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We review the features, speed and prices of the Top VPNs
Choosing the right VPN to give your private data and hard-earned money to is no small decision. You’re going to want to do your research and know what you’re getting yourself into.
Thankfully, we did the hard work for you. In this article you will find all the information everything you need to know about the best VPNs in 2021 and hopefully find the one that suits you best.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a digital network comprised of many physical servers that can be located anywhere in the world. They allow you to change your IP address to a secure server and access any type of online content with an extra layer (or layers) of protection and encryption.
VPNs work by sending your data over tunneling protocols. This means that they route your activity and connection through a server located somewhere else in the world. This hides your online activity and, with the best VPNs, keeps your data private.
To put it simply: with no VPN, your data is sent straight to the websites you’re trying to access. This means your information is out in the open and any third party could take a peek if they wanted to. That could mean hackers, spying governments, or your internet service provider (ISP).
When you activate a VPN, it will appear as if you are accessing the website from another part of the world — shielding your identity and protecting your privacy.
If you’re looking for a VPN, it’s likely that you are trying to access a streaming site like Netflix in another country, download torrent files, or protect your private data from nosy third parties.
VPNs can be used for all of these things and more. Of course, as time goes on, premium streaming services get better at combating the use of VPNs.
It’s likely you understand some of the uses of VPNs. However, it’s even more likely that you don’t yet know the true potential a VPN can unlock:
Now that you understand VPNs a little better, let’s take a look at the best VPNs on the market.
ExpressVPN prides itself on its servers’ speeds — and it deserves to! ExpressVPN’s claims to speed are consistently tested and confirmed by multiple sources.
To us, though, the fact that it offers servers in over 90 countries is even better. This is by far the largest number of countries offered by any of the VPNs on this list. More countries and servers means ExpressVPN is more likely to be able to unlock premium services such as Netflix and Hulu from other countries.
The biggest drawback of ExpressVPN is that you can only use three simultaneous devices, which is remarkably the lowest number of devices offered by any of the VPNs on our list. Honestly, it’s barely enough for a single person. This was ultimately why ExpressVPN failed to reach the top spot on our list.
Despite the low number of devices allowed, ExpressVPN impressed in other areas. It offers a wide array of functionality for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, smart TVs, and even Blackberry.
ExpressVPN’s website is also filled with guides, articles, and tutorials to help you navigate the product and keep you up-to-date on any new features.
IPVanish is near the top of our list because of its tested lightning-fast speeds. It even outperformed the speed-driven ExpressVPN. Typically, you will see a hit in download speed when using a VPN because your data has to be routed to another server somewhere else in the world. However, with IPVanish’s fastest server, we saw no more than a 5mbps hit to a baseline 100mbps connection — which is spectacular.
Another game-changing perk with IPVanish is that it supports a whopping 10 devices to be used simultaneously, one of the most generous offerings of the VPNs on this list.
Of course, as our top-rated VPN, IPVanish can consistently unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
We like that IPVanish offers split tunneling, which lets you use the VPN for some apps and “whitelist” other apps to access with your local network. However, we don’t like that split tunneling isn’t offered for every operating system. We discuss these and other key pros and cons in our IPVanish review. Overall, we were very happy with this service — we think you’ll be pretty pleased, too, if you sign up for IPVanish.
NordVPN offers a premium VPN service with lots of perks, but some of the downsides kept it from beating our top two contenders.
The standout feature of NordVPN is that it boasts an alarming amount of servers. With over 5000 servers, NordVPN has more servers than any other VPN in the world — certainly an awesome achievement. As we explained earlier, the more servers the better. This gives you the best chance of finding a server that will unblock Netflix in the country you want.
With a SmartPlay/Smart DNS feature that sneaks around geo-restrictions, NordVPN is hands-down the best VPN for unblocking streaming services.
Another area that NordVPN asserts its strengths is the sphere of security. Offering 2048-bit encryption, kill switches, and DNS leak protection, you can rest assured that your data is safe.
The downside is that NordVPN’s reputation for performance and speed has suffered lately. While it fared reasonably well in our review, it’s certainly not the fastest VPN we’ve tried.
