When it comes to the best VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) available to users, it comes down to what that VPN is going to be used for. Whether you plan on using a VPN for streaming or gaming, surfing the internet or torrenting, or doing other peer-to-peer transfers, this article will focus on the best VPNs for 2021.
As for selection, it came down to speed, security, reliability, and first and foremost, reputability and trustworthiness. After all, you are buying a VPN because you don’t trust that your information is being kept private, so if you don’t get a VPN that you can trust, what’s the point?
Cost is also factored into the equation to some extent, however, it’s best to weigh the cost at the very end of the decision process. If you like everything else the VPN offers, cost should only be a minor concern since no VPN is priced that high. Also, there is a slight positive correlation between price and quality when it comes to VPNs.
7 Best VPNS in Summary
- NordVPN: Best overall VPN
- ExpressVPN: Best for gaming
- Surfshark: Best value
- Mullvad: Best for privacy
- CyberGhost: Best for streaming
- Hotspot Shield VPN: Best for speed
- IPVanish: Best for beginners
What is a VPN?
When you use the internet without a VPN, your traffic (your searches, uploads, downloads) goes through your Internet provider’s servers (computers). That server gives you an IP address and collects all your web activity—Where you go online, what you download or upload.
Your VPN reroutes that traffic through their server and gives you a different IP address that can’t be traced back to your computer, think of it as a fake identity. Also, it will encrypt all the data you are exchanging on the web, for instance, a password. So that if someone is trying to spy on you and they catch your data packets, they will see just an incomprehensible jumble of code.
In very simple terms, a VPN connects your PC, smartphone, or tablet to another computer (called a server) somewhere on the internet, and allows you to browse the internet using that computer’s internet connection. So if that server is in a different country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country, and you can potentially access things that you couldn’t normally.
If you still do not understand it. Here’s a metaphor: Imagine that the internet is a real highway, and we zip around it on motorcycles. We visit our favorite locations (websites), do some shopping, talk to our friends, watch movies, and more.
On a motorcycle, we are completely visible. Anyone can follow us along these digital highways, see who we are, what we do, and peek into our life. To view your online activity, who you are, where you like to visit, and more, all anyone has to do is look. Worse, they can follow you home. You’re traceable.
Instead of riding on the wide-open internet highway, you can use a private tunnel instead: a virtual private network. A VPN acts as your own personal tunnel that encircles you, masking you in anonymity and blocking anyone from seeing where you’re going or what you’re doing. To abandon the metaphor, a VPN encrypts your connection and hides your IP address.
How a VPN Works
Normally your connection—and the data carried over it—go from your computer to your local Wi-Fi or network router, then bounces on through your ISP’s network (like AT&T) and off to the destination server (like wikipedia.com), eventually returning with the requested data (like this webpage). At any stop along the way, someone could theoretically see the data and where it’s coming from and going to.
When you access a website without a VPN, you are being connected to that site through your internet service provider. The ISP assigns you a unique IP address that can be used to identify you to the website. Because your ISP is handling and directing all your traffic, it can see which websites you visit. And your activity can be linked to you by that unique IP address.
Advantages of Using a VPN
1. VPN Encrypts Traffic (Searches, Uploads, Downloads)
Encryption is a method of changing normal text into an unreadable jumble of code. A key, or decryptor, unscrambles the text and renders it back into readable information. When you use a VPN, only your device and the VPN provider contain the decryption key. Anyone else trying to spy on you would only see a mess of characters.
2. Proxying (Changes IP Address)
The VPN server acts like a proxy, or stand-in, for your web activity. What this means is that instead of your real IP address and location showing up, websites you visit will only see the IP address and location of the VPN server. This makes you more anonymous as you surf the Internet.
Tunneling is a process by which each data packet is encapsulated inside another data packet. This makes it harder for bad actors to intercept your traffic in transit. Think of it this way: when you mail a letter you stick it in an envelope so no one can see it except the intended recipient who opens it. A tunnel is sort of similar except you are the one opening the letter.
How to Find a Good VPN
1. Trust and Transparency
The most essential virtue that you should look for when picking a VPN service is Trustworthiness. Privacy and security specs come right after.
A VPN sees all your web activity you are trying to hide or protect. All your web activity flows through the servers of the company whose VPN you are using. Your VPN should be more trustworthy than your Internet providers—public wifi, mobile services, or Home ISPs.
How would you know?
A company that discloses who stands behind the company. Who owns the company. Who leads the company. Leadership with a history of fighting for privacy and security should be considered more trustworthy.
A company that publishes security audits conducted by reputable third parties deserve more trust. By no means, security audits are perfect. The third parties do not have complete information. They do not have the time to look through every line of code.
There is no guarantee that practices in place during the audits wouldn’t be altered right after, say if compelled by the government. Regardless, a company with audits is more trustworthy.
4. Bug Bounty Programs
The companies with bug bounty programs that pay folks to find a problem in the software, a chink in the armor are a better VPN service because they incentivize folks to point out the problem to patch up, making the system stronger and stronger.
