You’re looking for the best VPN and you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll find summaries of ten VPN services that are all deserving of a place on your shortlist for one reason or another.
Although at their core, they all do the same job: encrypting your internet connection and giving you a new IP address to hide your real one, this doesn’t mean they’re all the same.
There are many differences between them, from speed and cost to the more nuanced aspects such as the level of privacy and security they offer.
What that means is that the “best” can be different for different people.
On the other hand, you might want a VPN to keep your online activities private and prevent your ISP from recording – and possibly selling – data on which websites you visit.
Of course, you might want a VPN for both of these things. No problem: there are several excellent all-round VPN services including our top pick, NordVPN.
Nord isn’t the cheapest, though, and there are less expensive alternatives which could tick all of your boxes.
Do remember that a VPN doesn’t offer any security from malware, so you still need to run antivirus software, particularly on Android and Windows devices.
Why have we chosen these VPN services?
Testing and reviewing VPN services is an in-depth process. There are many factors to consider: the cost of the subscription, the connection speeds to servers around the world, the number and location of those servers, device support, the features available in each of the apps it offeres, the quality of tech support and other crucial aspects such as privacy- and data-logging policies.
There’s also the ownership of the service to consider. This should always be transparent, and it should raise red flags when it isn’t. For example, certain companies own both VPN services as well as websites that review VPN services. This doesn’t always have to be the conflict of interest that it seems, but it certainly can be. (We’d like to point out that neither Foundry, which publishes Tech Advisor, nor its parent company, IDG Inc., own any VPN services.)
We also look closely at companies that own multiple VPN services and whether they say data is shared between those services and what other activities they’re involved in.
The most important thing is know is that when you use a VPN, you’re entrusting that service with all of your internet data. That’s because it becomes a middle-man between you and the website or service you’re using. Yes, the data is encrypted, but only until it reaches the VPN server, at which point it is decrypted and sent onto its final destination.
This is why we place such high importance on independent audits: it’s not enough for a VPN to say they don’t log your data – they should prove it with an audit so that you don’t have to take their word for it.
Most, but not all, VPN services rent their servers from datacentres. This means the providers, such as M247, own the servers and have physical access to them. VPN services should use reputable datacentres and put measures in place to safeguard your data, but it isn’t as good as owning and operating their own hardware. So the few VPN services that don’t rent servers get extra points for privacy.
The services below are the only ones we currently recommend and, even then, sometimes that recommendation is for a specific task such as unblocking video rather than for privacy.
We have reviewed many others, which you can see if you browse all our VPN reviews, but they didn’t make the cut. They might have been included in this list before, but now they’re not.
Services we’ve reviewed but don’t currently recommend include: IP Vanish, HMA, Bullguard VPN, Bitdefender Premium VPN, Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium and ClearVPN.
Best VPN services
1. NordVPN – Best overall
Unblocks lots of video services
Not the cheapest
Not unlimited connections
NordVPN is easy to use, fast and offers lots of servers around the world so you can always connect to one that’s not bogged down with too many other users.
As well as being adept at unblocking streaming services including Netflix and Disney+, NordVPN also ticks the privacy box. Among other reasons for this, it has an audited no-logs policy from an independent company.
Thanks to NordLynx (a WireGuard-based protocol), it’s the fastest VPN around and and offers a good range of features including a kill switch on its Android, Windows, iPhone and macOS apps. A kill switch is important to keep your data and real location hidden even if the VPN connection stops unexpectedly (which can happen from time to time with any VPN service).
NordVPN may not be the cheapest service, but rarely is the cheapest also the best. It’s great value considering the top-notch service that it offers.
The two-year subscription is the one to go for as it represents the cheapest monthly cost. NordVPN now offers three tiers: Standard, Plus and Complete. Plus adds Nord’s Password Manager and Data Breach Scanner, while Complete also comes with 1TB of encrypted cloud storage.
See all prices and plans at NordVPN.com.
Read our full
2. Surfshark – Best for unlimited devices
No split-tunelling on Mac or iOS
Very steep renewal pricing
Surfshark is very easy to use and offers a good range of features. It has apps for all popular devices and allows an unlimited number of connections.
With support for WireGuard (meaning excellent speeds), a pretty good track record for unblocking streaming services (but not iPlayer when we last checked) and its new Nexus feature (which adds more layers of privacy), it ticks lots of boxes.
If there are criticisms, it’s that Surfshark still hasn’t had it’s no-logs policy audited, so we still have to take the company’s word for it that it doesn’t log any data. Fortunately, it’s located in the Netherlands which is privacy friendly.
