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Fastest VPN 2021 – CNET
You’re working from home. You’re binging Netflix, you’re gaming, you’re streaming music — and if you’re reading this, chances are you’re searching for a VPN, or virtual private network, that can handle the huge amount of data running through your coaxial cable. That’s where this guide to the fastest VPN comes in. We tested and reviewed the top VPN providers to find you the fastest VPN performer that won’t compromise on reliability and we dive in, you’ll want to keep a few things to keep in mind: First, it’s not easy to speed-test a VPN in a way that translates to practicable consumer advice. For one, the speed of a VPN can change from day to day, prompting some review sites to create automated monitoring processes. Not only that, but the use of any virtual private network, no matter how fast, will somewhat reduce your browsing speeds. There’s also the impact of underlying internet speeds in the US, which vary widely depending on your VPN provider and the state you live in — the fastest VPN in one area might not be the fastest VPN in another. Finally, if you eliminate all potential variables — from individual machine quirks to network interference — to create a lab-like test setting, you’re essentially testing a VPN service provider’s product in a digital environment that bears little resemblance to the operating environment most of us live and work these reasons and more, I prefer to create a VPN testing environment that resembles what you, the typical VPN user, are likely to experience. That’s also why I’m more interested in measuring the amount of speed lost with a virtual private network (which, for most VPNs, is usually half or more) across both high-speed and slower connection types. I want to know how these services are going to perform when you’ve got simultaneous connections across multiple devices — Windows or Mac — on a residential internet connection that may or may not be shared by others. I also want to know how well they can handle not just browsing, but also heavy traffic loads of gaming, torrenting and determine the fastest VPN service, my speed tests are conducted manually using OpenVPN protocol — generally considered the most secure and widely used type of open-source protocol. To be clear, some of the brands have their own proprietary protocols that may well offer a faster speed, but I wanted to keep this an apples-to-apples comparison. First, I test my internet speed without a VPN. Then, I connect my machines to the VPN and pick five servers in diverse locations across the world. I test those five servers, five times each, at intervals over two to three days via the widely used Ookla Speedtest. Then I calculate the average download speed of each to find out what percentage of my normal internet speeds are lost with the use of each VPN. (Find out more about how we evaluate and review VPNs here. ) Because of the ever-rotating roster of front-runners in the VPN race, you can expect this list to change as it gets updated with our most recent test results. Among the VPNs we’ve tested so far, here are the ones that were the fastest VPN at the time of publication.
16. 9% speed loss (faster than 27% loss in previous test)Fastest VPN connections: USSlowest connections: Australia As a relative newcomer in the VPN world, Surfshark ended 2019 with just 27% speed loss in my review, positioning it far ahead of all of its competitors — except for the seemingly uncatchable speed leader ExpressVPN, which dominated my 2019 testing with less than 2% speed loss. But at the close of 2020, Surfshark was surging ahead of the pack with 17% speed loss, as ExpressVPN speeds fell to 52% speed loss in my most recent remarkable thing about Surfshark’s speed is that its average speeds aren’t fighting to overcome major speed losses in any particular test region. This thing showed up on race day and stole the gold for the fastest speed, seemingly without breaking a sweat. During testing, my base non-VPN speeds averaged 194 megabits per second, while Surfshark’s overall average was 161Mbps. After taking the averages of five testing locations, I found not one of the averages from those locations fell below 100Mbps. That’s an across-the-board win against its competitors in every test column. While the competitors below seemed to struggle with US speeds, Surfshark clocked a 204Mbps average on US connections. Because the VPN service provider allows you to choose which VPN server to connect to (with a handy visual icon to signal overall crowdedness of each VPN server location), one way I could have juked the stats here is by hand-picking servers across the US with the least VPN traffic load. And I would have loved to report New York speeds specifically, for example. But that wouldn’t have been fair; NordVPN still frustratingly lacks that feature, so I used Surfshark’s automatic server selection option (as I did with the other test subjects). NordVPN couldn’t get close to Surfshark’s American speeds during testing, though, averaging just 89Mbps on US connections by comparison. Surfshark again outperformed its peers during UK and European tests, averaging 165Mbps and 171Mbps in each, respectively. While future tests might include other regions in Europe, I currently go for a mix of German and French connections. Usually, no matter the