We like HotSpot Shield because it’s a VPN with a hefty number of servers in different locations — and it performs extraordinarily. HotSpot Shield doesn’t use typical protocols that most VPNs use. It has its own proprietary protocol called “Catapult Hydra” which helps it deliver top-tier speeds as well as security.
Depending on the type of user, Catapult Hydra might be a benefit or a drawback. On one hand it offers unbreakable security and fast speeds, but on the other hand, it doesn’t support industry standard protocols such as OpenVPN. That means you can’t manually set it up on other devices if you happen to be a VPN pro.
Another thing we like about HotSpot Shield is its transparent and generous 45-day money-back guarantee. With most hosts, you have either a slim 7-day or a 30-day guarantee. HotSpot Shield offers the longest guarantee on our list.
The HotSpot Shield price sits right where you might expect it. Not too high, not too low. The good news is that they offer a sturdy discount for their 3-year plan.
TunnelBear prides itself on its ease-of-use, transparency, and trust. TunnelBear is fun to look at, but it’s also really easy to use. If you are a VPN beginner, you might fall in love with TunnelBear.
One of the standout features of this VPN is that it’s the only one on the market that to release consistent, yearly, third-party audits of its service. You certainly have no room to call the guys at TunnelBear shady. Their flaws are out there in the open, as exposed by third-party auditor Cure53. This is a major strength for TunnelBear, because it allows the company to inspect and fix its errors while building trust with its users.
While TunnelBear’s speeds can’t match those of our top two contenders, the easy-to-use interface is certainly captivating, and it’s built on a VPN service that works.
The biggest drawback of TunnelBear’s VPN is its stance on torrents and P2P. They used to outright restrict torrents, but now they seem to have no stance at all on the matter. The company is based in Canada, which may require them to record your usage of torrents. Bottom line: if you are looking for a VPN for torrents or P2P, avoid TunnelBear.
Surfshark is relatively new on the market compared to the other VPNs on our list of best VPNs in 2021, but it has quickly made a name for itself in this sector.
Surfshark offers a number of features that you would expect from a premium VPN, including an adblocker, whitelister, killswitch, DNS leak protection, and super secure OpenVPN protocols.
The special kick? Surfshark offers an unlimited number of devices — something that sets them apart from every other VPN on this list. It does all of this for the lowest price, too, making it the cheapest VPN of 2021.
A downside to Surfshark is that users report that the speeds just don’t match up when compared to other premium VPNs. While speed is important, if you have a fast base internet speed you might not even notice a difference.
All in all, that’s a lot to get for Surfshark’s price.
VyprVPN doesn’t steal the show, so to speak, when it comes to its number of servers. The number of simultaneous devices allowed isn’t remarkably generous, either.
Thankfully, VyprVPN makes up for these things with top-notch security. Their proprietary security protocol, “Chameleon”, provides unparalleled security that lets you access to restricted content even in countries like China and Iran that block VPNs.
VyprVPNs is a tier-one VPN provider, which means the company owns all of its server equipment. That means no third parties and less chances of an info leak.
With a strict no-log policy, a super-secure proprietary protocol, reasonable prices, and good speeds, VyprVPN earns a place on our list of the best VPNs in 2021.
The best streaming VPN has to let you watch all of your favorite movies and TV shows — no exceptions. You don’t want one VPN for Netflix, another for Amazon Prime Video, and yet another for Disney+. You want one VPN that works for all of them. This isn’t a job for the Justice League; you need Superman.
ExpressVPN is the hero every cord cutter needs. It is faster than a speeding fiber internet connection, providing little to no lag on its servers. It’s more powerful than a streaming provider, consistently providing access to streaming services that block most other VPNs. It’s even able to leap tall geo-restrictions in a single bound, giving you access to streaming providers’ region-locked content from a wide range of countries.
ExpressVPN’s device coverage is just what you’d expect from the VPN of steel: They do just about everything. Many VPNs skimp on app options for streaming devices and Smart TVs, but ExpressVPN has apps for Fire TV and Android TV, and it offers unusually simple and diverse options for protecting other streaming devices, including Roku devices and Apple TV devices. So what’s ExpressVPN’s kryptonite? We’ll let you know as soon as we find it.
