Best VPNs for Streaming in 2022 (+ Free Trials)

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VPNs are increasingly essential tools for being online safely. And that’s even more true of cord-cutters and others who stream content. Below we explain everything you need to know and how to choose the right VPN for your uses.

In a hurry? Check out these three VPNs. All of them allow you to stream and have no restrictions on P2P file transfer (torrenting):

The least you can expect from a virtual private network (VPN) service nowadays is a secure encryption protocol, a fair log policy, and decent download speeds.

Most VPN providers offer desktop software, mobile apps, and browser extensions — they’re widely compatible.

You also want to ensure that you opt-in for a VPN provider with a good selection of countries and servers.

If you’re new to the world of VPNs, read on to learn exactly what a VPN is, how it works, its limitations, and how you can choose one.

Anyone that’s here exclusively to access blocked streaming content, jump straight to our guide on Streaming via VPNs.

Quick Guide to Choosing a VPN

If you don’t have time to read this entire guide and need something fast, at least ensure that you tick off the following requirements for choosing the best VPN provider:

⭐ No-logs policy with at least two known security protocols in place

⭐ Compatible with your browsing device and OS

⭐ High-quality servers in the right location for your tunneling needs

⭐ Realistic bandwidth expectations with available speed test data

⭐ Additional security features like kill switch and multihop

⭐ A suitable price plan to suit your term and budget.

Best VPN Services Compared

Aside from variable country and server locations, the main difference between VPN services tends to come down to the availability of features like dedicated IPs and smart DNS.

We compare these as well as all available protocol types and supported devices for the below providers.

There are other comparable features to look for — ones we didn’t list in this comparison table.

nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Countries60+90+60+90+80+60+70+50+30+
Servers5,300+3,000+1,500+7,500+4,000+700+6,500+2,000+950+
Dedicated IP✔️✔️✔️✔️
Smart DNS✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Multihop✔️✔️
Bandwidth†1 G10 G
Connections651073012
P2PSomeAllAllSomeSomeAllSomeAllAll
Price††$3.99$8.326.63€$2.29$1.64$8.33$2.00$3.99$3.67
Free TrialMBGMBG1 day7 daysMBGMBGMBGMBG
ReviewMoreMoreMoreMoreMoreMoreMoreMoreMore
† Unlimited bandwidth (∞) is subject to server performance. †† Monthly price at the longest available term. MBG = money-back guarantee (a risk-free way to try services without a free trial).

All of the VPN providers on this page operate a no-logs policy and provide VPN router support.

NordVPN

nordvpn

NordVPN is packed with both security and privacy-enhancing features like double IP protection. Accounts are secured with multi-factor authentication. And customer support is available 24/7.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $11.99 on a rolling contract, 1-year commitment for $4.99/mo (billed annually), or 2-year commitment for $3.99/mo (billed annually).
  • Best Features: Split tunneling, kill switch, onion-over-VPN, malware protection, tracker/ad blocker.
Countries60+
Servers5,300+
Dedicated IP✔️
Smart DNS✔️
Multihop✔️
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec, WireGuard, NordLynx
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections6
P2P ServersSome
Pricefrom $3.99
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee only

See our NordVPN review for more information.

ExpressVPN

expressvpn

Pricier compared to other VPNs, ExpressVPN remains popular due to secure servers running on RAM only, using 256-bit encryption. Support is available 24/7 via live chat and plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $12.95 on a rolling contract, 6-month commitment for $9.99/mo (billed biannually), or 1-year commitment for $8.32/mo (billed annually).
  • Best Features: RAM-only servers, split tunneling, kill switch, built-in leak tester.
Countries90+
Servers3,000+
Dedicated IP
Smart DNS✔️
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsLightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, IPSec
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections5
P2P ServersAll
Pricefrom $8.32
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee only

For more, see our ExpressVPN review.

ProtonVPN

protonvpn

ProtonVPN is a premium VPN service based in Switzerland with a free base plan. Estimates of 10 Gbps connection speeds and open-source code audited by industry professionals. Network traffic encrypted via AES-256, key exchange via 4096-bit RSA, and SHA-384 used for message authentication.

