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How to Choose the Best VPN in 2021 – 8 Tips for … – vpnMentor
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Table of Contents
Figure out what you need a VPN for
Look at each VPN’s qualities
Check which devices are compatible
Find a VPN with a user-friendly interface
Ensure your important locations are covered
Decide what payment plan you prefer
Look for a VPN with reliable customer service
Make sure it includes a money-back guarantee
You’re in the market for a VPN. That’s great!
VPNs have tons of benefits from encryption and security to anonymous browsing and different IP addresses, but I’m sure you know that already.
If you don’t, or you want to learn more about them, click here.
(If you’re still debating whether a VPN is right for you, our pros and cons list can help. )
Now that you’ve started looking for a VPN, you probably noticed that there are a lot of them.
Actually, there are over 300 VPNs on the market now! So, how do you know which one is the best for you?
Simple. You figure out what you’re looking for in a VPN and then you find one that matches.
But how do you know what to look for?
Take a look at the list below. Our 8 tips will help you figure out what to look for in a VPN and how to choose the best one.
You’re not going to enter an Apple store and buy the first laptop you see. The same applies to VPNs.
If you want a VPN for your entire household, a router-based VPN – or one that allows for multiple simultaneous connections – is what you should look for.
If you’re planning on streaming movies online, you need a VPN with high speed, reliable connections, and unlimited bandwidth.
Meanwhile, regular travelers who are largely reliant on public WiFi networks need a VPN that offers excellent security and has servers situated all over the world.
Once you know what you will be using a VPN for, write down a list of the features that are important to you and those that you can forgo. After completing that process, you will have a much easier time deciding what VPN to use.
Every VPN company prioritizes something. It could be speed, it could be encryption, it could be anonymity – you need to make sure your priorities match theirs.
If you want to watch content that is geographically blocked, a VPN that has a reputation to unlock content is a priority.
For example, many VPNs have trouble bypassing Netflix’s VPN block, but ExpressVPN and CyberGhost continuously succeed in negotiating those obstacles.
If you are a journalist, or someone else who values their privacy and anonymity, a VPN that does not retain logs and has a secure encryption, should be your priority.
It’s also worth checking the security protocol and if the VPN includes a kill-switch feature.
Although most VPNs support the main platforms of Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS, some VPNs are not available on all platforms.
If you have a Windows computer but use an iPhone, then you want to ensure your VPN has a platform and app for both.
It’s also a good idea to see how many devices you can connect to at once. Some VPNs allow unlimited devices, while others only let you connect up to three.
The setup and user-interface on a lot of VPNs can be quite complex. So, if you’re not tech savvy and do not want to trouble yourself trying to configure a VPN, it’s important to find one that offers simple procedures and a user-friendly platform.
Some VPNs offer a virtual setup, so you never have to lift a finger.
The number of servers and locations can be the deciding factor for some VPNs.
If you live in a less populated or developed country or are planning to travel or live there for some time, you’ll need a VPN that has servers in that location or nearby.
China is renowned for its limited internet service and having a VPN that can effectively tackle their censorship and restrictions is essential if you are going to live or work there.
Payment is always important to consider when looking for a VPN. Prices differ depending on a VPN’s features and subscription length.
How you pay is also important. Some VPNs offer completely anonymous payment systems, like BitCoin, while others allow you to buy gift cards to avoid using personal information.
While free VPNs are tempting, we do not recommend you use one. Even if you don’t pay for it with money, you will be paying for it another way, whether that’s with ads, unreliable protection, or bad quality streaming.
If the price is an issue, consider using one that offers great discounts and coupons.
One of the most overlooked but super important factors of a VPN is if the provider offers 24/7 customer service.
VPNs change all the time, and it’s important you can easily contact someone who will help you with whatever snag you hit.
We prefer VPNs who offer live-chat because emails and tickets can take hours – if not days – to answer.
A money-back guarantee is a great way to ensure you don’t get stuck with a product you do not want.
If you happen to choose a VPN but decide it is not the right one for you, getting out of your contract can be a big issue.
Look for a VPN that promises your money back within a specific amount of time, so you are not obligated to stay with one until your contract is up. All of our top VPNs offer a free trial or money-back guarantee.
Don’t be fooled into believing that all VPNs offer the same service.
Figuring out what you need a VPN for and deciding what features are important to you will help you choose the best one.
If you don’t have time to search through the hundreds of available VPNs, our recommended VPNs are compatible with most devices, have servers in thousands of locations, offer great payment plans and customer service, and all include a money-back guarantee.
To summarize, here are the best VPNs in 2021…
Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!
The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.
VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we’ve tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it’s currently offering 49% off.
About the Author
A previous London-based journalist, Nicky is a freelance writer based on a farm in South Africa. When she’s not training horses, she writes fluent, intelligent cybersecurity articles with creativity and flair.
