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Best VPN services for 2021

Best VPN services

It’s no secret that choosing the best VPN service is an important task in 2021.

Whether you want to use public Wi-Fi without risk, watch geo-restricted content on Netflix, or simply stay anonymous online - you’ll need a good VPN for maximum security. And we are here to help!

Having tested dozens of the top VPNs on the market, we bring you our list of favorites for the coming year.

Table of Contents

Best VPN services in May 2021

  1. NordVPN – Best overall VPN service for all usage cases
  2. Surfshark VPN – The best combination of features and affordable price on the market
  3. ExpressVPN – Expensive VPN service that delivers on all front with excellent speeds
  4. Private Internet Access – Unparalleled customization options and torrenting capabilities
  5. VyprVPN – Top VPN against censorship

Our best VPN list:

When choosing the VPN service that’s best for you, it is important to stop and think a little about the reasons why you need a VPN in the first place.

A decent VPN that unblocks streaming sites might not be sufficient for a tech-savvy user with exotic needs, or someone in a sensitive position, like a political activist.

The following list of the best VPNs of 2021 includes VPN services that cater to different needs and are 100% secure and reliable.

1. NordVPN - Best VPN in 2021

NordVPN interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:5,500+ servers in 59 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV
Browser plugins:Chrome, Firefox

NordVPN balances speed and security while also providing access to various streaming services like Netflix.

Security and privacy

Based in Panama, NordVPN is not legally required to collect any information on its users. This is reflected in their no-logs policy, which was independently audited by Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC). This is a crucial factor when choosing a VPN, especially if you want to hide your identity.

NordVPN implements AES-256 encryption - the go-to encryption cipher of this day, used even by the US government. These include an ad blocker, Double VPN, and integration with the Tor network (Onion over VPN).

Speed

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs today thanks to its in-house tunneling protocol NordLynx. Our speed tests put it at the top of fastest VPNs.

So, even though the connection speed depends on many different factors, you are not bound to experience significant slow-downs when using NordVPN.

Features

It features security options like CyberSec (which blocks malware, infected sites, and ads), and kill switch for your internet in case your VPN connection drops. Additionally, NordVPN offers double encryption, split tunneling, and a free SOCKS5 proxy.

Finally, you can combine NordVPN with the Tor network or use Obfuscated servers to enjoy the service in countries such as China, where VPN use is restricted.

Streaming

After testing NordVPN on various streaming platforms, we can assure you that it will unblock virtually any geo-restricted website you want to access.

The VPN doesn’t struggle with such popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and HBO. As a cherry on top, if you want to stream on devices that don’t support VPN - you can. Just use NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature.

Platforms

You can use a single NordVPN account on six devices simultaneously. In other words, all your phones and computers are covered. You can also share your account with friends or family members.

NordVPN offers apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, as well as extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Additionally, you can set it up manually on routers, firewalls, and other devices.

Customer support

The customer support of NordVPN is really good. Write them an email and you’ll get an answer in a couple of hours or give their live chat a chance for an almost immediate reply.

Those who are more tech-savvy can use Nord’s FAQ section and the knowledge base filled with extensive articles on various IT-related topics.

Price

You can get NordVPN for as cheap as $4.13 a month if you purchase the two-year subscription plan. This price is lower than the industry average, which is quite impressive keeping in mind all of NordVPN’s features and overall quality.

You can also buy a yearly subscription that would cost you $4.92 a month, or simply try NordVPN for one month for $11.95.

Visit NordVPN to read more about the features

Pros

  • Decent price
  • Great speed test results
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Supports torrenting
  • Unmatched security features
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Free SOCKS5 proxy
  • Contains adblocker
  • Anonymous payment options
  • Dedicated IPs available
  • Specialty servers
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • No free trial
  • No router app
  • Sign-up requires email address

2. Surfshark VPN - Best feature-to-price ratio

Surfshark interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:3,200+ servers in 65 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV
Browser plugins:Chrome, Firefox

Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark arguably offers the most value for your money of any VPN. It has a strict no-logs policy, a massive list of features, and an ever-growing server list - all for the competitive price of $2.49 a month.

Security and privacy

The team behind Surfshark takes your security and privacy very seriously. That’s why all data that goes through the VPN gets encrypted with the strong AES-256 cipher, with strong features adding to the overall safety. Surfshark has a kill switch, leak protection, and an ad-blocker to make you as waterproof as possible.

All their servers are RAM-only, which means that every time a server is rebooted, all the data gets completely wiped out. Surfshark operates out of a privacy-friendly location and doesn’t store user activity data.

Speed

If VPNs often disappoint you in terms of speed, then Surfshark will be a breath of fresh air for you. In terms of download speed, it is listed as the #3 fastest VPN by AV-Comparatives. Surfshark VPN is one of the best choices for you if you struggle with internet speed.

Features

Surfshark VPN is tightly packed with all sorts of cool features. All its servers support P2P file sharing (torrenting), each one having a private DNS for even more protection. In addition, Surfshark offers a multi-hop (double VPN) feature and Camouflage Mode to hide the fact you’re using a VPN.

There’s also a malware blocker, and an advanced split tunneling feature that lets you exclude apps and websites from the VPN connection.

Android users get yet another neat feature in GPS spoofing. It hides your phone’s physical location, showing the one that correlates with your current VPN server.

Streaming

With 3,200+ servers in 65 countries, you should always find the perfect server for the streaming service you want to unblock.

Surfshark VPN works wonders with Netflix, Peacock, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Youtube. And if you want to watch your favorite shows on your PlayStation, Smart DNS is there to help.

Platforms

One of the biggest selling points of Surfshark VPN is the possibility of unlimited simultaneous connections. In other words, a single subscription can cover all the devices owned by you and your family.