VPN, Frankfurt speeds weigh down the average, while connections in Orange and Paris bring a major numbers boost. That was still the case with Surfshark’s speeds, but even Surfshark’s German numbers were higher than the average speeds of its competitors. Australia is normally where we see numbers take a dive — the continent’s distance from my test site in Kentucky means major latency. Latency was still high, but this fast VPN service seemed unfazed, clocking a 126Mbps average download speed. For comparison, that’s close to the 122Mbps average I measured for ExpressVPN’s European connections. Singapore is where speeds always get competitive. The speed-testing site that I and most other reviewers use, Ookla, ranked Singapore’s internet speeds the fastest in the world in 2018 with an average national speed of 181Mbps. How did Surfshark do there? An easy, breezy 142Mbps average. Was it a fluke? Was my VPN connection just having a great day? Was Surfshark’s overall server traffic particularly light that day? All of those things are possible. That’s why I aim to keep retesting this newly crowned speed queen, and why I always recommend you opt for VPNs that offer money-back guarantees and allow you to test their services in your own normal use for 30 days. But these are speeds I haven’t seen from any VPN I’ve tested so far. Surfshark is a beast. If you’re shopping for pure high speed right now, this super fast VPN is the service provider you’re looking for.
Read our Surfshark review.
51. 8% speed lost (slower than previous 2% loss in previous test)Fastest VPN connections: Western EuropeSlowest connections: US It killed me to see ExpressVPN’s pace fall from the jaw-dropping speeds I clocked for it last year. This VPN not only got an Editors’ Choice Award but — because it’s one of the few VPNs proven to keep no usage logs during a geopolitical trial-by-fire — it’s my own personal favorite VPN. Its history and durable encryption, combined with its then-untouchable speeds, non-Five Eyes jurisdiction and streamlined user interface made this VPN worth the higher-than-average subscription cost. Last year, ExpressVPN gave me a less than 2% speed loss overall. This year, I clocked a 52% speed loss. Though that’s a major dip, it’s still a better-than-average score compared with other VPNs. To be clear, ExpressVPN is still a speed demon that consistently ranks in the top 10 of sites with massive automated VPN speed-test processes. Just because Surfshark beat it to the finish line this time doesn’t mean ExpressVPN is at all sluggish. It still flies, and most people will have no problems gaming, streaming or even torrenting heavily. During testing, my non-VPN speeds averaged 193Mbps, and ExpressVPN’s overall global average speed was 93Mbps. Peak speeds were reached on European connections, averaging about 122Mbps between Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris. Australian speeds outperformed the UK with averages of 101Mbps and 86Mbps, respectively. Between the two, however, the UK caught the better individual high score, topping out at 157Mbps in a single test compared with Australia’s highest single-round score of 136Mbps. Singapore’s scores also edged out the UK’s by just three points at 89Mbps. US scores were where ExpressVPN’s averages got dragged down: US speeds averaged just 66Mbps, despite reaching up to 134Mbps on a single test round. Because of ExpressVPN’s history of smoking its opponents on speed tests, my first instinct was to check for a testing issue on my side. So I walked back through my testing process, double-checked my setup and retested to make sure I wasn’t accidentally dipping ExpressVPN’s numbers. When my results appeared consistent, I checked in with a couple of sites that offer automated speed testing I trust and compared notes: Sure enough, as of late October, both Top10VPN and ProPrivacy speed tests show that ExpressVPN has struggled with consistency and slipped down the rankings in the past couple of months. I contacted ExpressVPN to find out what’s happening with the recent dips in its speeds. The company looked into it, and said several of its in-house tests were seeing speeds between 200Mbps and 275Mbps using OpenVPN protocol. Those results were far above my own. “We think one possible explanation is that there was network saturation between your ISP and our data center during the time period that you tested, which again should not be a typical result, ” an ExpressVPN spokesperson company also pointed to its new protocol, currently in development. “We are transitioning our legacy OpenVPN infrastructure to Lightway, a VPN protocol that we developed in-house to deliver WireGuard-like speed but far superior security, ” the spokesperson said. “It’s in beta right now as we’re still applying tweaks so we can provide the Lightway benefits to our customers at scale, but once it goes into full release within the next couple of months, we are confident it will deliver speeds on par with or better than the fastest Wireguard setups from other providers. “Is ExpressVPN still my favorite? Absolutely. And while the call isn’t mine alone, I’d argue it takes more than a single speed dip to contradict an Editors’ Choice Award. All the same, if Surfshark ever gets its servers seized by a government and is found logless in public, ExpressVPN is going to have a problem on its hands.