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10 Best VPN Services of 2021: How They Stack Up | Reviews.org
Recent Updates: 1 month ago
We’ve updated the details on our top ten VPNs and refreshed our list. Find out why we chose ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, Private Internet Access, and Hotspot Shield as our top five.
A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your internet connection on the fly so that your information is kept private whether you’re on your laptop, phone, or iPad.
This said, not every VPN is made equal. Some work better with Netflix or Zoom, while others offer perks like ad blockers that help you stay safe while browsing. Features like a high number of servers and countries can also make one VPN better than another, depending on what you want to do with it.
We researched and tested more than 40 VPN companies and settled on ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, Private Internet Access, and Hotspot Shield as our top picks.
But are they right for you? Let’s dig in and find out.
ExpressVPN: Best VPN for most people
NordVPN: Best security
CyberGhost: Best value
Private Internet Access: Best web browsing features
Hotspot Shield: Best for Netflix
Surfshark: Best for beginners
IPVanish: Best for unlimited devices
PureVPN: Best for BBC iPlayer
TunnelBear: Best free ad blocker
ProtonVPN: Best for torrenting
Best VPN services comparisonMonthly priceServers and countriesMax number of devicesDetailsExpressVPN$12. 95/mo. 3, 000+945View PlansNordVPN$11. 5, 200+606View PlansCyberGhost$12. 99/mo. 7, 400+907View PlansPrivate Internet Access$11. 33, 000+7810View PlansHotspot Shield$12. 3, 200+80+5View PlansSurfshark$12. 3, 200+65UnlimitedView PlansIPVanish$10. 1, 900+52UnlimitedView PlansPureVPN$10. 6, 500+140+10View PlansTunnelBear$9. 1, 800415View PlansProtonVPN$10. 00/mo. 1, 200+5510View Plans
Data effective 8/26/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
What’s the best free VPN? Not ready to put down cold, hard cash on a VPN? We recommend giving a free trial a go instead of grabbing a free VPN. Some free VPNs have been known to leak your data. Not cool. And we’ve also got several recommendations for low-cost VPN services you can try.
There are so many VPN providers to choose from, deciding on one might be difficult. Mostly it comes down to what you’re using a VPN for. And it’s important to look for a few key features when shopping for a VPN.
Look for these features when choosing a VPN service to get the best level of online protection as well as the best streaming and gaming quality while your VPN is turned on.
10 features to look for in a VPN service
Price: Most VPN subscriptions don’t cost much, and you could save money by signing up for an annual plan. Just make sure the up-front cost won’t send your budget spiraling.
Free trials and money-back guarantees: If you’re not sure a VPN is right for you, look for a free trial or a money-back guarantee.
Number of servers and countries: More servers equals more options for VPN connections.
Devices: Make sure your specific devices are supported. Don’t forget about browser extensions and ad-blocking software.
Max number of devices/simultaneous connections: Most VPNs let you connect 5 devices at a time, but some VPNs offer unlimited connections.
24/7 live support: Things break, problems arise. 24/7 live support is your lifeline.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, there are a few additional features you should consider.
When you look for a VPN provider, choose one that keeps “no logs. ” That means the VPN provider doesn’t keep any records of who you are or your online activity.
If your VPN provider does keep logs, then there’s a record of you somewhere in the world. That means information about your online shopping habits, your friends’ or family’s contact information, or your personal data could be stolen.
What are Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes? Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or 14 Eyes are terms commonly seen when reading about VPNs. Each one represents an alliance between different countries and an agreement between those countries to share surveillance data of online activity.
If your VPN is located in a country that’s part of these alliances, its no logs policy could be a false promise because it might be required to share your data with allied countries.
Five Eyes: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and the US
Nine Eyes: Five Eyes countries plus Denmark, France, Holland, and Norway
Fourteen Eyes: Nine Eyes countries plus Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden
AES-256 encryption is the gold-standard way to keep hackers’ hands off your data. (It’s approved by the National Security Agency. ) Most VPNs use AES-256 encryption, but some allow you to choose a less-secure encryption method. So always double-check that AES-256 is the standard—or at least that you can swap to it.
AES-256 encryption, by the numbersWe hope you’re sitting down: 2^256 equals … (deep breath):
115, 792, 089, 237, 316, 195, 423, 570, 985, 008, 687, 907, 853, 269, 984, 665, 640, 564, … (deep breath) … 039, 457, 584, 007, 913, 129, 639, 936
Uhh, yeah. That’s a huge number of combinations. And to crack into your data, a hacker needs to have the exact 256-bit key that was used to encrypt your info. AES-256 is almost impenetrable against brute-force hacking attacks, and a hacker would need a quantum computer to even attempt it. (A quantum computer is a step up from a supercomputer. )
9. OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, or WireGuard protocol
OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and the newer WireGuard VPN protocols are some of the most secureVPN protocols. We recommend avoiding PPTP and IKEv2, since these two protocols are less secure.
