You need the best VPN service possible to keep your computer, mobile or tablet secure – that's a given. Choosing the right one can be tricky, though, when there's so much choice. That's why we've put together this guide to help you download the best VPN service for your specific needs.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is your route to online anonymity. These use encrypted tunnels for your web activity, and have become the go-to software to stay more secure on the web. So if you're travelling a lot, using potentially insecure Wi-Fi – like at hotels, airports and stations – or if you simply want to keep your identity secret online, then a VPN is for you.
But there’s more than that to VPNs. The best VPN services enable you to change your IP address to a server in dozens of countries around the world. That's pretty handy if you want to access all your favourite shows and films from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and so on anywhere in the world.
Which VPN service is best?
We've found, through our extensive testing, that ExpressVPN is the out–and–out best VPN service out there right now. It offers a simple-to-use interface, lots of servers for a fast and stable performance, as well as superb security and, of course, unlocking for the likes of Netflix. We're also a big fan of NordVPN, which combines fast speed, excellent security and affordable pricing to winning effect.
But there are lots of other options that might better suit a specific need you have. Read on for our pick of the best VPN services right now.
The best VPN services in 2019
Simply the best VPN service available right now
Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160 | IP addresses: 30,000 | Maximum devices supported: 5
The all-round best VPN service out there right now has to be ExpressVPN – and for many reasons. The easiest place to start is with just that, ease: the client (which comes on a host of devices, including iOS, Android, Mac and Windows) is really simple with a click-to-start option, but also offers deeper functionality if you need it. Either way, you'll be assured of excellent speeds across more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries, and superb security with enterprise-level encryption.
Other positives include DNS content unblocking and leak protection, P2P support, Bitcoin payment options, Netflix unblocking, a no logging policy, split-tunneling, a kill switch and 24 hours of live chat support every day of the week. You can even use custom firmware to install this at the router level for some devices, meaning you'll be hidden by a VPN no matter which device connects to the Wi-Fi. You can even try all those features for free using the 30-day money back guarantee.
You can use this VPN service on five devices at any one time – some providers offer more than that. But since you can set ExpressVPN up on the router, to which any number of devices can connect. This is the best VPN out there right now.
- Read more: Express VPN review
One of the best VPN services when it comes to security
Number of servers: 5,300+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
NordVPN is one of the best VPN services when it comes to security thanks to a mind-boggling 2048-bit encryption, as well as not one but two kill switches, along with strong DNS leak protection. You can even pay with Bitcoin or Paypal to help add further anonymity to your experience. That all works across a whopping 5,000 servers spread over 60 countries, which we found to offer an above average speed performance.
The addition of the company's own SmartPlay service means you have a handy assistant for getting around geo-restricted content, meaning you can enjoy Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in whatever country you happen to find yourself.
A lack of live chat support may irk some, but we had very few problems – other than the odd server connection lag – so support shouldn't be needed anyway. And at the prices Nord offers, you should find this VPN service excellent value for money.
- Read more: NordVPN review
The best VPN service for torrenting and P2P traffic
Number of servers: 1,200+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: 40,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 10
If your main use for a VPN is to get torrent and P2P content, then IPVanish is one of the best VPN services for you. It boasts 1,200 servers across over 60 countries, which offer more than 40,000 shared IPs, unlimited P2P traffic and superb download speeds. As if all that didn't make you feel secure enough, the company owns and manages all of its own servers for another level of security.
Plus, you get 24/7 support, 10 connections at once, and a seven-day money-back guarantee. So even though there isn't a free trial, you could always opt out within that time and spend nothing. Clients work on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and even Fire TV and offer great features and options, with unblocking for Netflix and more as standard.
- Read more: IPVanish review
Need private browsing? This is the best VPN service to choose
Number of servers: 2,500+ | Server locations: 80+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Hotspot Shield, as the name suggests, is a brilliant VPN for offering you personal protection when online. Specifically, this VPN service is excellent for browsing because it not only offers top security but also the company's own Catapult Hydra protocol. This is a great system that makes sure you get the fastest download speeds possible and it really works, even when connected to servers that are really far from your real world location. This VPN service works on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows, but won't work on OpenVPN so you can't run it at router level unfortunately.
Hotspot Shield has great features like five device connections at once, 24/7 support, over 2,500 servers in 25 countries and no ads. But you will struggle to unblock US Netflix, which is a downer for some. That said, this VPN service does offer a free seven-day trial, so it's worth giving it a go.
- Read more: Hotspot Shield review
Great for personalisation
Number of servers: 3,700+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 7
CyberGhost is a superb VPN service for deep-level personalisation, making it an ideal choice for users who know what they're doing, know what they want, and know how to tweak the client to make it right for them. Over 3,700 servers spread across 60 countries offer excellent security and anonymity, and thanks to ad and malicious site blocking, automated HTTPS redirection and optional data compression, you can stay secure and keep your data use to a minimum.
A really nice feature is the ability to select the service you're using the VPN for and it will automatically find the best servers to suit the job. So you could select the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more, and it will make sure geo restrictions are removed, so you can enjoy the content wherever you are in the world. The complex interface can be troublesome at times but, for all the aforementioned benefits, this very good VPN service is worth learning your way around.
