The VPN market grows in relevance and scale, filling up with good tools and bad. In this article, we‘ll give you an overview of the best VPN services available today. Stepping into the “shop“ blind is dangerous: a lot of providers claim to be the best in the world when in reality most are either mediocre or downright damaging. But don’t despair! There are solid choices if you know where to look.
Why use a VPN and how we rank them?
The present gives us no lack of reasons to use a VPN. The first and foremost is privacy and anonymity on the web. With governments spying on our online selves, corporations profiling users for targeted ads, and copyright warriors keeping an eye on our torrent traffic, hiding under the VPN shroud is only natural.
Then there’s security: those who find themselves using public wifi hotspots rely on encryption to keep sensitive details out of the hands of hackers. Activists and journalists under oppressive regimes depend on it for their lives, while businesses use it to protect valuable information.
Finally, there’s entertainment and information. The overwhelming majority of VPN users are mostly concerned with accessing geo-blocked entertainment platforms, such as Netflix, or censored websites, such as YouTube in China.
This multitude of reasons people use VPNs has caused them to flourish and become ubiquitous. Virtually anyone can benefit from them in some way. However, the versatility of these tools also means it’s difficult to look at them objectively, begging the question – just how do we rank them?
The criteria can certainly be contested, but the VPN aspects we rate are:
- Versatility (how many different things is a service good for?)
- VPN security
- Entertainment (effectiveness against geo-blocking, torrenting capabilities)
- Reliability against firewalls and censorship
- Ease of use and customer support
Based on these factors we have already reviewed well over a hundred VPNs – these are the 10 we value the most.
Top 10 VPN Rankings
This VPN powerhouse does it all for the right price.
- Pros: great security features, fast connections, very user-friendly
- Cons: expensive
- Price: starts at $8.32/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.6
ExpressVPN is secure enough for both sensitive purposes – journalism, political activism, etc. – and simple entertainment. The service offers stellar AES-256 encryption, a sturdy kill switch, has absolutely no leaks to speak of, and a no-logs policy proven in the wild. That should assuage the fears of virtually anyone.
Despite the high level of security, ExpressVPN has great performance and is one of the fastest VPNs on the market today. That’s unsurprising, considering the service has 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, including some very exotic locations. If you want to see the internet through the eyes of a Mongolian or Bahamanian, you can easily do so with ExpressVPN.
You will find user-friendly ExpressVPN apps for most of the main platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, routers). Any issues you may have with the service can be addressed by reaching out to customer support via live chat (24/7).
ExpressVPN is a very reliable way to access the US library of Netflix as well as most other geo-blocked services on the web. Alternatively, it’ll allow you to torrent securely or use Kodi without looking over your shoulder.
Are there any drawbacks? Yes – it‘s kind of expensive, has no free trial, and only supports 3 simultaneous connections.
Read our full ExpressVPN Review
Steady as a rock – the most secure and privacy-friendly VPN on the market.
- Pros: security features for days, good unblocker, works with P2P
- Cons: not the fastest VPN
- Price: starts at $2.99/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.5
NordVPN has the strongest security features of any VPN. In addition to the bank-level AES-256 data encryption and two types of kill switch, NordVPN has great bonus features for maximum safety. These include Double VPN, Onion over VPN to combine the powers of Tor and VPN, as well as CyberSec to protect against malware and trackers.
Nord has 5,300+ servers in 62 countries around the World. It‘s got user-friendly apps for almost all popular devices (Windows, Mac, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux) with the exception of routers. With that said, NordVPN does support routers and there are instructions available to make use of this fact.
It‘s difficult to make definitive statements about the quality of customer support a company provides (because the tests are anecdotal by nature). Regardless, we feel that the NordVPN 24/7 live chat offers the best support experience.
This VPN will unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and get you making popcorn in no time. If you‘d rather download stuff using torrents – help yourself, NordVPN even offers specialized P2P servers. Because of the Obfuscated Servers feature, users will even be able to enjoy the VPN in China.
The only negative? It only gives above-average speeds.
Read our full NordVPN Review
3. Astrill VPN
Asia’s top VPN choice.
- Pros: lightning fast, very secure, and a good unblocker
- Cons: expensive, collects more user data than optimal
- Price: starts at $8.33/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.3
Astrill VPN is a smaller network. Regardless, it has quietly built a solid product that offers almost all of the features of the crème de la crème. It offers solid data encryption (AES-256 and other strong ciphers) and an assortment of tunneling protocols for all occasions. There’s the usual OpenVPN, IPsec, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP; the less-usual SSTP; the new and revolutionary WireGuard; and the proprietary stealth protocols – OpenWeb and StealthVPN.
The stealth protocols and high percentage of servers located in Asia make this the best performing VPN service on the continent. Yet the 328 server list spread out over 65 countries gives some of the best speeds anywhere.
