In short, latency is a time between a request sends and the response receives; it’s often called ping time. Factor that affects latency includes; the distance your request travels. It’s important when playing video games with a VPN, lower the latency, more responsive the experience will, with less lag. Download and upload speeds measure the amount of data is moved over your internet connection. These are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps); it shows the data runs through a network in a given frame of time. The more, the better. Simple.
When we test VPNs, we generally start with the Windows client. This is often the most complete review, covering several different platforms as well as the service's features and pricing in depth. That's purely out of necessity, since most of our readers use Windows (although this writer is currently using a MacBook Air). We currently use a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running the latest version of Windows 10. We periodically upgrade to a newer machine, in order to simulate what most users experience.
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
TunnelBear is designed for a very specific group of people: people who want a VPN service but don’t want to mess around with configuration or become IT experts to make their connections more secure. And it caters brilliantly for that market, with a very straightforward interface and jargon-free writing. In truth, all of the VPN services these days do this but TunnelBear tries very hard to stand out. It’s not for power users - there isn’t much you can change - but with up to five simultaneous connections, servers across 20 countries and decent performance on US and Canadian websites. Longer connections can be slower, though: it’s when the relatively small number of server locations makes itself obvious. There’s a free version that limits you to 500MB of monthly traffic, and if you pay annually the price of the full version drops from $9.99 to $4.99 per month.
Access to restricted websites: Some websites and streaming content may only be accessed in certain countries. For example a TV program might only be broadcast in the UK – Trying to stream this program outside the country will return an error. Through the masking of your IP address, and thus your physical location, free VPN will allow you access to this restricted content and make it appear that you are located in the required region. Learn More
If you’re on a heavily managed Internet connection, be it government censored or just college Wi-Fi, standard VPN connections may be blocked or throttled due to deep packet inspection, a way for providers to analyze what type of traffic is passing over a network even when they can’t see the actual contents. IVPN’s desktop apps include a checkbox for Obfsproxy, which disguises your traffic as more ho-hum data to get it past those types of blocks—like kids stacked in a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, but more convincing. Our budget pick, TorGuard, and competitor ExpressVPN use different methods to disguise traffic, but we couldn’t find documentation on equivalent features from our other top performers.
The main reason to use a VPN is security - in theory, the data that travels across your VPN should be impossible for anybody else to intercept, so it can protect your online banking or confidential business communications - but there are other benefits too. VPNs can make it much harder for advertising to track you online, and they can overcome geography-specific blocks that prevent you from accessing some country-specific services such as online video.
StrongVPN has exit nodes in 43 cities, 20 countries, and supports PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IPSec, and OpenVPN protocols–you’ll be hard pressed to find a device you can’t configure to use their service. There are no bandwidth caps, speed limits, or restrictions on protocols or services (torrenting, Netflix, you name it, they don’t care). Additionally, StrongVPN maintains no server logs.
The free tier gives you the Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire TV/Firestick client software (and the beta Linux software, should you wish to try it); the Windflix feature to (try to) watch U.S. or U.K. Netflix streams; the Chrome, Firefox and Opera Windscribe browser extensions to block ads and trackers; a separate firewall built in to the Windows and macOS clients; and the ability to connect to VPN servers in 11 countries, mostly in Europe and North America.
All that being said, some VPNs are still faster than others. During the process, we’ve tested over 45 VPN service providers to share our findings with you. Below you will find the top five fastest VPNs that offer feature-rich experience packed with the high speed. For sure, speed is one of the crucial things we look for before purchasing a VPN, especially when every other provider claims to be the fastest, so consider these providers who managed to cut our speed tests; you can thank us later!
A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.
The download speed indicates how fast data can be pulled from the server to you. Since the majority of online activity – like loading web pages or streaming videos – consists of downloads, most connections are designed to download much faster than they upload. Download speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and, generally, the higher the number the faster the connection.
CyberGhost gives Mullvad some stiff competition in the speed department, especially for locations in North America and Europe. It does a good job protecting user anonymity, too—requiring no identifying information and using a third-party service for payment processing—albeit not to the same degree as Mullvad. Add to that CyberGhost’s unique, easy-to-use interface, good price, and streaming unblocking (although not for Netflix), and this VPN is a solid choice. (See our full review of CyberGhost.)