There are no true zero log VPNs. Every one of them stores some kind of logs. But many do it to optimize their features and services. It all depends on what kind of information they store. For instance, browsing history is a no-no while the VPN connection status is fine.
6. Trial or Refund Policy
VPNs work differently in different locations and on different computers and networks. A trial or a free version of a VPN can allow you to test out several of them risk-free to see if any are a better fit for your specific circumstance.
So make sure that you at least get a free trial or a money-back guarantee
7. Servers (Location and Number)
To put it simply, the more the number of servers, the better the speed. Why?
When there are more servers, each one will have less crowd, ensuring better speed.
In fact, the closer you are to a server, the faster and more reliable your connection will be. VPNs with servers in many locations ensure that wherever you are in the world you get connected to the closest server.
However, servers diluted over too many locations will result in terrible speed. There is a perfect medium.
8. VPN Provider’s Jurisdiction
The jurisdiction, the place where the company is based, is important. If the VPN provider is based in a country that can force the VPN providers to give them their client’s data, it would be better to avoid those VPN. for instance, VPNs based in China or Russia.
Worst countries for a VPN to be based: 14 eye nation with its core 5 eye nations—US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Fourteen Eyes is a surveillance alliance, Meaning fourteen countries have decided to band together and share their intelligence information. This includes all of the browsing histories of any user currently residing in one of these countries:
- The European Union
- Countries with mandatory data retention laws force ISPs to keep logs of all the traffic that passes through their servers.
- Nations with gag orders (more on that below)
A gag order stops a firm from revealing to the public that it has begun retaining logs on behalf of the government. Even a zero-logs VPN could be compromised within a nation with gag orders,
VPN service providers cannot defy the countries laws. So if laws demand data-retention, forcing companies to collect user data, then the no-logs claim of providers in those countries is fugazi and will not hold when the circumstances demand. Such claims from providers in the 14-eyes nations should be taken with a grain of salt. It isn’t impossible but it is better to opt for a better alternative. And what’s that you may ask.
Countries with better privacy laws, less money to fund mass surveillance, and fewer connections to 14 eye nations are better for VPN providers, such as The British Virgin Islands, Romania, Hong Kong, and Panama.
Panama for example is a privacy-friendly country. I mean they don’t even ask drug lords or billionaires ducking taxes about where they got their money from. They sell privacy.
For security, consider these 3 things:
Protocols are rules which describe how an activity should be performed. Here’s some weird royal protocol in Britain: When the Queen stands, you stand.
A network protocol is an established set of rules that determine how data will be exchanged between devices. VPN protocols, a type of network protocol, are sets of instructions that ensure that the data exchange is fast, reliable, and secure. There are numerous protocols, ways of exchanging the data.
Best protocols: Open VPN, Wireguard.
Although AES 128-bit encryption is fine for most purposes, I recommend AES-256.
Almost all VPNs use AES-256 encryption. So you usually don’t have to worry about it.
Although RSA-2048 is sufficient for now, I prefer RSA-4096.
10. Split Tunneling
The split tunneling feature allows users to disable VPN for selected apps. With this, you can use foreign and local internet services at the same time and some other things.
11. Torrenting (P2P File Sharing)
The usual way to share files is to store them on a central server (a computer). if Jon, Danny, and Brandon want to download the “top ten knockouts in MMA,” they can all do it from the server.
If the server shuts off, or there’s too much traffic, then no one gets the file.
But let’s say Jon and Danny download the video and then the server goes down. Bran can still download the video as long as Jon and Danny are seeding (sharing) it. The more people are sharing the file, the faster it works.
This is called P2P, or peer-to-peer file sharing.
Not all VPNs support P2P.
If you use torrent, or other P2P sharing systems, make sure your VPN supports it.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for torrenting.
The minimum: apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS (including iPad)
The best: Additional operating systems, routers, and smart TVs
13. Simultaneous Connections
More the number of simultaneous connection, more the number of devices you can connect through the VPN, for instance, surf shark allows an unlimited number of the simultaneous connection
14. Customer Support
The minimum: email support, with responses sent within 24 business hours; robust help section.
The best: email, chat support during business hours, quick response to weekend tickets.
Extra security considerations:
- Cryptocurrency for payment for a higher degree of anonymity.
- Stealth mode: They fool networks that block VPN into thinking they are not VPN encrypted traffic.
- Ad blockers, ’nuff said.
- Double VPN: encrypts your data twice (however, this reduces speed).
- User-friendly interface – of course.
- Clear privacy and security policies (nothing buried in the fine print).
- A company that has never been caught selling your data to advertisers or handing your data over to the government. This is hard to know, but check reviews to see if anyone mentions this happening to them.
Important: Free VPN services do not work. A VPN service is expensive to run because a good server is expensive to operate. A free service makes you and your data the product, so you should assume that any information it gathers on you is being sold to someone, or used for some other purpose (which might defeat the purpose of using a VPN in the first place).
VPN Buying Mistakes
Before plunging right in and buying a VPN, it’s important to make sure you’re not falling into some of the traps most beginner VPN buyers make. Here are some mistakes beginner VPN buyers make:
Don’t be a VPN noob. Avoid these mistakes before making your purchase! However, you usually have a trial with most VPNs (as mentioned in the video), so you don’t have to be too concerned. Test drive the VPN and see what you think first. Take advantage of the free trial offers.
