We have tested each of these services in as repeatable a manner as possible, but it's worth remembering that networks can be fickle. To get the clearest picture of a VPN's performance, we would have to perform these tests many more times, at different locations and different times of day. We think of these tests as more of a snapshot of performance that establishes a replicable metric for measuring each service. Your mileage with these services will almost certainly vary somewhat from mine.
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.
We're not cryptography experts, so we can't verify all of the encryption claims providers make. Instead, we focus on the features provided. Bonus features like ad blocking, firewalls, and kill switches that disconnect you from the web if your VPN connection drops, go a long way toward keeping you safe. We also prefer providers that support OpenVPN, since it's a standard that's known for its speed and reliability. It's also, as the name implies, open source, meaning it benefits from many developers' eyes looking for potential problems.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
Speedify the third and final free VPN service that we recommend thinking about signing up to. It's a little different than the two options above in that it's designed from the ground up to absolutely maximise your connection speed. So if you're on a laptop with ethernet and wifi connections, it'll utilize both to pull bits out of the internet to the max. If you're on a phone it can use your 4G and WiFi connections at the same time to do the same time - to maximise throughput of data, improving download speeds and render times. In our tests this all proved to be more than just hot air - it really did work to speed up our download and browsing speeds. At the same time it's doing all the things you'd want from a VPN, ecrypting and obscuring, so you're private, safe and anonymous. The catch here is that you only get 1GB of free data. You get 4GB in the first month but that drops down to 1GB after that which just isn't enough if you're planning to use it a lot.
Since VPNs route your traffic through another network, you can also make it appear as if it’s coming from another location. That means if you’re in Sydney, Australia, you can make your traffic appear to come from New York City. This is useful for certain sites that block content based on your location (like Netflix). It also allows some people (we’re looking at you, Australians) have to deal with insanely high import taxes on software that see them paying twice (or more) what US consumers pay for the same products.
Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) is an encrypted authentication mechanism that prevents transmission of the actual password on the connection. The NAS sends a challenge, which consists of a session ID and an arbitrary challenge string, to the remote client. The remote client must use the MD5 one-way hashing algorithm to return the user name and a hash of the challenge, session ID, and the client’s password. The user name is sent as plain text.
All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist. On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time. How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.
In addition to logging concerns, an even bigger concern is the type of VPN protocol and encryption they use (as it’s much more probable a malicious third party will try and siphon up your traffic and analyze it later than they will reverse engineer your traffic in an attempt to locate you). Considering logging, protocol, and encryption standards is a great point to transition into the next section of our guide where we shift from questions focused on our needs to questions focused on capabilities of the VPN providers.
PPTP - PPTP has been around since the days of Windows 95. The main selling point of PPTP is that it can be simply setup on every major OS. In short, PPTP tunnels a point-to-point connection over the GRE protocol. Unfortunately, the security of the PPTP protocol has been called into question in recent years. It is still strong, but not the most secure.
The country connections, meanwhile, matter most to those who want to spoof their location; however, non-spoofers should also make sure there are connections in their home country. If you live in Los Angeles, for example, and want access to American content, then you’ll need a VPN that provides U.S. connections. It won’t work to try and watch Amazon Prime Video over a Dutch VPN connection, because as far as Hulu’s concerned your computer is in the Netherlands.
Our VPN reviews instead stress value and technical excellence. The number of devices that can be used with an account is, in our opinion, more important. We also prefer VPN services with lots of servers and a good geographic distribution of those servers. VPNs that are easy to set up and use for first timers and include a well-made local client also go a long way toward getting PCMag's endorsement. And, of course, price is a major issue. The average monthly price of a VPN right now is $10.48. If a VPN is charging more, it had better be offering something compelling.
Logging Policy – The logging policy of any VPN provider is the first thing you should read before you decide to purchase it. This is especially true for users whose primary objective for purchasing a VPN is to maintain and protect their privacy. Many VPN providers deliberately write overly complicated and ambiguous privacy policies to confuse users. Stay far away from such VPN providers as these are most likely trying to hide their actual practices for how they treat their users’ privacy.
Switzerland is famed for its privacy-friendly legislation, and that’s where VyprVPN operates from - although its servers operate in 72 other countries to deliver unlimited data. If you’re used to VPN services absolutely killing your data speeds you’ll be positively surprised by VyprVPN: we found that our data speeds actually increased when we enabled the VPN! Not only that but there are plenty of useful options including auto-connect, a kill-switch and enhanced security via the service’s proprietary Chameleon protocol and its own DNS. VyprVPN has a free trial too so you can try it our and see what you think before you commit!
Advanced leak protection – Perfect Privacy offers very secure apps to ensure you are protected against any and all leaks. In the Perfect Privacy review I discuss the three different levels of the kill switch and DNS leak protection. Users are also protected from IPv6 leaks because Perfect Privacy offers full IPv6 support across their server network (giving you both an IPv4 and IPv6 address for all your devices).
The main drawback is that VPN.ac maintains connection logs for network security, which they clearly explain on their website. These logs do not include any browsing or activity, but instead, just basic connection data and everything is erased daily. All support inquiries are handled internally by the network security professionals who run the service (no third-party support).
Insist on a VPN that has Kill Switch protection. There is a security vulnerability that can reveal your private information if your VPN connection is lost, even just for a few seconds. The solution is to be sure that you’re protected by a Kill Switch. A Kill Switch stops all data from being sent to the internet until a secure VPN connection has been re-established. If your VPN software does not have a Kill Switch, your computer might be leaking your private information without your knowledge
ExpressVPN is also one of the best VPN services available for streaming. Whether you are using a VPN with Kodi or streaming Netflix with a VPN, ExpressVPN offers great apps for streaming devices and high-speed bandwidth for HD videos. Their customer service is also top-notch, with 24/7 live chat support and a 30 day money-back guarantee with all subscription plans. [Learn more >]
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.