VPNBrains

10 Best VPNs in 2021 for PCs, Laptops, and Smartphones

Updated on: August 18, 2021

Best VPNs on the market

In a Hurry? Here’s the BEST VPN for 2021

ExpressVPN is our pick for the Best VPN on the market, checking the boxes for efficiency in every category we tested. Save 49% with this special discount.

With 25% of the global population using VPNs, it won’t be long before almost everyone you meet is using a virtual private network in daily life.

The problem is, with loads of VPNs selling themselves as the “best VPN on the market,” how can these millions of users determine who is actually telling the truth, and who is just hiring the best PR department?

This is where we come in. While most people can’t stomach spending hours upon hours researching VPNs, testing VPNs is our jam!

To determine the very best VPNs on the market, my team of researchers systematically evaluated over 300 VPNs to see if they met our criteria (delineated below) and standards. Over the course of a 60-day period of evaluation and testing, we came up with a list of the top 10 VPNs that we can definitively say are the most reputable out there.

We set out to help you find the best VPN services for your particular needs, testing such criteria as VPN security, privacy policy, speed, connections, reliability, usability, and ability to unblock restricted content. We connected to servers all over the globe to see which VPNs delivered, and which just couldn’t keep up with the competition.

We can confidently report that, after rigorous testing, our top 10 VPNs will not only work, but will keep you secure, will safeguard your data, and will give you rocket-fast streaming speeds.

On a Clock? Here Are the BEST VPNs in 2021:

  1. ExpressVPN – Super-fast, reputable, and consistently reliable connections when streaming, torrenting, surfing the web, or in need of online privacy and security.
  2. NordVPN – Large server network and great speeds for torrenting, streaming, or online browsing; and enhanced security for a reliably safe connection.
  3. Surfshark – Good speeds, security, and privacy features, and unlimited simultaneous device connections on one user account – all at an affordable price.
  4. CyberGhost – Easily unblock geo-restricted content with good connection speeds, a large server network, and a 45-day money-back guarantee.
  5. UltraVPN  – Reliable connection speeds for streaming, browsing, and torrenting at an affordable price.

Keep reading for another 5 of the top VPNs on the market.

The Best VPN Services in 2021: Full Analysis 

1. ExpressVPN – Overall Best VPN

ExpressVPN
Company Location: Panama
Servers: 5400
Countries: 59
Connections: Up to 5
Speed: 1037 Mbit/s
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-day
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-day
Netflix: Yes
Price:

ExpressVPN is our #1 choice for Best VPN in 2021, with over 3,000 high-speed servers in 94 countries around the world. Whether you are connecting to a local server or a server around the globe, your connection speeds when using this VPN service will be consistently, reliably fast.

ExpressVPN’s speed bodes well for those of you who are looking for top-notch torrenting capabilities in your VPN service. All of ExpressVPN’s servers support P2P traffic, and its Smart Location feature will automatically choose the best server for you, so you can torrent your media quickly, and with minimal trial and error. ExpressVPN also offers split tunneling, which can help you customize the VPN exclusively for torrenting.

If you are looking to stream the latest movies and shows, ExpressVPN can help you access your content in HD with no buffering or lag, and with consistently stable connections. You can use the MediaStreamer DNS service with your VPN to get even faster streaming speeds when breaking through geo-blocks.

When put to the test, ExpressVPN had no problem unblocking Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, Disney+, ESPN+, Showtime, and the many other streaming platforms we tested.

ExpressVPN has native apps for all main devices, including Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, PlayStation, Xbox, routers, Linux, Chromebook, smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, gaming consoles, and others.

Since most households have many different devices under one roof, it is good to note that you can connect up to 5 simultaneous devices using the same account, and that adding these devices will not slow your browsing experience.

As for privacy – ExpressVPN offers military-grade 256-bit encryption, split tunneling, DNS leak protection, a Kill Switch, and OpenVPN across all platforms, so all of your information will remain private and secure at all times.

It’s also good to remember that ExpressVPN is based in Panama, which is outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, so all of your activity and information will remain out of government reach. And, of course, Express has a strict, verified no-logs policy, so there really, truly is never any worry that your information is being kept by anyone. Ever.

Now, for a feature that sets the good VPNs apart from the greats: Can ExpressVPN break through the Great Firewall of China? Yes! During our tests, ExpressVPN was consistently able to get through China’s geo-blocks, earning an extra few points on top of its already high score.

