UltraVPN’s performance as a VPN was rock-solid. It gave us decent speeds, a bug-free app, and a respectable number of VPN servers to choose from (1,000 servers in 125 locations). For its price – $7.99 monthly or $1.99 per month if you sign up for two years – it’s definitely a cost-effective solution for online privacy.

UltraVPN’s privacy policy discusses how it doesn’t log data, but without third-party audits like we saw from Surfshark, there’s no way to concretely prove or disprove it. However, we noticed one thing that seems to indicate UltraVPN’s commitment to privacy. When India passed a law requiring VPNs to collect user data, UltraVPN was among the first to pull out from the country. It still offers India IP addresses last time we checked, but those are from virtual servers located in Singapore.

UltraVPN underdelivered in this area. It should have been fast because it uses Hydra, the proprietary VPN protocol of Hotspot Shield (#3 on this list). And as we saw earlier, Hydra is capable of nearly loss-less download speed. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about UltraVPN. Our download speed averaged 160 Mbps. That’s nearly a 40-percent drop compared to our real network speed. It wasn’t that bad, but UltraVPN isn’t nearly as fast as Hotspot Shield.

Despite its poor use of Hydra’s speed, UltraVPN used the protocol well to provide online security. It checked for and blocked malware-ridden websites. It also encrypted traffic using 256-bit AES and protected us from IP address leaks. And like our top-pick NordVPN, UltraVPN let us access a private DNS server.

Even just the fact that it uses Hydra makes UltraVPN a secure option. Cyberattackers are more likely to try to target widely-used protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard. Using a proprietary protocol used by only a handful of VPNs is a good move by UltraVPN.

We’ve mentioned Hydra several times already, but what really is it? Hydra is a VPN protocol much like OpenVPN, but it was developed by Hotspot Shield. Hydra promises to deliver fast speeds, agile connections, and good security. It’s actually one of the best VPN protocols after OpenVPN and WireGuard.

We especially liked UltraVPN’s agility when using the Hydra protocol. It reconnected automatically and swiftly even when we changed Wi-Fi networks or switched from mobile data to Wi-Fi and vice versa on our phones. It left very little opportunity for attack. It also made day-to-day use a little bit easier as we didn’t have to check our connection as often as we did with less agile protocols like OpenVPN.

UltraVPN can be quite affordable in terms of pricing. Even its monthly subscription costs only $7.99. For comparison, most VPNs cost more than $10 per month. NordVPN costs $12.99 with a monthly subscription and Surfshark costs $10.99.

If you’re looking for a VPN for long-term use, UltraVPN’s pricing gets even better. You’ll pay only $47.76 to sign up for two years. That’s an average of just $2 per month. See the pricing breakdown below.

The bottom line is, whether you’re looking for a short-term or long-term VPN, UltraVPN is a practical choice.

Features aren’t the only benefits you can get from a VPN. A streamlined user experience is also an advantage, and it’s certainly UltraVPN’s biggest flex. The app is easy to use; it’s not feature-rich, but it’s not lacking anything critical either. It has split tunneling, a kill switch for Windows (and a makeshift kill switch for Android), and one of the best VPN protocols in Hydra. Best of all, it’s affordable. With prices starting at $2 per month and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, UltraVPN offers good value if you’re looking for something more straightforward than NordVPN and our other top picks.

With its affordable pricing and user-friendly apps, we recommend UltraVPN to students and casual internet users looking for a day-to-day VPN. It’s not the fastest, but it’s reliable for daily use.

We made a video review so you can see the VPNs for yourself! Watch it below or on our Youtube channel (and be sure to subscribe once you’re there).

VPNs provide online safety by connecting you to a private server. Normal networks are subject to monitoring by the internet provider or someone with administrative access to the network. In contrast, a private network offers encryption that obscures the content of online traffic. This makes your online activity harder to track.

The top VPNs in the industry (i.e. the ones we tested and ranked above!) offer tried and tested encryption standards. Many of them offer 256-bit AES encryption, while others use the equally secure ChaCha20.

In addition, VPNs hide users’ IP addresses. Any website you visit can see your IP address. That’s not very private. When you connect to a VPN, they’ll see only the IP address of the VPN server. It acts as a stand-in for you, making sure websites can’t easily track your information.

Most VPN companies have servers all around the world so users can connect as locally as possible.The closer the server, the faster the speeds while connected. Some VPNs even encrypt users’ traffic multiple times through multiple servers, a process called “multi-hop”.1

The protection that VPNs provide doesn’t come without tradeoffs, most notably of which is reduced network speeds. Encrypting your network traffic and routing it through a server can cause your internet speed to dip a little. That’s why we make it a point to test and compare the speed of each VPN we recommend.

“Speed” is such a broad term. Objectively, it’s measured using three metrics: The download speed, upload speed, and ping or latency. And we do measure those. However, reliability and consistency also factor in. A fast VPN should be able to produce good speed readings and load websites, download data, or stream videos at a consistent speed.

You don’t need much to get access to a top VPN, or any other VPN for that matter. You simply need an account from the VPN provider and the VPN app on your devices.

First, go to the VPN provider’s website and create an account. Most VPNs require a paid subscription, so make sure to choose a plan that works for you. They typically offer monthly and annual plans.

Next, install the VPN app into your devices. Download VPN apps only from official sources. For example, for smartphones, download from the App Store or Google Play Store. For Windows and macOS, try the Microsoft Store or the Mac App Store. If the VPN’s app isn’t available from there, go to the VPN’s website and look for the “Downloads” page.

