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How we test ad blockers

When you install a new app on your device, you can quickly see if it's working. But with an ad blocker, it's trickier – ads can pop up unexpectedly, making it hard to know if it's effective right away. This uncertainty usually comes if you're on a trial period or have a money-back guarantee and want to make sure it's effective before committing long-term. That's why we conduct thorough hands-on tests to ensure your peace of mind.

Why should you trust Cybernews reviews?

With many review platforms, it's tough to pinpoint a reliable source for up-to-date information. Here's why Cybernews stands out as your trusted companion for dependable reviews and comparisons:

  • Expert team. Our team consists of experienced professionals in cybersecurity, software testing, and IT, with backgrounds in academia, industry, and research. This expertise allows us to conduct thorough evaluations.
  • Independence. We review software independently, without external influence or bias, using objective criteria and evidence-based analysis rather than personal opinions.
  • Credible sources. We gather information from reputable sources like industry experts, official providers, testing organizations, and user feedback. Our reviews are supported by empirical data and evidence, enhancing credibility.
  • Methodical testing. We follow strict protocols to evaluate performance, security, usability, and value for money, providing a comprehensive assessment of each product.
  • Up-to-date insights. We stay updated on cybersecurity trends and developments, providing insights on the latest threats and advancements in security software. This helps users stay ahead of emerging challenges.

Learn more about our processes for testing and reviewing various cybersecurity products: How we test at Cybernews.

Key processes – quick review

Every review shares the outcomes of our tests, along with our hands-on experience using the product.

  • We use online tools to analyze ad blockers and check if they can block ads on some specific popular websites and platforms.
  • We evaluate the ad blocking on various streaming services and devices, social media platforms, email clients, messaging and gaming apps, and others.
  • Then we differentiate ad blockers into system-wide ad blockers, which can block ads on other system applications, and browser extensions (including browser built-in ad blockers and standalone extensions that you can add to your browser), which can block ads only on the web level.

Our testing process

We put different providers through several testing steps to get the most comprehensive results on how successful ad blockers are in blocking online threats and trackers.

Depending on the article's intent, we use different browsers and devices to perform our in-house testing processes. However, to get an overview and the baseline of the software performance, we run all the ad blockers through the same tests using the same device.

To test the ad blocker apps, we use different devices with different OS – we test these tools on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices based on the article's intent. Below is a lineup of the devices we use for testing, along with the versions of their operating systems:

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen2 (Windows 11)iPhone 7 (iOS 15.7.1 and newer)
Lenovo ThinkStation (Windows 11)iPhone 13 (iOS 17.3.1 and newer)
Apple M2 Pro (Sonoma 14.2.1 and newer)Nokia 6.2 (Android 11 and newer)

Our tests are mainly performed using the Chrome browser to test the ad blocker browser extensions. However, depending on the article's intent, we also check the compatibility with other browsers, gaming platforms, or streaming services.

Here’s an example of how the gaming platform looked like before using the NordVPN Threat Protection feature:

Gaming with ads

And here, is how it looks with Threat Protection running:

Gaming without ads

Following this, we perform our in-house tests, testing the ad blocking capabilities. We use different devices, apps, and websites to note how successfully the tools blocked malicious ads and trackers. In addition, we measure the user experience with the ad blockers – whether they are easy to set up, beginner-friendly, or require previous knowledge to manage and successfully set up these tools.