The one drawback of ExpressVPN is that it is one of the more expensive VPN services. But, in all honesty, the few-dollar increase in price for an ExpressVPN subscription is completely worth paying, in my book, because those few dollars buy peace of mind knowing that my connection is always going to be reliable, fast, and completely secure.

From experience, I can attest that ExpressVPN has some of the most responsive, most knowledgeable customer support around. I cannot tell you how many times I have utilized its 24/7 live-chat feature, relieved to chat with somebody on the other side who could give me immediate, to-the-point, expert assistance.

All in all, if you are looking for consistent performance, guaranteed privacy and security, and reliable service, you can’t go wrong with ExpressVPN – the best VPN service in 2021.

In the end, if for some reason you are not pleased with the ExpressVPN, you can opt out within 30 days for a full refund, guaranteed, so there really is nothing to lose.

Pros:

  1. Exceptional streaming speeds
  2. Easy to use across platforms
  3. 24/7 live chat support
  4. 5 simultaneous device connections
  5. 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  1. More expensive than the other VPNs
  2. No free trial

NordVPN
Company Location: ---
Servers: 5400+
Countries: 59
Connections: Up to 6
Speed: Excellent
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

NordVPN is one of the best VPN services, ranking a close second on our “best VPN” list. It has over 5400 VPN servers in 60 countries worldwide and, although it’s not as fast as ExpressVPN, NordVPN consistently delivers good speeds and reliable connections.

This large network offers fast and secure torrenting, with specialty servers for P2P sharing.

Using Nord’s SmartPlay DNS feature, you can automatically unblock and get quick buffer-free access to Netflix, Hulu US, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video Disney+, and over 400 different services.

NordVPN has obfuscated servers that can bypass firewalls and geographic restrictions, and a double VPN that sends your traffic through an extra layer of encryption, giving you the most secure experience out there.

This VPN service protects your activity with its AES 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN and IKEc2/IPSec protocols that will keep your footprint hidden. Its CyberSec feature also provides an extra layer of protection from malware and annoying ads that may pop up.

If you are worried about surveillance, it is good to note that Nord is based in Panama, far from the 14 Eyes surveillance, and it also offers a strict no-logs policy, which we have verified to be reliable.

NordVPN has native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, smart TVs, routers, and Linux, so there should never be a problem finding an app that is compatible with your device, and you can use up to 6 devices simultaneously with a single subscription, which means you’ll be able to use a combination of devices without compromising your speed or quality.

The final test: Does NordVPN break through China’s geo-blocks? During all of our tests, Nord was able to access Netflix and other streaming sites in China. Extra points for NordVPN!

Nord has stellar customer service, including 24/7 live chat support that you can use in case any problems arise, but if you are still not sold after a few weeks, you can opt out and take advantage of its 30-day refund guarantee.

Pros:

  1. Very fast streaming speeds
  2. Double VPN and obfuscated servers
  3. No-logging policy
  4. Cheaper than ExpressVPN
  5. 6 user connections on one plan

Cons:

  1. Speed can be slower when advanced security is engaged

Surfshark VPN
Company Location: ---
Servers: 1700+
Countries: 60+
Connections: Unlimited
Speed: Good
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

Surfshark is one of the best VPNs out there.

Though Surfshark’s speed does not compare to ExpressVPN or NordVPN, its servers are still plenty fast for torrenting or streaming with hardly any buffering or lag.

Surfshark has proven to be successful at unblocking streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, Disney+, ESPN+, and Amazon Prime Video (though not on mobile devices), BBC iPlayer, and more.

It has native apps for pretty much all devices and platforms you use, including Windows, Android, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Fire TV, Apple TV, and more.

Surfshark passes all the tests for security features with its AES 256-bit encryption, split tunneling, double encryption, Kill Switch, and its special CleanWeb suite, which blocks ads and protects against malware.

Like Nord and Express, Surfshark is located outside of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, and it has a strict, verified, no-logging policy, so you should never be worried that your online activity is ever being tracked or kept.

Part of what pushes Surfshark toward the top of the “best VPN” list is that it allows for unlimited devices to connect on just one account, making it ideal for a large family who wants to connect multiple electronics at once.

Now, what about China??

All Surfshark servers are compatible with the VPN’s Camouflage mode, which conceals the fact that you’re using a VPN, and makes it almost impossible for the Chinese government to detect you, because your browsing mimics normal internet traffic. That is 3 strikes for China!