  • Plans: Free base plan. Three premium plans ranging from 10€/mo (monthly) to 6.63€/mo (biennially). Plans vary by available countries, servers, maximum speed, Tor support, and streaming service support.
  • Best Features: NetShield adblocker, VPN accelerator, full-disk encryption, kill switch, split tunneling, leak prevention, Tor-over-VPN.
Countries60+
Servers1,500+
Dedicated IP
Smart DNS
Multihop✔️
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec, WireGuard
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections10
P2P ServersAll
Pricefrom 6.63€
Free TrialFree Account Tier

CyberGhost

cyberghost

Aside from a VPN service, CyberGhost offers a private browser, password manager, and a security suite for Windows (OS). The VPN is a decent tool to bypass content restrictions and to browse securely on public networks. All plans with a 1+ year term come with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $12.99 on a rolling contract, 1-year plan for $4.29/mo (billed annually), 2-year plan for $3.25/mo (billed every 2-years), or 3-year plan for $2.29/mo (billed every 3-years).
  • Best Features: Wide range of platforms supported, WebRTC leak protection, cookie cleaner, kill switch, split tunneling.
Countries90+
Servers7,500+
Dedicated IP✔️
Smart DNS✔️
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit1 Gbps
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, IPSec
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections7
P2P ServersSome
Pricefrom $2.29
Free Trial24 Hours

ZenMate

zenmate

ZenMate boasts a proven track record of successfully unblocking content that other VPN services have not. It is one of the best browser-extension VPN services with four supported browsers on mobile and desktop. ZenMate only exercises two encryption protocols and lacks optional features like dedicated IP, multihop, or smart DNS.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $10.99 on a rolling contract, 1-year plan for $4.49/mo (billed annually), or 3-year plan for $1.64/mo (billed every 3-years).
  • Best Features: Kill switch, unlimited simultaneous connections.
Countries80+
Servers4,000+
Dedicated IP
Smart DNS
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections
P2P ServersSome
Pricefrom $1.64
Free Trial7 Days

VyprVPN

vyprvpn

This provider uses seven different tunneling protocols across a variety of supported devices to hide user IPs. Aside from VPN services, Vypr offers smart cloud solutions for businesses for enhanced data protection. One account holder can have 30 simultaneous connections with unlimited bandwidth.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $15 on a rolling contract or yearly plan for $8.33/mo (billed annually).
  • Best Features: Split tunneling, kill switch, NAT firewall, tailored apps for over a dozen operating systems.
Countries60+
Servers700+
Dedicated IP
Smart DNS✔️
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, WireGuard, Chameleon
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections30
P2P ServersAll
Pricefrom $8.33
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee only

PureVPN

purevpn

PureVPN offers both retail and business VPN with 24/7 customer support. Additional add-ons are available like DDoS protection for gamers. It is one of the most affordable VPNs on the market with dedicated IP access.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $10.95 on a rolling contract, 1-year plan for $3.24/mo (billed annually), or 2-year plan for $2.00/mo (billed every 2 years) for the first cycle and then $4.50/mo (billed yearly) after that.
  • Best Features: DDoS protection, kill switch, split tunneling, unlimited devices.
Countries70+
Servers6,500+
Dedicated IP✔️
Smart DNS
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit10 Gbps
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, IPSec, PPTP
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections
P2P ServersSome
Pricefrom $2.00
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee only

IP Vanish

ipvanish

With tens of thousands of shared IP addresses, IP Vanish operates on multiple tunneling protocols. It offers ample privacy to browse on public networks and access restricted media across 50+ countries. The yearly plan includes free ransomware and malware protection.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $10.99 on a rolling contract, 3-monthly plan for $5.32/mo (billed every quarter), or yearly plan for $3.99/mo for the first year and then $7.50/mo afterward (both billed annually).
  • Best Features: Over 40,000 shared IP addresses, SOCKS5 proxy, kill switch, DNS leak protection.
Countries50+
Servers2,000+
Dedicated IP
Smart DNS
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, L2TP, IPSec
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections
P2P ServersAll
Pricefrom $3.99
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee only

StrongVPN

strongvpn logo

A smaller company with a VPN service launched in 2005 with round-the-clock tech support (24/7). StrongVPN also offers VPN with cloud storage — both the monthly and annual plans include 250 GBs of free space. The company servers have over 50,000 shared IPs.

  • Plans: Monthly plan for $10.99 on a rolling contract. The yearly plan is $3.67/mo for the first year and then $6.67/mo (billed annually) after that.
  • Best Features: Kill switch, split tunneling, free cloud storage, in-house smart DNS.
Countries30+
Servers950+
Dedicated IP✔️
Smart DNS✔️
Multihop
Bandwidth Limit
Encryption ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, SSTP, L2TP, IPSec
VPN Router Support✔️
Simultaneous Connections12
P2P ServersAll
Pricefrom $3.67
Free TrialMoney-back guarantee

What Is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a service designed to protect your privacy online.

