Using the methods above does not prevent unwanted traffic if a malicious Internet user is remotely controlling the VPN client computer. To prevent this, ensure that the VPN client computer has a firewall enabled (such as Internet Connection Firewall in Windows XP) and an anti-virus program installed and running with the latest virus signature file installed. These are also settings that can be enabled and enforced when using Network Access Quarantine Control.
All that being said, some VPNs are still all around faster than others. Below we’ve listed our top five fastest VPNs tested in the last year, out of a total of nearly two dozen premium providers. Speed tests we run factor largely into this list, but other non-quantifiable parameters based on our personal experience are also taken into consideration. These include how well they stream HD video and game online.
Due to licensing restrictions, iOS developers previously couldn’t implement OpenVPN connections directly inside their applications. Since that changed in mid-2018, a few providers, including IVPN and PrivateInternetAccess, have added native OpenVPN support to their apps. This makes a secure connection on any Apple device much easier than the old method that required a clunky third-party application and complicated connection profiles. Though we haven’t done performance tests on any updated iOS apps yet, our limited use of the updated IVPN app worked without any problems. Going forward, we wouldn’t consider a VPN provider that doesn’t include native OpenVPN support on iOS.
Think about it this way: If your car pulls out of your driveway, someone can follow you and see where you are going, how long you are at your destination, and when you are coming back. They might even be able to peek inside your car and learn more about you. With a VPN service, you are essentially driving into a closed parking garage, switching to a different car, and driving out, so that no one who was originally following you knows where you went.
We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.
IVPN was one of the fastest providers when we tested US servers using the Internet Health Test. Our budget pick, TorGuard, was faster, but it defaults to the less secure 128-bit encryption. Our non-VPN connection tested at roughly 300 Mbps down. Some tested services are not listed because connection failures prevented some of our tests from completing.
Every VPN will tell you it is does not track your internet activity or is a “zero logs” VPN. In reality, delivering high performance across an extensive global network is impossible unless you are monitoring at least some connection details of your users. You could read a ton of privacy policies and terms of service to find out exactly what’s collected and for how long it’s stored or let us do that for you and just check the logging policy section of our review that explains this in plain language. Ideally you want a VPN that does not log your IP address at all and limits timestamp logging to just the date of your connection.
If you’re an online gamer who uses a VPN to access another region’s servers (or because you got IP banned), the most important factor in choosing a VPN is latency. The ping time between the game servers and your computer or console is mostly what determines how much lag you’ll experience. If you want to stay competitive, figure out where the game’s regional servers are hosted and choose the nearest VPN server.
OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.
Final Verdict – IPVanish is a decent VPN service with one of the most appealing user-interfaces. It is fast, both in connecting to servers and during actual Internet activity. It uses the modern AES 256 bit encryption and provides up to 10 multiple logins. However, it does not work with Netflix and is not a recommended VPN for torrenting. For everything else, it is a great VPN service. You can get a detailed view in our IPVanish review.
TrackStop – Ads are basically advanced tracking to record your browsing, so you can be hit with targeted ads based on your online activity. To protect users against this threat, Perfect Privacy developed TrackStop, which is a powerful filter that blocks advertising, tracking, and malicious domains at the VPN server level. It ranked the best among different VPN ad blockers I tested.
The globetrotter. This person wants to watch the Olympics live as they happen, without dealing with their crummy local networks. They want to check out their favorite TV shows as they air instead of waiting for translations or re-broadcasts (or watch the versions aired in other countries,) listen to location-restricted streaming internet radio, or want to use a new web service or application that looks great but for some reason is limited to a specific country or region.
Our runner-up is Hotspot Shield, which offers 500MB free per day, amounting to roughly 15GB per month. Like Windscribe, it didn't slow down our connections much. But Hotspot Shield admits that it partners with advertising networks and collects some user data. It also shows ads in the Android app, although the company says it no longer injects ads into websites displayed in a desktop web browser.
The Center for Democracy & Technology brought just such a complaint against one VPN provider last year, though no enforcement action has been announced. Many privacy sites suggest finding a VPN service outside the prying eyes of US intelligence agencies and their allies, but FTC protections could be an argument for finding one in the US so that there’s a penalty if it deceives its customers.
With hundreds of VPN services and clients available, it can be difficult to decide which one to use. We've extensively tested several popular VPN services that met three requirements: They had both desktop and mobile client software (with one exception), they had VPN servers in many countries, and they offered unlimited data use, at least in their paid versions.
When we test VPNs, we use the Ookla speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag's publisher, Ziff Davis.) This test provides metrics for latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. Any one of these can be an important measurement depending on your needs, but we tend to view the download speed as the most important. After all, we live in an age of digital consumption.
The cause of this performance improvement was not immediately discernible. Experts I have spoken to have suggested the test cheating or data compression mentioned above. It was also suggested that, perhaps, some VPN companies had access to higher bandwidth connections in their networks. Another possibility was that our DSL line was artificially capped and that the VPN allowed our data to bypass that restriction.
There’s currently only one scenario where you would entertain using L2TP/IPsec instead of OpenVPN and that’s for mobile devices like iOS and Android phones. Currently neither Android nor iOS supports native OpenVPN (although there is third-party support for it). Both mobile operating systems do, however, support L2TP/Ipsec natively and, as such, it’s a useful alternative.
Most services provide perfectly adequate internet speed when in use, and can even handle streaming HD video. However, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks like gaming over a VPN are another story. Some VPN services, such as NordVPN, have started to roll out specialty servers for high-bandwidth activities. And nearly every service we have tested includes a tool to connect you with the fastest available network. Of course, you can always limit your VPN use to when you're not on a trusted network.
Logging Policy – IVPN is arguably one of the few VPN providers that take the privacy and security of their users extremely seriously. The no-logging policy is followed in the best way possible by the company and does not log IP, DNS request, traffic, or timestamps. A particularly admirable step that IVPN has taken towards its transparency is its monthly publication of a “warrant canary”, which will declare if the company has been served any warrant by the government or other authorities that might threaten the privacy of its users.
Another approach is to offer purpose-specific servers. NordVPN, for example, has a high-speed server earmarked for video streaming. The company's collection of these special servers is a great way to offer customers a better experience, one tailored to their needs. It even offers Tor-over-VPN servers, for another layer of privacy. CyberGhost and PureVPN also place an emphasis on streaming, offering modes designed to connect you to your favorite content.
In the most recent round of testing, we've also looked at how many virtual servers a given VPN company uses. A virtual server is just what it sounds like—a software-defined server running on server hardware that might have several virtual servers onboard. The thing about virtual servers is that they can be configured to appear as if they are in one country when they are actually being hosted somewhere else. That's an issue if you're especially concerned about where you web traffic is traveling. It's a bit worrisome to choose one location and discover you're actually connected somewhere else entirely.