Reassurance that your personal IP address is hidden, and your confidential data is kept safe. Many people don’t realize that using the internet gives websites and businesses information that can be traced back to their IP address which can then be sold for marketing purposes. It’s not only irritating, it’s invasive and extreme. This can also create an entryway for hackers. Our free VPN servers prevent companies and hackers from getting to you and your IP address remains hidden.
Many companies proudly display “warrant canaries” on their websites. These are digitally signed notices that say something to the effect of “We have never been served a warrant for traffic logs or turned over customer information.” Law enforcement can prohibit a company from discussing an investigation, but in theory, it can’t compel a company to actively lie. So the theory goes that when the warrant canary dies—that is, the notice disappears from the website because it’s no longer truthful—so does privacy. The EFF supports this legal position, though other highly regarded companies and organizations think warrant canaries are helpful only for informing you after the damage has been done. Such notices may provide a nice sense of security, and they are important to some people, but we didn’t consider them essential.
However, network performance is another thing entirely. First, keep in mind that if you're using a VPN, you're probably using it at a public location. That Wi-Fi service is likely to range in performance somewhere between "meh" and unusable. So, just the fact that you're remotely working on a mediocre network will reduce performance. But then, if you connect to a VPN in a different country, the connection between countries is also likely to degrade network performance.
We believe privacy and security are fundamental human rights, so we also provide a free version of ProtonVPN to the public. Unlike other free VPNs, there are no catches. We don't serve ads or secretly sell your browsing history. ProtonVPN Free is subsidized by ProtonVPN paid users. If you would like to support online privacy, please consider upgrading to a paid plan for faster speeds and more features.
Our top picks are proven to work with streaming apps and sites, reliably clock the fastest speeds and have the most useful set of privacy features. Their logging policies are the most transparent, fair and privacy-focused. Their apps are well-designed, quick to install and above all, easy to use. The best services also offer friendly customer support you can rely on to help you quickly should you get stuck.
No company came closer to being a pick than ExpressVPN. It has a huge server network that performed well in our tests, plus easy-to-use applications on tons of platforms, and strong security technologies in place. A representative answered all our questions about company operations at length—except one. As noted in a PCWorld review of the service, ExpressVPN chooses not to disclose the company’s leadership or ownership. The company representative told us that this policy enabled ExpressVPN to build a private and secure product without compromise. “We think that this approach has been effective until now and that coupled with a stellar VPN product, we have succeeded in gaining a solid reputation in our industry. We are fortunate to be trusted by the many users worldwide who choose ExpressVPN.”
Trust and transparency issues are the foremost concerns in choosing a great VPN, and if a service doesn’t have enough locations to be useful to you, all the security features won’t make a difference. But after those concerns have been satisfied, we recommend that most people use connections based on the OpenVPN protocol, because of security flaws and disadvantages in the PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. (Experienced users may consider IKEv2, but because it has its own debated pros and cons, we ruled it out.) Though AES 128-bit encryption is fine for most purposes, we prefer services that default to the more-secure 256-bit encryption and still offer good performance.
When we looked at just iPhone VPNs last year, our results yielded a very different breakdown. In our tests on iOS, we found that Hide My Ass, Golden Frog Vypr VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, NordVPN, and PureVPN were the top performers. Hide My Ass and PureVPN dominated in the download speed tests, improving speeds by 10.1 and 6.8 percent, respectively.
One major limitation of traditional VPNs is that they are point-to-point, and do not tend to support or connect broadcast domains. Therefore, communication, software, and networking, which are based on layer 2 and broadcast packets, such as NetBIOS used in Windows networking, may not be fully supported or work exactly as they would on a real LAN. Variants on VPN, such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and layer 2 tunneling protocols, are designed to overcome this limitation.
Cost: PureVPN is much more affordable than most providers and gives a myriad of payment options, like credit card, PayPal, Alipay, CoinPayments, Cashu, Payment Wall, BlueSnap, and more. You can purchase a one-year plan for $5.41/month, a two-year plan for $3.54/month, or pay monthly for $10.95/month. PureVPN is also currently running special pricing of $2.92/month for a 3 year plan when you pay $105 every three years.
It's not just the bad guys who are watching your traffic. Congress, for example, has granted internet service providers the right to sell anonymized metadata about your activities online. That's unfortunate, for a number of reasons. Fortunately, a VPN makes it much harder for even your ISP to monitor your activity and helps keep your privacy in your hands.