Surfshark also offers some great 24/7 live-chat customer support and a 30-day refund guarantee, giving you the chance to try this VPN for a few weeks and then change your mind without penalty.

Pros:

  1. Live chat
  2. No-logging policy
  3. Unlimited simultaneous connections
  4. Affordable
  5. Ease of use

Cons:

  1. Slightly slower speeds
  2. Split tunneling only available on Windows and Android
  3. Amazon Prime Video not available on mobile devices

Company Location: ---
Servers: 6900+
Countries: 110
Connections: Up to 7
Speed: Good
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

CyberGhost has over 6,900 servers in 89 countries around the world.

Its speeds are pretty reliable, with only some minor lags here and there, which makes it a good choice for streaming ESPN+, HBO GO, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other media streaming sites.

CyberGhost has native apps for Mac, Windows, Android or iOS-based mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and more.

You can connect a pretty sizable 7 devices simultaneously to one VPN account, which is higher than what NordVPN and ExpressVPN allow.

CyberGhost VPN has optimized P2P servers and offers very fast torrenting speeds. If you live in a country where P2P activity is discouraged, you’ll want to know that your downloads are not just fast, but also secure; CyberGhost also delivers in this department.

CyberGhost VPN offers 256-bit AES-encryption, a Kill Switch, and a built-in adblocker. On top of this, It is based in Romania, which is out of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. Its location, together with its reassuring zero logs policy, ensure that your activity will never be kept or tracked.

Unlike the other VPN services, CyberGhost VPN offers the user a 45-day money-back guarantee, giving you way more time to change your mind about this VPN with absolutely no penalty.

Pros:

  1. Good streaming speeds
  2. No-logging policy
  3. Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites
  4. Large server network
  5. 45-day money-back guarantee
  6. Use up to 7 connections at once

CyberGhost Cons:

  1. Slower long-distance speeds

ultravpn
Company Location: ---
Servers: 100+
Countries: 58
Connections: Up to 3
Speed: Good
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

UltraVPN is among the smallest of the VPNs with around 100 servers spread across almost 60 countries. Despite this, I was impressed with UltraVPN’s connection speed and reliability.

It was hard to find out very much information about P2P connections on their website, but they do allow unlimited torrenting.

UltraVPN can unblock streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO, but it is not able to unblock BBC iPlayer or Disney+, so its claim to “access the whole web” is, well – a lie.

You can connect UltraVPN using native apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, FireTV, web browsers, and routers.

UltraVPN has strong security with 256-bit encryption, and options to use IKEv2, UDP, or TCP protocols, and an automatic Kill Switch that will protect your data in the event that your internet fails.

UltraVPN does not have any ad-blocking feature included with its VPN.

If you are worried about surveillance, it is important to note that UltraVPN is based in the US, and that the US is a 5/9/14 Eyes country. Even so, it claims that it does not keep logs. When we checked further, it turns out that it does collect user’s IP address, location, and device information, but not any logs of your activity.

It is probably not surprising to hear that UltraVPN does not work in China, as they are not as advanced the VPNs as the ones at the top of this list.

The smallest of the bunch, an UltraVPN account only allows you to use 3 devices simultaneously, so if more than three of you want to connect at once, another of the other VPNs might be a better option.

UltraVPN is the only one of the group that offers a 7-day free trial with limited servers, as well as a 30-day money-back guarantee. If any issues arise, there is the option to live chat with a representative or contact 24/7 by toll-free phone number.

All in all, this is a small and less-advanced VPN that really doesn’t offer as much value for your money as all of the VPNs listed above it on the list.

Pros:

  1. 7-day free trial with limited servers
  2. 30-day money-back guarantee
  3. 24/7 support & toll-free number

Cons:

  1. Keeps some logs
  2. Slower speeds
  3. Only connects 3 users simultaneously
  4. Limited features
  5. No BBC iPlayer outside the UK

private_internet_access_vpn
Company Location: ---
Servers: 20,000+
Countries: 76
Connections: Up to 10
Speed: Average
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

If this were a race to see which VPN service could offer the most servers, Private Internet Access would be on top. Private Internet Access boasts an insane amount of servers – over 20,000 in more than 75 countries worldwide.

But the measure of a great VPN is not simply its size. How is its security? Speed?