Top 7 Best VPNs
|Overall: Best VPN|
|Number of servers: 5,400+/td>|
|Number of server locations: 59|
|Split tunneling: Only with browser extensions and Android|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, NordLynx (Wireguard), SSTP|
|Support: 24/7 live chat, email, articles|
|Monthly rate: $3.71 (may vary, depending on deals offered)|
NordVPN is the best overall VPN. It has everything you need—along with fast and reliable speed. Military-grade encryption. Features that prevent data leaks. All the best protocols. Streaming. Torrenting. And so on and so forth.
NordVPN is fast. The inevitable speed loss that arises from using a VPN is minimized. At certain locations, a few VPN might allow faster speed, but NordVPN establishes more stable connections with less sudden dips in speed and service interruptions.
You will definitely see individual NordVPN reviews, presenting speed tests while claiming that NordVPN isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN or Surfshark. Not true. Remember that individual speed tests aren’t a reliable way of determining whether the VPN allows fast and reliable speed. I could personally have an incredible experience depending on where I live while you trash me for lying about this apparent greatness after using the service for yourself. Since Nord VPN allows fast, reliable speed for most people around the world, including folks in the US, it will most likely work the same for you.
Data across the spectrum are more reliable than individual testimonies.
For various different reasons, some VPNs just won’t work for you, despite being among the best. So save yourself some regret and try the service before paying for a 3-year subscription. It is delightful that most VPN services either offer a free trial or cash back guarantee. Most. Not all. NordVPN is amongst those who offer a 30-day cash back guarantee. No questions asked.
How secure or private your internet connection is mainly depends on the VPN’s authentication details, and what protocols, and encryption the VPN uses.
Encryption is the least of your worries when comparing VPNs. Most of them use the same damn one—AES with 256-bit keys. AES is an encryption standard used and approved worldwide by governments, cybersecurity experts, and cryptography enthusiasts. NordVPN, and almost everyone else, uses AES with 256-bit keys, which is recommended by the NSA for securing classified information.
NordVPN uses OpenVPN protocol (one of the most secure protocols available) and IPSec/IKEv2 (which is less secure but still quite fast). NordVPN is one of the few that has adopted the promising protocol Wireguard early—Wireguard is faster and insanely leaner than OpenVPN but it is in the early stages of development, therefore, less stable than some older mature protocols and is less secure, for now. To get around this problem, to make Wireguard more secure, NordVPN has incorporated a double NAT system which creates two local network interfaces.
You don’t have to use Wireguard, you can just use the standard protocol, OpenVPN. But having the option to use it is better than not having it. ExpressVPN doesn’t have that option.
One more thing it doesn’t have is the feature “double VPN” which routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, encrypting your data twice. Although this slows down your speed, it significantly increases security. At times when you need extra protection, you can switch it on.
As a backup security measure, Nord also has a kill switch which kills your internet if your connection to the VPN server is dropped, preventing data leaks and It will keep you blocked until the secure VPN tunnel is restored or you manually disable the kill switch.
In the leak tests, there were no WebRTC leaks. These types of leaks can reveal your real IP address or DNS leaks that can reveal your web activity.
Streaming and Torrenting
Some VPN protocols are terrible for streaming while some are great. NordVPN employs protocols that are great. With the feature Smartplay, you can access content blocked in your region—by the government or by streaming services like AppleTV. Wanna watch some regional French content on Netflix? get NordVPN.
NordVPN also supports Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. To put it less annoyingly, it allows you to download content from torrent.
Split tunneling allows users to disable VPN for certain apps so that you can use foreign and local internet services at the same time. As of now, you can’t do this in Nord’s desktop software but you can do it in browser extensions and in android.
Remember that when you use split tunneling, anything you leave outside of the VPN is not encrypted. Don’t leave out any apps that require anonymity or need to bypass geoblocks.
NordVPN vs ExpressVPN
There are several features in NordVPN that you will not find in ExpressVPN or most other VPNs. One of the reasons I have knocked ExpressVPN to number 2 is that NordVPN has more features.
- Double VPN encrypts your data twice, increasing security.
- Onion-over-VPN servers add an additional layer of encryption and anonymity over the Tor network.
- Obfuscated servers allow you to use the VPN in restricted locations, like China, where it may be blocked.
- P2P servers that are optimized for torrenting and fast download speeds.
- CyberSec features that block ad, trackers, malware, and phishing domains.
As you can see there are tons of servers here, optimized for a specific task. Some give you extra security, while others allow extra penetrations. Some are optimized for torrenting, while others are optimized for streaming. Based on what you want, you can select different servers, optimizing your internet for that particular web activity whether it is browsing, Streaming, torrenting, or banking. NordVPN can do almost everything that ExpressVPN can do and more.
I should mention the number of servers as it is so much more than others. With 5465 servers in 59 countries worldwide, NordVPN is second only to CyberGhost’s network of 6000+ servers. In comparison, ExpressVPN just has over 3000 servers.
