Best VPN 2018: 12 free and paid VPNs reviewed for speed and privacy

What’s the best VPN for Netflix streaming, file sharing and privacy? We take a look at the best VPNs in our group test, and rank our top 12.

A VPN is a great tool that can help you access different countries’ versions of Netflix while protecting your digital privacy. But knowing which one to get can be a tricky task for even the most tech-savvy of buyers. Here to help, we’ve tested some of the biggest VPNs on the market to find out which is best.

Scroll down to see our curated recommendations. Also make sure to check out our in-depth VPN guide to get a better understanding of how they work and what they can do.

Best VPN Deals

NordVPN | $69/£49 per year ($5.75/£4 per month)

NordVPN consistently performs well in our tests, with an excellent range of features at a low cost.

View DealBuy fromNordVPN

ExpressVPN | $99.95/£70.53 per year ($8.32/£5.95 per month)

ExpressVPN provides a fast, stable and feature-packed service that did well in our speed tests and proved useful for international media streaming.

View DealBuy fromExpressVPN

Related: What is a VPN?

Best free VPN

You’ll notice nearly all the VPNs on this list have free and paid for subscription models. In general we recommend using one of the paid for packages as most free options come with severe limitations on key things like data usage and speeds.

Related software reviews:

How we test Performance

VPN performance is affected by such a wide range of factors that it isn’t possible to produce conclusive test results. The speed of your own internet connection and user load on your selected VPN endpoint server, as well as the server you’re connecting to beyond that, at the time are both significant here. Due to the sheer number of frequently rotated servers provided by most VPN services, comprehensive testing isn’t possible in this instance.

However, we ran comparative tests on each service from a London-based connection that typically sees speeds of over 10MB/sec. We tested multiple servers from each provider in three locations: the UK, the Netherlands and the USA. Our table shows the best results we were able to obtain during a large-file download via FTP, but these figures are only a snapshot of performance at a single point in time, rather than being fully representative.

Avast SecureLine

1 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • $59.99 (£46.83) per year (1 Windows PC)
  • Connect one device per licence
  • Windows client supports OpenVPN
  • Requires separate subscriptions for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS clients

Pros: Clear no-logging policy

Cons: Requires a separate licence for each platform, only one connection per licence at a time, doesn’t work for Netflix or BBC iPlayer, more expensive than many rivals

Avast SecureLine is a reliable, no-frills VPN service with clear policies and a useful selection of endpoint locations. However, it’s expensive, with an annual subscription for a single device working out at £3.53 a month.

Unlike its rivals, if you want to use its service, you’ll have to buy a separate copy for each device you’d like to use it on, rather than having a single cross-platform subscription. When you buy the Windows or macOS version, you’re offered a discount on the Android and iOS apps, but it’s still not good value for money.

SecureLine’s stand-alone client is gratifyingly simple to use, if not particularly slick. You choose your endpoint country and city from a pull-down menu, connect, and you’re all set.

It did well in our European speed tests in particular, with speeds of over 10MB/s (80Mbit/s) in our file transfer tests to the Netherlands. Its US performance was just above average at 2MB/s, but we got unusually slow speeds of around 4MB/s from UK endpoints.

If you’re looking to region-shift for video streaming purposes, you should look elsewhere. We were unable to access Netflix USA, Netflix UK or BBC iPlayer using the service.

There aren’t many additional options, but a setting that automatically prompts you to connect your VPN for security if your computer joins an unsecured Wi-Fi network is a useful security measure. The service is also available as an optional upgrade to Avast Antivirus, with the same features but an integrated interface.

Avast is headquartered in the Czech Republic and has a no-logging policy across its VPN service. The company explicitly states that, although general network performance is monitored, it “does not log bandwidth, URLs, or packet data and we do not gather any personally identifiable information”.

A free seven-day trial is available, so you can see if SecureLine meets your needs before you pay for it. However, other VPN providers, such as Private Internet Access and NordVPN, have a wider range of features and better capabilities at a lower price.