Also, while SSTP is very secure, it works with Windows computers only.
VPN protocol security levelsProtocolSecurity levelWireGuardMost secureOpenVPNMost secureSSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)Extremely secure (Windows only)IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange, version 2)More secureL2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with IPsec)SecurePPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)Least secure
10. Advanced VPN features
Split tunneling: If you’d like to choose which apps and websites are covered by your VPN and which ones aren’t, choose a VPN with split tunneling options. For example, you may be content streaming Netflix in your home country without a VPN, but you’d like extra security while you check your online bank account.
DNS leak protection: A VPN that prevents DNS (domain name system) leaks ensures that any DNS queries your device makes are securely routed through your VPN. If your DNS queries are leaked, that means third parties, including your ISP, could see which websites you visit, apps you use, and more.
Dynamic IP address: Your IP address is assigned to the device you’re using to get online, so it makes sense that a dynamic, or changing, IP address is more secure than a static one. Static IPs are easier to hack and can even allow third parties to find out where you and your device are physically located.
ExpressVPN: Best for most people
ExpressVPN’s easy-to-use interface and powerful features make it one of the best VPNs out there
ExpressVPN featuresVPN serviceLowest priceServers and countriesWorks with NetflixLearn more$8. 32/mo. for 1 yr. (billed $99. 95 annually)3, 000+94YesView Plans
Express VPN’s biggest standout is its interface, which is clean and user-friendly. Simply open up ExpressVPN, and tap the power button to instantly connect.
To select a different server, tap the three dots next to the name of the server you’re currently connected to.
High number of countries and serversHandy video guidesZero traffic logs
Only five simultaneous connectionsComparatively pricey
ExpressVPN featuresFeatureExpressVPNPrice$12. $59. 95/6 mos. $99. 95/rvers3, 000+Countries94Simultaneous connections5Logs policyNo logsNetflix supportYesTorrenting supportYesAd blockerNoneEncryptionAES-256VPN protocolOpenVPNCustomer support24/7 live chat and emailFree trial30-day free trialLearn moreView Plans
ExpressVPN standout features
Considerable number of countries and servers
Apps for streaming devices and gaming consoles
Clean, easy-to-use interface
ExpressVPN is a top pick because of its interface and powerful features, plus a large number of servers and countries to choose from. ExpressVPN’s customer service and user guides also contributed to its reputation as one of the top VPNs available.
It also offers split tunneling in case you’d rather not use your VPN for a game of Clash of Clans on your phone, but absolutely need it when you check your banking app.
But it does collect the minimum amount of data to keep its VPN service up and running: your account info, app diagnostics, and user-registered IP addresses for those that use MediaStreamer.
The biggest drawback to ExpressVPN is its price. It’s not as affordable as some of its competitors: NordVPN and Private Internet Access cost $11. 95 a month. On top of that, ExpressVPN restricts you to five devices, unlike IPVanish and Surfshark.
View Plans | Read Full ExpressVPN Review
NordVPN’s colocated RAM servers offer maximum security for your data
NordVPN featuresVPN serviceLowest priceServers and countriesWorks with NetflixLearn more$3. 67/mo. for 2 yrs (billed $99. 00 annually)5, 200+60YesView Plans
We rated NordVPN highly because of the user-friendly interface (most features are very easy to find), its exceptional security measures including RAM servers, a reliable and consistent connection to a wide assortment of servers, and a reasonable price for the value and quality.
Intuitive interfaceZero traffic logsExcellent encryption and security
Targeted by streaming servicesCostly one-month plan
NordVPN featuresFeatureNordVPNPrice$11. 00/yr. 00/2 rvers5, 200+Countries60Simultaneous connections6Logs policyNo logsNetflix supportYesTorrenting supportYesAd blockerYesEncryptionAES-256VPN protocolOpenVPNCustomer support24/7 live chatFree trial30-day free trialLearn moreView Plans
NordVPN standout features
Operates RAM servers
CyberSec feature blocks malware websites
Zero traffic logs
NordVPN is a top-notch VPN because of its straightforward interface, no logs policy, and exceptional security features.
You won’t have any trouble finding features while using its friendly looking app. Added features like CyberSec, which blocks malware, ensure your data stays safe. Plus, like many VPNs, NordVPN has a zero logs policy.
But unlike some VPNs, NordVPN began upgrading to diskless RAM servers in 2019, which means its servers can’t store any data. Zip, zilch, nada.
And now, NordVPN is rolling out colocated servers that are fully owned and maintained solely by NordVPN, so no third parties get close to its servers. 1
As for speed, we found slowdowns to be few and far between and all but unnoticeable during our testing.