So, Surfshark will work with any of your Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire TV devices. It also offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

Customer support

If you encounter any problems when using or setting up Surfshark VPN, you can either try solving the problem yourself (with the help of extensive guides on their website) or use their 24/7 live chat for an instant reply.

Price

If you want the cheapest option, you should consider purchasing the two-year plan, which would cost you $2.49 a month.

Remember that 1 account is good for all your devices at the same time. You can also get a free 7-day trial for Android and iOS.

Visit Surfshark to read more about the features

Pros

  • Low price of $2.49 a month
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Great performance
  • Strong security features
  • Shadowsocks/Camouflage Mode makes it great for use in China
  • Supports most device types
  • Smart DNS
  • Whitelister
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • GPS spoofing
  • Unlimited devices
  • Free trial for Android and iOS users
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • No free version
  • No free SOCKS5 proxy
  • No logs policy hasn’t been audited
  • App design could be better

3. ExpressVPN - Expensive, but worth every penny

ExpressVPN interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:3,000+ servers in 94 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV
Browser plugins:Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, Vivaldi

Albeit expensive, ExpressVPN has been among the top choices for a while thanks to its impressive speed test results, vast selection of features, and spotless reputation. It offers 160 locations in 94 countries and is a great example of security combined with performance.

Security and privacy

ExpressVPN is among the few VPN services on the market with an independently tested no-logs policy. Not only has this British Virgin Islands-based provider completed a PwC audit of their privacy practices - they have also been proven in real world situations.

As a matter of fact, ExpressVPN takes it one step further by using RAM-only servers, incapable of storing sensitive user data.

Like most VPNs on this list, ExpressVPN encrypts all your data with AES-256, which is the current encryption standard because of its complete impenetrability.

Speed

ExpressVPN offers excellent speeds with their Lightway tunneling protocol.

It rivals even the Wireguard, which is considered to be the fastest.

Features

ExpressVPN offers all the features we expect of a top-tier VPN, such as IP address masking, integrated speed testing, and a kill switch. However, even advanced users won’t feel left out with the inclusion of features like Split Tunneling or Obfuscated Servers.

Streaming

This is where ExpressVPN truly shines. It flawlessly unlocks all the geo-restricted streaming libraries you want: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Youtube, HBO Go - you name it.

With the help of Smart DNS (MediaStreamer), the VPN also allows you to watch movies on devices that don’t support VPN, like Apple TV or gaming consoles.

Devices

You will be able to use ExpressVPN no matter what OS you have. The VPN service offers a selection of apps for both mobile and desktop. Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux operating systems all have their own applications you can download from the official site of ExpressVPN.

As is becoming the market standard, ExpressVPN also offers a custom app for Amazon Fire TV, which will let you install it directly onto your Fire Stick (Gen 2+). But what makes the service truly stand out, however, is their custom firmware for routers. This will make using VPN via your router a lot more convenient.

Customer support

ExpressVPN has great customer support. You have a lot of ways to contact an agent, including 24/7 live chat, email support, and tickets. Usually, you’ll get an answer pretty quickly even when contacting the staff via email.

Price

Compared to lots of other best VPN software providers on the market, ExpressVPN is expensive. Its cheapest subscription plan starts at $8.32 a month. This is a yearly subscription, so you’ll have to commit to the service if you want to save money.

All subscriptions are subject to their 30-day money-back guarantee, which you will receive with no questions asked.

Visit ExpressVPN to read more about the features

Pros

  • Strong security features
  • Spotless reputation
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Good performance
  • Lots of apps and extensions
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Supports torrenting on all servers
  • Split tunneling
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Anonymous payment options
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No free trial
  • Browser extensions require apps

4. Private Internet Access - Best VPN for torrenting

Private Internet Access interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:29,000+ servers in 77 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Browser plugins:Firefox, Chrome, Opera

No list of best VPN services would be complete without Private Internet Access (PIA). This US-based VPN has been a staple of the Virtual Private Network market for years, earning lots of user trust in the process.

Security and privacy

Open-source and completely anonymous (as it doesn’t store any logs), PIA VPN gives you a lot of freedom to set your own level of security. Even though its default encryption is AES-128, you can upgrade it to AES-256 or even turn it off completely.

Also, you are free to pick your preferred handshake and data authentication methods as well as the VPN protocol (OpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard). In addition, PIA has its own DNS, which minimizes the risk of DNS leaks, and has a kill switch to protect you from connection failures.

Speed

PIA has been known to sometimes struggle with its download speeds (however, its upload speeds are usually excellent), but the massive increase in server count and introduction of WireGuard has largely solved those problems.

Features

Aside from the basic VPN features like the kill switch, Private Internet Access VPN also blocks ads, trackers, malware, and prevents all sorts of identity leaks. It also offers Split Tunneling and is compatible with DD-WRT routers.

PIA is one of our favorite VPNs for torrenting because it offers a great combo of torrenting-centric features. This includes a free SOCKS5 proxy and Port Forwarding to keep that download/upload ratio in the green.

Streaming

Trying to unblock Netflix with PIA VPN can be hit and miss. It’s not the best for streaming and unlike our top choices, it doesn’t offer Smart DNS for your Smart TV and console needs.

Platforms

You can download the PIA VPN app for your Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, and Mac devices. However, if you want to use a browser extension instead, you can check out PIA’s extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

A single plan lets you use PIA VPN on 10 devices in total, which is quite generous compared to other VPN providers.

Customer support

When it comes to troubleshooting, PIA has a decent knowledge-base that may contain the solution you’re looking for.

However, if you come across a more sophisticated problem, you can either send a support ticket (filling it out might be a bit of a hassle) or use the 24/7 chat option.

Price

The monthly price of PIA VPN greatly differs depending on the plan you pick. Choosing a two-year plan is the least expensive option in the long run: you’ll pay only $2.69 a month.

On the other hand, the monthly plan of PIA VPN goes for around the industry average, costing you $9.95.