Most VPNs give you discounts if you prepay for multiple years. Surfshark takes that to the extreme, offering a 2-year plan for the equivalent of $2.21 per month. — an 83 percent discount off their standard monthly rate. That makes them the cheapest full-featured VPN on the market.
With most VPNs, you can only cover a handful of devices on a single plan, but SurfShark has no device limit — a single plan will cover every device you own. There’s no need to purchase additional plans or make a difficult decision between protecting your Fire TV stick or protecting your mobile phone.
Some budget VPNs sacrifice features, but Surfshark doesn’t. Surfshark provides a high level of security and privacy, including giving access to some of the best VPN protocols. In our testing, their service worked great with streaming services. Their device coverage is also impressive, with apps for many streaming devices and Smart TVs along with desktops, laptops, and mobile phones.
NordVPN boasts an impressive 5,000+ servers in 59 countries, and that is crucial for streaming. More servers mean more time spent streaming without slowdown issues. NordVPNs servers are fast, too. During our tests in our NordVPN review, we had no issues while streaming video, a feat that many VPNs fail to achieve. There is nothing worse than having to pause the series finale of Stranger Things every five minutes to let the video buffer.
Of course, speed only matters if you have access to content, and that is another area where NordVPN shines. You’ll have no problem finding NordVPN servers that can access Netflix, and that includes unblocking region-locked content from around the globe. Netflix and other streaming platforms are constantly trying new methods to block VPNs, but the large number of servers NordVPN has will likely make it one of the hardest VPNs for them to stop entirely.
ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension isn’t a standalone product. Instead, it’s meant to control and enhance their main VPN app. This subtle difference makes ExpressVPN one of the most powerful VPNs for your browser.
Most VPN extensions for Chrome are very limited. Some only give you access to a handful of servers, compared to the thousands available with the same companies’ desktop apps. The ExpressVPN browser extension, on the other hand, has access to the full power of the desktop app, including all the same servers and VPN protocols.
ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension gives you WebRTC blocking, location spoofing, and HTTPS Everywhere. These features further protect your privacy, including hiding your real IP address and adjusting your geolocation data to match your VPN’s location. They also ensure your browser connects only to the secure versions of websites, even when the VPN is not running.
And if you are a Chromebook user, we saved the best for last: ExpressVPN is one of the very few VPN providers with a dedicated Chromebook app.
Windscribe’s Chrome browser extension is free. Most free VPN browser extensions limit you to less than 2 GB of data per month, but Windscribe offers a whopping 10 GB for free with the ability to upgrade to a paid plan. You don’t even need the desktop app to get access to all the features of their browser extension.
Windscribe’s browser extension comes packed with features that go above and beyond the standard VPN to maximize security and privacy, including the ability to hide your real IP address, geolocation, and timezone. It even gives you the ability to block ad services and other online trackers.
Your iPhone is a masterpiece of design, security, and privacy — and you shouldn’t settle for any less in your iPhone VPN. Sadly, most VPN providers treat iPhone users as second-class citizens, leaving some of the most important features out of their iPhone apps or providing subpar VPN protocols for iOS.
Surfshark is not your typical VPN provider. They have taken on the challenge of providing a VPN worthy of a place on your home screen. The design is slick, simple, and transparent — giving you all the information you need with none of the clutter found in some VPN apps.
Security starts with having a top-notch VPN protocol, and SurfShark gives you three of the best to choose from on iOS. Additional features like a kill switch, camouflage mode, and Multihop protect against even edge-case privacy and security concerns. Since SurfShark has a strict no-logging policy and is headquartered in a country with minimal data oversight laws, you can feel confident that the company is willing and able to protect your data.
Don’t tell the iPhone users I said this, but VPN providers tend to roll out new features on Android first. Many of the best VPNs have special features you’ll find only on Android (and maybe 1-2 other devices), so why should you choose Surfshark when there is an ocean of other possibilities?
