VPNs (virtual private networks) have many different functions and benefits, including keeping your browsing behavior private, disguising your geolocation, bypassing blocked websites, and accessing online streaming services.
There are hundreds of VPNs on the market, and every one of them claims to offer you the best service. So I’ve hand-tested several VPNs for speed, price, features, customer support, as well as, of course, privacy and security. I’ve collected stacks of data to create fact-based reviews.
How We Rated the Top VPN Services
Rating the best services requires a deep dive into how individual VPNs perform in terms of speed, security, and privacy. It also requires an analysis of usability, the ability to unblock sites, and value for money, among other external factors.
Jurisdiction and Privacy
Jurisdiction influences how a VPN service approaches privacy issues. The top VPN services are based in countries that are not associated with mass surveillance. Data laws also favor VPNs that are located in these countries. Many elite VPN providers, like ExpressVPN, come with a strict no-logs policy, ensuring maximum privacy.
Security and Encryptions
Encryptions define how strongly a VPN service implements its security. The stronger the encryption, the better the VPN—if the performance is balanced. Stronger encryptions tend to result in slower VPN connection speeds. PrivateInternetAccess is just one example of a VPN service that can offer great security features that don’t affect performance.
This important metric defines how fast the VPN connection is. By default, a VPN should slow your normal internet connection by a small percentage due to encryption overheads. A speed test is used to measure the VPN’s download speed, upload speed, latency, and jitter. The go-to VPN services have consistently high-speed test results. ExpressVPN’s average speed is approximately 77.14 Mbit/s, making it one of the fasting VPNs in the industry.
Quality Customer Service
A reliable VPN service offers customers help in multiple ways. This includes customer assistance, an online ticket system, and an email interface. ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer 24/7 live chat support, so customers can get support when it is most convenient for them.
VPN Protection: Can I Hide My IP Address?
A VPN encrypts and protects your data connection online. What you do online is open to prying eyes, but you can protect and hide your IP address and data by using a VPN. A VPN secures data between you and your business, or you can obtain anonymity and protection for your personal information.
There are loads of VPNs to choose from, and quality is on the rise. The process of choosing a VPN starts with a realistic assessment of your needs: if – for example – you only use Apple products, you must find the best VPN for Mac and Apple products.
How VPN Connections Benefit You
Not everyone has the same priorities or uses the internet in the same way. If you want to improve anonymity online, VPN providers give you a way to discreetly access the Internet through a “tunnel” service. This type of access masks your communication and displays the VPN’s IP address when you connect to a website, instead of your own.
This means that your private home IP address is hidden when browsing different websites. Using a VPN service will likely impact your computer speed as well. If you are looking for a fast VPN, make sure that it also keeps your privacy through data encryption between your computer and the target server. With ExpressVPN, you can improve the protection of your data, and stay anonymous on the internet – all while streaming or browsing at top speeds.
Other benefits of VPN are:
- Fast streaming and downloading/torrenting
- Access geo-restricted content
- Anonymous web surfing
- Bypass VPN blocks
Price Matters – But Only up to a Point
Free VPNs may seem attractive on paper, but they often offer a sub-par service and may have significant privacy issues. Always keep in mind that free services are free for a reason. The best VPNs offer a balance between quality and price, and some can be really cheap.
Speed and Reliability
A VPN keeps you safe online by rerouting your traffic through an encrypted server. If this process is done well, the effect on your connection should be unnoticeable. If, on the other hand, the VPN is poor quality, it may grind your internet speed down to a halt.
If you are looking for the best VPN for streaming, for example, look out for services with 99.9% uptime and no speed or bandwidth caps. This ensures your online experience will be smooth – irrespective of how heavy your internet usage is.
What do I need to know before I subscribe to a VPN service?
Before you subscribe to any VPN service, there are key factors to consider. These factors seek to answer how a particular VPN will help you. The VPN services that we highlighted were carefully selected based on the following factors:
VPNs are meant to keep your information private from the rest of the world when you surf the internet. The best anonymous VPNs will always have a strict no-logs policy, located in a jurisdiction with no data retention laws. They should also implement security features that protect your privacy.
- Security Features
Security goes hand in hand with privacy. The elite VPN services, like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark, should have strong, unbreakable encryptions. The VPN service should implement other security features such as a kill switch, protection against leaks, a firewall, and obfuscation technology. Robust security features allow VPN services to bypass restrictions easily.
- Speed, Performance, and Bandwidth
Besides privacy, you might want to use a VPN for speed-intensive tasks such as downloading files or even streaming. In this case, the best VPN to consider is one that offers lightning speeds without any buffering. The VPN should also have unlimited bandwidth and should not be laggy or slowing your connection to unacceptable levels. If you don’t want to sacrifice performance, check out our guide on how to find a VPN that doesn’t slow down your computer.
- Server Coverage
Server coverage dictates which locations you can access services from. This is important in bypassing geo-restrictions. Therefore, it’s wise to consider server locations when choosing a service.
- Simultaneous Connections
The best VPNs give you the best value for your money. Therefore, you should consider one that offers many simultaneous connections. The simultaneous connections should not affect the performance of the VPN. This way, you can take full advantage of your VPN on all your devices. When you sign up for ExpressVPN, you’re covered for up to 5 devices on one subscription.
How do I choose the best VPN?
There are numerous choices when it comes to VPN services. Narrow down those choices by focusing on the most important features, including:
- Strong encryption
- Ease of use
- P2P functionality
Look for a service with fast speeds, so your connection is smooth, strong security features, so your connection is private, and easy functionality, so you don’t hate your VPN. Also, look for one that offers P2P file sharing, and make sure the price is right.