NordVPN uses shared IP addresses, meaning when you connect to a server, you share the same IP address as every other user connected to that server. This makes it difficult to find you because the IP address can’t be traced to a single individual.
For extra bucks, NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP address, which, unlike shared IP, assigns a unique IP address to you. This has several benefits, streaming is one of them. If you’re the only one using a particular IP address, streaming services won’t ever flag it as belonging to a VPN.
Both shared and dedicated IP addresses have their benefits, neither is inherently better than the other.
NordVPN also offers obfuscated servers that use special algorithms to hide the fact that a user is using a VPN or Tor and make it appear like a regular internet browsing activity. This is valuable in countries with intense surveillance like China—NordVPN is one of the best VPN you can use while you are in China to access blocked content.
Every VPN provider claims that they don’t store any of your data but most of them have nothing to show for their chest-thumping. In fact, few of them have gotten busted for selling those “non-existent data” to their advertisers or meekly handing them to the government.
There is no company you can trust more in terms of its no-logging policy than NordVPN. Actually, there is—Mullvad, but still, Nord is one of the more transparent and trustworthy VPNs.
It is headquartered in Panama, a privacy friendly nation, outside the surveillance alliance of 14 eye nations. It has undergone a third-party audit, a process that is key for improving trust in an opaque industry.
Like ExpressVPN and Surfshark, Nord uses Ram-Only servers, servers that store user data in Volatile memory (RAM). RAM requires power to store information, and any time that the server is turned off or rebooted, all user data from previous sessions are lost. This shows that they don’t store any logs. Despite all this, it doesn’t prove, without a doubt, that NordVPN doesn’t store any logs but it does deserve greater trust than most.
NordVPN is compatible with all the major devices, including Android, iOS, and windows. There are some differences between the apps across different platforms. In android, you can only use the OpenVPN protocol, while iOS allows IKEv2 protocol as well.
On Android, you can use P2P, obfuscated, double VPN, and dedicated IP servers, but you can only access P2P and Onion Over VPN on iOS. This is not because of NordVPN but Apple’s security standards.
Unlike most other VPN, NordVPN allows browser extension on both, desktop and phone.
NordVPN also has a dedicated app for routers which allows you to use VPN on WiFi-only devices such as a Smart TV.
You can have up to six simultaneous connections—a tidbit better than the industry standard of five. For most VPNs, you can always get unlimited simultaneous connections at home by installing the VPN on a router. This will only exhaust one of your connections. I haven’t found any VPN that doesn’t allow this hack but make sure to check it before opting for a decade long subscription.
2. Express VPN
|Overall: Best VPN for gaming|
|Number of servers: 3,000+/td>|
|Number of server locations: 94|
|Simultaneous connections: 5|
|Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands|
|Split tunneling: Yes|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromebook, Windows Phone|
|Support: 24/7 live chat, email, articles|
|Monthly rate: $8.32 (may vary, depending on deals offered)|
Express VPN has a bug bounty program managed by Bugcrowd which rewards folks who find and report vulnerabilities in ExpressVPN’s systems, ensuring the flaws are fixed before they can be exploited by the bad guys.
The company has also developed its own protocol—lightway—which, it claims, is faster than OpenVPN or Wireguard. And, yes, there are all the standard protocols, any serious VPN companies must have, as well. OpenVPN is still the default VPN. with the option to connect over UDP or TCP. L2TP and PPTP are also options, though the latter isn’t recommended due to security issues.
ExpressVPN uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit keys—also known as AES-256. It’s the same encryption standard adopted by the U.S. government and used by security experts worldwide to protect classified information.
Don’t know why, but they refer to their Kill switch (such a cool name) as Network lock. There’s no network lock for android or iOS.
No data leaks were found when I ran the apps through basic leak tests.
No Log Policy
Like its rival NordVPN, Express VPNs no-log policy claim has great merits. To prove its logging policy claim, Express VPN has gone through a third-party audit as well. Moreover, It is now one of only a handful of VPNs that run all servers in RAM-disk mode.
In December 2017, authorities in Turkey seized an ExpressVPN server in an attempt to obtain customer data. They couldn’t get the data as there wasn’t any.
As you saw with Turkey, governments can force the VPN provider to keep the data of their customer’s web activity—incredible, ain’t it? But ExpressVPN is based on British Virgin Island which has strong privacy laws.
Streaming with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu with ExpressVPN worked well without any lag or hiccups.
If you get any kind of proxy error with Netflix when you are connected to an ExpressVPN server, contact chat support and they will recommend a server that would most likely work. However, it would be better if they labeled their streaming servers.
Also, Express VPN is one of the few VPNs (along with NordVPN and Surfshark) that works really well with Firestick and FireTV.
ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. The browser extensions are excellent. Why use the browser extension when you can use the desktop VPN app? Well, here are some additional benefits of browser extensions:
- Block WebRTC leaks in the browser, which can expose your real IP address.