Private Internet Access also offers good privacy and security protocols. With PIA, you can actually customize your data encryption standards, so you can choose AES-128, AES-256, or no encryption at all. The standard these days for best security is AES-256, so this is what I recommend you use. Lowering the level of encryption will make your browsing less private, but it will also increase your speeds, which might be helpful in certain scenarios.

PIA is based in the US, which is a 5-Eyes country, so even though it has a strict no-logs policy.

When tested, torrenting with PIA was fast, and is allowed on all servers. Speeds were good enough to maintain HD streaming with almost no buffering or lag. PIA is able to unblock Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming sites.

It is easy to use Private Internet Access on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and more, and you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, which really does make this service appealing to those of us with many devices, or with family members who will also want to connect to the VPN service.

The reason PIA is not at the top of the list, despite its huge server size, is because it does not come close to the connection speeds of more highly ranked VPNs, like ExpressVPN.

PIA will be totally sufficient for the average streamer, but if you are interested in gaming, or hate to experience any buffering at all, you should opt for one of the top three servers on this list that are known for smooth, super-fast connectivity.

PIA offers live-chat customer service, as well as the pretty standard 30-day guarantee.

Pros:

  1. Large server network
  2. Affordable
  3. 24/7 Support
  4. 30-day money-back guarantee
  5. 10 simultaneous device-connections

Cons:

  1. Inconsistent speeds
  2. In the 5-Eyes country

ipvanish_vpn
Company Location: ---
Servers: 1500+
Countries: 75+
Connections: Unlimited
Speed: Good
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

IPVanish has over 1500 anonymous servers in over 50 countries around the globe, with over 40,000 shared IPs.

IPVanish has proven to unblock most major streaming platforms, like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and more.

It has native apps for most devices, like Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick.

IPVanish has above-average speeds and offers all the important security features, like 256-bit AES-Encryption, SOCKS5 web proxy, a Kill Switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a no-logs policy.

It is important to note that, even if IPVanish has a no-logs policy, it is based in the privacy-unfriendly US, which is inside the 5/9/14 Eyes territory.

A really sweet feature – IPVanish includes SugarSync secure cloud storage (250 GB) with all of its VPN plans. This encrypts your internet connection and files as well as provides secure file management and encrypted data backup for your devices. You can also use this to remotely wipe your data and account information in the event that you lose your phone.

Like CyberGhost, IPVanish allows for unlimited simultaneous device connections. If you aren’t sure you want to go with IPVanish, you can use it for a few weeks and then get a full refund with the IPVanish 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  1. Unlimited simultaneous device connections
  2. Owns its own servers
  3. 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  1. Will not unblock Amazon or iPlayer
  2. In the 5-Eyes country

Company Location: ---
Servers: 150+
Countries: 60
Connections: Up to 6
Speed: Good
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

PrivateVPN is one of the smaller VPN services with just over 150 servers in 60 countries worldwide, but don’t let its small size discount it.

PrivateVPN was able to unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, and has native apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, and routers.

Torrenting is supported on the entire network, so there are no specific dedicated servers.

In terms of security, PrivateVPN really lives up to its name, “Private,” with its Kill Switch and 2048-bit AES-256 bit-encryption. Private VPN uses OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, and IPSec protocol.

It is important to note that this VPN is based in Sweden, which is in the 14-Eyes territory. Its no-logs policy, however, ensures that they will not have any information on users to turn over, even if it is requested.

PrivateVPN gives you a 7-day trial, and if you decide to test it longer, you can rely on its 30-day money-back guarantee to give you some more time to try it without any penalty.

Pros:

  1. 30-day money-back guarantee
  2. No-logs
  3. Unblocks Netflix
  4. 6 simultaneous connections
  5. 7-day free trial
  6. Remote virtual help

Cons:

  1. Based in Sweden, which is in the 14-Eyes Alliance
  2. Kill Switch only available on a Windows app
  3. Slower than some of its competitors
  4. Live chat is sometimes unreliable

Company Location: ---
Servers: 2900
Countries: 78
Connections: Unlimited
Speed: Average
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

ZenMate is not one of the most widely-known VPN providers, but it does have some notable features.

Unfortunately, ZenMate was unable to unblock some of the most popular streaming services, like Hulu. It was able to unblock Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, and Amazon Prime Video.

ZenMate is good for torrenting; It allows P2P connections, is fast enough and offers a dedicated torrenting section with optimized P2P servers.