What do we look into when rating ad blockers

Rating ad blockers can be tricky because each one serves different purposes and meets different needs. That's why we provide a detailed list of pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. If an ad blocker isn't up to par, we'll let you know. And if it deserves praise for extra features, we'll highlight them so you can get the best value for your money. To make everything clear, let's explore additional factors we take into account when evaluating ad-blocking software:

test ad blockers
  • Effectiveness. Our experts carefully test every ad blocker's effectiveness as it determines how well the software blocks ads and trackers. It’s also important to consider the scope of ad blocking as some blockers are browser extensions, while others work system-wide, blocking ads across all browsers and applications on the device.
  • Compatibility. We check if the ad blocker works across various operating systems like Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. Also, we consider providers offering Android apps outside Google Play due to its restrictions on ad-blocking apps.
  • Customization. We look for tools with customizable features like different filters, ad-blocking levels, and whitelisting capabilities to tailor the experience to user preferences.
  • Privacy protection. We ensure the ad blocker respects user privacy by not tracking browsing habits or collecting personal information. We review the provider's reputation, including previous data leaks, and evaluate the privacy policy.
  • Security features. Our experts check if the ad blocker includes built-in security features to protect against malware and phishing attempts.
  • Cost. We consider whether the features justify the price and if the provider offers a free version or trial to test it risk-free.
  • Ease of use. We assess if the software is beginner-friendly, offers clear
  • Updates. We look at how often the ad blocker gets updated to deal with new ad formats, tricks used by advertisers to bypass it, security weaknesses, and compatibility problems.

Comparing features

In our reviews of ad blockers, we spend a lot of time comparing their features, specs, and pricing plans. This helps users see what each ad blocker offers in terms of blocking ads, protecting privacy, and allowing customization. We want to know exactly what users get for their money and which ad blocker gives them the best value.

comparing adblockers

We like ad blockers that have lots of features for blocking ads and protecting privacy. These include options for customizing how the blocker works and defending against different types of ads and tracking methods. But remember, the features can differ depending on the type of ad blocker. Some focus on blocking ads on all devices and apps, while others are more about blocking ads in web browsers.

Tools we use

We also run tests with third-party platforms – Can You Block It, AdBlock Tester, and Cover Your Tracks. The results received from those platforms are then compared to what the ad blocker providers state to be able to block. This way, we get a comprehensive look at what the ad blocker can achieve.

Can You Block It

Can You Block It was created to assist you in checking if your ad blocker is functioning correctly. Through different tests, you can determine which types of ads are blocked or allowed, helping you gauge the effectiveness of your ad blocker.

can you block it website

Can You Block It offers three types of tests: Simple test, Extreme test and Advanced test. We perform the Extreme test on Can You Block It – which offers the website is loaded with many different categories of ads:

  • Pop-Under Ads
  • Interstitial Ads (pop-ups before page loads)
  • Push Notification Requests
  • Page Push Ads
  • Video ads
  • Banner Ads
  • Native Banner Ads (pretends to be a part of the website content)
  • Direct Link Ads

Then we note what type of ads were successfully blocked by the provider we’ve tested. This comprehensive record helps us to identify patterns and trends in the ad-blocking capabilities, allowing us to provide detailed insights into the performance of each provider.

AdBlock Tester

We use AdBlock Tester, which works similarly to Can You Block It, but additionally, it provides a score (with the maximum being 100). This test allows us to evaluate the ad blocker more accurately as we get a clear quantitative result. For an excellent result, the goal for the ad blocker is to get 85 and more points.

adblock tester

AdBlock Tester examines how well ad blockers handle different types of online ads, including contextual advertising, analytics tools, and banner ads. The rating we get helps us understand the capabilities of different ad blockers and choose the most suitable option for special intent.

Cover Your Tracks

Cover Your Tracks focuses on web trackers and has three criteria:

  • Blocking tracking ads
  • Blocking invisible trackers
  • Protecting from fingerprinting (a unique fingerprint means the user is easily identifiable to advertisers).

For the ad blocker to be categorized as being effective, it must meet the first two criteria (to block tracking ads and invisible trackers).

cover your tracks

Cover Your Tracks produces results by employing various simulated tracking domains to activate tracker blockers. Certain blockers react to URL parameters resembling ads or tracking beacons. Others block based on individual domains. Additionally, blockers utilize a heuristic method, identifying and blocking trackers across domains.

To detect these diverse approaches, Cover Your Tracks simulates tracking that activates all three types of blocking mechanisms.

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