- HTML5 geolocation spoofing—even with a proxy IP address, Websites can still determine your location through the HTML5 geolocation API, which uses wi-fi and mobile signals, GPS, and other positioning hardware to determine your location. ExpressVPN’s browser extension “spoofs” the location retrieved by the API to a semi-random point near the VPN server location to which you’re connected.
- HTTPS Everywhere – automatically connects to the more-secure HTTPS version of websites where available.
ExpressVPN also offers a split tunneling feature which allows you to use VPN only on apps that you want to. This is also really useful with routers because it allows you to select specific devices and/or websites to bypass the VPN.
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPN services that offer a dedicated VPN router app
Money-back guarantees are always cute, they really help when it comes to VPN.So, If you are not 100% satisfied with your VPN subscription, you can cancel even on day 30 for a full refund, no questions asked.
While ExpressVPN customer support isn’t the best, it is better than most. You can access 24/7 live chat support or email them if that didn’t work. Although you can’t talk to an expert on the phone like IPVanish, there are tons of instructional videos and articles on their website, unlike most other VPN.
It all sounds perfect, right? Well… not so fast. Let’s get to the some of the disadvantages of Express VPN.
Some Disadvantages to Express VPN
1. It’s Expensive
ExpressVPN is expensive. The cheapest you can get ExpressVPN is $8.32 per month, While you can get Nord VPN for $3.71 per month and Surfshark for $2.21 per month.
2. It Has a Slower OpenVPN protocol
Another noteworthy drawback with ExpressVPN is the recent performance issues with the OpenVPN protocol.
3. It Lacks Some Features
Apart from these issues, ExpressVPN lacks features when compared with its close competitor NordVPN which offers features like Double VPN server, CyberSec, and other cool stuff.
|Overall: Best value|
|Number of servers: 3,200+/td>|
|Number of server locations: 65+|
|Simultaneous connections: Unlimited|
|Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands|
|Split tunneling: Yes|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IKEv2|
|Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Apple TV, other TVs, PlayStation, Xbox, Chrome & Firefox (browser extensions)|
|Support: 24/7 live chat, email, knowledge base|
|Monthly rate: $2.21 (may vary, depending on deals offered)|
Let’s talk about the most peculiar, distinctive feature of the Surfshark VPN first. With Surfshark, you can connect any number of devices simultaneously. In comparison, NordVPN allows only six devices while ExpressVPN just five. This alone already makes Surfshark a great value. But let’s dig a little deeper and explore all the features of Surshark VPN.
Compared to some of its competitors, Surfshark’s regular monthly plan at $12.95 is quite expensive.
For a 6-month plan, the price goes down to $6.49 per month. Still a bit expensive. But if you choose the 2-year plan, the price drops down to an incredibly low level— $2.49 per month. This beats almost every other respectable VPN out there.
The first two years of Surfshark will cost $59.76. In comparison, a plan from Express VPN will cost you $99.95 for a year.
However, it is a bit disappointing that you have to buy such a lengthy plan to get a decent deal, but still, the 2-year Surfshark plan is super cheap. In fact, it costs almost the same as a one-year plan of most other respectable VPNs.
But if you want to dip your feet into it before making such a long-term commitment, you can take advantage of its seven-day free trial. If that’s not enough time to decide, buy a 2-year plan, and if you don’t like it, you can get your money back within the first month of your subscription.
You can pay Surfshark in a variety of ways. They take tons of credit cards. You can pay them with Paypal, and even Amazon pay. Not only that, if you are an uber techie, you can pay them with cryptocurrency for a more anonymous transaction.
Speed and Performance
Whenever you start the VPN mode, you are adding extra machine and physical distances to your internet connection, reducing speed.
But Surfshark has recently added more servers to their collection. So the speed loss is relatively little compared to most premium VPNs. It has also added the protocol, Wireguard, to its resume, All of these recent steps have boosted its performance and ranking, to the top.
Surfshark is a well-performing VPN, and there are only the odd occasions when the performance slips. That said, speed depends on location and the servers you use, so you should take advantage of the 30 days money-back guarantee and try out the service before making long-term commitments.
Surfshark is great for streaming. You can easily access Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
Surfshark is loaded with privacy features. It has all the classic privacy measures—AES-256 encryption, plus all the security protocols: Wireguard, IKEv2, OpenVPN.
All these things are great but every VPN has them, Surfshark has some extra security features.
Double VPN routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, encrypting your data twice, increasing security. It can be accessed using the MultiHop button and essentially enables users to connect to one location and exit from another
Moreover, Private DNS on each server adds an extra layer of protection as well.
Like all the top VPN. Surfshark also has a kill switch that disables your internet connection on a system level if your VPN connection drops without warning. This ensures that sensitive information is always protected
Camouflage Mode makes sure that nobody, not even your internet provider can tell that you’re using a VPN. VPN split tunneling – called Whitelister on the Surfshark VPN app – allows you to have only some of your internet traffic go over VPN while the rest use the regular internet.
No border mode allows you to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions. When in China, for instance, it will automatically recommend optimized servers for you. Ads, malicious content, and web trackers are blocked using Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature.