Visit Private Internet Access to read more about the features

Pros

  • 24,000+ servers in 77 countries
  • Good reputation
  • Amazing performance
  • Covers 10 devices
  • Great feature package for torrenting
  • Strong, customizable security
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Shadowsocks to bypass censorship

Cons

  • US-based (Five Eyes country)
  • Not great for unblocking content
  • No Amazon Fire TV app

5. VyprVPN – Top VPN against censorship

VyprVPN  interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:700+ servers in 70 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Blackphone, Anonabox, QNAP
Browser plugins:None

VyprVPN is often included among the best VPN apps. Excellent security, fast speeds, and fair prices make VyprVPN a popular choice among all kinds of users.

Security and privacy

It’s hard to find a more privacy and security oriented provider. Located in Switzerland, VyprVPN has an independently-audited no-logs policy and owns all of its servers.

To encrypt your data, VyprVPN uses AES with a 256-bit key, which is the current industry standard used by most important organizations and services. It also has a reliable kill switch and no IP or DNS leaks.

Speed

VyprVPN doesn’t sacrifice performance for security. Thanks to the WireGuard protocol, it’s among the fastest services in 2021. If you have a decent internet connection, you should be able to stream in HD or 4K and download large files in a matter of minutes.

Features

VyprVPN has few features and even those aren’t available on all devices. For instance, ad blocking and split tunneling is for Mac and Android only.

There’s also the Public Wi-Fi Protection feature that instantly connects you to VyprVPN as soon as you connect to an unknown Wi-Fi network. Additionally, this VPN is torrenting-friendly and doesn’t throttle the traffic.

Streaming

This VPN unblocks multiple Netflix libraries (US, Japan, Canada) and does so without a significant decline in speed. You can also use VyprVPN to watch content on other streaming sites like Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

What’s more, this service has apps for Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV. You can also configure your router to work with VyprVPN in order to watch movies directly on your smart TV.

Platforms

Whether you use Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS, you will find the VyprVPN app to match your needs. It also has a router app, which is a rare find. There are even apps for Android TV, Blackphone, Anonabox, and QNAP.

You can use VyprVPN on five devices simultaneously.

Customer support

VyprVPN gives you a few different ways to get help. For example, you can submit a ticket and receive an email reply in a few hours.

There’s also a 24/7 live chat if you want to talk to an agent as soon as possible. Most of the time, they answer quickly and solve the issue in a matter of minutes.

Price

Even though VyprVPN is one of the best VPNs of the year, its price doesn’t reflect this high position.

At the moment, it starts at $1.66 a month (if you purchase a 36-month subscription) and covers 30 devices (limited offer). All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Sadly, VyprVPN doesn’t offer anonymous payment options.

Visit VyprVPN to read more about the features

Pros

  • Excellent security and privacy
  • Fair price
  • Fast speeds
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Allows torrenting
  • Keeps no logs
  • Works in China
  • 24/7 live chat

Cons

  • No app for Linux
  • Lack of features
  • No anonymous payments
  • No free version

6. CyberGhost VPN – Truly global coverage

CyberGhost VPN interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:6,100+ servers in 89 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV
Browser plugins:Chrome, Firefox

CyberGhost is a great VPN with 6,800+ servers in 89 countries and no monthly data limits.

Its main strengths lie in its breakneck speeds, huge server list, and the ability to unblock almost any geo-restricted content.

Security and privacy

Like many other top VPN services, CyberGhost VPN implements military-grade encryption to encrypt your internet traffic. In addition, it has an always-on kill switch and no leaks.

This provider doesn’t keep any logs (including traffic, timestamps, and IP addresses). However, its owner is a UK company Kape Technologies which has a spotty reputation.

Speed

Thanks to its vast server network and the WireGuard protocol, CyberGhost offers some of the industry’s best speeds. It’s probably not the fastest one, but if you have a decent connection, the drop-off shouldn’t be a problem.

Features

CyberGhost VPN has the majority of the features any experienced VPN user needs. It supports torrenting and split tunneling (Windows and Android), offers dedicated IP addresses, and has a free SOCKS5 proxy.

Those who want extra protection will be happy with the Tor over VPN feature. We recommend it to anyone living in a place where internet freedom is restricted.

Streaming

CyberGhost VPN is one of the best when it comes to streaming. It has a long list of optimized servers dedicated for Netflix and other content platforms.

This service unblocks multiple Netflix libraries, including the US. Furthermore, it gives you Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and many more.

Platforms

CyberGhost VPN is extremely versatile when it comes to applications for different platforms. It offers desktop apps for Windows, Linux, and Mac, as well as mobile applications for iOS and Android. There are dedicated Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick and Android TV clients too.

Aside from that, you can download free browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, or set up CyberGhost on a number of routers and NAS.

Last but not least comes the SmartDNS feature. It will allow you to unblock your favorite movies and shows on gaming consoles and different smart TVs.

Customer support

Like many other best VPN services of the year, CyberGhost VPN offers 24/7 customer support via live chat, which is available in English, French, and German. Alternatively, you can submit a request form.

You can also browse through the numerous troubleshooting guides on the official website of CyberGhost VPN. There are whole sections dedicated to different operating systems like Windows, Linux, Android, Mac, and others.

Price

There are four plans in total, ranging from one month ($12.99) up to three years ($2.25/month). At the moment, the last plan comes with 3 months extra.

Additionally, you can buy a dedicated IP for $5/month. The available locations are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany.

CyberGhost VPN offers a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee, which should be enough for you to make up your mind. There’s also a 24-hour free trial for desktop users.

Payment options include credit cards, PayPal, AmazonPay, and Bitcoin.