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CyberGhost

2 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • €11.99 (£10.51) per month
  • €7€84.00 (£73.67) per two years
  • €99.00 (£86.82) per three years
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Large number of servers, wide range of endpoint countries, clear no-logging policy, provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons: US servers suffered poor connection stability in file transfer tests, expensive unless you buy a two or three year subscription

CyberGhost recently ended its unlimited free service (for new customers), although a seven-day free trial is still available and, if you buy a three year subscription, it works out to a relatively inexpensive £2.41 a month, but its monthly and annual subscriptions are much less inviting.

The company has expanded its range of endpoint servers, but we were disappointed to find that the performance of its US endpoints failed to support the FTP connection required by our large file throughput tests. This continues a trend we’ve observed over the last two years. However, the connection stood up to normal web browsing.

Its performance exceeded 7MB/s in our UK endpoint throughput tests, while its endpoints in the Netherlands gave us a typical performance of around 6MB/s – slower than most, but more than fast enough for even high definition video streaming or large downloads.

CyberGhost provides specialised options for those who want to watch overseas TV programmes. CyberGhost’s Netflix and BBC profiles are designed to evade the streaming services’ VPN detection and work well at this. When using them, the rest of your traffic is still behind an encrypted VPN, so you can browse the web in safety as you watch.

The CyberGhost client takes its design cues from Windows’ Modern UI, with built-in shortcuts to popular websites that are either region-locked – such as video streaming services – or frequently censored under authoritarian regimes, such as Wikipedia and Twitter.

You can also configure extra privacy settings, which by default block adverts and trackers, add exceptions that will automatically be connected to via your normal connection, rather than over the VPN – handy if you use a service that is locked to your IP address for authentication – and configure CyberGhost to automatically connect your VPN if you join an unknown Wi-Fi network.

CyberGhost itself is based in Romania, where EU data retention laws have been declared unconstitutional, and does not log or store identifying data such as your IP address. If you need of an extra layer of anonymity, you can pay for your CyberGhost subscription in bitcoin or track down a boxed edition – these are can be found in the UK but most appear to be intended for sale in Germany.

If you buy a one-year or one-month subscription online, CyberGhost is conspicuously expensive. It’s easy to use, thanks to a friendly interface packed with shortcuts, and it’s especially good for streaming TV, but its performance isn’t quite good enough to justify its price when streaming-friendly rivals such as NordVPN exist.

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ExpressVPN

3 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • $12.95 (£9.14) per month
  • $59.95 (£42.31) per 6 months
  • $99.95 (£70.53) per year
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Linux (command line), Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Good transfer speeds, wide range of endpoint countries, clear no-logging policy, provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons: Expensive

ExpressVPN provides a fast, stable and feature-packed service that did well in our speed tests and proved useful for international media streaming, with the exception of Netflix USA. However, it’s also one of the most expensive VPN providers around, with a high annual price of £70.53 (working out at £5.88 per month) and a month-to-month subscription price of £9.14.

For Windows, ExpressVPN has a particularly simple interface, with a cheery-looking button that, when pressed, will automatically connect you to either an optimised endpoint or the last one you selected.

Additional features include a speed test on all available endpoints and a diagnostics output that lets you see your log files – a welcome feature for those who want to know exactly what’s going on in the background when they connect.

An options menu allows you to choose whether ExpressVPN starts and connects on Windows startup, enable an internet kill switch that stops all internet traffic if you lose your VPN connection, and switch from automatic protocol selection to your choice of OpenVPN and other protocols.

Extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari allow you to start the VPN directly from your browser, block potential data leaks from the WebRTC protocol and automatically connect to the last used location when you open your browser.

ExpressVPN was one of the best-performing services in our FTP throughput tests, averaging 6.7MB/s for UK endpoints, over 8MB/s in the Netherlands, and a very good 3.3MB/s to the USA.

The company is based in the British Virgin Islands which, although a British Overseas Territory, doesn’t share the UK’s strict data retention laws. If you’re after anonymous payment options, you can buy your subscription with bitcoin, and the company has a clearly stated no-logging policy.