Note that many VPN employ unique terms over regular functionality to inflate the number of features they have, for instance, Camouflage mode and Whitelister. These are the stuff that every VPN provides. Despite this unsavory marketing ploy, Surfshark does have features that only a few VPNs can boast about—like server chaining in Double VPN.
Any company that has public audits from third parties command more trust than ones who do not. A German security firm, Cure 53, audited the surfshark’s chrome and firefox extension for privacy. You can get the report online. Although the audit was commissioned by Surfshark, it is better than having no audit on your resume, which is exactly the case with many VPNs
Like every other VPN, Surfshark has a no-log policy. But not every VPN has commissioned a third-party audit or uses RAM-only servers as Surfshark does.
Surfshark is headquartered on British Virgin Island. Although a territory of the Uk, it is self-governed and has its own law. It isn’t part of any surveillance alliance and does not have any law which forces VPN to collect any user data.
Surfshark supports P2P on most of its servers. Also, No log policy, solid speed, RAM-only servers are nice things to have for torrenting.
For customer support, Surfshark has 24/7 live chat and a dedicated website with FAQs, guides, and tutorials which should resolve most of your issues.
|Overall: Best VPN for privacy|
|Number of servers: 663|
|Number of server locations: 36|
|Simultaneous connections: 5|
|Split tunneling: Yes|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard|
|Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Swish, bank transfer, even cash|
|Support: Email and help center|
|Monthly rate: $6.11 or €5 (may vary, depending on deals offered / exchange rate)|
Mullvad excels in signals of transparency and trust. It beats every VPN on those points. The company is very clear about its business practices. They tell you exactly what data they collect, and what they do with it. You won’t find this level of transparency with any VPN.
Also of note, Mullvad doesn’t pay affiliates to write about Mullvad. Yes, it’s a shame, but at least you know a list of VPNs is unbiased if it has Mullvad on the list (especially ranking it number four, for crying out loud).
When selecting a VPN, you should think about pricing, features, streaming, torrenting, and privacy, but don’t ever forget about trust and transparency, and that’s exactly where Mullvad excels.
The no-logging policy of Mullvad might be more trustworthy than NordVPN’s or ExpressVPN’s, or for that matter, any other VPN’s.
Mullvad doesn’t require your email address or a username for logging in. You just get a randomly generated account number, like a Swiss bank account.
In May and June of 2020, Mullvad underwent a third-party security audit, a process that is key for improving trust in an opaque industry. Though Mullvad, like IVPN, allowed testers to look at its servers—something only the company can authorize—the white-box audit was otherwise comprehensive and included a look at Mullvad’s phone apps.
Mullvad collects less information than many VPNs. Mullvad collects very little data on its customers and all of the cookies that may track you on the Mullvad website expire when you close the browser window.
It has fairly readable terms of service, including details about what kinds of information the company collects and how it uses that information.
Mullvad VPN is by far the most underrated VPN. One of the fastest. It is as skillful as the best of them. For some reason, it doesn’t get its due in online “unbiased” reviews. Actually, I do know. It is because Mullvad doesn’t pay for reviews.
It has dedicated apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS that are simple to set up even if you have little technical knowledge.
Mullvad’s subscription is reasonably priced and costs the same whether you use the service for a month or a year—$5.40, and one subscription can support up to five simultaneous connections at a time, so it’s easy to use on all of your devices, too.
Although there is no free trial, Mullvad offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can see if the server speeds and connections work for you. It has tons of payment options — credit card, Bitcoin, PayPal, or Swish. Mullvad also offers a 10% discount for payment in cryptocurrency. Although Mullvad accepts cash payments, most people won’t bother to mail cash to Sweden. The cash payments are not eligible for the money-back guarantee.
Protocols and Kill Switch
Mullvad allows you to choose between the OpenVPN and WireGuard standards on Windows and macOS. It uses WireGuard on its iOS and Android app. Mullvad also includes a kill switch, which stops all traffic if the VPN disconnects.
Streaming and Torrenting
Mullvad is far more concerned with providing a secure and affordable VPN service than one that will let you watch Netflix. if streaming or watching region-locked content is your goal, you should look somewhere else.
Mullvad supports P2P file sharing, meaning you can download files from torrent as securely as any VPN. Although it won’t block those annoying ads that pop up while you are torrenting. Mullvad has no adblocker.
|Overall: Best VPN for streaming|
|Number of servers: 6,500+|
|Number of countries: 90|
|Simultaneous connections: 7|
|Split tunneling: Yes|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: OpenVPN UDP & TCP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, PPTP, WireGuard|
|Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox|
|Support: Email and live chat|
|Monthly rate: $2.25 (may vary, depending on deals offer)|
CyberGhost is simply the best VPN for streaming. Netflix and other major streaming have been cracking down on VPN and it has become difficult to unblock them. One of the main reasons people use a VPN in the first place is to get around geo-blocked restrictions, to stream. A perpetual struggle has ensued between the streaming sites and the VPN services.
Apart from regular servers, CyberGhost has optimized servers for streaming. To stay ahead of the game, the CyberGhost team checks to make sure that they can unblock all the streaming services. If they can’t, the Cyeberghost team takes the necessary steps to make sure that they do.