It is based in Germany, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, but that should not matter too much as ZenMate does have a strict no-logs policy, so it would not be able to hand over any records to the authorities even if it were asked.

Unfortunately, ZenMate does share some of its data, including your name and email address, for marketing and technical purposes. While none of your activity is logged, this grey area is still enough to make me uncomfortable.

Unlike some other VPN providers that claim they work in China, even if they do not consistently deliver, ZenMate makes it clear to customers that they do not work there, and that if you are looking to try to connect in China, it is not worth choosing their VPN.

They definitely get points for honesty in my book.

Zenmate is compatible with Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and some Chromium-based browsers, macOS, Windows, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and OpenVPN.

Their browser extensions use AES 128-bit encryption, and their desktop and mobile clients use AES 256-bit military-grade encryption.

Unlike many of the VPNs these days, ZenMate offers a 7-day free trial, so you can try it for yourself with no risk. On top of the trial, if you are not pleased, they will refund your money within 30 days.

Pros:

  1. Affordable
  2. 30-day money-back guarantee
  3. Unlimited simultaneous device connections
  4. Unblocks Netflix

Cons:

  1. Shares some user data
  2. In the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance

Company Location: ---
Servers: 700+
Countries: 63
Connections: Up to 5
Speed: Good, but inconsistent
Torrenting: Yes
Logs: Yes
Free Trial: 30-days
Live Chat Support: Yes
Money Back: 30-days
Netflix: Yes
Price:

VyprVPN is a Swiss-based VPN with over 700 servers, spanning 66 countries.

It keeps up with the remainder of the VPNs on this list with a verified no-logging policy, and WireGuard protocol on its desktop clients and mobile VPN apps. Vypr features a Kill Switch, AES 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and URL filtering. Unfortunately, the iOS app does not have a Kill Switch or some features that the Android version has.

Even though it is a much smaller VPN than some, it is spread widely across different countries around the world, and its servers are owned by VyprVPN itself, so it doesn’t have to rely on third-party hosts which may compromise security.

VyprVPN was quickly able to unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, and many other streaming sites. The only site that outsmarted Vypr was Amazon Prime Video.

A really cool feature that VyprVPN offers is its Proprietary Chameleon protocol. This feature gives extra power to unblock geo-restrictions in places like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, and guess what? It actually works.

VyprVPN has live chat, and a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can sign up and try it with no commitment, and cancel for a full refund.

Pros:

  1. Unblocks Netflix and other services
  2. Good privacy features
  3. 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  1. Slow connections
  2. Issue with its Kill Switch
  3. No built-in ad blocker

10 Best VPNs in 2021: Quick Comparison Table

Free Trial Money-Back Guarantee Compatible Streaming Service
ExpressVPN No 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
NordVPN No 30 Days  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
Surfshark 7 Days For Mobile 30 Days  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
CyberGhost 24 Hours 45 Days  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
UltraVPN No 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more
PIA No 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
IPVanish No 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
BBC iPlayer, and more
PrivateVPN 7 Days 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
BBC iPlayer, and more
ZenMate 7 Days 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
BBC iPlayer, and more
VyprVPN No 30 Days Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video,
HBO, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more

How We Analyzed, Ranked, and Compared VPNs

With what seems like endless VPNs from which to choose, it is important to know how to properly pick one VPN company over the other (hundred or so). We have worked long and hard to streamline the choices for you by creating categories to help us rate VPNs according to a variety of important criteria.

Our evaluations of the different VPNs were based on their security features, speed, streaming capability, torrenting, ability to bypass censorship, and compatibility.

Here is the explanation of the basic factors we used to determine our top 10 VPNs:

Privacy & security

Two of the main reasons to use a VPN are for the privacy and security afforded to internet users. While most VPNs have features that enhance your security and safeguard your identity and privacy, some have the opposite effect, making you more vulnerable to attacks and malware.

When rating a VPN on these features, we make sure that it has an adequate privacy policy in place, and that it has proper security protocols, including military-grade encryption, a verified no-logs policy, and a reliable Kill Switch.

Using a VPN, you should always be confident that your digital footprint is completely secure.

Speed

When you use a VPN, your traffic is sent through additional encrypted servers, which could affect your speed. Using a VPN will always slow your activity slightly, but this amount should almost undetectable.

A fast VPN service will have almost no adverse effect on your connection speed and will allow you to stream or torrent without lag or buffering.

Streaming

The average person who uses a VPN is looking for unrestricted access to streaming services (read: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video) that are otherwise geo-blocked.