ExpressVPN is one of the few providers where its logging policy has been put to the test – when its Turkish endpoint servers were seized by local authorities in December 2017, no logs were found on the systems.

While ExpressVPN’s service is excellent, it’s expensive and is up against tough competition from Private Internet Access – which has been shown not to keep logs in a court of law.

However, its combination of streaming-friendliness, high speeds and secure data policies make it worth paying for if you want a strong all-round service and don’t care about the price.

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Hide My Ass!

4 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • £7.99 per month
  • £35.94 per 6 months
  • £59.88 per year
  • Connect up to two devices
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Large number of servers, more endpoint countries than any rival

Cons: Doesn’t work for Netflix or BBC iPlayer, expensive

Hide My Ass! has a wider range of endpoint locations than any other VPN provider we’ve seen, covering most of the planet with 248 countries and territories. This means that, if you need to virtually “be” in a specific location to access a given service or make sure that your own web services are accessible, it’s definitely the provider to go for.

Sadly, those services probably won’t include region-locked streaming media such as Netflix of BBC iPlayer, which we were unable to successfully use during testing. However, performance in our heavy-duty data transfer tests was quick and stable on the part of its UK and Dutch endpoints, at 7.9MB/s and 9.7MB/s respectively. US speeds came in at a rather more sedate 1.7MB/s.

HMA’s latest acceptable use policy allows users to connect from up to five devices simultaneously on standard accounts; a welcome increase from its previous limit of two.

Although owned by Czech anti-malware firm AVG, Hide My Ass! is headquartered in the UK, and subject to Britain’s stringent data retention laws. HMA notes that, although it doesn’t log any of your activity while connected, such as which websites or IP addresses you connect to or what data was transferred, it does log your IP address, connection and disconnection times, duration and bandwidth usage “to prevent abuse and for diagnostic purpose

In 2011, the company complied with a court order to hand over data that helped in confirming the identities of individuals involved in the LulzSec hacking case. HMA nonetheless promotes its services as a means of bypassing internet censorship under oppressive regimes, saying that as “we follow UK law, there isn’t a law that prohibits the use of Egyptians gaining access to blocked websites such as Twitter, even if there is one in Egypt”.

In keeping with this, HMA’s glossy client includes a Freedom Mode lets you “access the web via the closest free-speech country”. Other settings enable automatic connection to the VPN

as soon as Windows launches, SOCKS5 proxying and a Secure IP Bond feature that allows you specify applications that you want to allow online only when the encrypted VPN connection is up and running

Hide My Ass! is one of the more expensive VPN providers around; a month-to-month subscription costs £7.99, while a £59.88 annual subscription works out at £5.99 a month. Physical boxed editions are available to buy for the privacy-conscious.

Unless you specifically need an endpoint that its rivals don’t offer, NordVPN and Private Internet Access are better value propositions.

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Private Tunnel

5 of 13

Score

Key features:

  • $6 (£4.23) per month
  • $35 (£24.70) pert year
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients
  • Supports OpenVPN

Pros: Cheapest available monthly subscription, typically fast performance in transfer speed tests

Cons: Limited range of endpoint countries, limited range of configuration and privacy options

Private Tunnel is the VPN service run by OpenVPN Technologies, the company behind the ubiquitous open source OpenVPN protocol used by almost every VPN provider in the business.

It’s based in the USA, which doesn’t have a great track record on privacy, but also doesn’t currently have any mandatory data retention laws, although US law enforcement is able to request any records kept by service providers.

However, Private Tunnel isn’t a no-logging service provider, and makes it clear that “log files stored on our servers are only used for monitoring server performance, identifying software bugs, identifying any potential security breaches, and for the purpose of identifying abusive users”.

A simple and convenient client allows you to select your endpoint and provides a couple of extra features to configure the VPN to connect automatically when Windows starts and change the timeout limit before Private Tunnel attempts reconnection. Unlike some services, there isn’t an option to completely block all internet traffic if you lose your VPN connection.