Visit CyberGhost to read more about the features

Pros

  • Very fast
  • Huge server list
  • Good prices
  • Excellent security
  • Great for streaming
  • 24/7 live chat
  • Allows torrenting

Cons

  • Owner has a poor reputation
  • iOS app lacks features
  • No “stealth VPN”

7. PrivateVPN – superb VPN for streaming

PrivateVPN
Servers/countries:150 servers in 62 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Browser plugins:None

Not that long ago, PrivateVPN received a complete UI overhaul. Now, it has a fresh look and is more than capable of competing with most best VPN services.

Security and privacy

PrivateVPN isn't located in a very privacy-friendly jurisdiction. The company's headquarters are in Sweden, which is Fourteen Eyes country. On the upside, the service has a strict no-logs policy, meaning that your data should remain safe despite these concerns.

You can customize how your data will be encrypted with 128 or 256-bit versions of CBC or GCM modes. So, if you're very cautious, you can get stronger security.

Speed

Even though PrivateVPN primarily relies on OpenVPN tunneling protocol, the speeds are decent. They are on the same level as what you could expect from other providers.

Keep in mind that encryption level can affect your speeds, so adjust your settings accordingly.

Features

Features is the area in which PrivateVPN has a few aces up its sleeve. Namely, HTTP, SOCKS5 proxies, and port forwarding. These are not something that you could find on any given VPN service, so it helps PrivateVPN distinguish itself from the competition.

Streaming

Out of all VPNs we've tested, PrivateVPN is one of the best options for streaming. It unblocked every media streaming website that we threw at it. This list even includes Netflix and DAZN.

Most VPN service providers struggle with the latter, while with PrivateVPN, you can breeze through them without any problems.

Platforms

Unless you're using Linux, you shouldn't worry that PrivateVPN won't support your device. The apps are available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, so you'll be able to install them on every device that you use daily.

The service supports up to six simultaneous connections. This should be enough even for larger families.

Customer support

With PrivateVPN, you can find help in several ways. For starters, there's their knowledge base which should answer most basic questions that you might have.

If you still can't find a solution, you can reach out to their customer support agents via live chat or email. Most of the time, the replies are pretty quick, so you can expect your issue to be solved just as fast.

Price

On top of all the other benefits, PrivateVPN is very affordable. The longest plan can be bought for as low as 2.50/month. That's a fraction of what the other service providers are charging.

Plus, you can also try their service for free for 7 days. It doesn't even require any payment information, and if you end up opting for a full subscription, all plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

You can test the premium PrivateVPN version freely for one day.

Visit PrivateVPN to read more about the features

Pros

  • Unblocks many streaming websites
  • P2P-compatible
  • Port forwarding
  • HTTP and SOCKS5 proxies
  • Customizable encryption

Cons

  • Limited tunneling protocol selection
  • 14 Eyes business location
  • Modest server fleet

8. ProtonVPN – Best freemium VPN

ProtonVPN  interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:1,080+ servers in 54 countries
Free version:Yes
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Chromebook
Browser plugins:None

ProtonVPN is open-source, keeps no logs, has a good free version, and offers a lot of useful features for beginners and advanced users alike.

Security and privacy

ProtonVPN uses the bank-grade AES-256 encryption, which would potentially take millions of years to crack. In other words, it’s impossible for anyone to steal the data you send online when using ProtonVPN. On top of that, this service has no DNS or IP leaks whatsoever.

Privacy-wise, this provider looks great. Located in Switzerland, it has no connection to the Fourteen Eyes alliance members. Moreover, it keeps no activity logs and has its open-source apps audited.

Speed

All VPNs have an effect on internet speed, and ProtonVPN is no exception. However, the fact that this service doesn’t have WireGuard automatically puts it on the second-tier list. There, ProtonVPN manages to fare pretty well.

Features

ProtonVPN is quite a feature-rich service. It automatically blocks trackers and dangerous websites (NetShield), and offers its own version of multi-hop, named SecureCore. Tor over VPN is also available, but once again, to Visionary and Plus subscribers only.

There are lots of customization options for split tunneling, letting you exclude/include apps or even websites.

Streaming

To be fair, ProtonVPN is not the best option for Netflix and streaming in general. While it has specialized servers that can unblock your movies and TV shows, we can’t guarantee they will work all the time.

And now comes the sad part – streaming servers are available to Plus and Visionary users only.

Platforms

You can use ProtonVPN on many platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices. Even though each app is slightly different (lacking a feature or two, or using only one tunnel protocol), the most important features are the same.

There are also apps for Android TV and Chromebook users plus some tutorials on configuring ProtonVPN on routers.

The number of simultaneous connections depends on your pricing plan. Free users get one while Visionary subscribers enjoy ten devices per account.

Customer support

Like many other services on this list of the best VPN software, ProtonVPN has a huge knowledge center with lots of guides that help you deal with various issues yourself.

However, if you want the help of a real human being, you’ll have to create a support ticket – there’s no live chat available.

Free users usually get a reply within a few hours, while paid users get their problems solved a bit quicker. We think that this is fair.

Price

The free version of ProtonVPN allows for one VPN connection and provides you with servers in only three countries. On the bright side, you can use it indefinitely as it has no data caps.

Then, there are three paid versions, which cost $4, $8, and $24 a month if you choose the annual plan. The difference in price comes from the number of features and allowed connections.

Payment options include credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and gift cards. All subscribers are eligible for a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Visit ProtonVPN to read more about the features

Pros

  • Free version
  • Excellent security
  • Privacy-oriented
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Allows torrenting
  • Tor over VPN
  • Anonymous payments

Cons

  • No WireGuard protocol
  • Can be a bit pricey
  • Speed issues

9. Mullvad VPN - Most privacy-friendly VPN

Mullvad interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:761 servers in 36 countries
Free version:No
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Browser plugins:None

Mullvad is the VPN choice for anyone who has a strong security, privacy, and anonymity focus. This little Swedish VPN has a completely anonymous sign-up process and zero third-party trackers on their website.