You just have to type the name of the streaming platform you want to watch into the search bar of the app. It will give you a list of 2-3 optimized servers to choose from.
One thing that should come to mind, when thinking about CyberGhost is servers. They have more servers than anyone else. More than surfshark. More than ExpressVPN. Hell, even more than NordVPN.
CyberGhost has a widespread network with 6,600 servers in 90 countries. Because of such huge numbers, their servers don’t get saturated and you are more likely to find the server nearest to you.
Along with regular servers, CyberGhost has four types of optimized servers:
- P2P-optimized: for torrenting or watching P2P-based sites like Popcorn Time.
- Streaming-optimized: For watching Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming sites.
- Dedicated IP servers: To access IP-restricted networks
- NoSpy servers: For maximum security—if you are a journalist or if you’re traveling in places like China.
NoSpy servers are cool but they cost extra. They are stored much more securely than other servers, in the company’s private data center in Romania. Except for CyberGhost’s team, no third party can access these servers.
CyberGhost is Headquartered in Romania, a Privacy-Friendly Country. Romania is not part of the 14-Eye Alliance, so it doesn’t have to share your information with any government. It doesn’t have to give any of your information even if it receives a legal request from a government agency.
CyberGhost offers OpenVPN TCP/UDP, IKEv2, and WireGuard. They select the best protocol for you based on your needs but you can choose to manually switch between protocols.
CyberGhost offers 256-bit encryption.
It also uses perfect forward secrecy which frequently changes the keys it uses to encrypt and decrypt information, such that if the latest key is compromised, it exposes only a small portion of the user’s sensitive data.
According to its policy, it will not store any information that can be used to trace you. You can even pay with bitcoin for extra anonymity.
Like most other VPNs, it does store some sensitive logs for a brief period, or so they say, to optimize its service for you.
It stores some of your hardware information to determine the number of simultaneous connections you are using. Other VPNs have found a way to do this without hardware information. It is understandable but I would have preferred it otherwise.
CyberGhost’s kill switch will protect you from data leaks, killing the internet connection if the VPN connection drops. It also offers DNS and IP leak protection.
It also has split-tunneling to disable VPN for certain apps. HTTPS protection to secure data shared between users and websites. The ad, tracker, and Malware blockers which—this is totally unexpected—block Ads, trackers, and Malware.
CyberGhost works with all major platforms and has a desktop, iOS, and Android apps, Android apps don’t have DNS, IP leak protection, and HTTPS protection. CyberGhost also has browser extensions as well with no kill switch and can use only a limited number of servers.
You can have up to seven simultaneous connections, slightly better than the industry standard of five. Although, as I have said before, you can always get unlimited simultaneous connections at home by installing the VPN on a router.
|Overall: Best VPN for speed|
|Number of servers: 1,800+|
|Number of countries: 80+|
|Simultaneous connections: 5|
|Split tunneling: Yes|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: Catapult Hydra, IKEv2 (desktop)|
|Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, TV, routers|
|Support: Knowledge base, email and live chat|
|Monthly rate: $2.99 (may vary, depending on deals offer)|
Hotspot Shield is the fastest of all the VPN on this list. But everyone also seems to agree that there is something fishy about this VPN. Its privacy policies aren’t the healthiest and might trigger anxiety in more skeptical users. Although this VPN doesn’t keep any logs of your web activity, it does collect plenty of other information.
According to its terms and conditions, Hotspot Shield collects the following data:
- Real IP address (deleted at the end of each session)
- Email address
- Unique mobile ID
- Hardware model
- Operating system version
- Network information
- Account information
- Billing and payment information
- Identity verification information
There are a lot of vague terms like “network information” that they use in their policies which is never a good thing, especially when you are laying down laws or policies.
On the Android free version of Hotspot Shield, they also provide location information to their ad partners.
Not just that. In 2017, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), basically saying that the VPN was lying about the amount of data shared with the third-party advertisers.
Now let us get into something nice and positive. It isn’t all bad or it wouldn’t have been one of the top VPN picks.
We’ve talked a lot about speed and privacy, but let’s slide away a bit into something more aesthetically pleasing, the user interface of Hotspot Shield.
Out of all of the VPNs, Hotspot Shield might have the most charming user-interface ever seen. Although it isn’t the most customizable, it is truly beautiful and simple, and intuitive.
Free Hotspot Shield VPN
Hotspot Shield Free is…. you guessed it, free! You don’t have to pay them but they do sell your information to various ad companies. Also, it only gives you access to the US virtual location. You can’t access any streaming content and you can only use 500 MB per day. Not to mention, you’re limited to a speed of 2 Mbps and only one device. But, hey, it’s free, right?
Hotspot shield allows torrenting on all servers and all device platforms. Unlike most VPNs, it whole-heartedly embraces torrenting. They don’t sweep it under the rug like many. They don’t pretend like VPNs aren’t used for downloading stuff illegally on the internet. They even give instructions on anonymous torrenting.