Private Tunnel only has a dozen endpoint locations, and its performance was reliable but unimpressive, with throughput of 4MB/s via its UK endpoint, 8MB/s via the Netherlands and an above-average 2.6MB/s from the USA.

However, its pricing is conspicuously good at $6 (£4.23) monthly or $35 (£24.70) annually. You get three simultaneous connections for your money, but you can also opt for a Flexible account, which allows you to specify how many simultaneous connections you need and pay accordingly.

Private Tunnel is in the process of rebranding and refreshing its client and subscription packages, so expect an update to this review in the near future. In the meantime, if you need a month-to-month VPN subscription, Private Tunnel’s works out cheaper than some of its rivals annual subscriptions and is perfect for short-term users such as travellers.

TunnelBear

6 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • 500MB per month free account available
  • $9.99 (£7.05) per month
  • $59.88 (£42.26) per year
  • Connect up to 5 devices
  • Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Opera, Chrome
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Free version available, clear no-logging policy,w ide range of privacy and security features, GhostBear mode attempts to conceal VPN use

Cons: Poor FTP performance from UK endpoints, more expensive than many rivals

Tunnelbear is best known for its free service, which gets you 500GB of data every month on any of the service’s wide range of supported platforms. It also has an endearing ursine mascot and reasonably priced paid-for subscriptions.

Free users can get an extra 1GB per month, for a total of 1.5GB, by tweeting about Tunnelbear, assuming they have a public account and enough followers.

If you need more than that, Tunnelbear costs $9.99 (£7.05) per month or $59.88 (£42.26) per year, with the annual fee working out to a reasonable, but unremarkable £3.52 a month. The company accepts payment in bitcoin if you want to add an extra layer of privacy.

TunnelBear has an explicit no-logging policy and is independently audited for security, which will reassure the privacy-conscious. It blocks standard BitTorrent ports, citing “a high volume of complaints from content providers” so that it wasn’t put in the position of having to log user activity in accordance with Canadian copyright law. That means that, no matter how legitimate your torrent activity might be, you can’t use TunnelBear for it.

The service’s performance has seen significant improvements since we last tested it, and it beat all its rivals – and our 4.75MB/s no-VPN reference score – with transfer speeds of 5.4MB/s to the USA.

In Europe, we got decent throughput of 6.4MB/s via the Netherlands, although the UK endpoints we connected to were unable to support the FTP connection we use for our large-file transfer tests. Web browsing still worked well, though.

Tunnelbear isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a region-shifting VPN to watch overseas streaming media – it failed all our Netflix and iPlayer tests. However, its overall performance is reliable and consistently improving and its free tier is extremely useful for those who occasionally need a VPN but don’t have the inclination or financial resources to subscribe to one.

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IPVanish

7 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • $10 (£7.06) per month 
  • $26.99 (£19.05) per 3 months
  • $77.99 (£55.041) per year (first year $58.99/£41.63)
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Good transfer speeds, wide range of endpoint countries, clear no-logging policy
Cons: More expensive than many rivals, doesn’t work for Netflix or BBC iPlayer

IPVanish is an established and well-regarded name in VPN provisioning, with generally strong performance in our throughput tests on its European endpoints.

This time around, it still pushed the limits of our test server’s connection speeds via its Dutch endpoint, from which we got download speeds of 10.7MB/s, but its UK server was a little sluggish at 4.7MB/s. US speeds held steady at a decent 2.7MB/s – about two thirds of our non-VPN reference speed.

As ever, it’s important to bear in mind that VPN speed test results can vary widely, depending on factors ranging from congestion or oversubscription on a given endpoint to third-party networking issues.

IPVanish is easy to use, and although its endpoint auto-selection didn’t always produce the best results for us, we were pleased by the level of fine-grained endpoint selection available. It’s well supplied with geographic endpoints, but we were unable to connect to popular streaming services such as Netflix or iPlayer without being detected and blocked.

The client has a number of extra security features including leak protection, a kill switch to ensure that you never send data across the internet without the protection of the VPN, and automatic connection on boot.