The other problem is that the monthly price jumps steeply upon renewal. At the time of writing, it was three times as much per month as the first two years. That’s the highest renewal increase of any VPN service here and a gotcha that’s easily missed when signing up. However, as long as you remember to cancel your subscription before it renews, you won’t be charged.
Read our full
3. CyberGhost – Best value for streaming
Unblocks lots of video services
No independent audit
No split tunelling on Mac
CyberGhost is a long-running VPN service which is based in Romania.
It may not tick every box as far as privacy is concerned (we’d like to see an independent audit of its no-logs policy), but is a good choice for unblocking streaming services.
When we checked in May 2022, it unblocked everything we tried including Netflix, Disney+. And since CyberGhost has an absolutely huge selection of servers, so if one doesn’t work, you can try a few others.
As a bonus, there are ‘NoSpy servers’ which are owned and operated by the company at its Romanian HQ. These provide a more secure option than the other (rented) servers, which can be a bonus for when you’re not simply watching video from other regions. As long as you’re not on the rolling one-month plan, access to these is included in your subscription.
But one of the main attractions is the low price, so long as you’re happy to opt for the three-year subscription. Add the Amazon Fire TV and Android TV apps, and the ability to use the service on up to seven devices at the same time and it’s a great option for anyone looking for a low-cost VPN for streaming video.
Read our full
4. ProtonVPN – Best for privacy-conscious power users
Great free plan
Lots of options for tweaking
If you’re a power user after a VPN for privacy and security, ProtonVPN Plus might well appeal. It’s called Plus to differentiate from the Free plan which comes with restrictions to the number of servers you can choose, and the speeds on offer.
Those paying for ProtonVPN Plus get access to excellent speeds, loads of options and can also use ‘Secure Core servers’ which route your connection through multiple servers for better privacy. There’s also support for Tor over VPN. Apps are all open source, and the service is based in Switzerland, which is ideal for privacy.
There’s also a built-in ad-blocker and NetShield which offers protection from malware-infested websites.
But if privacy isn’t top of your list, and you don’t want to do things like create custom profiles for automatically connecting to servers, then there are cheaper options here.
Read our full
5. Private Internet Access
Audited no-logs policy
Good at unblocking streaming services
Price doubles at end of subscription
Browser extensions are not VPNs
PIA is an feature-packed VPN service which should appeal whether you’re a gamer, privacy advocate or want to unblock streaming services. It’s good value, too.
It’s not the fastest or cheapest out there, but it does have a heck of a lot of servers, is highly configurable and now has the reassuring Deloitte audit which makes its US location a non-issue.
It isn’t our first choice for unblocking streaming services, but it may unblock everything you need it to.
See all prices and plans on Private Internet Access’s website.
Read our full
Private Internet Access review
6. Atlas VPN – Best for streaming on a budget
Affordable (also has free plan)
Good for streaming
Based in the US
Small server network
Atlas VPN is a fairly new VPN service, but was snapped up by Nord Security, which also owns NordVPN and Surfshark. Atlas VPN is the cheapest of the three, but offers very good value thanks to the fact it does a good job of unblocking streaming services and also supports WireGuard for fast speeds.
The relatively small number of servers isn’t a major problem as it has all the popular countries covered. A larger problem for anyone needing a VPN for privacy is that it’s based in the USA. Atlas VPN claims not to log any data about its users, but since it has never had a third-party audit, there’s no proof of this.
If you’re happy to give it the benefit of the doubt, given the Nord Security backing, then Atlas VPN is a very tempting option for those on a budget. Oh, and it also supports IPv6 (most don’t) and allows unlimited connections, so you can use it on as many devices as you like.
Read our full
Atlas VPN Premium review
Owned & managed hardware
Unblocks Netflix & iPlayer
Best for privacy
Not the most user friendly
Only 1 connection at a time
Hidden24 is different to the other services here. It’s a VPN designed from the ground up to offer ultimate privacy.
The pursuit of privacy above all else means a completely different approach to every other service. There are no apps to download: Hidden24 uses a device’s own VPN capability. That means it will work on Android, Mac, iPhone or Linux as well as Windows, but also means you can’t change servers very easily and there’s no kill switch, unless the operating system has one of its own.
Hidden24 owns and operates all its hardware and currently offers seven location to choose between: UK, US, Germany, Italy, France, Spain & Sweden.