We especially like that Mullvad is open-source, doesn’t keep any logs, and places a high-degree of importance on business ethics.

Security and privacy

Mullvad takes your security and privacy very seriously. Aside from a completely anonymous account, Mullvad VPN implements AES-256 encryption to hide your data that goes through their servers. Needless to say, Mullvad also has the usual protections, namely, a kill switch and leak protection.

Mullvad lets you choose between two tunneling protocols: WireGuard and OpenVPN. While OpenVPN is the industry standard in terms of security, WireGuard lets you enjoy higher speeds while browsing the web or downloading content.

Speed

From our experience testing VPN services, we can say that Mullvad is one of the fastest VPNs in 2021 - especially if you use the WireGuard protocol.

Depending on the server you choose, you will experience only a minimal decline in download and upload speed. However, there’s one caveat - Mullvad doesn’t cover a huge number of countries, which means your speeds may suffer due to your location.

Features

Advanced users will really appreciate Mullvad because it’s rich in features that can be difficult to find otherwise.

For example, Mullvad VPN supports torrenting, offers port forwarding, the Bridge Mode feature to merge two or more networks, and split tunneling. In addition, it has a SOCKS5 proxy and supports IPv6. You can also edit your preferences, enabling a kill switch or making Mullvad automatically connect you to a server as soon as you turn on your device.

Streaming

This is the section that prevents Mullvad from taking a higher spot on the list of the best VPN software. It seems unblocking geo-restricted content is simply not Mullvad’s objective. For example, it struggles to unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which is a bit disappointing.

On the other hand, Mullvad VPN lets you watch geo-restricted content on Youtube.

Platforms

As of now, Mullvad VPN supports Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and macOS.

The user interface of the program is almost identical no matter which version you use. However, the number of features can differ. For example, the Android app is in its beta version and lacks features like the kill switch, and doesn’t support IPv6.

Customer support

If you are an advanced VPN user, you will like all the extensive guides that Mullvad features on their website.

However, when you come across a problem you can’t fix yourself, you can use Mullvad’s customer support - just write them an email or contact them via Twitter or Facebook.

Price

Unfortunately, there’s no free version of Mullvad VPN, so you’ll have to buy a subscription to try out this service yourself.

Mullvad costs $6/month no matter the subscription length. Even though this might sound like a disadvantage, we like that Mullvad doesn’t try to tie you down with a prolonged subscription plan.

Visit Mullvad to read more about the features

Pros

  • 100% anonymous
  • Great security features
  • Amazing performance
  • SOCKS5 proxy
  • Bridge Mode
  • Port Forwarding
  • Can be used on up to 5 devices
  • Supports all major device types
  • Supports torrenting
  • Supports IPv6
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Cons

  • No free version
  • Not great for unblocking geo-restricted content
  • Smaller list of countries (36)
  • No Amazon Fire TV app
  • Android app feels incomplete

10. TorGuard – Excellent for torrenting

TorGuard interface in smart devices
Servers/countries:3,000+ servers in 50 countries
Free version:Yes
Platforms:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Browser plugins:Chrome, Firefox

TorGuard is a secure and fast VPN for P2P fans. While it can do way more than that, some users might lack streaming and customer support options.

Security and privacy

As TorGuard VPN is highly customizable, it allows you to select your preferred encryption cipher. You can choose among AES-128, AES-256, and Blowfish. It’s even possible to turn off encryption entirely, however, this is not recommended.

Privacy is one of the weaker points of TorGuard. It’s based in the US (Five Eyes) and is open about giving away your information to the authorities if requested.

Speed

TorGuard is among the fastest VPNs in 2021, provided you use WireGuard. Its large server selection (3,000+ servers in 50+ countries) probably also had something to do with it.

However, keep in mind that VPN speed results depend on many factors, like the server you’re connected to and the quality of your own internet connection. TorGuard uses virtual servers, meaning they will give you less performance. But if you have a decent connection, you should be able to torrent and stream without any issues with TorGuard on.

Features

All the subscription plans of TorGuard include a NAT Firewall, the Shadowsocks proxy, a malware and ad-blocking tool. The VPN also allows port forwarding and prevents bandwidth throttling.

On the other hand, some features, like split tunneling (Android) are available on certain devices only.

Streaming

Those who use VPN services solely for accessing Netflix and other streaming websites should consider another VPN provider. That’s because, unless you additionally buy an IP address for streaming, you won’t be able to watch geo-restricted content on sites like Hulu, Disney+, and HBO.

Platforms

Whether you're a Linux fan or can’t think about using any other OS than Windows, TorGuard VPN has you covered: they offer native apps for Android, iPhone, Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can also download Firefox and Chrome extensions for your browsers.

However, you should know that TorGuard’s apps can be a bit confusing, especially if you’ve never used a VPN before. While offering a lot of configuration options, they might be difficult to navigate if you’re only interested in the most basic functions.

Customer support

It seems that at the moment, TorGuard VPN doesn’t offer the option of 24/7 live chat. Instead, you can take advantage of their email support - just send them a ticket and you’ll get a reply in a few hours or the next day.

Alternatively, you can try your luck with the FAQ section, knowledge base, or the community forum of TorGuard, which are filled with lots of useful info about the VPN.

Price

The monthly plan of TorGuard VPN is averagely-priced, going up to $9.99. If you want to cut the price by half, you can pay about $5 a month if you buy one of TorGuard’s long-term subscriptions ($29.99 for half a year or $59.99 for a whole year). Every single plan allows for at least eight simultaneous connections.

Visit TorGuard to read more about the features

Pros

  • Accepts BTC payments
  • A vast selection of features
  • Great for P2P
  • Fairly-priced

Cons

  • Confusing user interface
  • The regular plan doesn’t unblock Netflix
  • No 24/7 live chat

How did we test and rank these VPNs?