- Read more: CyberGhost review
Excellent performance and security
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5
VyprVPN is a Swiss-based VPN service that makes you feel secure right from the outset, thanks to its zero-knowledge DNS service across 700 servers in over 70 locations. Download speeds are fast worldwide and unblocking for US Netflix and BBC iPlayer work well. We also enjoyed the company's own Chameleon protocol, which helps you get online in VPN-blocked countries like China and Iran. Also the wide coverage by the powerful clients was a bonus, working on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android as well as routers, Android TV, Blackphone, QNAP, Anonbox and more.
All that said, there is some session logging, but only things like connections times and IP addresses being kept for 30 days. Pricing isn't cheap either on this VPN service, compared to what else is out there.
Simple yet secure
Number of servers: ~1,000 | Server locations: 20+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Canada-based VPN service TunnelBear is a brilliantly easy-to-use VPN that doesn't only makes access simple, but also keeps security tight. It's one of those just-does-what-you-need type services that make life feel easier. As such, you are limited to just 1,000 servers across 20 location, and since long-distance connections did struggle in our tests, this may not be ideal for some (for example, if you’re an Aussie in the US trying to access a server Down Under). That said, connections work well, clients run across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, plus you can set this VPN service up on a router.
You get unlimited connections from this VPN service
Number of servers: 400+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
We did find some issues – such as speeds with long-distance servers. Also we had real trouble unblocking US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, plus the support service can make you wait around.
A very fast VPN service
Number of servers: 800+ | Server locations: 50+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
While Surfshark is still a small fish in the VPN pond, it does offer over 800 servers across 69 locations, and supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android as well as Chrome and Firefox. It offers URL and ad blocking, P2P support, VPN chaining, a kill switch, split tunnelling and zero-knowledge DNS servers for your privacy peace of mind. You also get 24/7 support, so even if you do have issues they can be quickly resolved.
While Surfshark isn't as cheap a VPN service as some, for most plans the two-year option does offer the best saving, and you can even pay using PayPal, cryptocurrency, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Ali Pay, helping you remain anonymous. There's no free trial, however, and while the clients are easy to use, they could offer some more complex functionality for advanced users.
A welcome ‘recently used servers’ tab makes regular access to the best servers for your needs nice and easy, a feature we really appreciated while we were testing Surfshark. All in all, if you're looking for speed, and put off by complicated menus and myriad options, Surfshark could be the best VPN service for you.
Netflix unblocking is made simple by this VPN service
Number of servers: 650+ | Server locations: 26 | Maximum devices supported: 12
StrongVPN rounds off our list of the best VPN services. It's not quite at the level of some in our guide – but it's better than most, thanks to its simplicity to use, support for a whopping 12 devices at once, and above-average performance speeds. Those speeds are helpful for streaming fans, as they works with the VPN's ability to unblock geo-restricted Netflix and BBC iPlayer content really easily. Clients are available for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows with router support and even Fire TV and Kodi compatibility.
The 650 servers might be minimal but they span 46 cities in 26 countries, and are backed by security in the form of L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2 protocols. You can also rest easy knowing you get 24/7 customer support too. Pricing could be lower, but you do get a lot for your money with this VPN service.
VPN services: how to choose the right one
There are a number of important factors to consider when you're choosing a VPN service to buy. Here are five pro tips for picking the right one.
1. Does the VPN service have servers in the countries and region you need? Consider which areas a VPN works in. While having more than one server in a country can help improve reliability, it doesn't guarantee improved performance. Don't assume that a plan with 500 servers will automatically beat another with 100.
More on Web Security
2. How many simultaneous connections are supported? Normally this will be around three-five, so you can connect a desktop, mobile and tablet at the same time. Watch out though: a lot of VPN service providers specify that this is for a single user only, and have a fair usage policy to stop people using all the resources. .
4. Do you need more features? Some clients display server load and ping time in the interface, helping you choose the right server. If you'll be using your VPN service a lot, you might want a "Favourites" system to save and recall specific servers. For experienced users, low-level network settings will help you customise the whole system.
5. Beware cheap deals. VPN deals can have all kinds of strings attached: restricted features; taxes excluded; the discount may only be valid for the first billing period only, automatically renewing to turn that $4.99/month into $10/month, so that apparent one-off £3.99 might become almost £10 next month. Read the small print, and ideally sign up with a service like PayPal where it's easy to cancel a subscription yourself if you need to.
6. Trial it. Found the best VPN service on paper? Give it a try before parting with a lot of cash. A short trial can only tell you a limited amount, so after that pay for a month, test the VPN as much as you can, and then upgrade to a better-value plan (a long plan, maybe yearly) if it still feels like the best VPN service for you.
How we test VPN services
We start by taking all the providers' plans and working our way into the depths of each individual VPN service from there. That means looking at value, features and pricing plans, as well as also privacy. This includes digging down into the terms and conditions to see how logging works to make sure security is as good as promised.
Performance is also another area we carefully look at in terms of download speeds, reliability, stability and variation across distances of servers. We also use IPLeak.net to check there are no privacy problems with the DNS. Of course, another factor is the client interface. This is tested in depth to make sure there are no annoying idiosyncrasies after you've committed to paying for the VPN service.
We then weigh up all these factors, assigning points to form an overall score, which helps us order each VPN service from best to least capable. Our final top ten list of the best VPN services right now are all excellent options, as any bad services have been assigned a lower score.