  • Simple Explanation: A VPN service offers a tunnel to send your data through, hiding the data that identifies you. It’s like sending a letter without the carrier, or those monitoring the carrier knowing who you are — only the sender and receiver know what’s in there, not the one who delivers it.
  • Technical Explanation: A VPN service provides a secure passage (tunnel) via a secure server that belongs to the company. Through this tunnel, your IP address is hidden.

That’s all it is, really. VPN providers use different encryption standards, also known as security protocols or VPN protocols. Many VPN companies will advertise “military-grade” encryption, which is accurate.

However, remember, VPN servers don’t have the additional security military servers do!

Why Would You Use a VPN?

The most common reason to use a VPN is to enhance privacy and access blocked content. If we want to get specific, here are some reasons you may consider using a VPN:

  • Public network security
  • Bypass private network
  • Security during online shopping/transactional browsing
  • Data privacy from internet service providers (ISPs)
  • Access blocked content in restricted geolocations
  • Bypass local router/ISP restrictions (school, work, library, government premises)
  • Protect personal identity during online activity.

These are NOT recommendations, merely examples of why people may resort to using a virtual private network.

How a VPN Works

When you install a VPN app or software, this is how your online identity is hidden:

  1. The VPN app/software securely connects you to the internet
  2. Your data is encypted through a “virtual tunnel” and sent to the VPN provider’s server. This is where the provider’s security protocol comes into play.
    • At this point, your internet service provider (ISP) is already restricted from seeing what you’re doing, because you’re protected by the VPN.
  3. The VPN server sends your encrypted data to the receiving website or online service you’re trying to access
  4. From the website/service you’re connecting to, a response is sent back to the server, then you, to confirm the connection.
    • You may see this as a confirmation of your connection via the app’s dashboard — it happens under the hood.
  5. The traffic/data is sent back online again through another round of encryption via the VPN tunnel.
  6. You’re ready to browse securely, even on public Wifi.

That’s it. Data is transferred through a tunnel that packages the data, hiding the content.

Limitations and Dangers of a VPN

These are not reasons to put you off, but to consider when using a VPN:

  1. You’re never completely anonymous with a VPN. With techniques like tracking, cookies, and browser fingerprinting, your identity can be traced back to you in several ways.
  2. You’re entrusting a third-party with your privacy.
  3. If the use of a VPN is illegal in a country you’re tunneling to, you may be taking a legal risk. Countries with strict VPN regulations include China and Turkey.
  4. Using a VPN hinders your connection speed and performance because data has a longer way to travel with more gateways to pass.
  5. However secure your VPN service, you’re still exposed to security threats like malware, hackers, and phishing attacks.
  6. Some services ban IP addresses from VPN servers and cannot be bypassed. You can avoid this with an advanced multihop VPN service with dedicated IPs and Smart DNS.

How to Choose a VPN

Before you buy a VPN subscription, you need to know what you’re putting your money into. Annual bills add up and you want the best possible deal.

Right from the core technicalities to the price tag, here are six key factors to consider when choosing a VPN provider.

1. Competence, Privacy, and Security

The main function of a VPN is to encrypt and decrypt data, also referred to as “tunneling.” This is like packaging mail, sending it out on delivery without the contents of the box or sender ID shown, and unwrapping it when it arrives at the destination.

There are more than a dozen encryption/tunneling protocols.

The use of protocols differs among VPN providers, based on the service’s infrastructure and supported devices. Of the services reviewed on this page, here’s a comparison of available protocols:

nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
OpenVPN✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
IKEv2✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
WireGuard✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
L2TP✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
PPTP✔️✔️
SSTP✔️
IPSec✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Chameleon✔️
Lightway✔️
NordLynx✔️

As to which VPN protocols are better or safer varies on technical expertise and corresponding opinions. However, some protocols serve different functions and cannot be compared fairly.

Security protocols typically differ in the following areas:

  • Device Compatibility: Some protocols are designated for specific devices and operating systems.
  • Bandwidth Use: A working security protocol uses bandwidth and power. The less bandwidth an active protocol uses, the better it is for the VPN performance.
  • Firewall Bypassing: Some protocols are blocked by firewalls, while others are not. This is crucial for many field specialists like ethical hackers.
  • Code Accessibility: Open source code is generally easier to troubleshoot. For example, SSTP is owned by Microsoft so the code is difficult to access. This may make it more reliable, but protocol like WireGuard are generally better for suggestions, bug diagnostics, and fixes.