IPVanish has a clear no-logging policy and is based in the USA, which doesn’t require logging of user activity by law, but also has few data protection requirements and a record of state surveillance.

A combination of ongoing special offers and a weakening dollar have made IPVanish less expensive to subscribe to than when we last reviewed it. While its standard annual subscription fee is $77.99 (£55.04), your first year costs just $58.99 (£41.63), working out at £3.47 per month. Its month-to-month subscription fee is a middling £7.06.

IPVanish is effective and reliable, but Private Internet Access has similar features and costs less.

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Windscribe

8 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • 10GB a month free account available 
  • $9 (£6.35) per month
  • $49 (£34.58) per year
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, Chrome, Firefox, Opera
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Generous free tier, clear data security policy
Wide range of endpoint countries, provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons: Extremely variable connection speeds

Windscribe is a Canadian VPN that’s gained popularity due to its free service and dedicated support for streaming TV. Unlike fellow Canadian VPN TunnelBear, Windscribe also allows torrenting.

Its privacy policy clearly indicates what data it does and does not keep, with only total bandwidth consumption and the time your account was last used stored in the long term. The service supports anonymous payment via bitcoin and gift vouchers, and you don’t to provide an email address in order to sign up.

Windscribe has dedicated endpoints for streaming video services such as iPlayer and Netflix. Attempting to access most streaming services using the general endpoints resulted in detection, but we were able to watch all of our reference streaming content using the Windflix UK and US endpoints.

During speed testing, we saw far more variation from Windscribe than from most of its rivals, with UK FTP and HTTP download speeds ranging from anywhere between 2MB/s to 9MB/s. This seemed to be particularly affected by the time of day – hours when US users were awake saw the slowest speeds.

US speeds were also variable, with some of our connection attempts transferring data at a less than 100KB/s, while others produced a relatively smooth 2.6MB/s. We experienced similar issues with the dedicated Windflix US streaming connection, which usually streamed smoothly enough via a browser, but sometimes had trouble even loading Netflix’s site.

While our VPN speed testing only provides a snapshot of performance, the variability of results we saw from Windscribe indicates that its endpoints may at times be oversubscribed.

This is most likely down to its extremely inviting free tier. Free users get access to locations in 11 countries – not including any of the Windflix video streaming endpoints – and a very generous 10GB monthly data limit.

If you like the service enough to pay for it, it costs $9 (£6.35) per month or $49 (£34.58) per year, working out at a very cost-effective £2.88 per month.

The client is simple to use and includes a number of extra security features. By default, Windscribe activates its integrated ‘firewall’ feature, which prevents any internet traffic from being transferred if you lose your connection to the VPN for any reason.

You can also share your encrypted connection as a secure wireless hotspot, if your router supports the feature, and view detailed logs kept by the client.

The performance variability we saw from Windscribe, along with its price, makes it hard to recommend when rivals such as NordVPN provide more reliable connection speeds at lower cost. However, if you’re after a free VPN, Windscribe is well worth adding to your arsenal, and is the best free option now that CyberGhost has withdrawn its free service from new users.

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Steganos Online Shield/OkayFreedom

9 of 13

Score

Key features:

  • SOS: $49.95 (£35.25) per year – 5 devices ($29.95/£21.14 for license extensions)
  • OkayFreedom: $29.95 (£21.14) per year – 1 device, Windows only
  • Boxed copies available for physical purchase
  • Supports OpenVPN

Pros: Clear no-logging policy, cheapest annual subscription (OkayFreedom), provides international access to Netflix UK

Cons: Mediocre connection speeds, limited range of endpoint countries, limited range of configuration and privacy options, clients only available for Windows, iOS, Android

Score: 7

Steganos operates two VPN brands, both of which use the same infrastructure and have the same basic security policies. Steganos Online Shield allows five simultaneous connections from a variety of devices, while OkayFreedom is a low-cost single-device subscription, which is also available as an ad-supported 500GB per month free service.