Surfshark provides the best VPN protocols on the market to all their apps, including OpenVPN and WireGuard. For Android users, they also offer Shadowsocks, a protocol designed to work when every other protocol is blocked by your ISP or country. Android users also get access to camouflage mode, intended to bypass firewall-based VPN blocking.
Android is one of the only two platforms that have received Surfshark’s split tunneling feature — Whitelist — that allows you to select which programs use the VPN and which operate over your standard internet connection. In 2019, they even added ChaCha, an alternative encryption cipher designed to speed up mobile performance, to their Android app. You’d be hard-pressed to find another VPN service that has brought this many state-of-the-art features to the Android platform.
If you’re a Mac user, you demand more from your software. Seamless user experience is a must-have, but you also expect a high level of customizability and top-tier security and privacy. Is that too much to expect from a VPN? Not if you’re using Private Internet Access (PIA).
PIA starts with only the highest-quality VPN protocols, and they give you two of them to choose from. A kill switch and DNS leak protection strengthen the security and privacy of their offering, making it virtually impossible for your data to leak outside your VPN connection. The default settings would already earn PIA a place as one of the top VPNs, but they also give Mac users a level of customizability that few VPNs can match — even down to the level of which encryption standard to use! To top it all off, they have open-sourced all of their apps, a level of transparency that Mac users are sure to appreciate.
Not all great VPNs work seamlessly on Mac, but Private Internet Access does. That’s one reason we praised PIA in our review.
ExpressVPN is all about speed and simplicity. ExpressVPN is built to work perfectly right “out of the box,” a feature that Windows users expect in our apps. Advanced users can tinker with some of the alternative settings, but the default offers an excellent level of security for the typical user. Once installed, you can simply press the giant button — the VPN will take over from there, encasing your connection in a layer of privacy ensured by a company that you can trust.
If you need to access a server in another country, that option is right on the main screen in an intuitive menu. And we recommend you try it, too, because ExpressVPN unblocks region-locked content across a wide range of streaming services.
When you want to connect your VPN to a different country, would you rather pick that country from a list or a map? NordVPN knows you want a map. Their intuitive interface doesn’t stop there, either. For example, finding P2P servers is as easy as clicking P2P in the server list.
NordVPN combines the simplicity that Windows users love with remarkably fast speeds, only the best security protocols, and world-class privacy standards. Their VPN works smoothly and consistently, and the company has proven itself trustworthy by submitting to independent audits. As if that wasn’t enough — NordVPN even unlocks international Netflix content!
If you are into P2P file sharing and torrenting, you can’t be too careful when picking a VPN. Some block file sharing entirely, and others relegate it to a handful of servers that always end up slowing down from overuse. CyberGhost has a wide range of torrenting-optimized servers spread across several countries, and they make it incredibly easy to find those servers by including a “for torrenting” filter in their server list.
CyberGhost excels at speed, security, and privacy — the trifecta that you need for safe and effective torrenting. You’ll have no trouble finding high-speed P2P servers in several countries, many of which will run as fast as your standard internet connection. Their top-notch VPN protocols ensure that your connection is as secure as possible, and their always-on kill switch means that there is no chance that your data will accidentally leak out over an unsecured connection.
They are headquartered in Romania, a country with few data oversight laws. Combine that with their strict no-logging policy, and you can feel safe that your usage data will remain private with CyberGhost.
NordVPN makes it easy to use P2P file sharing and torrenting with all the security and privacy that you expect from your VPN. They have a filter in their server list that will let you view P2P-friendly server options, and they offer hundreds of VPN-optimized servers in a wide range of different countries.
Their server speeds are impressively fast, and they offer high-quality VPN protocols as well as a “kill switch” feature and other security must-haves. Their no-logging policy is independently audited, and they are headquartered in a country with minimal data oversight laws. This is all excellent news for anyone concerned with the privacy of their user data.
ProtonVPN’s free tier sets itself apart in one incredibly important way: It doesn’t have a data cap. If you are doing any amount of streaming or even browsing content-heavy websites, you will quickly overrun the data caps that most free VPNs impose. By removing this restriction, ProtonVPN has created a free VPN that is actually practical for everyday usage.