What are the advantages of using a VPN?
VPN services provide an invaluable service for anyone using the internet. While people will opt to use a VPN for different reasons, some of the main benefits you can gain are:
- Online privacy
- Unblocking websites
- Unblocking Telegram
- Safe torrenting and streaming
- Bypassing censorship
- Saving money online by changing your geolocation
Whether you’re looking for more privacy or security or you want to access content that is geo-blocked for some reason, share files or stream a game, ExpressVPN provides you with the advantages you are looking for.
Yes! VPNs are totally legal to use in the vast majority of the civilized world. Of course, what you do with your VPN is subject to all laws governing your country. If you are doing something illegal with your VPN, that’s your business. VPN usage though is totally legal.
How can I use a VPN for streaming?
Streaming with a VPN is very simple.
- Sign up for the service and plan of your choice
- After logging into your account, turn on your VPN
- You can either manually choose a server/country to stream from or let the service choose the appropriate one for you
- Visit your favorite TV show streaming site, and enjoy your show!
How can I use a VPN for torrenting?
Torrenting is another great use for VPNs. Here’s how to set it up:
- Compare the best VPNs for torrenting and find the plan that fits your needs and budget
- Log into your account
- Connect to one of the dedicated servers for torrenting, or let the service pick the best server for your location
- Use your regular torrent site or app like uTorrent, and you’ll be completely protected while you download your torrents
Connecting to a VPN before surfing the internet, is essential. A good VPN will encrypt your browsing activity, reroute your online traffic through a secure tunnel—thereby masking your true identity from the encroaching eyes of governments, ISPs, as well as cybercriminals. Furthermore, a good VPN will allow you to enjoy maximum speeds, overcome heavy censorship, and unblock geo-restricted websites.
To get the most out of a VPN service, here are some tips to follow:
- Always go for premium VPNs—because they don’t have limits.
- Consider a VPN depending on your needs. If you want privacy, choose the VPN service with robust security features and strong encryptions.
- Finally, not all VPNs offer what they claim, choose carefully!
VPNs are one of the ultimate privacy and security tools in this digital age. VPNs have evolved to offer other functionalities, such as streaming and gaining access to restricted services on the internet. The above best services for 2019 will give you a seamless experience when surfing the internet. They have been chosen carefully to offer you the best value for your money.
Read more about the best VPN services around to see which one is right for you:
ExpressVPN – Unrestricted VPN Access Worldwide
Hands down, ExpressVPN is the number one most highly-acclaimed VPN service on the market, and it’s no secret why. With a massive amount of servers, great deals, and superior quality service, ExpressVPN blows the competition clear out of the water. In case you’re a see-it-to-believe-it kind of shopper, ExpressVPN lets you test drive the service with its 30-day money-back guarantee. Don’t like it? You’ll get your money back, no questions asked. For real.
So, what’s so great about ExpressVPN? Well, to kick things off, ExpressVPN offers members more than 2,000 servers spread out over 148 locations. This means no matter where in the world you are, you are likely to have several servers at your disposal for smooth and fast streaming. This brings us to our next ExpressVPN benefit. This company has ridiculously fast speeds. This comes from all of those servers we mentioned. Plus, ExpressVPN lets you see which servers have the fastest download speeds. You can also forget about privacy issues with ExpressVPN since it has a strict no-logs policy across the board. No timestamps, no destinations, no browsing history. It’s all private, all the time.
But, we’re not done yet. ExpressVPN can be used on every device, including iOS, Macs, Androids, Windows, and the less popular Linux. It even has a variety of browser extensions for you to choose from. There’s so much to love about ExpressVPN.
- Fast speeds across all 2,000+ servers
- Easy to set up and use on all devices
- 3 months free when you sign-up for 1 year
- Superfast speeds
- Can’t use the extension without the app
- Can be more expensive than competitors
CyberGhost – Serious about security
CyberGhost is a fast, secure VPN service owned by a privacy-focused company based in Bucharest, Romania. This VPN service has been around since 2011, and it has a comprehensive grasp of what the digital world needs—internet freedom and privacy.
CyberGhost VPN is more of a privacy solution, and it follows a strict no-logs policy. It packs many features to showcase its capabilities.
CyberGhost has over 4,300 VPN servers in 60 countries that offer unlimited bandwidth with the highest speeds possible. Some of its servers allow P2P traffic. CyberGhost uses military-grade encryption coupled with other security features such as a malware blocker and a kill switch. Like most of the top VPNs, CyberGhost offers a 45-day money-back guarantee and friendly customer support.
CyberGhost also sports a minimalistic interface that offers basic connection functionality. However, despite its size, it’s easier to navigate.
- Easy to use platform
- Works with Netflix US
- Low pricing plans
- Not as solid a reputation
- Not all servers work for torrenting
NordVPN – Great value for quality VPN service
NordVPN is a secure VPN service based in a privacy-friendly location—Panama. This VPN service is known for its excellence in complete privacy, advanced security, and internet freedom. NordVPN does not keep any logs, and given its territory, the laws of the land do not require it to do so.
NordVPN has the largest VPN server network—5,700 servers in 59 countries around the globe. This top-notch VPN packs various security and privacy-oriented features: a double VPN, military-grade encryption, stealth mode, a CyberSec feature, dedicated P2P servers, and dedicated IP addresses. Its servers are optimized to deliver lightning speeds suitable for streaming and speed-intensive tasks. It boasts fantastic customer service and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN clients are aesthetically pleasing as they offer a bigger and more detailed interface with a map.
- Double-hop VPN servers
- One of the cheapest plans around
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Some servers aren’t as fast as others
- No live chat