Read our ExpressVPN review.
53% speed lost (slower than previous 32% loss in previous tests)Fastest VPN connections: SingaporeSlowest connections: USRight out of the gate, it should be said that NordVPN has been steadily improving its speeds since I tested it for the first time last year. While my latest tests show the VPN provider falling 2 percentage points behind ExpressVPN, other speed-testing sites have seen it routinely surge ahead. Since its embarrassing third-party server breach last year (which appeared to cause minimal damage), NordVPN has gotten aggressive. Along with a suite of fleetwide privacy improvements to its servers, it’s revved up its engine. Granted, some of that may have to do with a new security protocol NordVPN rolled out, called NordLynx. It’s built on the still-developing protocol WireGuard, which some argue is less secure than OpenVPN (an option available in all the VPNs listed here, and one I use in testing), but which ultimately creates a faster VPN tunnel. The improvements earned it recommendations from both Ookla and AV-Test. Even with the accolades of others, NordVPN’s overall global average speed was 91Mbps during my testing, in a dataset with average non-VPN speeds of 194Mbps, for a speed loss of roughly 53%. While it’s normal for a VPN to cut your internet speed by half or more, the notable context here is that across the averages of my five test zones, I never saw NordVPN fall below 85Mbps. It’s still one of the most consistent, stable VPNs I’ve worked with. Singapore led the VPN speed test averages at 98Mbps, while UK speeds beat European speeds by a hair’s breadth. At 99. 93Mbps, UK VPN connection speed squeaked ahead of French and German ones, which averaged 91. 90Mbps. NordVPN also had another photo finish during testing, with Australia beating US scores, 88Mbps to 86Mbps. None of these are scores that you can look down your nose at.
Read our NordVPN review.
Fastest VPN speeds compared
2020 tested speed loss*
2019 tested speed loss*
Faster in 2020 test
Slower in 2020 test
*Lower number is better Boosting your speed No matter which VPN you’re using, there are configurations that can help you max out your speeds. These suggestions aren’t aimed at improving overall privacy, however, and some may come with privacy reductions depending on which VPN you’re using. But if you’re interested, here are three ways to boost your VPN speed: Check your protocol: If a VPN works by sending your internet traffic through encrypted tunnels, the VPN’s protocol is the method it uses to dig that tunnel. VPNs use different types of security protocols for different reasons, and most VPNs allow you to switch between protocol options at will. Generally, the more secure a protocol is, the slower your VPN speeds. We usually recommend choosing the OpenVPN protocol because it’s secure without being cumbersome, but you can amp your speeds by switching your VPN app to the IKEv2/IPsec protocol. Choose nearby servers: The closer you’re physically located to a server, the faster your information is going to travel. Select a server located as close as possible to you to get rapid-fire data return. If you’re using a VPN that visually displays how crowded an individual server is, like IPVanish, be sure you’re selecting a server that’s handling a low amount of Split-tunneling is a feature offered by most leading VPNs that allows you to decide which of your apps’ internet traffic is being sent through your VPN. Reducing the amount of device data you’re sending through your VPN may improve speeds. All the VPNs listed in this article offer split-tunneling directly through their apps except for NordVPN, which only offers split-tunneling through its mobile apps and via desktop browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
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The Fastest VPNs for 2021 | PCMag
The Price of a VPNAt PCMag, we’ve long believed that thinking of security as a zero-sum game isn’t helpful. It fosters a sense of helplessness, making people believe there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves from all the nasty digital things in this world. There are, however, often tradeoffs with security tools between ease of use and quality of security. This is especially true for VPNs. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for your web traffic. This makes it much harder for anyone snooping on your network to see what you’re up to, and for anyone out on the web to trace online activity back to you. It even blinds your ISP, which is useful since they seem keen on selling your anonymized data.