Their free VPN does have some limitations. The server speeds are somewhat slower on their free tier. The free tier limits you to servers in three countries (the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan). Free users won’t get the P2P-compatible servers or advanced security features that impressed us in our ProtonVPN review. These types of limitations are typical for free VPNs. In fact, other companies often provide access to only U.S. servers on their free plan, which makes ProtonVPN’s three-country plan very charitable by comparison.
I saved the best for last. There is a free seven-day trial of ProtonVPN’s Plus tier when you sign up for the free service. Without even entering a credit card, you can try out everything paid users experience, making it very easy to learn whether you are missing anything important should you decide to stick with the free tier.
Premium VPNs generally offer the best speeds and protection, but they aren’t for everyone.
If you only need a VPN for one small task then it might not be necessary. On the other hand, if you want consistent protection, unlimited bandwidth, and fast speeds, you will probably have to opt for a paid service.
Of course, there are free VPNs available that we like. TunnelBear, a VPN on our list, offers 500mb a month on their free version that can be extended to a total of 1GB per month of free usage. Another VPN that almost made it to our list, ProtonVPN, offers a free VPN service with no ads or data limits. The drawbacks, however, are that they support only three locations, allow only one device, and admit that their free service is not as fast as their paid versions.
Whether or not a premium VPN is right for you largely depends on how you will use it.
If you have even the slightest feeling that your personal data isn’t secure with a specific VPN, then it isn’t a good choice. Any VPN that is worth your money should pride itself on the security of its user data.
When you use a VPN, you are relying on them to securely encrypt your connection, keep it encrypted, and to protect your identity from anyone who might be looking.
We’ve established that trust and security is everything when it comes to a VPN. Now let’s consider some specific things to look for in a trustworthy VPN:
VPN protocols define how your data is handled and transferred between servers. Many VPNs let you choose from the protocols that they offer. However, they vary in security and should be evaluated carefully. Here are the primary protocols offered by most VPNs:
Without a killswitch feature, your data and activities will become exposed if the connection to your VPN is interrupted for some reason.
A killswitch will lock your data transfers until the connection to your VPN is restored. This way, your activities are never exposed to any third party.
A killswitch should be considered a basic feature when it comes to security. However, many users have no need for it. Especially if you are just using your VPN for Netflix.
A DNS leak is most common with Windows OS. If you have a leak, it appears as if you are connected properly to your VPN, but your data is in fact unprotected and could still be viewed by your ISP (and potentially other more harmful parties.)
Top-tier VPNs implement DNS leak protection to keep this from happening. If you suspect that you have a DNS leak, you can run a DNS leak test.
Which of the best VPNs of 2021 is right for you? It depends on your preferences and priorities.
If you’re looking for the cheapest overall option and you’re willing to buy in bulk, there’s really no better deal than Surfshark’s $1.99/month deal on the 2-year plan.
NordVPN comes in pretty close with their 3-year plan for $2.99/month, but you might not want to commit to three years right off the bat.
If you don’t need years’ worth of VPN, you can opt for a free VPN or one with a low monthly price. In this case, you might want to consider Tunnelbear or IPVanish.
If you’re looking to connect a family’s worth of devices or more, you want a VPN service that allows the maximum number of simultaneously-connected devices.
Surfshark allows unlimited devices, so that’s your best bet for quantity. If you factor in top-tier quality, IPVanish has you covered with 10 maximum devices.
When it comes to unparalleled security, you want a VPN that has a state-of-the-art proprietary protocol. Our favorite for this is VyprVPN, because on top of having a super-secure protocol, they also own all of their servers.
A close runner-up would be HotSpot Shield, which combines security with speed.
When it comes to ease-of-use, our favorite is Tunnelbear. It’s not complicated in the slightest, it’s fun to look at, and it works. If you need something simple and easy, Tunnelbear is our choice.
Each one of the above-mentioned best VPNs on our list is a solid choice, depending on what you need it for. Take your time and perhaps try out a few different services. If you aren’t happy, cancel before the trial period ends and try out another one. What’s most important is that your data stays safe and your web usage remains uninterrupted.