Choosing a VPN can be difficult. In the last few years, hundreds of different VPN providers have sprung up offering similar-sounding services.
Deciding between them can be difficult for the computer novice. Since you trust your VPN with your internet traffic, it’s essential that you chose a reputable and responsible provider.
We evaluated 5 of the top VPN providers in several categories to find the best fit for every need.
To make it on our top 5 list, these VPNs offer high speed, tight security, and are trustworthy. Any of the VPNs on this list would be a good choice. But, by taking an in-depth look at their service, we found that each provider will have different strengths and weaknesses depending on what your specific needs are.
Here are the most important factors we looked at to make our recommendations:
- Synthetic download & page load speed test
- Real-world speed
- Video streaming availability and reliability
- Company history and privacy policies
- Number of servers and location availability
- Cost and payment options
- Ease of use
- Security and privacy
|ExpressVPN||Best for Speed Freaks|
|NordVPN||Good mix of price, speed, and service|
|Private Internet Access||Best for Power Users|
|CyberGhost||Best for Video Streaming|
|IPVanish||Best for Large families|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a generic term for a service that allows one type of network traffic to travel across a different network without it being read or altered. It’s effectively a tunnel that will enable your internet traffic to go directly from your computer to the exit server without it being looked at by your internet service provider.
For most consumers, this is a service that you use provided by a company that maintains the exit servers and offers a client for your computer or mobile device to connect with.
Why do I need a VPN?
There are many different reasons why a VPN is vital to have. Your internet service provider or country may block you from accessing certain websites or using some services. Websites and ad agencies track your browsing history and use it to target advertisements or change prices.
If you are using public WiFi, such as at a coffee shop or hotel, a malicious hacker may intercept and steal your information. A reliable VPN can help protect you against all these threats.
What about free VPNs?
Free or no-cost VPNs should be avoided. The adage that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies here. It costs money to run the servers that a VPN needs. They may be tracking you and selling this information to make a profit.
Worse yet, they may be run by criminals who could be actively trying to steal your private data or misuse your internet connection.
Is my Internet slower when using a VPN?
Yes. All VPN connections will add an extra step when connecting to something on the internet, and the encryption adds a little overhead that will reduce the maximum you can send at one time. Good quality VPN providers will minimize these slowdowns. In most cases, the slowdown will not be noticeable, though.
Why do certain websites not work or only work sometimes when using a VPN? (Netflix, iPlayer, etc.)
Some websites don’t want you connecting from another country. Since a VPN makes it impossible for them to tell what country you are connecting from, they may try to actively block connections from a VPN.
VPN providers will continuously be trying to disguise their service, so the website doesn’t know it’s from a VPN. This creates a cat-and-mouse game which can result in a website sometimes working, and sometimes not.
What is a VPN router, or can I protect my whole house?
Certain WiFi routers allow you to create a VPN connection from the router to the server directly. This will protect every device in your house simultaneously. This will also allow you to protect devices such as game consoles or video streaming boxes.
Beware that this can be difficult to configure for novices. Furthermore, consumer routers may not have powerful enough CPUs and can limit your maximum speed.