Ranking VPN services is no easy feat. You have to consider a lot of factors, from the number of features to compatibility with various devices.

So what should you know before buying a Virtual Private Network? There’s more than a few things to check if you want to choose the best option for you.

Below is the VPN buying guide for 2021 with 7 crucial points we considered in making this list:

  1. Speed. Unless your ISP is using bandwidth throttling, your connection with a VPN will be slower because of encryption, distance to the server, and other factors. That being said, it doesn’t have to be slow. If top speed is a priority, search for a service that offers the WireGuard protocol and is often mentioned on fastest VPN lists.
  2. Server list. Check if the VPN has enough servers around your location. Some concentrate their resources in North America and Europe, but others have solid presence in Asia as well. Also, make sure there are servers in the countries from which you’re planning to connect to. Finally, look for a VPN that has only physical servers with RAM-only storage.
  3. VPN jurisdiction. You have to be a really bad girl or a bad boy to get noticed by the intelligence agencies. Nevertheless, it’s still better when your VPN is in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, such as Switzerland and not in one of the Fourteen Eyes countries (US, UK, Australia, etc.) or, in the worst case, a country like China.
  4. Streaming and torrenting. Some VPNs are unable to unblock Netflix and other streaming platforms, while others prohibit P2P traffic. If that’s what you need, make sure you’ll be able to do both.
  5. Apps and supported devices. Most VPNs support the major OS types, but if you’re a fan of Linux, the list narrows down. Furthermore, you would want to protect all of your devices, so make sure your provider supports your router, game console, and smart TV. Finally, check if the number of simultaneous connections will be enough for you.
  6. Customer support. Don’t settle for a VPN that doesn’t offer 24/7 live chat. It’s an industry standard, not some premium feature.
  7. Bang-for-the-buck. Finally, make sure you’re not overpaying. There are many VPNs with similar features and contrasting prices. Also, don’t forget to exercise your money-back guarantee – most providers give one month to test things out.

Best VPN services compared

NordVPNSurfsharkExpressVPNPIAMullvad VPNVyprVPNPrivateVPNCyberGhostProtonVPNTorGuard
BrandNordVPNSurfshark VPNExpressVPNPrivate Internet AccessMullvad VPNVypr VPNPrivateVPNCyberGhostProtonVPNTorGuard
Rating4.94.74.64.54.34.34.24.24.14.1
Free versionYesYesNoYes (Android, iOS)YesYes (Android-only)NoNoYes (Android and iOS)No
Price (lowest price per month)$4.13$2.49$6.67$2.69€5$1.67$2.50$2.25$8$4.99
StreamingNetflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Dysney+Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Dysney+Netflix, DAZN, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Dysney+Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Dysney+YoutubeNetflix, DAZN, Youtube, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO NowNetflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, YoutubeNetflix, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Dysney+Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, HBO NowYoutube
LoggingNo logs, independently auditedNo logs, not auditedNo logs, independently auditedSome personal information logging, not auditedNo logs, auditedNo logs, auditedNo logs, not auditedNo logs, not auditedNo logs, not auditedNo logs, not audited
Servers5,400+ servers in 59 countries3,200+ Servers in 65 countries3,000+ servers in 94 countries35,400+ servers in 78 countries770+ servers in 37 countries700+ servers in 70+ countries200+ servers in 63 countries7,000+ servers in 91 countries1,200+ servers in 55 countries3,000+ servers in 50+ countries
Simultaneous connections6Unlimited5105561-7512
CountryPanamaBritish Virgin IslandsBritish Virgin IslandsUS (part of 5 Eyes)Sweden (Part of 14 Eyes)SwitzerlandSweden (Part of 14 Eyes)RomaniaSwitzerlandUS (part of 5 Eyes)
ReviewNordVPN reviewSurfshark VPN reviewExpressVPN reviewPIA reviewMullvad VPN reviewVyprVPN reviewPrivateVPN reviewCyberGhost VPN reviewProtonVPN reviewTorGuard review

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that secures your connection over the internet. It does so by encrypting your traffic and hiding your Internet Protocol (IP) address from third parties, such as your government or your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

As a user, your interaction with a VPN isn't going to be difficult. Every step of the connection process is automated and is controlled via an app. Once you install it on your device, the service creates an encrypted "tunnel," which it uses to exchange with a VPN server. It acts as an intermediary in your connection displaying an IP address assigned by your service provider.

Companies use VPNs to secure remote access of company data, but lots of individuals also need this type of service. I’m talking about journalists who work with sensitive information and want to remain anonymous, or those who live under authoritarian regimes and want to unblock access to various internet resources.

Some people are using VPN to protect their privacy or to access geographically restricted sites. This can happen due to censorship or because the website is available only to a limited number of visitors from a particular country.

How does a VPN work?

Generally, when you're connecting to some website, your device sends a query to your ISPs DNS server asking for its IP address. Then, your ISP routes your request to the website's server. When your device crunches the data, it displays a website with videos and pictures once it fully loads. This is fast, but it leaves a lot of traces of what you were doing online. So, over time ISPs can harness quite a lot of information about their users.

When you subscribe to a VPN service, you're entering an agreement to borrow their infrastructure. Such services own a large volume of servers, so your connection is no longer routed via your ISP when you connect to them. The VPN uses a tunneling protocol to connect to your selected remote server. However, this time you're not connecting directly.

The end website receives a different IP address than your own, and your ISP can only tell that you're using a VPN, but it doesn't know what you're doing. That way, your privacy becomes protected by a veil of shadow.

Do I need a VPN?

Like antiviruses, VPNs are a cybersecurity tool aimed to provide better protection against various cyberthreats. Your digital footprints are scattered all around the web, so picking the breadcrumbs can be a way to get a pretty good idea of who you are.

Marketers and cybercriminals can even go as far as to use this data against you, so a VPN tool helps a lot. With it, not only can you disappear off the grid, but you have other uses like unblocking geographically-restricted websites or safely torrenting.