The Seychelles-based Astrill VPN is torrent-friendly, has great customer support, and unlocks Netflix US along with most other streaming platforms. You can get it on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and routers.
With all that said, Astrill VPN too is not ideal: it’s the most expensive VPN service on this list and logs more data than we consider optimal. Additionally, it doesn’t have the most aesthetically-pleasing or user-friendly VPN apps.
Read our full Astrill VPN Review
An American solution for the geeks.
- Pros: secure, versatile and highly customizable
- Cons: based in the US, not very user-friendly
- Price: starts at $4.99/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.2
The server list is very impressive: TorGuard VPN has 3,000+ servers and IPs in 50+ countries. Crucially, this VPN works well in China and has many weapons against the Great Firewall.
TorGuard VPN also has a way of ensuring their users can always access streaming platforms: for an extra charge, they will give you a dedicated IP for streaming, making it impossible for Netflix and other platforms to block your popcorn time. With that said, it’s otherwise not the best for bypassing geo-blocking.
TorGuard’s support is efficient and available 24/7 via live chat or phone. You may need it too because the apps offer a lot of choice, perhaps at the cost of ease of use.
Aside from this slight issue, TorGuard is unfortunately registered in the US, which is not a very privacy-friendly jurisdiction and certainly not the optimal country to run a VPN from.
Read our full TorGuard Review
5. Ivacy VPN
Lots of bang for your buck with this Singapore-based VPN.
- Pros: very fast and has lots of features
- Cons: registered in Singapore and related to PureVPN
- Price: starts at $2.25/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.0
Despite the truly unoriginal name, Ivacy VPN is one of the best. Ivacy VPN has brilliant security features and a great selection of tunneling protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, SSTP, L2TP, PPTP) and a range of encryption levels, with the highest being the industry standard AES-256. This service has no leaks and protects your connection with an inbuilt kill switch.
The company behind this VPN is based in Singapore, which is not the most privacy-friendly place on the globe and a 5 Eyes partner. With that said, Ivacy has a strict no-log policy, making this issue less relevant.
With its P2P-optimized servers and positive outlook on torrenting, Ivacy is a good choice for those who would set sail for The Pirate Bay. It will also unlock the most important Netflix libraries (US/UK) and other geo-blocked streaming platforms. Although Ivacy does not have stealth protocols, its great server list (450+ servers in 100+ locations) makes it a decent choice for users in Asian countries such as China (although its Singaporean location is concerning).
Ivacy VPN is not at all expensive. Perhaps its only real weaknesses are the location and its curious relationship to PureVPN and its developers in Pakistan (Gaditek).
Read our full Ivacy VPN Review
The VPN market’s lightweight king of unblockers.
- Pros: unblocks most online services, has great speeds, decent security features
- Price: starts at $3.82/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.5
At 100+ servers across 57 countries around the world, this is a smaller VPN than any on this list. PrivateVPN has strong security credentials and few blemishes. Their encryption is sound, the service has a reliable kill switch, proxy servers, and a good selection of security protocols.
PrivateVPN is neither the fastest nor the most sluggish VPN service. With their low number of servers, the performance is quite admirable. One area where this VPN wins is versatility – with it, you will be able to bypass Netflix US restrictions (as well as those of most other Netflix libraries) and safely use torrents. PrivateVPN has recently begun offering their own “stealth mode” (stealth protocol), which makes it a very good choice for users in China as well.
PrivateVPN has custom apps for the main platforms (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android) and also has a Kodi addon. The service supports other devices as well (such as routers) but you will need to follow a more complicated process to make it work.
Read our full PrivateVPN Review
This universal Romanian VPN has had a phenomenal 2018.
- Pros: versatile, has slick clients, not expensive
- Cons: not great for China, collects more logs than optimal
- Price: starts at $2.50/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.4
At #7, CyberGhost has both triumphs and vices. CyberGhost has strong security features, including AES-256 encryption, strong tunneling protocols, an automatic kill switch (sadly non-toggleable), and leak protection. Yet it’s not the tool if you want to hack into the Pentagon.
You can do most things as a “Ghostie” – unblock Netflix, use torrents, bypass most geo-blocking measures. Like many other VPNs, CyberGhost has problems working in China, and unlike some, it doesn’t have a good way around it.
At 3,600+ servers in 59 countries, CyberGhost has decent coverage and speed, but it’s not a leader in either of these areas. That said, the server list has more or less doubled this year, so who knows what the future will bring for CyberGhost. A recent app update fixes a lot of the GUI issues seen in the previous version and the service has great 24/7 live chat support.
It’s not an expensive service and has a 45-day money-back guarantee for longer subscriptions. However, there are some concerns with regard to CyberGhost – it’s owned by a British company of somewhat ill repute (Kape Technologies) and it collects a bit too much user data for our liking.
Read our full CyberGhost Review
Super-rich in features, super-flexible in pricing.