Using a VPN (usually) costs money, but it also comes at a performance cost. Some websites will block VPN traffic because they view it as suspicious. But there’s a deeper issue: using a VPN will almost invariably reduce upload and download speeds and increase the latency of your internet speed is important, other factors such as value and privacy protections are far more important. As such, we tend to de-emphasize speed in our reviews, unless it is impressively good or abysmally bad. But readers are, understandably, concerned about the impact a VPN will have on their web browsing experience. And that’s why we Changed How We Test VPNsBack in the carefree, halcyon days before COVID-19, we here at PCMag would run speed tests on all the VPN products we planned on reviewing back to back over the course of a week or two. That’s no longer feasible.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the entire staff of PCMag has been working from home since March, 2020. Our homes don’t have the high-bandwidth internet connection we enjoyed in the PCMag Labs. Testing VPN speeds from our homes wouldn’t be comparable to the data from previous years and would introduce all sorts of messy variables. For example: did this VPN perform particularly badly because it’s a bad product, or was it because a spouse was on a video call at the same time? Rather than forego VPN speed testing altogether, our solution has been to test VPNs in small batches and release the results as we go. This allows us to reduce the risk to our analysts, but still be able to conduct the same rigorous testing we have always rolling model will also lets us provide fresher speed test results and gives us a chance to more easily update the results for different products throughout the year to see if they still is humbling to see how this global health catastrophe has impacted our own modest operations. It really demonstrates how every aspect of our working lives have been affected by COVID-19. We will continue to adjust our approach throughout the year, ensuring the safety of our colleagues and the integrity of our work. The Fastest VPNs (So Far)With all that in mind, the results of our testing to date are presented in the chart below. We’ll continue to update the chart as we go, adding new results for products as we test them. Note that the table below shows the services sorted by their effect on download speeds, as is the carousel at the top of the story.