Mullvad is not that easy to use, with a bare-bones desktop interface and, unlike every other VPN service we've reviewed, no mobile client apps. (You do get instructions on how to manually set up OpenVPN apps.) This service's network speeds were far from great in our tests, and it's fairly expensive, with no discount for paying yearly instead of monthly.
The best VPNs offer a solid balance of features, server location, connectivity protocols, and price. Some are great for occasional use, others are geared towards getting around the location restrictions companies put on their apps and services, and others are targeted at people who do heavy downloading and want a little privacy while they do it. Here’s what you should look for.
One of the most common types of VPNs used by businesses is called a virtual private dial-up network (VPDN). A VPDN is a user-to-LAN connection, where remote users need to connect to the company LAN. Another type of VPN is commonly called a site-to-site VPN. Here the company would invest in dedicated hardware to connect multiple sites to their LAN though a public network, usually the Internet.
The free account is limited to a single user, while the premium account enabled unlimited bandwidth for up to five computers or mobile devices. TunnelBear doesn’t list the total number of servers on their site, but they do offer servers in 20 countries. Their Windows and Mac OS X client is based on OpenVPN and their mobile VPN system uses L2TP/IPsec. Unlike the previous two recommendations, however, TunnelBear has a firmer stance against file sharing activities and BitTorrent is blocked. Their speeds also aren’t quite as fast as the others, so you might experience a slower connection with TunnelBear.
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.)
Security when connecting to public Wifi networks: Many people use public Wifi networks – You can find them in airports, cafes, bars and public libraries for example. People use these Wifi networks freely and without any forethought for their security. How do you know that network is secure? How do you know there isn’t someone attempting to break into that network? A VPN can be used to securely connect to a Wifi network and protect your data integrity. Learn More
In some organization intranets, the data of a department, such as human resources, is so sensitive that the network segment of the department is physically disconnected from the rest of the intranet. While this protects the data of the human resources department, it creates information accessibility problems for authorized users not physically connected to the separate network segment.
VPNs’ contribution to reclaiming Internet freedom and privacy is beyond skies, but the speed concerns that come with the VPN usage, cannot be ignored. So, what you want, online protection or fastest browsing that may end up ransomware payments for the rest of your life? Or both the things in one go? We have a list of fastest VPN services that won’t disturb your anonymity, but before that let’s enlighten why VPN technology ends up slow down the internet connection.
IP / DNS leak test – PureVPN’s security mechanisms are based on the AES 256 bit encryption. This is the modern industry-standard of encryption that every VPN worth buying uses. Together with this mode of encryption and PureVPN’s DNS protection features, the possibility of IP or DNS leaks is all but completely ruled out. With security becoming a matter of utmost importance for users all over the world, PureVPN delivers just the right combination of speed and security for the users’ peace of mind.
The sheer amount of VPN jargon can be overwhelming, even if you are pretty tech-savvy. Do look out for OpenVPN though, as this connection protocol offers the best overall blend of speed and security. Ignore talk of military or bank-grade encryption and just look for AES-256, as that’s the gold standard. Unless you know your DNS from your IPv6, a VPN killswitch is the main thing to look out for among security features as it will protect you from exposing your real IP address should your connection drop unexpectedly.
If you are interested in an added level of protection, there are intriguing gadgets called Tiny Hardware Firewalls. These devices range from about $30 to $70 and connect via a network port or a USB slot to your laptop. They make the initial network connection, and so your computer's communication is always blocked before it calls out to the internet.
The VPN server can be configured to use either Windows or RADIUS as an accounting provider. If Windows is selected as the accounting provider, the accounting information accumulates on the VPN server for later analysis. Logging options can be specified from the properties of the Local File or SQL Server objects in the Remote Access Logging folder in the Routing and Remote Access snap-in. If RADIUS is selected, RADIUS accounting messages are sent to the RADIUS server for accumulation and later analysis.
To choose the best VPN for you, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription. Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for?
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.
PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider. It features a firewall-based system Kill Switch and application-level kill switch, which is great. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! A cracking 6 simultaneous devices, port forwarding, HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies all make PrivateVPN a very enticing option for those that want to get the most out of their VPN.
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.