VPNs and How we Reviewed Them
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become an indispensable tool for many internet users in order to:
- Protect their privacy and anonymity on the internet
- To secure their internet connection when using public Wi-Fi networks
- To access overseas websites and web services such as Netflix, Home Box Office and streamed broadcasts of major sporting events that may be blocked to them by geographical restriction
- To use BitTorrent and P2P networks anonymously without disclosing their real IP address
- To bypass national firewalls operated by restrictive regimes that block access to sites like Facebook and Google.
In preparing this series of reviews we looked at 23 commercial VPN services which we culled down to seven as outlined in "How we Selected and Reviewed VPNs." We'll add additional VPN reviews based on suggestions from our site visitors. To have your say click on the poll in the right sidebar or post a comment below.
All the services reviewed here are subscription based though some offer both free and paid services. If you are only interested in free we suggest you consult our separate review of the Best Free VPN services.
Our VPN Review Recommendations
In the process of reviewing VPN services it soon became clear that there was no overall winner that was better in every way but rather particular services excel in particular areas. For example some VPNs provide great anonymity while other offer fast network speed or are geared towards the needs of BitTorrent users.
Consequently we recommend that you choose a VPN that is best suited to your needs. To assist we've rated the best VPNs according to how you want to use them in the list below:
Best VPN’s for anonymity
VPNs with the fastest network speeds
Best VPNs for BitTorrent and P2P users
Easiest to use VPNs
Best VPNs for watching NetFlix, HBO and similar geo-restricted services. Note: This is a fast changing area as services like Netflix try to stop VPNs and VPNs try to bypass new service restrictions.
Best VPNs to bypass national firewalls
Best value VPNs
Best Free VPN Offering
Here is a list (in alphabetical order) of all the services we tested along with a brief summary of each. The main features of each service are listed in the VPN Service Comparison Table. Use these resources to help guide your selection but we strongly recommend you read the full reviews as well.
The fastest VPN we tested. The network coverage is excellent and security and anonymity are of a very high order particularly with the Windows client. Great for everything except perhaps BitTorrent.
CyberGhost is a Romanian-based company that offers an extensive VPN network covering 31 countries and 48 cities secured by 256 bit AES encryption and the OpenVPN protocol. Clients are available for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android and these were exceptionally easy to install and configure. The clients differ in their features with the Windows client significantly more flexible than those for OS X and iOS and offering better anonymity as well. Download speeds over the VPN network were the fastest we tested though latency was less impressive. Security is of a very high order particularly when using the Windows client. BitTorrent and P2P are permitted except on servers located in USA, Russia, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong (China). Our only real disappointment was the level of support, which is available in European office hours only. Read full CyberGhost VPN review
It has a big network, superfast speeds, great security and anonymity and BitTorrent users are welcome but all this comes at a price. If you can afford it then this is a standout choice.
Discretely located in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN provides a fast VPN service in 97 cities across 78 countries with easy-to-install clients for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android. A wide variety of streaming media boxes and game consoles are also supported via manual configuration. The default encryption is 256 bit using OpenVPN which should provide excellent security. Sign-up can be accomplished with a high degree of anonymity and no logs are kept for VPN sessions. It’s an outstanding choice for most VPN applications including BitTorrent and P2P. Read full ExpressVPN review
A large network that's great for anyone wanting to access Netflix and similar geo-restricted sites but anonymity is not a strong point
HMA is situated in the UK and offers a huge VPN network easily accessed by highly configurable clients for Windows and Mac and simple but effective clients for iOS and Android. A highly useful feature of their network is the ability to utilize “virtual servers” which are locally situated but “appear” to be located in other countries such as the USA or Europe. Overall performance of the network was average to slow but by utilizing virtual servers we got good performance when connected to streaming video services in other countries like HBO and Netflix in the USA. BitTorrent is allowed but not for illegal content. It is totally blocked on some of their servers for all content. A disappointing aspect of HBO is they log the user’s real IP both during account registration and VPN server connection. This is of little consequence to those simply wanting to access geographically restricted web services but will worry those seeking true anonymity. Read full HMA VPN review
A low priced option that's ideal for providing anonymity to BitTorrent users and for accessing geo-restricted services like Netflix and HBO. It's not super-fast but fast enough for most purposes.
PIA VPN is an American company that has a zero logging policy. It also allows anonymous payment to ensure a VPN service that promises users a high degree of security and anonymity. It largely delivers on this promise though some users may have concerns remain about the ultimate data privacy and security of any USA-based company. BitTorrent and P2P are fully supported. PIA’s network of 30 VPN portals in 18 countries is somewhat smaller than many of its main competitors and this may explain why measured download speeds while adequate, were not as fast as some of the other VPNs we tested. Read full PIA VPN review
With a huge high speed network and reasonable pricing this is great all-round VPN but BitTorrent users and those wanting deep anonymity should look elsewhere.
Hong Kong based PureVPN offers very a fast VPN service offering 500+ servers in 141 countries. There are highly configurable clients for both Windows and Mac users both of which offer the very attractive option of allowing users to select the best server based on purpose rather than simply geographical location. Those trying to access services in other countries such as HBO and streaming sporting coverage will find this particularly useful. The iOS client is more basic but is easy to setup. BitTorrent is supported but only in a limited number of countries. There are some unanswered privacy concerns about information kept during account registration and while this will be of little consequence to average users, it suggests that those wanting the absolute anonymity should look elsewhere. Read full PureVPN review
The easiest to use VPN of them all and reasonably priced too. The global network is on the smaller side but American subscribers are well catered for. BitTorrent is not allowed.
TunnelBear is a Canadian company that operates a mid-sized network covering 14 countries with one portal in each country. It was the easiest VPN to install and use of all the VPNs we tested. This necessarily means that TunnelBear is not the most full-featured VPN but it has sufficient features to satisfy all but the most technical users. The VPN download speed performance was average being neither the slowest nor fastest, but sufficient for most users. Security is excellent with the OpenVPN protocol encrypted with AES 256 bit used by default across all platforms except iOS. Users wanting anonymity and privacy are well catered for except perhaps those with the most demanding anonymity requirements. TunnelBear does not support BitTorrent use as torrent ports are blocked across the TunnelBear network. Read full TunnelBear VPN review
It's really fast, it's got a big network and is great for busting through restrictive firewalls and accessing overseas web services but the pricing is higher than most. Not good for BitTorrent and deep anonymity.
A well-established, full-featured VPN service incorporated in Switzerland that offers secure connections over multiple protocols to more than 700 servers in 50+ locations worldwide. Subscription includes the use of the company’s non-logging DNS servers as well as the optional use of their proprietary “Chameleon” technology claimed to defeat national firewalls such as the great Firewall of China. It provides excellent network speed and security though privacy issues relating to IP logging are currently not sufficiently clarified so we've deducted a half star from our rating because of that. It's still a great choice for users who want to be able to use a VPN for everyday private browsing, connecting to web services in other countries and bypassing national firewalls. It's less suited to BitTorrent users or individuals who require maximum anonymity. Read full VyprVPN review
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