Best VPN of 2021 service
Top 5 Best VPN of 2021
If you want to keep your online information secure and your browsing habits private, having a VPN, or virtual private network, is important. Here’s how it works: A VPN encrypts the connection between you and the internet, making you more anonymous online and keeping your most sensitive information secure. Put simply, a VPN comes in handy when you want to protect your data and stay private online.
However, it’s not always easy to find the best VPN for your particular needs. After all, there are countless VPN services to choose from, and not all of them offer the same level of security, reliability and speed. That’s where our best VPN guide comes in. After reviewing and testing a multitude of VPN services, we rounded up a list of our recommendations for the best VPN that will maximize your security and privacy.
When we rank the best VPN, there are a number of things we consider. In our current ranking and testing system, we evaluated over 20 factors, including price, performance, security, ease of remote access, number of server locations, bandwidth caps, logging, dedicated and dynamic IP, client VPN software and customer support. Below, we’ve listed your best VPN options, including such popular names as ExpressVPN, Surfshark, IPVanish and NordVPN.
We’re keeping a close eye on how each VPN provider stands compared with its competitors, as well as any new VPN services that become available. We’ve cataloged our most recommended VPN services to date — and listed some less viable VPN options, too, based on our testing. We’ll be regularly updating this VPN guide as new contenders hit the market.
- Number of IP addresses: 30,000
- Number of servers: 3,000-plus in 160 locations
- Number of simultaneous connections: 5
- Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- 94-plus countries
xpressVPN is the recipient of our Editor’s Choice Award for best VPN. The VPN provider tells us its network is powered by TrustedServer technology, which ExpressVPN built to ensure that there are never any logs of users’ online activities. In the privacy world, ExpressVPN has a strong track record, having experienced a server seizure by authorities which proved its zero-log policy true at the time. We also like the quality of the VPN’s setup guides and the detailed information in its FAQ.
While its speeds consistently compete with heavy-hitting competitors, our speed tests saw ExpressVPN produce a 52% overall loss of our normal internet speeds, representing a significant slowdown compared with its 2019 score of 2% speed loss.
Like the rest of the top five VPN services we’ve reviewed, ExpressVPN offers a useful kill-switch feature that prevents network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. Unlike the others, though, ExpressVPN gained points from us for its support of Bitcoin as a payment method — something not all of our favorites offer, but which adds an additional layer of privacy during checkout.
- Number of servers: 3,200-plus
- Number of server locations: 65
- Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
While Surfshark’s network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes it up on features and speed. Let’s start off with the biggest win it offers: unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers antimalware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.
And it’s fast. With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, we lost less than 17% of average internet speed during our most recent speed tests. That’s faster than the 27% speed loss we saw in previous tests, and pushes it ahead of ExpressVPN to be the current front-runner in our speed comparisons.
Surfshark received generally high marks when its Chrome and Firefox extensions were audited for privacy by German security firm Cure 53 (PDF link of full report) — though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.
The company has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.
Surfshark also offers three special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn’t know you’re using a VPN. Multihop jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your trail. Finally, NoBorders Mode “allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions.” Just be careful. Doing any of these three things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we didn’t see a single IP address or DNS leak, and had no trouble accessing Netflix.
- Number of IP addresses: 5,000
- Number of servers: 5,200-plus servers
- Number of server locations: 62
- Country/jurisdiction: Panama
- 62 countries
- $3.30 a month for a two-year plan plus 3 months free
- NordVPN in-depth review and hands-on testing (ZDNet)
NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, for those looking for a different level of VPN connection. NordVPN offers a kill-switch feature, and the ability to VPN into Tor. We detected no privacy leaks during our tests.
In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN’s performance was on par with many of its competitors, reducing our speeds by 53% on average (which is slower than the 32% loss measured in previous speed tests). We found NordVPN’s speeds were reliably fast. There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where we expected the VPN to underperform, it proved itself up to the task.
The company’s two-year VPN subscription plan currently costs $3.30 a month ($99 billed at once). That price is lower than most contenders, but creeps up for the one-year plan ($4.92 a month or $59 total) and the monthly plan ($11.95 a month). But it does have a full 30-day refund policy.
While NordVPN has lived on this list for a long time, we moved it to the penalty box in October 2019 to re-evaluate our recommendation after a report emerged that one of its rented servers was accessed without authorization in 2018. Nord’s actions following the discovery included — eventually — multiple security audits, a bug bounty program and heavier investments in server security.
- Number of servers: 1,259
- 55 countries
- Country/jurisdiction: Switzerland
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Plus Package: $8 per month ($96 charged yearly)
When we speed-tested ProtonVPN, we saw an impressively small 9.6% speed loss compared with average speeds clocked without a VPN. ProtonVPN’s base speeds sent it blazing past most of our roster of tested services and into second place behind ExpressVPN. Even more impressive is Proton’s ability to reach those speeds despite a relatively small fleet of 1,259 servers in 55 countries. Like ExpressVPN, Proton also costs more than most of the VPNs we’ve reviewed. Even so, ProtonVPN’s high security standards and legacy of transparency may make this VPN option worth the price.
Along with its options to send your traffic through a secure bunker of private servers, we love ProtonVPN’s transparency policies: It’s completely open-source with routinely published audits, and includes a built-in route to VPN into Tor servers. We’re also confident recommending its mobile app since it has eliminated the use of some weaker security protocols, like PPTP and L2TP, which are still used by some other VPNs.
- Number of IP addresses: 40,000-plus
- Number of servers: 1,600-plus
- Number of server locations: 75-plus
- Number of simultaneous connections: Unlimited
- Country/jurisdiction: US
- $3.20 a month (70% discount) for a one-year plan
A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN.
A unique feature of the IPVanish VPN, and one we’re intrigued by, is the VPN’s support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. Any serious media fan has used or built Kodi or XBMC into a media player, and the integrated IPVanish Kodi plug-in provides access to media worldwide.