Both services are privacy-oriented and backed by a no-logging policy. Steganos is based in Germany, which requires ISPs – but not VPN providers – to retain traffic metadata for 10 weeks.

The company states that “both services interweave metadata of a huge number of users in a way that cannot be untangled. Therefore, an individual user cannot be identified with one IP-address and personal data can neither be determined nor passed to state or police.”

For extra privacy, physical boxed SOS keys are available. If you buy online, note that you can select the currency you want to pay for Online Shield in, but we recommend sticking with the default annual subscription price of $49.95 US dollars, which works out to £35.25, rather than switching to pound sterling and being charged £47.86.

Once you’ve subscribed, you can save money in the future and extend your subscription by a year for just $29.95 (£21.14). Alternately, if you just need a single VPN connection for one Windows PC, OkayFreedom costs a flat $29.95 (£21.14) per year

Steganos Online Shield only gives you 15 endpoint countries to choose from, but the available options are useful, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could access Netflix UK during our tests, although both Netflix US and BBC iPlayer spotted us.

Unfortunately, its performance, although somewhat improved over previous years, hasn’t kept pace with the fast speeds we’re seeing from most of its rivals, with throughput of 1.5MB/s to the USA, 4.8MB/s to the Netherlands and 3.9MB/s to the UK.

The OkayFreedom free service is extremely handy, and if you’re after the cheapest annual VPN subscription you can find, it’s a solid no-frills option. However, Private Internet

VyprVPN

10 of 13

Score

Key features:

  • VyprVPN (3 devices): £49.00 per year/£6.95 per month;
  • VyprVPN Premium (5 devices, Chameleon protocol, cloud VPN server you can deploy): £70.00 per year/£10.50 per month
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS

Pros: Wide range of privacy and security features, wide range of endpoint countries, typically fast performance in transfer speed tests, clear data security policy, chameleon mode attempts to conceal VPN use

Cons: Doesn’t work for Netflix or BBC iPlayer

VyprVPN is a speed-focussed VPN service with endpoints in 63 countries and two different paid-for subscription tiers.

Vypr’s prices have held steady while some of its rivals have increased theirs, making it feel like less of an expensive proposition than it did last year. It’s still one of the pricier providers, with its standard 3-simultaneous-connection subscription priced at £49.00 for an annual subscription, but it justifies the cost with an excellent range of features.

For those that need it, its £70.00 per year Premium subscription includes a cloud VPN server that you can deploy to hosted servers on AWS, DigitalOcean and VirtualBox. A three-day free trial is available for both packages, so you can be sure they meet your needs.

The client includes are plenty of options available to help you tweak the VPN to your precise needs, including automatic connection on startup, automatic reconnection, and a kill switch to prevent any traffic from being sent over an unsecured internet connection. Other settings include your choice of connection protocol and – for Premium users – an obfuscated

Chameleon mode that endeavours to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN, tailored for use in countries with restrictive national internet connections such as China.

VyprVPN is certainly quick, although this round of testing didn’t quite match the blistering speeds we saw from it last year – remember that, as ever, individual VPN speed tests capture only a brief snapshot of performance at a specific time.

Vypr’s UK endpoints gave us speeds of 8.2MB/s and connecting via its Dutch servers produced speeds of 9.1MB/s in our reference file transfers. We saw a comparatively quick 3MB/s from its US endpoints, although TunnelBear and Private Internet Access were both faster this time around.

Unlike some of its rivals, VyprVPN doesn’t focus on anonymity. Golden Frog provides no anonymous payment methods and the company carries out some logging in order to optimise its speed and performance. However, it is clear about its position regarding logging and security, owns all its own hardware at all endpoints, and is located in Switzerland, which has strong data protection and privacy laws.

We didn’t have any luck watching Netflix or BBC iPlayer via Vypr, but for all other purposes it provides a fast, stable connection and is a good choice of VPN provider. However, Private Internet Access is faster and costs less.

