Before anything else, understand that if you want to use a VPN you should be paying for it. Free VPNs are either selling your browsing data in aggregated form to researchers and marketers, or giving you a paltry amount of data transfer every month. Either way, a basic rule of thumb is that a free VPN will not protect your privacy in any meaningful way.
TorGuard offers applications for every major platform, including Windows, macOS, and Android. And unlike our top pick, it also supports OpenVPN on ChromeOS. (Though TorGuard does offer an iOS app, it doesn’t natively support the OpenVPN protocol that allows for the easiest and most reliable secure connections.) Using these apps, you can manually select a server, click Connect, and not worry about the rest. But otherwise, the applications aren’t as refined or easy to use as IVPN’s. New users are likely to find themselves out of their depth when modifying anything but the most basic functions, such as auto-connecting at launch or minimizing the app.
NordVPN, for example, has well over 4,800 servers across the globe. If you live in the US, you're likely to find a nicely uncrowded server close by. The ubiquity of its servers also means you're likely to find a server nearby no matter where you travel. Private Internet Access and TorGuard are notable for being the only VPNs we've yet reviewed that have more than 3,000 servers.
There are many things a VPN must do well to be useful, and one of the most important ones is to be fast. You can likely get around many other shortcomings. But if your VPN is slower than a dial-up modem (for those of us who remember them), there will be trouble ahead. Not only will you be less likely to use your VPN, but you will probably also curse it every time you do. It’s money well wasted.
Latency normally results in a poor VPN connection. If you are connected to a VPN server that is far from your location, the chances are that your VPN speed will lag. An ideal way to turn your VPN account to a fast VPN connection is to choose your VPN location smartly. Your connections will become a high-speed VPN if you select a server that is near close to your original location, and it not overfilled.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are a quick and easy solution to making your computer appear to be coming from a different location. They accomplish this by creating a virtual network that routes all of your PC or smartphone’s network traffic through an encrypted tunnel and out the other side, making it seem to the world that you’re actually in whatever location the VPN server is located. This can help you bypass geographic restrictions, avoid censors, or keep you (relatively) anonymous online.
Speed should not be all you consider when shopping for a VPN. For one thing, your internet experience will almost certainly be faster without a VPN. For another, speeds depend so much on which server you use, where you are, what your network environment is like, and so on. You might find that the service that's lightning fast today is dog slow tomorrow.
StrongVPN is a great choice, as it meets the needs of both power users and casual users alike. Prices start at $10 a month and drop quickly, when you purchase a year of service at a time, to $5.83 a month. The ease of setup is fantastic–if you’re new to VPNs and/or don’t have extra time to fuss with manual settings, you can just download their setup app for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android to automate the setup process. If you want a more granular control or need to manually configure devices like your router, you can follow one of their many guides for different operating systems and hardware to do it manually.
Also important is the protocol the VPN service uses. Connecting to a VPN service using the OpenVPN protocol generally yields a faster, more reliable experience. Plus, OpenVPN is, as the name implies, open-source. That means it has been picked over for flaws and exploits by thousands of volunteers. If you're concerned about speed and security, selecting a service that supports OpenVPN and makes it available by default is important.
Multi-hop cascades + NeuroRouting – Perfect Privacy’s apps give you the ability to create multi-hop VPN cascades across up to four different servers in the network. This protects you against the possibility of a rogue data center logging traffic, targeted monitoring, and other threat scenarios. Additionally, the NeuroRouting feature takes this concept further by dynamically routing all traffic through multiple hops in the server network, corresponding to the location of the site you’re visiting. (No other VPN offers this.)
IPVanish is a top pick, especially for Kodi and torrenting, due to excellent speeds, zero logging and extensive privacy tools. It’s ultra fast on local connections but less consistent internationally across a network that’s mid-sized for locations but super-sized for servers and IP addresses. Netflix is working but iPlayer is currently blocked, which is a shame as it’s otherwise fantastic for streaming.
TunnelBear VPN is a free service that constantly impresses people. This VPN is super-secure and even opened up its software to a third-party analysis last year. The outcome? Security researchers found the VPN to be secure and reliable. It also keeps no logs. Unfortunately, The service is restricted to just 500MB per month. Despite this, it is brilliant for locations with severe censorship and where privacy is essential. It is perfect for securely unblocking news.
Some VPN services provide a free trial, so take advantage of it. Make sure you are happy with what you signed up for, and take advantage of money-back guarantees if you're not. This is actually why we also recommend starting out with a short-term subscription—a week or a month—to really make sure you are happy. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited offers a one-week Vacation subscription, for example. Yes, you may get a discount by signing up for a year, but that's more money at stake should you realize the service doesn't meet your performance needs.