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Some product decisions can be made on a whim. Others require care, research, and expert insights. Security apps, including virtual private networks (VPNs), absolutely fall into the latter category. You don’t just want a good VPN, you want the best, most trustworthy VPN for your unique internet lifestyle.

That’s where we come in. We are constantly doing head-to-head comparisons of our favorite VPNs. If you want to know how we discover the fastest VPN or the best VPN for streaming Netflix, this is your chance. It’s about time that we give you a behind-the-scenes tour of our VPN comparison process.

How to Compare VPNs: How We (and You) Should Handle VPN Comparisons

What matters most in a VPN? There’s no one answer to that question because cord-cutters have several uses for VPNs. Some of us just want a secure way to connect to the web and avoid advertisers tracking our every step. Others want to watch georestricted content on their favorite streaming service.

Our VPN experts have dozens of factors in mind when picking a VPN, but a few key factors stand out above the rest. These factors were chosen with you, our readers, in mind. They offer a convenient way to understand not just whether a particular VPN is good, but whom and what it’s good for.

One VPN might be amazing for Disney Plus viewers but terrible for gamers. Another might offer best-in-class security but do so by slowing your connection too much for 4K streaming. Yet another might offer excellent speed and security on PC and Mac, but the Fire TV app could be outdated and sluggish.

Key Factors in VPN Comparisons

  • Speed: We are looking for VPNs that operate seemingly as fast as your broadband internet connection.
  • Price: Who doesn’t like a great deal?
  • Security: A safe, private connection with a trustworthy VPN protocol is a top priority for our VPNs.
  • Streaming compatibility: Streaming services block known VPNs. We want VPNs that work with all of your favorite streaming apps and reliably give you access to region-locked content from around the globe.
  • Device compatibility: We look for VPNs that work on all of your computers, mobile phones, streaming devices, smart TVs, and other devices.

Our information comes from real-world testing on multiple devices. We install the VPN and use it for our normal, everyday tasks. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of our reviewers is streaming a movie through one of these VPNs right now. These aren’t just our recommendations; they’re our favorites.

Of course, no one person can find every fault. That’s why we supplement our hands-on testing by reading technical specs, user reviews, forum discussions, and every other piece of content we can find.

None of this research is static, and we are constantly keeping an eye out for important changes. The internet security industry evolves rapidly, so a VPN comparison in 2021 might be largely inaccurate by 2022. Press releases, new forum posts, and detailed release notes are all fair game in our ongoing effort to offer you the freshest insights.

Compare Top VPN Services

VPN Price Comparison

When we compare costs for VPNs, we look at more than how much customers pay for the monthly plan. We dig into pricing tiers, annual and multi-year discounts, and how much value they give you for your dollar.

If two VPNs have the same base cost — but one charges extra for more devices or access to faster servers — we want to unearth those details. We are looking at comparing the real prices that you’ll pay, not just what’s in big letters on the pricing page. That includes up-to-date info on new customer deals as well as how much you’ll pay as a long-term user.

Some of Our Favorite Cheap VPNs

VPN service Cheapest plan Cost
Surfshark 2 years $2.21 per month
CyberGhost 3 years $2.25 per month

As you’ll see in our product comparisons, Surfshark and CyberGhost are among the cheapest VPNs for most users, with some deep discounts if you’re willing to pay for two or three years in advance. We update these prices regularly because some of the best VPN discounts don’t last long.

One factor that we like to highlight in our pricing is if there are any limitations on simultaneous devices. While CyberGhost and Surfshark’s cheapest prices are very similar, users or families with lots of devices can end up paying more for CyberGhost because they have a seven-device limit per plan. Some VPN providers have plans for just a single device. Those are the kinds of distinctions we try to highlight in helping you select the cheapest VPN for your needs.

Choosing Between VPN Options

When choosing the best VPNs, we care about security, speed, and value. You want a VPN that can unlock streaming content and works seamlessly across all of your devices. Whether you are using a VPN for torrenting or just to safely browse the web, we want you to understand which VPNs are doing the most to protect your online privacy.

Our goal is simple: to give you the information you need to confidently say, “I bought the right VPN for me.”

VPN Speed Comparison

When testing speed, we’re looking for a VPN with lightning-fast servers in multiple countries. If a VPN can run my connection halfway across the world and still deliver an HD stream with no buffering, I’m a happy cord-cutter. We also want lots of servers to choose from since any one server will slow down if too many people log on at once.

Along the way, we’ve found a few VPNs, like IPVanish and the speedy Hotspot Shield, that offer blazingly fast speeds from servers across the world. Even when their busiest servers got bogged down, we were always easily able to find a server that could handle all of our streaming desires. Importantly, these providers were fast in every metric — upload speed, download speed, and ping — so we could rely on them for everything from streaming movies to video chatting to online gaming.

VPN Security Comparison

We want a VPN that offers high security right out of the box. If the default VPN protocol or encryption cipher is subpar, that’s a red flag. We check the default settings on multiple devices, as well as all of the alternative options available in the menus. A great VPN should have customizable security, but it shouldn’t offer any options that don’t meet our rigorous standards.

We’re also looking for security and privacy extras. Your VPN should offer security features like a kill switch that shuts down your internet if the connection breaks. The VPN shouldn’t log your personal data, and it shouldn’t be headquartered in a country where authorities can easily request your usage data.

A few VPNs really stand out in this category, including the highly secure VyprVPN and Surfshark. These companies offer excellent security standards by default, so VPN beginners and experts alike can access the web with confidence. They are transparent about their privacy standards, which is critical since we aren’t going to just blindly trust that a company has our best interests at heart.

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