View Plans | Read Full NordVPN Review
CyberGhost offers a massive number of servers and a low-cost two-year plan
CyberGhost featuresVPN serviceLowest priceServers and countriesWorks with NetflixLearn more$2. 25/mo. for 2 yrs. (billed $58. 50 for first 2 yrs. )7, 400+90YesView Plans
CyberGhost is technically superior when it comes to specs alone. This VPN can connect seven of your devices to over 6, 000 servers in 90 countries. There’s a server available for almost any purpose. It’s also one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, making it great for gamers.
On top of exceptional specs, CyberGhost offers a low monthly price if you pony up for its two-year plan. And its 45-day money-back guarantee is also generous—most VPNs offer only 30 days.
Connect up to seven devicesLarge number of serversGreat speedsLow-cost two-year plan
Pricey monthly planSometimes overloaded servers24- to 48-hour free trial
CyberGhost VPN featuresFeatureCyberGhostPrice$12. $38. 34/6 mos. $58. 50/2 rvers7, 400+Countries90Simultaneous connections7Logs policySome data collection (IP address, country, etc. )Netflix supportYesTorrenting supportYesAd blockerYesEncryptionAES-256VPN protocolOpenVPN, WireGuard on some devicesCustomer support24/7 live chatFree trial24- or 48-hour free trialLearn moreView Plans
CyberGhost VPN standout features
Access on up to seven devices
Massive number of servers
Has a low-cost 2-year payment option
To get the most value out of CyberGhost, sign up for its two-year plan. That brings your monthly cost down to a nearly unbeatable price of $2. 25 a month.
But if you choose to pay month by month, CyberGhost can be costly. It charges you $13 a month if you don’t pick its six-month or two-year plan, which is high compared to month-to-month prices you’ll see from other VPNs.
That whopping 7, 400+ server count is another excellent feature. Plus, CyberGhost lets you connect up to seven gadgets, a (small) step up from NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s limit of five each.
If you’d rather not commit to a full six months or two years of CyberGhost service, you can sign up for its free trial. But be aware that your free trial lasts only 24 or 48 hours, depending on whether you sign up for the trial on desktop or your cell phone. You can also connect only one device while on the trial.
As for logs, CyberGhost says it doesn’t store traffic logs, but it does collect various bits of personal data that includes your IP address, country location, billing methods, and a few other items.
View Plans | Read Full CyberGhost VPN Review
With more servers than any VPN we’ve seen plus ad and malware blocking, Private Internet Access takes privacy to the next level
Private Internet Access VPN featuresVPN serviceLowest priceServers and countriesWorks with NetflixLearn more$2. 08/mo. for 3 yrs. (billed $79. 00 every 3 yrs. )33, 000+78US Netflix onlyView Plans
Private Internet Access (PIA) tops the charts with 33, 000+ servers across 78 countries, which is stunningly high. Most VPNs offer 3, 000-5, 000 servers. Coming in at nearly ten times that number of servers, PIA ensures there is a connection readily available no matter where you go.
PIA also includes adware and malware blockers to keep you safe online. When you visit a site that could compromise your data, this VPN won’t let you through, thus protecting your connection and personal information.
Heaps of serversAnonymous payment options including gift cards10 connected devices at a time
No ability to choose serversKnown for so-so speeds
Private Internet Access VPN featuresFeaturePrivate Internet AccessPrice$11. $39. 95/yr. $79. 00/3 rvers33, 000+Countries78Simultaneous connections10Logs policyNo logsNetflix supportUS Netflix onlyTorrenting supportHit or missAd blockerYesEncryptionAES-128 default, but can select AES-256VPN protocolWireGuard, OpenVPNCustomer support24/7 live chat and emailFree trialNoneLearn moreView Plans
Private Internet Access standout features
Top-notch web privacy features
Accepts gift cards from Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy, etc. as payment
Though its price recently jumped up to $12 a month, Private Internet Access lets you connect to one of over 33, 000 servers. That’s an exceptional value—though we don’t like that you can’t manually select one of those thousands of servers.
Private Internet Access also has an unusual feature that lets you pay with a gift card from Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy, and other locations. That means you don’t have to reveal your identity or share a credit card number.
We’re also happy with PIA’s no logs policy. Personal data collected is intended to maintain your user account and manage your payments. Your state or zip code may also be collected, but only to make sure PIA charges you the right amount of tax.
Netflix lovers may want to look elsewhere though, since PIA only works with the US Netflix library. And while Private Internet Access defaults to a fairly secure AES-128 encryption, we recommend bumping that up to AES-256 for maximum security.
View Plans | Read Full Private Internet Access VPN Review
Hotspot Shield earned the title of Fastest VPN from, making it great for streaming Netflix
Hotspot Shield featuresVPN serviceLowest priceServers and countriesWorks with NetflixLearn more$2. (billed $107. 64 every 3 yrs. )3, 200+80+Yes, paid plan onlyView Plans
While every VPN tends to cause some internet slowdowns, HotSpot Shield remains speedy. Even took notice and named Hotspot Shield the fastest VPN in 2019. 2
True to this claim to fame, Hotspot Shield maintained steady speeds when our Australia team put it to the test. They noted a download speed difference of less than 1% when connecting to an Australian server, and only a 3% download speed difference when connecting to a US server.