Other privacy and security factors to be aware of include:

  • Dedicated IP Address: A dedicated IP address differentiates your online identity from the rest of the computers that use the server you’re on. Without a dedicated IP, you run via the server’s shared IP addresses. Dedicated IPs are useful, since if the server’s shared IPs are blocked (which is more likely than a dedicated IP block), you may continue to access content that others can’t. Only selected VPN providers offer dedicated IPs.
  • Smart DNS: When you try to access geo-blocked content, it could be suspicious via a generic VPN server’s IP address. A method to bypass restrictions is via Smart DNS (domain name server). Rather than having to use a different IP address, Smart DNS access simply redirects your DNS queries and keeps the IP address from your ISP.
  • Multihop: Typically, a VPN provider filters its encrypted traffic via one server, unless it’s a multihop service. Multihop refers to the process of directing traffic through two or more servers instead of one. The advantages are that you can bypass advanced censorship, even the type that would usually recognize a VPN. On the other hand, your performance and speed are impacted because data has a longer way to travel.
  • Logs: Traffic logs are a footprint of what content you’ve accessed online. It’s a trail of where you’ve been. VPN providers have log policies that define their process of logging client activity. Today, almost all VPN services operate on a no-logs policy as a privacy incentive for prospective customers. For maximum privacy, you want a no-log VPN service.

Once the above are covered, you may want to check for any additional protection against malware, trackers, hackers, public-wifi limitations, and DNS leaks. DNS leaks can be tested live via free online services while you’re hooked up to your VPN server.

Any history of DNS leaks may also be indicative of a secure VPN service’s performance.

2. Supported Devices

Most VPN services are available on your standard desktop and mobile operating systems as applications. Chrome and Firefox are the most widely supported browsers for browser extension apps.

Otherwise, there are a number of other devices supported by the VPN providers we tried. What device you use to browse will impact your choice of provider.

See which devices are supported by the reviewed VPN apps on this page:

Desktop
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Windows✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
MacOS✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Linux✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Mobile
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Android✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
iOS✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Blackberry✔️
Kindle Fire✔️✔️✔️
Browsers
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Chrome✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Firefox✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Edge✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Opera✔️
Safari✔️
TV Devices
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Android TV✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Fire TV✔️✔️✔️✔️
Apple TV✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Gaming
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Xbox✔️✔️✔️✔️
PlayStation✔️✔️✔️✔️
Nintendo✔️✔️
Other
nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Raspberry Pi✔️✔️✔️
QNAP✔️✔️
Synology✔️✔️✔️
Kodi✔️✔️✔️
OpenElec✔️

Even if you don’t see your device here, do some research and see how you can make your favorite VPN work with it. Try Googling something like “how to use VPN NAME on DEVICE,” and you may get some DIY solutions.

3. Geography

Where do you want to tunnel to? Once you know the answer to this question, you’ll know which country you need the VPN provider to have a server in. The target country depends on the content you’re trying to get to.

nordvpn logoexpressvpn logoprotonvpn logocyberghost vpn logozenmate logovyprvpn logopurevpn logoip vanish logostrongvpn logo
Countries60+90+60+90+80+60+70+50+30+
Servers5,300+3,000+1,500+7,500+4,000+700+6,500+2,000+950+

If you’re flexible with your target tunnel locations, see how many servers the company has and how concentrated the traffic is to improve your chances of a steady connection and higher speeds. Speaking of which…

4. Speed

Your internet service provider (ISP) gives you a designated bandwidth — this may be unlimited but there are always maximum peaks. Your connection and speed are typically affected by internet traffic and network load.

It’s the same for VPNs. However, when you are tunneling, there is a tendency to lose out on the maximum speed potential you get from your local ISP.

The best way to minimize this loss in speed, or better, prevent it entirely, is to get a VPN with limitless or high-limit bandwidth. However, unlimited bandwidth is often subject to inconsistent performance based on server loads.

This is why you should prioritize one thing when choosing a VPN service for speed: server distribution.

For example, imagine you want to tunnel to Canada. VPN X has three high-performance, high-capacity servers throughout the country, while VPN Y has 12 low performance, low-capacity servers. VPN X has a bandwidth limit of 1Gbps, while VPN Y has unlimited bandwidth.

