How We Selected and Reviewed VPNs

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Before starting the reviews we did a survey of what commercial VPNs were active in the market. We found over 70 such services and reduced this to a smaller list of 23 based on popularity and suitability.
 
BTGuard
Cryptostorm
CyberGhost *
ExpressVPN  *
HideMyAss *
HotSpot Shield Elite
IPVanish
iVPN 
NordVPN 
Norton Hotspot Privacy
OkayFreedom
OpenVPN (Host your own VPN)
Overplay
Privacy.io
Private Internet Access *
proXPN
Proxy.SH 
PureVPM *
SurfEasy
TorGuard
TunnelBear *
VPN Direct
VyperVPN *
 
We looked at the remaining 23 in more detail by checking the product websites, by reading user comments in forums and checking out other reviews on the web.
 
In the end we came up with a manageable list of seven general-purpose VPN services for intensive review. These are shown in the list above with an asterisk (*) beside their name.  Omitted were some promising specialty services such as those geared specifically to BitTorrent users or to users needing absolute anonymity. We will review these at a later date along with other VPNs recommended by our readers.
 
To review the seven chosen services we subscribed to each service just like a normal user by paying from our own pocket, without revealing to the vendor we were reviewing the products.  
 
We tested the Windows version on a Windows 7 laptop, the Mac version on a MacBook Air running OS X Yosemite and the iOS version on an iPad Air using iOS 8. The Android versions were not tested.
 
To test VPN network speed we used www.speedtest.net. We tested for DNS cache poisoning at https://www.dns-oarc.net/oarc/services/dnsentropy, DNS leakage at https://www.dnsleaktest.com and IPV6 leak tests at http://ipv6leak.com/. We also tested how much information is revealed by the user’s browser by testing at http://mybrowserinfo.com
 
To test user support we posed multiple questions to each vendor mostly via the online chat facility where available, otherwise by email. Once again anonymity was maintained.
 
When the reviews had been written and ready for publication we signed up to any referral scheme offered by each VPN service. At that time a number of vendors asked to see the reviews prior to publication but we declined all such requests. So the first time vendors saw our reviews of their products was when they were publicly published on the Gizmo’s Freeware website. In line with this site's policy of full disclosure we do not to cloak of otherwise hide referral links from our users.
 
 

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