Hotspot Shield isn’t the best VPN for streaming geo-blocked content. It’s truly a shame as it is so fast. Don’t get us wrong, Hotspot Shield is one of the better VPNs for streaming but it isn’t as good as heavy hitters like ExpressVPN or NordVPN. It is slightly more difficult to find a server that will unlock services such as Netflix that are actively trying to block VPN.
Hotspot Shield Elite only uses their unique Catapult Hydra protocol, designed to fix some of the latency issues in the IPsec and OpenVPN protocols that can reduce connection speeds.
Although not open source, Catapult Hydra is used by McAfee, Telefonica, Bitdefender, and plenty of other reputable companies.
There is no OpenVPN protocol. In fact, there isn’t any other protocol either. Not even a manual option. I would have liked that they at least gave us a choice. I mean they don’t have to be so bullish about it. But since it works fine enough, I don’t see much reason to get too much worked up about it. (IKeV2 is also available for desktop)
Failing to show its uniqueness, as it does with protocol, Hotspot Shield uses the standard, AES 256-bit encryption to secure your traffic.
It also uses perfect forward secrecy, a key-agreement protocol that constantly changes your encryption key.
Another slight problem with Hotspot Shield is its customer support. You can contact customer support by submitting a ticket although you would likely be waiting a long time for replies.
There’s no phone support available but live chat works fine.
Some other things to consider:
- Chrome extension might leak your DNS.
- Kill switch is only available for windows.
- No adblocker.
- Hotspot shield elite comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, one of the longest you can get.
- Affordable longer subscription
|Overall: Best VPN for beginners|
|Number of servers: 1,600+|
|Number of countries: 75|
|Simultaneous connections: Unlimited|
|Split tunneling: Android only|
|Kill switch: Yes|
|Supported protocols: OpenVPN UDP & TCP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, PPTP|
|Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Chrome OS, Kodi|
|Support: Knowledge base, email and live chat|
|Monthly rate: $3.49 (may vary, depending on deals offer)|
Although IPVanish doesn’t have the most flattering number of servers, in contrast to many other VPN services, it uses its own servers instead of outsourcing connections to third-party providers. That’s a big plus considering you don’t know what third parties might be doing with that data (hopefully nothing, but do you trust that?)
In the US, speeds are comparable with the fastest, topping out at over 200Mbps. In Europe, however, it was less impressive, averaging around 100Mbps, and speeds also suffered over long distances. Granted, IPVanish is no Nord or Hotspot shield in terms of the connection speed it allows but by no means it is a slow VPN.
IPVanish is a budget VPN. At $3.49, IPVanish has the best one-month plan for the first month. After that, for the subsequent months, it reaches $9.99 a month. The one-year plan costs $27.99 for the first year. In comparison, for a year, Express VPN costs $99.95. I still wouldn’t recommend IPVanish because for only a few more bucks you can get a significantly better VPN with Express VPN.
The offer truly becomes more enticing when you buy Sugarsync, a cloud service that provides secure file storage, syncing, sharing, and backup.
You can get Sugarsync with an additional $6 in the first year, and $20 thereafter. With this,
you’ll get a mega 500GB, which retails at almost $20 a month alone. If that’s something you’ll use, it’s well worth buying.
It’s always nice to have a free trial or a money-back guarantee. IPVanish offers both–a seven-day free trial and 30 days money-back guarantee.
Like Surfshark, it doesn’t set any limits on simultaneous connections, and subscribers get access to 24/7 support via live chat.
IPVanish safeguards your data with military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, used by all the other VPNs as well. IPVanish also supports both IKEv2 and OpenVPN, two of the fastest and safest protocols. Unlike most other VPNs, IPVanish gives users the option to customize OpenVPN connections.
It is relevant to note that IPVanish is based in the US, and therefore subject to the 14 Eyes’ jurisdiction. This means that it can be forced by the government to turn over any records it has on its users.
IPVanish claims to be a no-logging VPN. However, it has never gone through a third-party audit to prove its claims.
IPVanish was involved in a scandal in which IPVanish shared logs with the government. The user was allegedly involved in a child abuse and pornography investigation, and ultimately, this information helped the investigation. However, their compliance proved that they kept logs.
This occurred in 2016 and the VPN was acquired by StackPath in 2017. The new management guarantees that they do not store any logs.
Streaming services have taken a tougher approach to VPNs in recent years, and only a few providers can reliably connect to the most popular platforms. IPVanish was able to circumvent region restrictions on both Netflix and Disney+, but it had trouble with other services, like iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video.
Although streaming isn’t as seamless as a handful of other VPNs, torrenting is just as good as the best of them. Unfortunately, though, split tunneling is currently limited to the Android and Fire TV clients, which may make IPVanish less attractive to some users.
IPVanish offers a high degree of customization that goes beyond what’s available from most other providers. The downside of this approach is that it can clutter the interface, especially for users who aren’t as familiar with the technical side of VPNs.
Keep in mind that the kill switch is disabled by default, so you’ll need to turn it on manually before getting started.
IPVanish has excellent security tools, free cloud storage, great connection speeds in the US, an outstanding set of customer service options, powerful torrent support, and more. While there are a small number of downsides that hold it behind ExpressVPN and other elite providers, it’s still one of the best VPNs available for 2021.