Those servers run custom code – not open source software on top of Linux as with most rented VPN servers in the cloud. Not even Hidden24’s staff can access the servers, which is why it’s a solid choice if security and privacy are your top priorities (and why it’s ideal for journalists, who can use the service for free).
Unlike other ‘no-logs’ VPN services Hidden24 logs literally nothing, not even user sessions or the ‘anonymous data’ you’ll find mentioned in most rivals’ privacy policies. Again, this is great for privacy, but it also means you’re restricted to using just one device at a time. Connecting to a server on a second device will stop the connection on the first device.
You can have unlimited connections by configuring a compatible router with Hidden24, but this is isn’t something many people will want to do.
Despite the privacy bent, Hidden24 reliably unblocks Netflix, iPlayer and other streaming services in the seven countries it supports.
This alternative approach to VPN certainly isn’t for everyone. But it’s a great choice if you want the best privacy are are happy to forego convenience to get it. It’s also much cheaper than its rivals if you only subscribe for a month. If you prefer a longer subscription, you can get an exclusive deal on a two-year plan.
Read our full
Audited no-logs policy
Good unblocking of steaming services
WireGuard protocol only in Windows app
A decent choice for streaming, thanks to a huge choice of countries and – when we checked recently – actually able to unblock Netflix, iPlayer and other services.
PureVPN has now switched from its previous Hong Kong jurisdiction to the British Virgin Islands, which is much more privacy friendly. It can also be commended for allowing its no-logs policy to be ‘snap audited’ (an unscheduled audit that the company couldn’t prepare for) and when this happened recently, KPMG was able to certify it again as a true no-log VPN.
Another recent improvement is the removal of almost all virtual servers and now claims 98.7% physical server locations (that’s 67 servers in total which remain virtual), and the upgrade of UK and US servers to 20Gbps connection speeds.
Our chief complaint was the continued lack of WireGuard, but this was rolled out in mid-February 2022.
There’s decent 24/7 live chat to help sort any problems, and the service is competitively priced: you can find the latest deals on PureVPN’s website.
Read our full
Unblocks 200+ streaming services
Speedy Lightway protocol
Only 5 connections
Easy to use and packed with features, ExpressVPN is the one to choose if you’re looking for a premium VPN service that will reliably unblock streaming content.
It offers lots of apps, browser extensions that actually use the VPN service and a router app that’s surprisingly competent. There’s great tech support if you ever need help, too.
Thanks to the proprietary Lightway protocol, connection times are speedy, as are connection speeds.
None of this comes cheap, though, with ExpressVPN costing considerably more than rivals per month.
Get 49% off and 3 months free when you sign up for a year of ExpressVPN
Read our full
10. Ivacy – Cheapest over 5 years
24/7 tech support
Unblocks Netflix & iPlayer
Fewer servers than rivals
Ivacy may not have as many servers as some of its rivals, but it does tick a lot of boxes. Those servers allow P2P downloads and they unblock a lot of popular streaming services (though not Amazon Prime).
Apps are available for a wide selection of devices. They’re not the most polished around, and speeds aren’t the best, either. We’re told that WireGuard support is coming, but for now the best speeds are via OpenVPN.
There are a few niggles such as no automatic connection when your phone or laptop connects to an untrusted Wi-Fi network, nor any way to see how busy a particular server is.
But for unblocking websites and video services at a very low price, Ivacy’s five-year deal is great value.
Read our full
What to look for in a VPN service
Because VPN services vary in price quite dramatically, it can be tempting to just go for the cheapest. There are good, cheap VPNs, but it is still important to choose one you trust and that offers the features you require. The old adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply to VPN services.
However, do bear in mind that the discounted prices don’t always continue when your subscription renews, so be sure to turn off auto renewal or cancel your subscription before it expires. In some cases the renewal price will be the same as what you originally paid, but check the duration: it’s often half (or less) than your original subscription.
Most VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try them out and make sure they let you access the services you need, but watch out for any payment methods which the service says isn’t refundable, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay, for example.
Beyond price, the first major decision is what you want to use a VPN for. If you just want to unblock videos from HBO Max, Disney+ or another service that’s not available in your country, then you don’t have to worry too much about any other details: just go for a well-priced service that works with the services you need. A VPN’s privacy credentials aren’t massively important if you’re just streaming video, but do remember that when you connect to a VPN, all your web activity could potentially be seen by the VPN provider.