Those speeds make Hotspot Shield a no-brainer if you’re hoping to stream Netflix or do some gaming.
Sneak into Netflix at your own riskIf you plan to binge-watch another country’s Netflix library with help from a VPN, keep in mind that’s against the Netflix Terms of Service. (See section 4. 6. ) If you’re caught, your account might be terminated or restricted.
Named fastest VPN by free planFree 1Password subscription
Personal data is collectedFree plan lacks 24/7 support
Hotspot Shield featuresFeatureHotspot ShieldPrice$12. $95. 88/yr. $107. 64/3 rvers3, 200+Countries80+Simultaneous connections5Logs policyCollects data on domains visited, device identities, IP address, etc. 3Netflix supportYes, paid plan onlyTorrenting supportYesAd blockerNoneEncryptionAES-256VPN protocolProprietary Hydra protocolCustomer supportFree: FAQ onlyPaid: 24/7 live chat and emailFree trial7-day free trialLearn moreView Plans
Hotspot Shield standout features
Fastest VPN speeds
Free password management through 1Password
Free basic version available
Hotspot Shield’s encryption is also well-known for being robust. Hotspot Shield claims its VPN blocks 57 million malware and phishing scam sites. (Those sites trick you into thinking you’re on a legit site, then proceed to steal your credit card info and other personal data. ) That’s a big plus.
Another point in favor of Hotspot Shield: It created its own VPN protocol called Hydra. The Hotspot Shield team noticed that most VPN protocols suffer from high latency, so they optimized Hydra to reduce latency, or shorten the delay between the time you send data (for example, click a link) and the time your device receives data (the link you clicked on loads).
One important detail to note with Hotspot Shield is that its parent company, Aura, does collect your personal information. This goes against a no logs policy, and since Hotspot Shield is based in the US, it could also mean your data is shared with third parties.
View Plans | Read Full Hotspot Shield Review
Other VPN services to try
These VPNs also stood out, but not quite enough to make our top five. Still, each one has something to offer when it comes to protecting your online privacy.
Surfshark sports a fun vibe with the interface and some technical features like the ability to choose which sites don’t use the VPN.
There’s a laundry list of extra features, like the Surfshark One ad blocker, split tunneling, kill switch, and private DNS on every server. And you can use as many devices as you want with Surfshark. Most VPN apps have a set limit of about 5 devices.
The biggest drawbacks with Surfshark are that it uses a static IP address, which is easier to track than the preferred dynamic IP. Plus, we’ve heard Windows users complain that Surfshark’s speeds are noticeably slow.
View Plans | Read Full Surfshark Review
IPVanish is a solid VPN app that may meet your needs, although it is a little light on features. You might like the price of $10 a month, though, which is a bit cheaper than most of the top VPN clients out there, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN. And IPVanish comes with unlimited simultaneous devices
But if you’re hoping to watch Netflix, you’re limited to the US Netflix library.
View Plans | Read Full IPVanish Review
If you’re keen on British classics such as EastEnders or home reno dramas like Flat Out Fabulous, PureVPN is a great bet. We tested the BBC iPlayer with PureVPN and binge-watched Wallander (on the BBC) along with Young Wallander (on Netflix).
PureVPN servers call a mind-boggling 140+ countries home, which gives you a lot of options when it comes to tweaking your VPN connection. That and a fairly low monthly price of about $11 along with 10 simultaneous devices might also tickle your fancy.
Advanced VPN users might feel left out in the rain with PureVPN though. You’ll need to pay extra for a dedicated IP or port-forwarding. Granted, the cost is low ($1. 75 for both features at the time we’re writing this), but we prefer a VPN that offers all features without holding out its hand for more money.
View Plans | Read Full PureVPN Review
TunnelBear is the quirky, fun VPN of the pack. Their website features a bear as a mascot and we kept finding jokes and puns about the product (like “the bear essentials”). The interface is remarkably clear, professional, and intuitive.
One super helpful feature is called GhostBear, which can trick websites into thinking you are not even using a VPN. This VPN includes a free ad blocker as well—and you can download it without even signing up for an account.
The kicker is that TunnelBear offers servers in only 41 countries, few of which are lenient toward P2P torrenting. On top of that, you won’t be able to access Netflix, only Hulu and YouTube.
View Plans | Read Full TunnelBear Review
If torrenting is your aim, we found that ProtonVPN is your best bet. (Though it has to be said that we don’t condone illegal downloads. )
This VPN offers four different plans: Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary. The Plus plan offers the most VPN features, while the Visionary plan is the Plus plan combined with the ProtonMail encrypted email service. You’ll want the Basic or Plus plan for torrenting, and the Plus plan if you prefer to stream Netflix, Disney+, or other services.