We tested and ranked VPNs according to how easy to use they were for streaming media content, and how effectively they could get through geographic restrictions. We also looked for consistency. Were they able to stream shows in restricted areas whenever we logged in to their servers? Was the streaming quality always clear and buffer-free?

Torrenting

Important features that we look for when evaluating a VPN for torrenting are P2P profiles, SOCKS5 proxies, and easy setup with torrent clients.

VPNs are especially helpful in heavily restricted regions, but even when you are torrenting safely, you can be exposed to hackers.

Peer-to-peer connections are not secure enough to use for torrenting without a good VPN. A reliable VPN will conceal your IP address and encrypt your online activity.

Censorship

The test of a great VPN is seeing if it works even in heavily censored countries, like China. The VPNs at the top of our list are all able to break through regions like China and the UAE, which have very strict VPN and streaming restrictions and heavy censorship on internet use.

Compatibility

The average consumer owns multiple different devices these days, so it is particularly important that VPN services be versatile enough to work with a whole range of devices and platforms.

Customer Service

Since not all VPN users are tech-savvy – and even for us tech-savvy users – good customer support can make or break the VPN experience. We took into consideration whether or not each VPN had live troubleshooting options, and whether support was available immediately, or just during certain hours. It was also important to note whether the VPNs had satisfaction guarantees in the form of a money-back period.

Other factors, such as price, server size, and ease of use were also considered when ranking the above VPNs.

What is a Virtual Private Network? Quick Explanation.

If you are this far in the review and are still unclear about what a VPN actually is, then I haven’t done my job. But here is a quick explanation, just to review:

A VPN is, just as its name implies, is a service that you can connect to so that you can surf the internet privately.

The service does this by sending your information through encrypted (or double encrypted) tunnels so that your information, identity, and location are always hidden.

VPN services are often used to conceal your location so that you can unblock services that are geographically restricted to certain parts of the world. This is particularly useful when you are trying to access shows from various streaming sites, like Hulu, that are only accessible from the USA.

How to Choose a VPN

There are many important factors to take into consideration when choosing a VPN that will fulfill your needs:

☑️ Does the VPN have a selection of servers available in the region that you need?

If you subscribe to a VPN service that boasts 5,000 servers worldwide, but only has 1 in the country you need to access, this VPN is not the right choice for you. But, at the same time, you don’t need thousands, or even hundreds of available servers in each geographical location. You want to make sure that you have enough of a selection of fast servers so that you can switch from one to another if one is not working well for you.

☑️ How many simultaneous connections are supported by the VPN?

Nowadays, we all have multiple devices around the house that we use on a regular basis. Good VPN services will allow you to connect at least 5 of your devices simultaneously to a single VPN account, which would mean connecting your tablet, computer, phone, and PC would be totally fine. Some plans, like Surfshark, allow unlimited simultaneous device connections, so you can connect all of your family’s devices at the same time. If this is a priority to you, finding a plan that allows more device connections should be a top priority.

☑️ What are their connection protocols?

Fast, secure choices are OpenVPN and IKeV2. I It is important to know that extra protocol choices can mean faster, more reliable connections.

☑️ What is their logs policy?

Some VPNs only keep your log-in time and day, and some only log your data usage. Some will actually log your IP address, or keep your data for a period of time before discarding it. It is important to look for a VPN with a verified, strict no-logs policy, and then read the fine print. Paying for a VPN in order to protect your virtual footprint, only to find out that they log/keep your data, and potentially sell it to third-party vendors, completely defeats the purpose.

☑️ How does the software client handle your connection?

Some clients display ping time and server load in the interface, which can make it easier to make an informed decision about which server to choose.

☑️ How much does the VPN cost?

A very cheap, or free, VPN service can have a lot of surprises hidden in its services. Some are not as secure or charge a fee after a certain trial period. Others are just plain unsafe to use in terms of privacy and security. Make sure you read the features and plan details, and remember that paying more per month does not always equal better quality; and paying less per month does not always equal cheap quality.

What Can You Use a VPN for?

Bypassing censorship restrictions

One of the most popular uses for a VPN is to get around geo-blocks – restrictions placed on your access to certain internet content based on your geographic location.

Masking your IP addresses is the best way to trick websites into thinking you are at a location where you are permitted to use their services. IP addresses that are located in restricted locations can connect to servers in permitted locations, and appear as acceptable, bona fide IP addresses.