If you do care about privacy and security, you’ll want to go for a VPN that doesn’t log any data and ideally owns and manages its servers, rather than renting servers from a datacentre. Put simply, if you want to minimise the risk of your VPN service being hacked and your identity, location and activity being exposed, opt for one which runs hardware that’s exclusively under its control. And if your life depends upon your VPN connection, it’s probably not a good idea to use a consumer VPN service at all, though Hidden24 is a good bet.
Don’t be persuaded by a bigger number of servers or choice of countries: it doesn’t mean it’s a better VPN. What you should look for are servers in the countries you either need to appear to be in or are physically present in, as a local VPN server will always give you the fastest speeds from any given service.
It’s highly likely you’ll only use handful of the servers available, and you certainly won’t want to connect to a server the other side of the world if it reduces your internet connection speed to a crawl.
Testing a VPN service’s speed is tricky as it varies all the time. The best way to find out if a service is quick or not is to read our reviews.
Just about all VPNs support Windows, Android, iOS and macOS, but some offer apps for a wider selection of devices including Amazon Fire TV Stick, Linux and web browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox and others.
You don’t actually need an app if your device supports a VPN connection, so you can enter your username, password and other details into your NAS, router or other device. However, that’s a hassle when you want to change to a different server as you need to set up a connection manually for each one. Plus, it means you miss out on advanced features only available in the apps, including a kill switch if the operating system doesn’t provide one.
Public / free Wi-Fi
It’s a good idea to use a VPN is whenever you’re connected to an open public Wi-Fi network in a café, hotel, airport or on public transport. When a Wi-Fi network doesn’t require a password to connect (and entering your email or other details in a web browser doesn’t count here) it means the connection from your phone to the network is unencrypted.
And that means it is possible for someone to spy on your activity. However, most websites and web services use encryption anyway: a VPN is more like an insurance policy just in case sensitive data does end up being sent as plain text.
One other thing to look out for is any restrictions on usage – some ban P2P (file sharing) while others are fine with it.
What is the ‘5 Eyes’ and ’14 Eyes’ collective?
If you’re most concerned about privacy, it’s important to know where your VPN is based. Or, more specifically, where the business is registered and therefore in which jurisdiction it operates.
In recent years some countries have got together to exchange information freely, nominally in a bid to enhance everyone’s security. However, many groups are critical of this behaviour, believing that mass surveillance impinges on our freedoms.
The main group of countries that can share information freely is called the Five Eyes. They come from the UKUSA agreement that, although begun back in 1941, was only made public knowledge in 2005. The agreement is between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, hence the name Five Eyes. Those countries have agreed to collect, analyse and share information between each other, and much of this intelligence is believed to be related to internet activity these days.
The 5 Eyes:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
The Five Eyes has grown to include a total of 14 countries, which is why you’ll hear a lot about ’14-eyes’ when reading about VPNs. Third party countries were added over time, and now additionally include Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
If your VPN provider is based within a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply. If your provider promises that it doesn’t log any information, you’re probably safe within the 14 Eyes, but it is more of a risk if privacy is your main concern and you might want to consider looking for a VPN provider that is based elsewhere.
What information does a VPN keep?
VPN providers generally claim to not log anything. These days it’s rare for them to log connection time stamps, IP addresses and bandwidth used: they usually only log anonymous information ‘necessary to maintain and improve the service’.
We check carefully using information available to us exactly what each service logs, and include this in each review.
If you’re looking for complete anonymity, choose a provider that accepts payment in the form of gift cards or Bitcoin, which makes it near-impossible to trace any activity back to an individual. Just note that a
VPN does not make you anonymous online.
VPN bans in China and Russia
Most VPN services claim to work in China and Russia. The truth is that it’s a cat-and-mouse game where the governments work out how to block connections if they detect you’re using a VPN and they’re very good at doing so.
It means that you can’t know for sure if a certain service will let you access Google and other sites on a particular day, and that’s one reason why it pays to subscribe to a service with 24/7 live chat support: they’ll be able to help you pick the right server and settings to bypass the blocks at that time.
The same goes for unblocking streaming services: they don’t like VPNs and crack down on them as much as they can. And, again, having live chat support is useful when you run into problems. At the moment, many VPNs are unable to unblock BBC iPlayer – even big names such as ExpressVPN. So if this is important to you, check with the company first to see what the current situation is. Usually there is a solution: ExpressVPN offers a separate Media Streamer service which allows you to watch iPlayer content abroad.
We have lots more information and articles about VPNs here at Tech Advisor, all of which you can find over in our VPN hub.