The downside? ProtonVPN isn’t cheap unless you go with the (limited) Free plan. Its Basic and Plus plans cost $5 or $10 a month—and the Visionary plan costs a whopping $30 a month.
View Plans | Read Full ProtonVPN Review
Recap: The 10 best VPNs 2021
The best VPN out there right now is ExpressVPN. But there are a ton of other options to choose from if you’re looking for a specific VPN feature or have a unique need like location, video calls, gaming, or streaming.
We recommend using a VPN any time you’re online, but especially if you use public Wi-Fi at the airport, Starbucks, library, or elsewhere.
VPNs like ExpressVPN stand between you and the websites you visit so your data isn’t as vulnerable to leaks and theft. And if you’re at home, it’s a good idea to install your VPN service directly on your router so it protects your entire private network.
We dove into hands-on testing of each VPN service we recommend here by streaming shows, downloading files, connecting to several servers in multiple countries, and noting any speed slowdowns. We also took a look at the following features:
Prices and how they compare to similar VPNs
Ease-of-use and user-friendliness in the interface
Guides and support documentation
Encryption and VPN protocol
Whether you can use the VPN to access Netflix or torrent files
Additional features, such as ad blockers, malware security, kill switches, etc.
In the end, we asked ourselves: “Is this a VPN worth recommending? ” to be sure that each one of these top 10 VPN services has something to offer.
What is a VPN? Why do you need one
VPNs, or virtual private networks, are affordable, legal, and a great way to keep your internet activity (mostly) away from prying eyes.
Even if you don’t use the public Wi-Fi at Starbucks or the library, you’re probably already aware that almost everything you do online is tracked.
Yup, your internet service provider (ISP) or any company that makes money by marketing ads to you is probably logging everything you do online right now. 4 And possibly hackers too.
We don’t mean to freak you out. But we want to stress that it’s always a good idea to protect your online privacy. Even if you’re not using public Wi-Fi.
The good news is, a virtual private network (VPN) is an easy—and often cheap—way to add an extra layer of security so you can surf the web in peace.
It’s always a good idea to protect your online privacy, even if you’re not on public Wi-Fi. And having a VPN is an easy way to add an extra layer of security so you can surf the web in peace.
What is a VPN?
In a nutshell, a VPN is software that builds an encrypted connection from your computer to a VPN server, and then to your ISP, which sends you to the website you want to visit. This is sometimes called the VPN tunnel, and it creates a secure connection to the website. Now prying eyes can’t watch what you do online—even if you’re shopping for creepy green vegetables that shout yodel-ay-ee-hoo!. (We assume it’s a white elephant gift, right? )
You can think of a VPN like a goalie protecting its turf—in this case, your computer and private data.
When another player tries to track your internet activity or gain access to your info, the VPN blocks it. The only ones who get to know what you’re doing online are the VPN and whatever website you’re visiting.
Your IP address tells websites a lot of information about you. That includes your location, what kind of device you’re browsing the internet on, and your internet provider.
A VPN can hide your IP address. But if you’re not using a VPN to hide your IP address, you’ll see all the information that’s shared with websites in our widget here. If you’re creeped out by this, you’re not alone. We are too.
That’s why we recommend using a VPN to keep your information safe online. We’ve tested dozens of VPN services to find the best and most affordable ones, and you can see which VPNs made our list by clicking the link below.
What is encryption?
Encryption protocols convert all your information into a secret code so that only the person (or computer) with the key to the code can read it.
VPN software can also mask your IP address to give you even more privacy online. Your IP address is assigned to you by your internet provider and is a unique series of numbers that attaches to everything you do online.
That means every online place you visit knows exactly where you’re located thanks to your IP address. But a VPN hides your personal IP address. Instead, the IP address of the VPN server you connect to is what shows up online.
What is a VPN server?
Servers are essentially storehouses of data—every website in existence is stored on a server (or servers), and VPN servers are no exception.
VPN servers are set up to host users and connect them to the internet, but they’re also configured to encrypt and decrypt the data you send and receive from websites online. (The data needs to be decrypted so your computer or mobile device can read it. )
Another way VPN servers are unique is that they’re often located in different US cities—or even different countries, like the UK, Sweden, or Germany. By hosting servers in different cities and countries, a VPN protects you from ads targeting certain geographical regions.
What’s more, if a VPN connection can make it look like you’re surfing the web from a flat in England, it’s also possible for you to get around region restrictions on certain websites or apps.
Why is the number of servers so important?
More VPN servers means more value. When there are thousands of servers, as you’ll find with apps like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, you can almost always find a reliable and secure connection that’s also fast enough for the purposes at hand.
What VPNs can’t do
VPNs may seem like a miracle when it comes to securing your online privacy. But there are a few things they can’t do, such as fully prevent companies from tracking your information or speed up your internet.