Benefits of using a VPN

Those new to this field may ask: “What can you do with a VPN?” It turns out, there are quite a few ways these tools can help you on a daily basis. Here’s what you can do with a VPN:

  • Protect your data. All reputable VPNs use military-grade encryption, which means that the information you’re sending over the internet becomes virtually impossible to decipher for third-parties.
  • Hide your online activities. A VPN hides your real IP address, so your government and ISP have no way to tell what you’re doing online.
  • Protect your identity. If you’re using a VPN to access a website or online service, e.g. Google, this service will have no way of knowing your real IP and thus your location/identity (assuming you are not connected to a Google account).
  • Secure your wifi connection. Hotels and airports offer free but often unsecured wifi. Therefore, hackers might be snooping on your traffic. Luckily, thanks to the VPN’s encryption, that is no longer a problem.
  • Unblocking websites. Countries like China have a long list of blocked websites and other internet resources. With a VPN, you’ll be able to bypass these blocks by connecting to a server in another country.
  • Beating geo-blocking. I bet you’ve seen a message “This content is unavailable in your country” at least once. Due to geo-blocking, you may not see the same Netflix shows that are available in the US or another country. However, the best VPN services can unblock Netflix, Hulu and support other popular streaming platforms and devices, such as Amazon Firestick and HBO, no matter where you are.
  • Safe torrenting. P2P is legal in most countries, but that doesn’t mean downloading copyrighted content is. Using a VPN for torrenting will protect your identity and your location from both the ISP and the government.

These are only a few ways of using a Virtual Private Network. Others may include avoiding bandwidth throttling, defending against malware, or finding the lowest prices when doing online shopping.

What are the limitations of a VPN?

Although VPN is a good tool to make your connection safer, this doesn't protect you from all possible dangers. Your connection will indeed be much safer with them, but if you enter your personal information on some sketchy website, your data will still end up in someone's hands.

You can still download malware when using a VPN, as they aren't intended to check your files. So, it still matters to exercise proper cyber-hygiene when visiting websites, even when using a VPN.

Be mindful of your browser if you're using an outdated app that has Javascript vulnerabilities. This could also be used to inject malicious code into your system, which is also a cause for concern. Keeping your daily applications and installing important security updates is paramount.

How do I get a VPN?

If you prefer a DIY approach, you can rent a server somewhere far away and then self-host a VPN for yourself. You'd need a could-hosting provider and some technical know-how. For everyone else, there are VPN service providers.

These are businesses that are lending their server fleet for a monthly fee. When you pay them, they give access to their global networks. Once you're their subscriber, you can just head to their website, download, and install their client. Once you log in, you get the list of all available countries where you're able to connect.

You can minimize the VPN to the background so it doesn't interfere with your browsing. However, if you head online to check your IP address, it would display a different one if you actually were teleported to a foreign country.

Can VPN services be trusted?

All VPN providers claim to have no-logs policies, but this isn't often the truth. There are many reports of a no-logs VPN service, which leaked private its users' information after a major data breach. So, even if you're not paranoid, it may be a bit hard to trust such claims.

However, there are ways to filter out untrustworthy VPN services. Here's what you should look for:

  • Independent audits. If a service had its no-logs policy audited, it's a good chance that a VPN is trustworthy. Agencies like PwC are multi-million dollar industries that are outside the scope of bribery. So, if they're saying that a VPN adheres to privacy policy claims, you should probably take note.
  • Court cases. There's no better method to prove its privacy-policy claims than their response to the law requests. If a VPN service collaborates with law enforcement and shows up in court with a list of logs, don't think that it would be different in your case.
  • Ownership. You should always take into account the owners of a VPN service. Chances are they manage several other products and look into how they are managed. Were there any data breaches or privacy scandals? This may also help to form a perspective on how your data will be treated.

Free vs. Paid VPNs: which is the best for you?

In general, paid VPNs are better than the free ones. The latter have to rely on ads and selling your data (which is not always anonymized), unless they are offered by a premium VPN provider. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good free VPN – it’s just that they will have one or more limitations that often are a deal-breaker.

The most common free VPN limitations are as follows:

  • Speed. Most free services are slower than paid ones. While you might be able to stream in full HD using some VPNs, expect a serious drop-off in speeds.
  • Servers. Free VPNs usually offer only a few servers in the US, the Netherlands, and some other countries. Also, those servers tend to be overloaded and have high latency, which is bad for gaming and VoIP calls.
  • Data limit. Freemium VPN services will often give you a certain amount of GBs per month or MBs per day. Therefore, downloading large files or streaming high quality videos will soon leave you blocked until next month.
  • Number of devices. Expect to get only one connection per account. This means that you won’t be able to use a free VPN on both your computer and your smartphone.
  • Geo-blocking and P2P. You won’t be able to use Netflix and other streaming platforms with most VPNs. What’s more, some of them also prohibit torrenting, especially if they don’t have a data limit.

If you choose a solid paid VPN, you won’t have to deal with the issues listed above. You won’t see any ads either and your data won’t be sold to third-parties. Also, you can expect priority customer support which will solve most of the problems right away.

Are free VPNs safe?

Whether a free VPN is safe will entirely depend on the context. Even on the Google Play store, you can find many of them, though the most popular option isn't always the safest one. Free VPNs are a notoriously muddy segment.

Always be suspicious of free VPN that serve you ads, as they're most likely contenders that are collecting your data. This completely invalidates the purpose of a VPN in the first place, so you should not install them on your devices.

A much better option is using reputable VPN providers. Some of them have free versions of their premium products. It often acts as a bait for you to buy their service later, but there are ones that have no caps and can be used for free forever.

Don't forget that most premium VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you refund it before your trial ends, you essentially get a free service.

What's the fastest VPN?