Lastly, install the app and connect. The best VPNs really make it that easy, but before you buy just any VPN subscription you could find, take a quick pause and consider this next section.

VPNs are meant to hide users’ web traffic, but what if the VPN itself isn’t trustworthy? Sadly, not all VPN companies are trustworthy. Remember that they have access to your traffic. While they shield you from external threats, VPNs can actually monitor your traffic if they choose to. You should stay as far away as possible from VPNs that do that.

FYI: There’s also an influential surveillance alliance of countries called the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes. These alliances give member countries deep access to digital communications monitoring. But while VPN companies based in member countries are riskier, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not trustworthy. As long as they have a verified “no-logs” policy, VPNs in Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes countries can be trusted.

There’s a lot more to consider besides a VPN’s trustworthiness, though. For more information on how we ranked VPNs, check out the Methodology section below.

We conducted a comprehensive study on how adults in the United States use and shop for VPNs, and we found that 68% of the survey respondents use a VPN. That said, the importance of using a VPN isn’t exclusive to the U.S. or North America alone. Everyone who uses the internet can benefit from VPNs. As such, we made a list of VPN recommendations for specific countries where VPN use is high, such as in Asia Pacific countries where 30% of internet users utilize VPNs2:

Don’t see your country in the list? No worries; in our experience, you can easily find a good VPN for your locality by looking at three key factors:

Looking at those factors will help you narrow down your options, but if you want to find the best VPN for you, you can use our methodology below as a guide.

Testing, comparing, and ranking VPNs is an arduous task, but even if you’re not a VPN expert, it’s not impossible to do tests on your own. Take a look at our methodology, and you’ll be testing VPNs like a pro in no time.

Speed is a crucial factor. Generally, using a VPN will slow down your device’s internet access. So testing VPN speed is a matter of measuring how much it slows down your network.

To do that, we do a simple comparison of our original internet speed and our internet speed when connected to a VPN. We do all our tests using our 250 Mbps office network as the control. First, we test our current internet speed, and then we connect to the VPN and check our speed again. We use Ookla’s speed test tool for both tests.3 We then compare VPN speeds by converting the rate of the drop into percentage points using this formula:

Security is another crucial factor, especially if you’re using a VPN to hide your browsing activity. To see how secure a VPN is, we do various IP address leak tests and check the privacy policy of each VPN.

Pro Tip: Ever get stuck coming up with strong passwords? Head over to another tool of ours, our Random Password Generator, to help you shore up your digital security (and it’s actually really fun to use!).

Some use VPNs to torrent anonymously, while others use VPNs to access region-blocked Netflix content. While those are far from being the only uses of a VPN, they are two of the most common, so we also test VPNs if they can serve either purpose. For this, we try to download torrent to check if VPNs are compatible with peer-to-peer (P2P) connections and access Netflix U.K., Australia, and Japan to see if they can access different Netflix regions.

Cost is another notable factor we consider. Besides just checking how much a VPN costs – they range from $2 to $15 per month – we also take into account buying policies like how long subscriptions are, whether or not there’s a free trial for the VPN or a free version, and how easy it is to cancel. Most VPNs offer a money-back option, through which you can get your money back if you cancel within a specified trial period, usually 30-days.

VPNs are simple to use but they’re a complex technology, so it’s vital to know you have access to technical support when you need it. For this, we check which customer support channels are available. Some offer phone support or live chat support that is available instantly. Others offer email support that usually takes days to respond. We prefer the former.

Finally, we review the user experience by testing the VPN apps. This is all subjective to the user, so we try to detail our app experience in every VPN review that we make. Essentially, though, what you want to see is a VPN app with intuitive controls, easy access to connection options, and all the necessary app features such as a kill switch and split tunneling. We also take a look at user reviews from the Google Play Store and App Store to see what others think about the apps.

Pro Tip: Connecting to a VPN on your mobile device is easy. Just go to the Apple or Google Play store, depending on the make of your phone, and download the VPN’s app. From there, you just have to sign in and click connect for private browsing.

The best VPNs are NordVPN, Surfshark, Private Internet Access, UltraVPN, Norton Secure, Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Proton VPN.

It is worth paying for a VPN. VPNs that are “free” typically limit the time you can use them and the amount of data you can use while connected, which is pretty limiting for most people. If you’re consistently on public Wi-Fi networks or want to access a private server, VPNs are worth shelling out a few dollars a month.

In general, VPNs are trustworthy, as nearly none of the companies we review logged our web traffic or activity. However, some VPNs are definitely more trustworthy than others; we prefer companies based in countries that are non-members to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes, international surveillance alliances. We also look for VPNs with strict logging policies that only keep the minimum amount of customer data to run their services; these kinds of VPNs are more trustworthy than most.

Typically, you can’t be tracked if you use a VPN. VPNs hide your web traffic and activity and replace your real IP address with a stand-in. However, some VPN companies do keep your real IP address along with your device type, the times you went online, and more information that could be used to track people. That’s why it’s important to look at the VPN’s privacy policy and make sure that it’s strict.

The best free VPNs, which mostly offer limited versions of their premium VPNs, are Hotspot Shield, Privado VPN, AtlasVPN, Surfshark, and TunnelBear.

Bitdefender. (2023). The Importance of Multi-Hop VPNs in Our Privacy-Deprived World.
bitdefender.com/blog/hotforsecurity/the-importance-of-multi-hop-vpns-in-our-privacy-deprived-world/

Statista. (2018). Where Do People Use VPNs? statista.com/chart/16141/top-vpn-region/