Cookies can still track your information online
Even if you use a VPN, there are still ways for ad companies to track your path across the internet even after you’ve left their sites.
One example is cookies. You can think of cookies like a sort of digital ID card that you show to websites you visit online. That ID card includes information about you, like what pages on a website you visit, what’s in your shopping cart when you shop online, and any personal information you’ve volunteered, like your name.
With ad companies, the cookies you create can contain information about multiple sites you’ve visited if those sites all contain ads that are managed by one advertising company.
There is good news, though. Cookies don’t give these ad companies or websites access to your computer or any personal information you haven’t purposefully shared online. And cookies can’t infect your computer or device with viruses or malware.
Also, you can easily delete cookies whenever you want.
VPNs won’t make your internet faster
You should also know that a VPN can’t speed up your internet. Actually, a VPN will probably do the opposite and slow down your connection. That’s because you need to connect to both your ISP’s server and the VPN server to encrypt your online identity and traffic.
And if you choose a server that’s located far away from your current location, it takes more time for your internet connection to travel there and back.
It’s likely you won’t notice much of a change if you’re on DSL, cable, or fiber internet. But this is the main reason we don’t recommend using a VPN with satellite internet—because your internet connection already needs to travel thousands of miles above the Earth and back.
Using a VPN with satellite internet isn’t recommendedBecause a VPN requires your internet to connect to an extra server, it can cause a satellite internet connection to slow down even more.
This is because of latency, or the time it takes for your data to travel from your computer to the VPN server, then to the satellite, and on to the website you’re visiting. We’ve got more information on how latency works in our satellite internet guide.
VPNs still have to follow laws in the countries they’re based in
You should also know that a VPN still has to follow laws and restrictions imposed by the country it’s based in. That potentially includes subpoenas and warrants, which means a VPN may have to comply if asked to hand over your internet history.
Short answer: yes, a VPN is legal to use… but not everywhere. VPNs are legal in the US, Canada, and most other Western countries.
But there are some countries where VPNs are totally banned—mostly countries with super-restrictive governments like Iraq, China, and Russia.
It’s also important to know that, while a VPN is legal, it doesn’t make illegal acts okay. This includes illegal activity like downloading copyrighted information, such as songs or movies, cyberstalking, and hacking computers or networks.
Also, using a VPN to get around geo-restrictions, like streaming a TV show that’s not available in the US, is still likely a violation of the streaming app’s Terms of Service and could result in your account getting banned.
Where are VPNs banned?
The legality of your VPN depends on where you are at any given moment, not where you’re from. You can’t hop on your VPN during a vacation to Shanghai just because it’s legal in your home country.
Here’s a current list of countries where VPNs are illegal5:
United Arab Emirates
We also mentioned that VPN providers have to follow the laws of the countries they’re located in.
For example, if your VPN provider is located in a country where the government could legally make VPNs hand over information, then your VPN could potentially hand over your personal information to a foreign government.
Even if you personally don’t live in the same country as your VPN provider, your info could still be compromised.
Still have questions about VPNs? We can help.
After testing, we found that the best VPNs are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, Private Internet Access (PIA), Hotspot Shield, Surfshark, IPVanish, PureVPN, TunnelBear, and ProtonVPN.
What is the most secure VPN service?
The most secure VPN services right now are the following:
Each of these features AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN or WireGuard VPN protocol, and an independently audited no logs policy.
How much does a VPN service cost?
Most VPN services cost between $10 and $13 a month, but you can pay less each month if you subscribe for a longer amount of time. For example
10 Things to Look for When Buying a VPN – vpnMentor
You’ve been thinking of using a VPN for some time now, but you’re still on the fence about which one you should go for. It’s only normal as there isn’t any shortage of services out there, and you can bet your last dollar that a great deal of them will tactfully omit any drawbacks in favor of the “amazing advantages” they offer, or at least claim to. Feel like you need a bit more information before you commit to the ideal VPN for you? We’ve got you covered with a concise yet detailed list of the 10 most important factors you should consider before deciding on a VPN service.
We’ll start with the paramount aspects that separate the great VPNs from the mediocre ones. Speed is one of those. No one likes a sluggish connection – of course, there are multiple outside variables that make for stable and fast access. As far as the VPN itself is concerned, you should look for one that offers options. Different configurations for different purposes ensure that you always have versatile speed on your side, whether you’ll be using the VPN for streaming, peer-to-peer activities, or otherwise.
While imperative, lightning-fast connectivity shouldn’t be the only priority on your list. After all, one of the cornerstone characteristics of a VPN is a safe connection with minimal risk, or so it should be. Definitely be on the lookout for features that contribute towards your guaranteed security – no-logs and anonymity policies with protection mechanisms like IP hiding and kill switches go a long way in ensuring your trouble-free VPN experience.