NordVPN

11 of 13

Score

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Key features:

  • $11.95 (£8.43) per month
  • $69 (£48.69) per year
  • $79 (£55.75) per two years
  • Connect up to six devices
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Large number of servers, wide range of privacy and security features, wide range of endpoint countries, clear no-logging policy, typically fast performance in transfer speed tests, provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons: Mediocre US connection speeds

NordVPN consistently performs well in our tests, with an excellent range of features at low to middling cost, depending on which subscription you opt for.

Transfer speed tests via its UK and Netherlands endpoints maxed out our server’s test connection at around 10.5MB/s. As in previous years, Nord’s weak spot is its US speeds, which came in at 1.8MB/s (14.6Mbit/s) this time around. That’s fine for most purposes,

including streaming video, but is a little sluggish compared to both some rival service providers and our non-VPN reference speed of 4.75MB/s.

We were particularly pleased with NordVPN’s performance in our streaming tests – we were able to view region-locked content on Netflix USA, UK and BBC iPlayer. It has a huge number of servers in 62 different countries, which doubtless helps its IP addresses keep off streaming industry blacklists.

It’s easy to choose your endpoint from the desktop client, which also provides shortcuts to endpoints with specific extra security features, including double VPN, DDoS protection, Onion routing via the Tor network or support for peer-to-peer torrenting.

Its advanced settings include an option to automatically connect to a VPN when Windows starts and a customisable list of applications that you can apply a Kill Switch to. This means that, if your VPN connection drops, the applications won’t send or receive any data via your standard internet connection, helping to keep you secure.

NordVPN has one of the best-value subscriptions around. Two years works out at £55.75, or £2.32 per month, while its annual and monthly subscriptions are about median for the industry. A three-day free trial is available so you can ensure that it provides all the services you need before you commit for an extended period, and those in search of extra anonymity can pay in bitcoin.

The service is owned by TelFinCom, headquartered in Panama. The country has no data retention legislation in force and NordVPN itself has a no-logging policy.

If you’re a streaming media enthusiast, NordVPN provides the best combination of features and cost, as well as being an excellent all-round VPN for security. If that’s less important, Private Internet access is cheaper, with faster US connection speeds.

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Private Internet Access

12 of 13

Score

Key features:

  • $6.95 (£4.90) per month
  • $39.95 (£28.19) per year
  • $69.95 (£49.36) per two years
  • Connect up to five devices
  • Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
  • Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients

Pros: Extremely large number of servers, wide range of privacy and security features, clear no-logging policy, typically fast performance in transfer speed tests, provides international access to iPlayer

Cons: Detected by Netflix

Private Internet Access is based in the USA and has a particularly strong track record on privacy and security. PIA has a clear and explicit no-logging policy, and the USA doesn’t currently have any mandatory data retention laws in place.

When served with an FBI warrant to hand over their logs, it transpired that PIA really didn’t have anything to give investigators, making it one of the few VPN providers whose no-logging claim is known to have been tested.

It’s also one of the least expensive and most feature-packed services around, although its performance for streaming video sites is mixed – we were able to watch BBC iPlayer, which is great for travellers who want to keep up with their favourite series, but Netflix detected that we were on a VPN every time.

Beyond that, though, as well as clear and easy to use client, PIA comes equipped with a range of security features including a VPN kill switch that disables your connection to the internet if your VPN is disconnected, IPv6 leak protection that temporarily disables IPv6 to prevent unwanted identifying data from being accidentally transmitted and DNS leak protection that directs all DNS requests through a non-logging DNS service.

It has a good range of 28 endpoint countries and over 3,000 servers. Its performance in our speed tests was excellent, maxing out our test server’s connection at just under 10.5MB/s via endpoints in the UK and Netherlands, and achieving a very credible 3.4MB/s to the USA.

Private Internet Access has subscription fees among the lowest in the industry, but the best value option is a two-year subscription that works out at £49.36 – £2.06 per month. If you don’t want your name associated with your subscription, you can pay using bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash or Zcash.

Unless you specifically need international access to Netflix – for which NordVPN and CyberGhost are both reliable options – Private Internet Access is the perfect sweet spot for speed, features and privacy.