- Pros: versatile and quick, lots of great features, cheap
- Cons: not great for use in China, some shady practices, based in Canada
- Price: starts at $1.00/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.4
This Canada-based VPN is very rich in security features, rivaling the best of the best. It has military-grade AES-256 encryption, a good selection of tunneling protocols, no leaks, and some bonuses in the form of Double Hop and R.O.B.E.R.T. – a solid anti-tracking/malware feature.
With over 540 servers in 60+ countries, Windscribe is able to output great speeds across a wide geography. You’ll be able to use these perks for a big list of activities, including unblocking Netflix through its Windflix servers, gaming, or secure torrenting (although P2P traffic is only allowed on some servers).
Windscribe is on the cheap end of the spectrum and has flexible pricing plans, including a “Build A Plan” option, allowing you to pay $1.00/month per location. There’s a limited free version as well, which you can use to get a taste of what you’ll be getting.
There’s multi-platform support with apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, as well as extensions for Firefox plus Chrome.
The drawbacks include the fact that Windscribe is registered in Canada and controversy concerning its use of the free version as a crypto-miner.
Read our full Windscribe Review
This Swiss VPN is beyond reproach, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
- Pros: fast, secure, great against censorship, slick apps
- Cons: no good for torrenting
- Price: starts at $5.00/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.3
Although VyprVPN comes in at #9, it may be one of the best VPN services for a lot of people. This is a technologically flawless product with only one big con – it’s not for everyone. VyprVPN has strong encryption and a good selection of protocols, including its very own Chameleon protocol. This proprietary technology was created specifically to bypass blocking efforts in places like China, Russia, Iran, and other enemies of free speech.
GoldenFrog (the company behind VyprVPN) owns all of the VPN’s 700+ servers in 70+ locations. They have done a lot to optimize these servers, achieving brilliant performance across the board and increasing security to a superb level.
VyprVPN is good for bypassing Netflix geo-blocking measures. However, it is not great when it comes to torrenting. VyprVPN has a problem with you violating copyrights, so torrenting might get your subscription revoked.
Golden Frog is based in VPN-friendly Switzerland and provides an audit-proven no-log service. It also has top-notch customer support, brilliant apps for a wide range of platforms, and is reasonably priced.
As mentioned, its biggest issue is with torrenting and other copyright-related matters.
Read our full VyprVPN Review
Best newcomer of 2018 – who knows how far it will go!
- Pros: fast, secure, rich in features, unlimited simultaneous connections
- Cons: the website is not the best, support could be better
- Price: starts at $1.99/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.2
The Top 10 isn’t often a place for newcomers, but Surfshark VPN deserves an exception. This service opened shop this spring and has demonstrated a meteoric rise to the top.
Surfshark offers the most secure protocols in OpenVPN and IKEv2, encrypting data under AES-256-GCM. This is a very high level of protection as is, but the security features don’t end there. Surfshark VPN also has a kill switch and even multi-hop (cascading connections through two VPN servers). Following TunnelBear, Surfshark got the security of its browsers extensions independently audited by the German cybersecurity firm Cure53.
This VPN provider is based in the British Virgin Islands. That fact, as well as no connection limit, means that Surfshark can afford to have a real no-log policy.
Surfshark VPN is super fast, has a great server list (800+ servers in 50 countries), lets you torrent as much as you want, and unblocks Netflix. The service even has a Camouflage Mode, making it a good choice in high-censorship countries, such as China.
Read our full Surfshark VPN Review
Is it legal to use a VPN?
The legal status of VPNs varies greatly from country to country and other contextual factors. There are countries where VPN use is completely illegal and punishable by law – Saudi Arabia, North Korea, or Belarus. In others, VPN services are restricted in some way – China and Russia are prime examples of this.
Most countries allow VPN use, however, some actions people use these tools for can be illegal. Copyright infringements or hacking, for example, will get you into trouble regardless of country.
Should I trust VPN service providers?
Some of them, but be careful out there! The VPN market is all about trust – we can never be fully aware of what happens behind the doors of data centers around the world. As such, users should rely on the available facts to determine whose trustworthy and who isn’t. Independent audits, tests of “no-logs” policies in the wild, and independent research are invaluable sources of information to make an informed decision. Remember – using a compromised anonymity tool leaves you exposed to all kinds of risks!
Best free VPN
Free VPN services fall into two categories:
- Free VPNs funded by “selling the user”
- Free versions of paid VPNs
The first of these is problematic due to the obvious reason that usually they track user behavior and sell the data to third-parties. This is plainly irreconcilable with privacy.
Meanwhile, the second category usually means a limited product: fewer features than the premium versions, restrictions on the amount of data users can transfer and so on. However, some are significantly better than others.
One such service is ProtonVPN, which offers a tool without limits on how much data you can use or how many server switches you have. It is also impeccable on the security and privacy front, making it great for those who need real anonymity but can’t afford a top VPN service.
Read our full ProtonVPN Review