What good is a VPN service if it’s severely limited in its reach? If you’re using it as a workaround to access content that may be blocked in your current destination for one reason or another, we recommend you pay attention to the availability of a VPN by countries. This is especially important if you travel a lot – a high-quality VPN will go the extra mile in ensuring you can connect to the services you subscribe to back home, no matter where you find yourself.
4. Reliable Encryption
Encryption technology can make or break a VPN. Your privacy is precious – an excellent service will do all it takes to keep it in impeccable condition. Dependable encryption mechanisms will send your Internet traffic through multiple servers, instead of just one. This is particularly important in cases where a high level of anonymity must be maintained. Of course – opting for the standard VPN server – destination is sufficient in basic situations, but a variety of encryption modes is a hallmark of an outstanding VPN service in its own right.
5. Ease of Use
Any VPN that requires you to become a tech expert is one that isn’t worth your time. When choosing the ideal service, don’t make compromises in user experience. Contrary to popular belief, even advanced technology like virtual private networks can be intuitive and hassle-free. If you can’t get what you want out of a VPN within a few minutes, don’t bother. There are way too many good products out there that will do that for you while delivering on every parameter.
Another important factor that should be covered is making sure your VPN supports a wide array of platforms and operating systems. Be on the lookout for multi-device availability – a stellar VPN will offer simultaneous connection to your laptop, your PC and your smartphone, with extra room left for other devices. We advise you not to limit yourself to one platform or OS. These days you never know when or how you may need your VPN access, so versatile services are quite beneficial for you.
7. Static IP
Having a dedicated IP address while using a VPN is so important, it deserves a separate spot on our list. We can’t stress the significance of a static IP enough – being the only person to use an assigned address is crucial if you want to get the most in accessibility and security, as well as in special cases where static IP is mandatory. You may not even need it at all times, but simply having the option to acquire a dedicated IP address will contribute heavily towards your peace of mind and a better overall VPN experience.
8. P2P Functionality
Peer-to-peer (or P2P) sharing is often frowned upon by ISP and VPN providers alike. Although somewhat of a grey area, P2P is perfectly fine to use and extremely efficient in a number of cases. When looking for an excellent VPN service, make sure it doesn’t limit you in that department – bandwidth throttling is a common way of impeding P2P users. A worthwhile VPN provider will already offer no bandwidth thresholds in general, but the great ones will ensure there are no obstacles in P2P as well, providing you with exceptional file sharing capabilities instead of restricting them severely.
9. Tech Support
The qualities of a VPN service don’t end with the opportunities it gives you – knowing that any questions you have will be answered is equally important, especially if you aren’t well-versed in this field. Helpful and readily-available customer service is hard to find, but you should look for it regardless. An exhaustive FAQ section and dedicated expert representatives are the telltale signs of a VPN provider that not only offers stellar products, but values its customers as well.
Last but not least, the cost of your VPN should be an important factor in your decision, particularly if you’re debating whether you should use a free service or not. We’re going to play the devil’s advocate here, if only to get our point across as clearly as possible – the only advantage of a free VPN is that you don’t pay money for it. As the saying goes, however, nothing is free in this world. What you save in your wallet, you pay otherwise, especially when it comes to a VPN. Choosing a free service is a trade-off that just isn’t worth it, as there are no guarantees what happens to privacy, security and overall performance. What’s more, you’ll be missing out on so many great features. There are plenty of remarkable VPNs out there that are also affordable, so don’t fall for the illusion that free services are good – the risk is too great and the quality is anything but guaranteed.
How Do I Know I Have Made the Right Choice?
Our list is a collection of the essential qualities and features that make up an outstanding VPN. The final choice, however, is entirely up to you. In order to make sure you have opted for the ideal product, research is vital and so is assessing your individual situation and needs. Remember: a superior VPN will offer you variety. Our recommendations to you are ExpressVPN and IPVanish – both of them are leaders in VPN products and services. Chock-full of features and with extensive capabilities no matter the situation, they offer you high performance, reliability, security and privacy with zero bandwidth restrictions, or any other limitations for that matter. Making the right choice is easier when you look at reputation and feedback – ExpressVPN and IPVanish check all the boxes and are both excellent candidates for your ultimate VPN experience.
Check out our most recommended VPNs below.
Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!
The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.
VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we’ve tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it’s currently offering 49% off.
Frequently Asked Questions about how do you buy a vpn
How much does a VPN cost?
10 Best VPN Services 2021ServiceMonthly priceMax number of devicesExpressVPN$12.95/mo.5NordVPN$11.95/mo.6CyberGhost$12.99/mo.7Private Internet Access$11.95/mo.106 more rows
What should I know before buying a VPN?
We’ve got you covered with a concise yet detailed list of the 10 most important factors you should consider before deciding on a VPN service.Speed. … Security. … Accessibility. … Reliable Encryption. … Ease of Use. … Versatility. … Static IP. … P2P Functionality.More items…•Oct 10, 2021