How We Gather Our DataWhen we review VPNs, we use a custom tool provided by Ookla that’s built using the online tool. The only difference between our tool and the one online is that ours automates the test, although there are some situations where we use the online test as well. (Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis. )Ookla’s test measures three metrics: latency, download speed, and upload speed. Latency is a measurement of time between when your computer sends a request and when it receives a response. It’s also called ping time. Lots of things can affect latency such as the distance your request physically travels through the tubes of the internet. Latency is measured in milliseconds, however, so even a large increase may not be noticeable to the average user. Latency is important when playing video games over a VPN, as lower latency means a more responsive experience with less wnload and upload speeds measure how much data is moved over your internet connection in a certain amount of time. These are both measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). This is the metric ISPs and wireless companies tout when they claim their connection is “fastest. “When we test VPNs, we try to get a sense for the impact a service has on internet performance by finding the percentage change between using the VPN and not using the VPN for several speed measurements. We run ten tests without a given VPN active and find the median of the results. We then do the same thing, but with the VPN active. By comparing the median results with and without the VPN, we find a percent change between the two. The bigger the change from the baseline performance, the more impact the VPN has on your internet speeds. We then repeat the process for every VPN we have tested each of these services in as repeatable a manner as possible, but there are limitations inherent in our testing. The biggest issue is that our testing is carried out from the PCMag Labs in New York City. If we performed the same tests on a similar network in a different part of the country, we’d almost certainly get different results. Networks are also fickle things and even small changes can greatly affect the results of a speed test, so while we have controlled for as many variables as we can, it’s hardly a “sterile” network think of these tests as more of a snapshot of performance that establishes a replicable metric for measuring each service. The goal is for comparison between services, not individual evaluations of speed. Your mileage with these services will almost certainly vary somewhat from can read a lot more about how we test VPNs and, importantly, how our testing has changed over the years in How We Test VPNs. How We Interpret Our DataWe test dozens of VPNs each year and have to winnow down the glut of data this testing produces. Above all, our final list should be meaningful and easy to understand. To do this, we looked at each category (download, upload, latency) and took each product that met or exceeded the median result for each. We then ranked each product based on the number of categories where they beat the median. Finally, we organized them by overall download performance, and then took just the top ten ‘s the breakdown of all the products:Private Internet Access VPN, CyberGhost VPN, Mullvad VPN, and NordVPN did better than the median in all three categories. TorGuard VPN, IVPN, Mozilla VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, and Malwarebytes VPN all beat the median in two categories. Bitdefender Premium VPN, HMA VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN all beat the median in one that we have yet to publish our review of Malwarebytes VPN and, as such, we left it off the final list. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN did not clear the top-10 a lot of things have changed in the last year, we’re confident that whatever criteria we use will be in line with previous years. We’ll update this article as necessary.
Cheating and Data CompressionBecause we report how we test VPNs and because we use one of the most popular speed test tools available, there’s some obvious concern that a disreputable company might attempt to game the results. A nefarious VPN company could, perhaps, detect when an Ookla test is running and return bogus results. We spoke with the engineers at Ookla when designing our tests, and they share our concerns about gaming their test. They’ve told us that the company takes active measures to fool would-be cheaters. We defer to the experts at Ookla to prevent companies from juicing the results.
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Because we make our methodologies public, it is also possible that VPN companies could tweak their networks to obtain better results. For example, a VPN company could endeavor to rent server space as close to our offices as possible, hoping that the shorter distances will yield better speed test results. There’s little we could do to prevent a company from doing this. That said, speed testing is only a small part of our reviews, and even an outstanding speed test result wouldn’t do much to raise the score of an otherwise mediocre Up Your VPNThere are a few ways you can offset the speed-reducing effects of using a VPN. First, choosing a service with many servers may (and we really want to emphasize may here) make it more likely to find one that isn’t crowded with other people all trying to use the same bandwidth. Some VPN services will let you select specific servers and show you the current load on those many servers to choose from in different locations also means you’re more likely to find one that’s physically close to you, shortening the distance your data must travel. This usually translates to lower latency, and perhaps better overall performance. A few VPN clients include a ping test to help