A common example of this is trying to access the US-based Hulu, or the US Netflix library from abroad. You can be sitting in the Middle East, but connect to your VPN provider through its NY server, which would display a US IP address, and unblock access to all of the US shows and movies you want to stream – as if you are sitting in the Big Apple.

Protection / Security

Another use of a VPN is security. If you are using public Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi hotspot – like in a library, or at the airport – how can you be sure no one is hacking into your device?

How can you protect yourself from being targeted by cyber-criminals when you are connecting to third-party networks? Connecting to a VPN will keep your personal information, location, and internet activity safe from any cyber attacks, malware, or scams, which are becoming more and more prevalent as people have now become so used to sharing all of their private details online.

Preventing ISP throttling

An often overlooked use for a VPN is that it can be used to make sure your ISP is not throttling your internet connection. ISPs throttle your streaming and internet usage, even on unlimited data plans. This can make your internet experience so incredibly frustrating, with poor video quality and loads of buffering. If you connect to a VPN service, this prevents an ISP from detecting your internet use, preventing any throttling attempts by your ISP.

Protecting privacy & freedom of speech

In countries where free speech is frowned upon, and governments censor their citizens, a VPN service can protect a user’s IP addresses and privacy and guarantee that they cannot be identified and potentially punished, or even jailed, for their words.

Encryption

Encryption ensures that hackers, if they manage to access your personal data, would not be able to decipher what it says. This ensures that you are always protected from cyber-criminals.

Blocking ads and malware

Many VPNs have built-in protection against malware and ads, so you don’t have to worry about the annoyance, or the risk, of being infected by a virus while using the internet.

Downloading files

Many people use VPN connections to download files/torrent. While some may use a VPN to access copyrighted materials or to perform illegal downloads, a VPN can be very helpful for downloading completely legal torrents. If your ISP is throttling BitTorrent and making it extremely slow, you can use BitTorrent on a VPN to get faster speeds. Many of the VPNs mentioned above are very effective at torrenting.

FAQs

star What is the best VPN in 2021?

We have deemed ExpressVPN to be the best VPN service of 2021. While there are many reasons that it deserves this Gold medal, the main one is simply that when we are using ExpressVPN, we never have to worry about whether or not it will do its job. It is reliable, super-fast, totally secure, and easy to use across the gamut of devices.

In short, it unblocks websites and streaming services, keeps our online presence secure and private, and does the job we pay it to do, every time. If there are any technical issues that arise, we love Express’s 24/7 customer support in live-chat form, so that even though ExpressVPN is a virtual service, there is an actual person behind the scenes looking out for us.

ExpressVPN has enough servers, widely spread throughout the world, so that we are never worried about finding the right connection, no matter which country we choose; and although there is always a small decrease in speed when connecting to a VPN for streaming, there is almost no speed loss at all when using Express. It is simply the fastest VPN out there. Period.

star How do VPNs work?

A VPN server creates a secure connection between you and whichever site you are trying to access. The VPN service encrypts all of the web traffic between you and the website you are aiming to reach, rerouting it through its own encrypted server.

If you are trying to connect to a site that has geo-restrictions that block your access, the VPN allows you to connect to one of its private servers in a location that will gain you access, disguising your actual location and substituting it with one of the VPN server locations. So you and your device can be sitting in a coffee shop in Australia while your connection shows that you are surfing the web from New York.

star Why do I need a VPN?

One of the most important reasons why you may need a VPN service is for improved security and privacy.

If you are logging on to public wi-fi, like at an airport or a library, a VPN can protect you from cyber-attacks and hackers, and keep your web traffic and personal information encrypted and from getting into the wrong hands.

Another reason why many people need a VPN is to help them access restricted content. A virtual private network conceals your foreign, or restricted IP address, and sends all of your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel, connecting you to a server in a location that is not blocked. This allows you to watch your US shows while traveling abroad.

VPNs also help bypass restrictions imposed in certain local places, like at work or school. With a VPN, you can navigate sites that are otherwise restricted in heavily regulated locations, like the library, or your office – even if it is just to check your personal email.

For a pretty small fee per month – literally the cost of a coffee at Starbucks (at least in the US), a VPN service can help you access blocked services, protect your identity and information, and keep you safe from cyber attack. It seems worth it to me.

star Are VPNs legal?