VPN Y might seem better with unlimited bandwidth, but 12 low-par servers can get crowded and your share of the overall performance capacity will suffer. VPN X may seem less appealing with its fewer servers and bandwidth limit, but it could win on performance based on sheer quality.

When choosing the fastest VPN, always consider server quality and bandwidth limits. Sometimes it’s better to go with a service that gives accurate estimates of performance, thus maximum possible connection speeds. You can even perform speed tests while using free VPN trials.

But remember, the fastest VPN is not necessarily the best VPN.

5. Features and UX

When it comes to bread and butter VPN app features and functionalities, the ones you want to look for are:

  • Kill Switch: Sometimes you lose connection from your VPN. When this happens, your device returns to your original IP address provided by your ISP. A kill switch automatically disconnects your device from all internet connections in the event of losing connection with the VPN server. It is a useful privacy maintenance feature for unplanned outages.
  • Split Tunneling: With some VPNs, you can connect selected applications to an online destination via an encrypted VPN server while other apps are connected to the same or another destination without encryption. Benefits include saving bandwidth and supporting multitasking when facing geo-restrictions.
  • Simultaneous Connections: If you pay money for a VPN subscription, you want to make sure that you can use it on multiple devices. For example, IP Vanish and ZenMate don’t have an upper limit on simultaneous connections, while some like NordVPN do. Naturally, the more connections you have, the more your performance may be compromised due to load on your local ISP network.

Otherwise, VPN apps are relatively user-friendly. Dated interfaces are rare.

When choosing a VPN, you want something that’s neatly laid out, a dashboard where different locations and servers are easy to find. You want a clear presentation of data that lets you tailor your connection, ideally with a visual representation of server loads and any necessary details to help you make an informed decision on where and how you should connect.

6. Price

The most common subscription plan among VPN providers is the annual plan (one year). Many go as far as offering two or three-year plans for discounted rates.

Monthly subscription plans and rolling contracts are fairly standard with all VPN services. The NordVPN price structure is a good example:

  • 1-Month Plan: $11.99/mo
  • 1-Year Plan: $4.99/mo
  • 2-Year Plan: $3.99/mo

A 30-day money-back guarantee is also standard with most VPN providers, even the ones that don’t offer a free trial. However, some VPN services may only allow the 30-day money-back period with longer-term price plans.

There’s no one-size-fits-all rating of what makes a cheap, expensive, or moderately priced VPN plan. You need to take every factor into account and consider exactly what degree of security and performance you’re paying for.

Streaming via VPNs

Unfortunately, streaming services are generally skeptical about the use of VPNs. Many streaming services and websites have blocked popular VPNs from accessing content libraries in the past. And the freedom of bypassing geo-restricted content remains in the grey.

Accessing blocked content may vary based on where you try from and where you’re tunneling to, not to mention the use of a dedicated IP address, multihop, and smart DNS routing.

VPNs for Torrenting

Torrenting, in other words, P2P file sharing, is widely supported by VPNs. Whether you can torrent or not depends on how the server is configured. Some servers are configured to allow P2P file sharing, while others are not.

All VPNs listed on this page allow P2P, but some of them have restricted servers. The following service providers allow P2P file sharing on all servers:

It may seem better to go with one of the above, but what this means is that you’re opting in to file share on busy servers with all kinds of users. Your other option is to go with a VPN service that offers specific servers for P2P data transfer.

These are:

Best Free VPNs

If you want to leave your wallet aside, you can try the following VPNs for free. Some of them even have entirely free plans, though the performance doesn’t match their premium counterparts.

  • ProtonVPN: A free account with 25+ available servers across three countries. At the time of writing, ProtonVPN’s free plan was available to connect to servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. No payment details are required, only a download and e-mail registration.
  • CyberGhost: Premium-access free trial for 24 hours, no credit card details needed. A great way to try features like kill switch and torrenting for free.
  • ZenMate: A free browser extension trial for 7 days with maximum download speeds of up to 2 Mbps. There are four available tunneling locations but the number of servers is unspecified.
  • PureVPN: Not exactly free, but almost. Pay $0.99 for 7 days of full premium access to 6,500 servers in 75+ countries.

Other decent free VPN introductory plans include Hotspot Shield (free base account), Tunnel Bear (500 Mbs free trial bandwidth), Windscribe (10 Gbs/mo for free), and Surfshark (30-day free trial with premium features).