When we're talking about the VPN speeds, we're actually factoring in several different things.

  • The distance from your location to a VPN server to your device
  • The used tunneling protocol
  • The VPN server's load
  • Your baseline Internet speed

Even time of the day could also be an important factor. All of this makes the evaluation for the fastest VPN that much more challenging.

We usually calculate the drop-off speeds in our reviews and comparisons compared to the baseline speed test results. So, the faster VPN is the one that reduces your baseline speed less. Among such services are NordVPN, Surfshark, Hotspot Shield, and ExpressVPN.

Can you be tracked if you use VPN?

In theory, you can be tracked even if you use a VPN. However, only governments hold such power and they likely won’t spend the necessary resources to get you.

But doing that won’t be easy if you use an anonymous payment and a throwaway email to create your account. The tracking also becomes much harder if you use Tor over VPN and your chosen provider doesn’t keep any logs.

FAQ

What is the best VPN in 2021?

The best VPN in 2021 is NordVPN. It excels in many different areas like speed, features, and security. It also works with Netflix and is inexpensive.

What is the best free VPN?

Currently, ProtonVPN is the best indefinite free VPN. It gives you unlimited bandwidth and data, access to three countries, and military-grade encryption.

Is it worth paying for VPN?

Yes. Most of the time, free VPNs have data limits and don’t offer all the features you might need.

Are VPNs legal to use?

Yes. It is completely legal to use a VPN if you’re not using it to perform illegal actions.

Is a VPN good for gaming?

Specifically, when looking for a VPN for gaming, you should look into the introduced latency. If it's too high, it's a good chance that your online gaming session won't be very enjoyable. To make it a bit better, you can connect to whichever server is closest to you. This may help to strike a balance between privacy and performance.

Comments 16
  1. Bob says:

    Rūta Rimkienė, I request that you’re review process includes this simple test of split-tunnel. I just spent hours trying out recommended VPNs only to discover they all fail on split-tunnel.
    Step 1) Using split-tunnel, select Chrome as the only app to use VPN.
    Step 2) Connect to a VPN on the other side of the planet.
    Step 3) Observe if ping times have jumped because the packets are now routed to other side of planet.
    None of the VPN’s (NordVPN, ExpressVPN, SurfShark) have working split-tunnel implementations. This should be a minimal test that VPN reviewers should use to prove out implementations.

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hi, Bob, thank you for your comment! What kind of ping testing tool were you using? From what we’ve discovered, the “ping” command on Command Prompt doesn’t take split tunneling into consideration. You should try doing that with tools like Speedtest if you want accurate results.

  2. Saxx says:

    Thank you for the article! How secure and reliable can VPN services be considered? As far as I know, users ‘ personal data is still stored on the servers and therefore their owners can always access it.Is it true? Is it possible to consider decentralized ecosystems such as Utopia p2p https://u.is/en/ for example, where data is not stored on a third-party server, more secure? In addition, such ecosystems are usually completely free of charge.

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hi, Saxx! None of our mentioned VPNs store personal information, so there’s no reason to worry. You can also use a VPN (like NordVPN) that operates on RAM-only servers that get completely wiped out after every reboot.

  3. Christopher says:

    Is Surfshark the best VPN for multiple computers? I live in a big family, and we have 4 laptops, one PC, and a couple of phones. I want a VPN that could allow all those devices being connected at the same time.

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hi, Christopher! You’re totally right – Surfshark is a great VPN for the whole family, as it offers unlimited simultaneous connections. In addition, it supports all of the devices you mentioned.

  4. roman says:

    Please, tell me the best small business vpn solution. I’m planning to work with sensitive data – photos, and an extra level of security is needed. What vpn would be the best for it? We will be sending photos to clients, and I’m afraid that while doing that hackers can steal them.

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hi, Roman! You can try NordVPN, as it has a small business solution called NordVPN Teams. It offers a high level of security and great speeds – perfect for sending photos online.

  5. Alek says:

    I’m going to China for a half of a year soon. I’ve read a lot about banned apps, restrictions and many other crazy stuff. Please, suggest the best vpn for travel to China. I need it for a half of a year, so I want it to be relatively cheap, and be effective in unblocking apps.

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hello, Alek! If you want a cheap VPN that works in China, you can give Surfshark a go. It may bypass the restrictions thanks to the Shadowsocks proxy. You can also try ExpressVPN, which uses Stealth servers to unblock websites for those who reside in China. It might have a higher chance of working, however, it’s more expensive.

  6. bobbiez says:

    ProtonVpn only

  7. Caleb says:

    For me, best vpn that allows torrenting is Nordvpn. You simply select  P2P server and you are ready to go. The speed is very impressive and fast. I think it’s because of the latest new protocol implementation.

  8. Nick says:

    Hello! Can you suggest best vpn service in USA? I am planning on unlocking American Netflix, so I’m looking for a fast vpn, with good unflagged ips. I am aware that Netflix constantly detects usage of vpn. Also, since it will be my first experience using a vpn, I want it to be cheap. 

    • Rūta Rimkienė says:

      Hi, Nick! In your case, I would use NordVPN, as it unblocks the US Netflix library and is pretty cheap (from $4.13/month).

  9. Nick Hudson says:

    Hello there,

    I want to buy a VPN for streaming and gaming. I have shortlisted these VPNs. What’s your opinion about these:
    – Pure VPN 86% off on 10 devices for 5 years.
    – Nord VPN 68% off for 2 years.
    – Express VPN 35% off for 1 year only.

    TIA

    • Mindaugas Jancis says:

      Hey Nick, sorry for the late reply. ExpressVPN is pricey, so you should pick it only if you really like it. PureVPN can be really cheap if you’re not afraid to commit for five years. However, I’d suggest NordVPN for streaming and gaming because it has the best speeds, thanks to the WireGuard protocol. What’s more, it’s capable of unblocking most streaming platforms.

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