Yes. VPNs are completely legal to use almost anywhere in the world – Canada, US, Australia…

Some countries that heavily surveil or censor your internet place much stricter regulations on VPN use.

The countries that strongly frown upon using VPNs are China, Iran, Iran, Turkey, UAE, Russia, Oman, and Belarus.

A very important reminder: If you are involved in any illegal activity, like cyberstalking, downloading illegal content, or hacking into unauthorized computer networks, using a VPN service to commit these activities does not make such activity legal.

star Are VPNs safe to use?

In most countries, VPNs are safe to use. You could be making yourself vulnerable if you are using a VPN in a country that does not allow certain VPNs, or if you torrent copyrighted material with a VPN service that keeps logs or doesn’t have a Kill switch, which would make it easy for you to be caught.

It could also make you vulnerable to malware and lack of privacy if you choose a VPN that is not reputable. Some of the free VPNs infect your devices with viruses, or sell your private information to third-parties.

star How much does a VPN cost?

For all the services VPNs perform, they are incredibly affordable. While the average cost of a VPN per month is in the $5 range, you can get some for less than $2/month.

We are always advertising the most exclusive discounts, so check out our coupon page for the latest deals to save you money.

star Should I pay for a VPN?

In short – yes, you should pay for a VPN. Paid VPNs tend to have faster streaming than free versions. In addition, they won’t allow ads to pop up on your devices, and do not impose any bandwidth limits that free options often do. They also guarantee your privacy with their no-logs policies.

Not only do many free versions log your personal data, but they sell it to third-party vendors for financial gain.

star Can I use free VPNs instead of paid ones?

While it is definitely your prerogative to use a free VPN, I would strongly advise against it. Even the best free VPN services are limited.

VPN providers are not out to do give you free services to better humankind. They are making money – just not off of your subscription fee. Free servers are known to slow your connection speeds, introduce malware to your devices, sell your private information to third parties, or allow annoying ads to pop up on your device.

There are some free VPNs that are OK to use, but you need to be very discerning about which one you choose, and, as far as I’m concerned, if you can afford a couple of dollars a month to pay for a tried and true service, you should invest in your safety and security with a professional-quality VPN.

star Is Tor or proxy a good alternative to a VPN?

While you can use Tor to browse the Internet, it’s not the best alternative to a VPN. Tor uses complex encryption and it’s very slow compared to a VPN, and also has several downsides. Tor is really only good for private, casual browsing.

Proxies only change your IP but don’t encrypt your traffic, which means that if you are using only a proxy, you’re exposed to hackers, cyber-attacks, and all sorts of snooping.

A VPN is the best option because it has strong encryption and allows you to engage in different activities that otherwise would be impossible with Tor, such as streaming HD video or doing things that require fast connectivity.

So, while Tor, proxy, and VPN are all similar, they are not interchangeable. A VPN is your best bet if you are looking for speed, security, and streaming.

A good rule is that you can use VPN all the time to improve your privacy without disturbing your web-activity. Also, you can use Tor and VPN at the same time if you don’t mind the negative impact on your speed.

star Does Windows 10 have a VPN?

Yes. Windows 10 has a free, decent, but limited, VPN service. The best use for this built-in VPN is for connecting to the internet at work through an encrypted VPN.

If you are looking to get maximal use out of your VPN, I strongly advise that you opt for a premium VPN service, like ExpressVPN.

Yes. Windows 10 has a free, decent, but limited, VPN service. The best use for this built-in VPN is for connecting to the internet at work through an encrypted VPN. If you are looking to get maximal use out of your VPN, I strongly advise that you opt for a premium VPN service, like ExpressVPN.

Yes. Windows 10 has a free, decent, but limited, VPN service. The best use for this built-in VPN is for connecting to the internet at work through an encrypted VPN. If you are looking to get maximal use out of your VPN, I strongly advise that you opt for a premium VPN service, like ExpressVPN.

Yes. Windows 10 has a free, decent, but limited, VPN service. The best use for this built-in VPN is for connecting to the internet at work through an encrypted VPN. If you are looking to get maximal use out of your VPN, I strongly advise that you opt for a premium VPN service, like ExpressVPN.

Yes. Windows 10 has a free, decent, but limited, VPN service. The best use for this built-in VPN is for connecting to the internet at work through an encrypted VPN. If you are looking to get maximal use out of your VPN, I strongly advise that you opt for a premium VPN service, like ExpressVPN.

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  • Fast speeds.
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