How We Test VPNs

We perform the following two key security and performance tests with all our reviewed VPN services. These are:

  1. Speed Test: we use two different speed testing tools. These are from SpeedTest.net and SpeakEasy.net. If the VPN provider has an in-house speed testing tool (like ExpressVPN), we also use it as a third option. We connect to at least 10 locations with each VPN service to aggregate an average connection speed, along with a list of fastest to slowest tested servers.
  2. DNS Leak Test: we use tools from VPNTesting.com and IPLeak.net to check for DNS leaks. If the VPN provider has an in-house DNS leak test tool, we’ll also use it to compare it with results from external tools. As with speed testing, we perform a leak test for 10 servers to ensure better accuracy.

Note: speed and DNS tests results may vary between encryption protocols, so we perform our tests with every available protocol (where applicable).

In addition, we test how our reviewed VPNs work with popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, FuboTV, and more.

Each time we review streaming via VPN, this is our process:

  1. We connect to the VPN at a specified location;
  2. We attempt to access the streaming service;
  3. If accessed successfully, we choose a program that’s longer than 30 minutes;
  4. We make a note of the buffering time (if any) and image quality;
  5. We continue the stream for 15 minutes to see if there are any interruptions to the connection.

Once results are in, we share them with you, so you can set realistic expectations for the VPN service you’re considering.

FAQs

Is it legal to use a VPN?

Countries have different laws regarding the use of VPNs in their jurisdictions. However, generally speaking, it is legal to use a VPN in the US. A VPN is considered a privacy-enhancement tool, though if you use it to engage in illegal activity, you will be held accountable for your actions, irrespective of the legal status of using a VPN.

Are VPNs secure?

VPNs provide better security for internet users by encrypting their IP addresses. The quality of a VPN’s security mostly depends on the type of encryption protocol and its encryption standards used, along with additional protection against malware, hackers, and other cyber threats. Still, even the most secure VPN carries risks and has its limitations.

Should you use a VPN when streaming?

The only time it makes sense to use a virtual private network while streaming is when the content you’re trying to access is restricted to a particular location away from you. With the right VPN service, you may be able to access blocked content by re-routing your IP address to a location with access permission.

What is the best VPN for Android?

Every VPN reviewed on this page is compatible with responsive Android devices, namely, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, CyberGhost, ZenMate, VyprVPN, PureVPN, IP Vanish, and StrongVPN. Of these, all except VyprVPN, IP Vanish, and StrongVPN are also compatible with Android TVs. Other aspects will determine which you deem best. See this comparison.

Does VPN affect streaming?

Aside from the obvious role of bypassing geo-restrictions to access streamable content, VPNs also impact your streaming experience. By re-routing your data traffic to access the content library of a streaming service, data has longer to travel, therefore connection speeds may be lower. This can result in longer buffering times and lower streaming resolution. But this can be doctored with a good VPN service.

What is the best VPN for iOS?

Every VPN reviewed on this page has a compatible iOS app in the Apple app store. That’s NordVPN, ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, CyberGhost, ZenMate, VyprVPN, PureVPN, IP Vanish, and StrongVPN. However, only ProtonVPN supports Apple’s Safari browser as a browser-extension app. See this comparison to make a better-informed decision on which VPN is best for iOS.

Is torrenting safe with a VPN?

Some VPN providers may have additional malware scanning gateways in place, but file-sharing — the underlying phenomenon under the term “torrenting” — always carries risks. Even via a VPN. One of the easiest ways to spread malware is via file sharing online. Many torrenters download anything that seems to contain what they want, whether a movie, game, or software, and ignore such risks.

Is using a VPN for Netflix illegal?

It is legal to use a VPN with Netflix but you may find you can’t stream with it. The Netflix Terms of Use do not mention VPNs explicitly. But they do say that you cannot “circumvent, remove, alter, deactivate, degrade or thwart any of the content protections” they have put in place.

Netflix is aware that people use VPNs for many uses and does not assume the use of a VPN is proof of trying to bypass these protections. So you are unlikely to be banned. But you should be careful.

Does BBC iPlayer know if I am using a VPN?

BBC iPlayer recognizes a user’s IP address and its location. The only way BBC iPlayer could recognize a VPN user is if the incoming IP address is from a known VPN server that was flagged. Even so, streamers can use dedicated IPs and smart DNS as alternative ways to get around this problem, should a streaming service recognize and restrict content from a VPN user.

Do websites know I’m using a VPN?

A website could only know that you’re using a VPN if they identified every bit of traffic and data transferred from the VPN provider’s servers. This is incredibly hard to do, even at a commercial scale, and so the likelihood of a website identifying you as a VPN user is very low.

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