you zero in on the closest option, but it’s unusual if a VPN client does anything other than automatically select the closest server. A word of caution, however: more servers is not necessarily better. Consider that a VPN service likely needs more servers to support more subscribers, and we don’t know how those servers are allocated compared to those subscribers. This means that the size of a server fleet may simply reflect a company’s popularity and not the quality of its tunneling is the generic term for when a VPN lets you define which apps send data through the VPN tunnel and which send data outside the tunnel. This lets you separate more sensitive activities, like web browsing or online banking, from more mundane but higher-bandwidth activities, like streaming music or playing video games. It’s especially useful because Netflix blocks VPN use, as do other services. You can simply route these apps outside the VPN to avoid this that some VPN companies offer free versions that limit the number of servers available. We’d expect those servers available to free users to be crowded and therefore offer slower speeds overall. ProtonVPN, for example, limits the number of servers available to free users but notably does not limit the amount of data a free subscriber can important is the protocol the VPN service uses. OpenVPN and IKEv2 have long been the standard for the latest and greatest in VPN technology, but that is changing. More companies have begun deploying WireGuard, a new open-source protocol designed for greater security, easier deployment, and high speeds. With more and more VPN companies rolling out WireGuard to customers, we’ll be looking to see if it can really deliver on its promised the Fastest VPN Always the Best? Simply put, speed shouldn’t be your only consideration when you’re shopping for a VPN. For one thing, your internet experience will almost certainly be faster without a VPN. For another, speeds depend so much on which server you use, where you are, what your network environment is like, when you’re using the VPN, and so on. You might find that the service that’s as fast as lightning today is barely chugging along stead of speed, our VPN reviews stress value and trust. We prefer VPN services with a good geographic distribution of its servers. VPNs that are easy to set up and use for first-timers and include a well-made local client also go a long way toward getting PCMag’s endorsement. We also pay close attention to the efforts each VPN takes to protect its customers and their data. And, of course, price is a major issue. The average monthly price among VPNs we’ve tested is around $10. If a VPN is charging more, it had better offer something ‘s also important to remember that while VPNs are an easy way to improve your privacy, they do not protect against every ill. We highly recommend that readers install a standalone tracker blocker such as the EFF’s Privacy Badger and that readers make use of the advanced privacy tools available in most browsers, particularly Firefox. We also encourage readers to use a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for every login, install antivirus software, and enable two-factor authentication wherever it is available. Speed will always matter to some extent. Just remember that there are many other factors to consider when selecting a VPN service. (Editors’ Note: While they may not all appear in this story,, IPVanish, and StrongVPN are owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis. )
Fastest VPN from Speedtest Awards – Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is the World’s Fastest VPN. To win this award, Hotspot Shield outperformed competitors in both local and international testing conducted by Ookla®. For more details on our testing methodology, see our article on the fastest est VPN – International PerformanceHotspot Shield achieved unprecedented results in testing by Ookla staff, actually increasing speed over long-distance connections. All other VPNs Ookla tested decreased download speed by at least 42. 5%, while Hotspot Shield increased download speed by over 26. 2%. When asked how Hotspot Shield managed to achieve these speeds, a Pango representative cited the technological advantages of Catapult Hydra — Hotspot Shield’s proprietary VPN est VPN – Local PerformanceHotspot Shield also outperformed competitors in Ookla’s local connection test. Testing included popular VPNs like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. Hotspot Shield showed the lowest decrease in download speed among all VPNs tested. “Ookla was very impressed with the speed we saw from Hotspot Shield – particularly during our international tests. This level of performance from a VPN product is outstanding, and resulted in Hotspot Shield being the fastest VPN in our testing, ” Jamie Steven, Chief Innovation Officer, Ookla.
Frequently Asked Questions about best vpn speed test
The best fast VPNs available todayExpressVPN. The most reliably fast VPN money can buy. … NordVPN. Privacy giant delivers excellent speeds. … Hotspot Shield. Incredibly fast, but not the leader it used to be. … Bitdefender Premium VPN. Catapult Hydra-using newbie is seriously fast. … Speedify.Sep 15, 2021
First, if you’re connected to the VPN, disconnect and run a speed test. The easiest way to test your connection speed is by visiting a speed-test website like SpeedTest.net, which is run by analytics company Ookla. There are alternative sites, like Fast.com, but SpeedTest is generally considered to be the best.May 12, 2021
The Speedtest VPN, as it’s being called, is available through Ookla’s Speedtest apps for iOs and Android. On paper, it looks fairly good, especially for a free VPN. Ookla promises that its free VPN keeps no logs and doesn’t track user activity. … Ookla has said it will release a paid tier once the VPN exits beta.Dec 27, 2019