This guide highlights the best VPN services based on the latest test results and ranking criteria in March 2023.
A VPN (virtual private network) is a useful tool for all types of internet users in 2023. Whether you want more privacy and security online, or a safe and effective way to unblock websites and stream media, a good VPN is the solution. But with so many VPN services on the market, how do you find the best VPN that meets your needs?
Our own tests have also found that many VPNs do not work as advertised. In testing and researching 100+ VPN services over the past six years, we’ve found that many VPNs suffer from these common problems:
- VPNs that leak IP addresses and/or DNS requests. IPv6 leaks and DNS leaks affect many popular VPNs and this can expose your identity, location, and/or browsing history to third parties.
- VPNs with broken features. While most VPNs offer a kill switch or some form of leak protection, I’ve found that these features often fail under certain conditions. For example, when switching network interfaces or reconnecting with the VPN server, your IP address may be exposed.
- VPNs that share data with third parties. This is mostly a problem shady free VPN apps that collect and sell user data for profit. However, even some high-profile paid VPNs have been busted for logging their users, including IPVanish, HideMyAss (HMA VPN), and also PureVPN.
We have even seen a few VPNs that have suffered security incidents, including both Windscribe VPN and LimeVPN. While this may sound alarming, there are still some great VPNs that we have identified in our independent tests and research.
Best VPN services for 2023
The table below highlights the best VPN services based on our latest test results. Before recommending any VPN, we first purchase a subscription, download the apps, and then run it through a barrage of tests to identify any problems. You can find our VPN test process here.
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Ranking criteria for the best VPN services
Ranking VPNs is a challenging process because different users have different needs. Some people may just want a reliable VPN for streaming. Others may want the maximum amount of privacy and security. From our standpoint, a good VPN needs to at least meet all of the following ranking criteria to be recommended:
- Passed all tests with no leaks that would expose your data online (no IP address leaks or DNS leaks)
- Good performance throughout the server network (speed and reliability)
- High-quality VPN apps with all features working correctly
- Supports secure VPN protocols with strong encryption standards
- Offers a money-back guarantee
- Trustworthy and well-established VPN provider with a good track record
- Located in a safe privacy jurisdiction (outside of Five Eyes countries, such as the US and UK) to keep your data secure
If a VPN does not fulfill all the criteria listed above, it is not featured in this report. And when you apply this standard to all the VPNs on the market, there are very few that make the cut. So let’s cut to the chase.
Here are the best VPN services for 2023:
NordVPN – Best all-around VPN service in 2023
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
In the past year, NordVPN has raced ahead of the competition to deliver the latest in VPN technology to their users. They were one of the first VPNs to offer a secure and privacy-focused implementation of the WireGuard VPN protocol via NordLynx. This gives NordVPN a huge performance advantage over other leading services — and it’s also the fastest VPN we have tested to date.
NordVPN continues to beat the competition when it comes to performance, as we noted in the recent ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison. Below you can see a speed test where we hit 445 Mbps with a NordVPN server in Seattle (USA) using the WireGuard protocol.
In addition to the WireGuard VPN protocol, NordVPN has many other privacy and security features to consider:
- CyberSec feature to block ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains on your entire operating system through the VPN
- Double VPN servers that encrypt traffic over two different locations (while still delivering excellent speeds)
- Tor-over-VPN servers that add an extra layer of encryption via the Tor network
- A large and secure server network with all servers running in RAM-disk mode (incapable of storing any user data)
- Built-in leak protection for VPN apps to ensure all traffic remains encrypted and secure
NordVPN has also passed independent audits for both security and compliance with no-logs policies. It introduced a public bug bounty program and also has an ongoing partnership with Versprite for security audits and penetration testing. NordVPN uses very strong encryption with an AES-256-GCM cipher and DHE-4096 key exchange in implementing Perfect Forward Secrecy. The upgraded WireGuard protocol with NordLynx uses a ChaCha20 cipher and runs on a clean, lean codebase.
With premium speeds and strong security, NordVPN is our top-rated VPN for torrenting. It also works well for all major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, and more. While most VPNs struggle to ensure access to streaming sites, NordVPN continues to deliver. You can also use the NordVPN app if you need a VPN for Firestick, TV boxes, Smart TVs, or even gaming systems.
Large number of servers, including specialty servers
NordVPN currently has 5,500+ servers in 60 countries. It does not use any virtual server locations and all servers run on dedicated hardware in RAM-disk mode without hard drives. This improves security and also makes storing logs on the VPN server impossible. Another huge development is that NordVPN has begun rolling out high-speed colocated servers (self-owned hardware) with 10 Gbps bandwidth channels. These servers will provide NordVPN users with even faster speeds and replace all rented servers from third parties.
In addition to the specialty servers discussed above, NordVPN also offers obfuscated servers that conceal VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption. This is a useful feature to get around VPN blocks, such as when using a VPN for China. It is also a great feature to break through work or school networks that block VPNs.
NordVPN continues to evolve and improve while remaining one of the top leaders in the VPN industry. Check out the two-year plan with the coupon below for maximum savings.
- User-friendly and reliable apps
- Double-VPN and Tor-over-VPN servers
- No logs (audited twice)
- Strong encryption standards with full support for WireGuard
- Works with Netflix and many other streaming services
- Threat Protection feature to block ads, trackers, and malware domains
- 24/7 live chat support
- Dedicated RAM-servers with 10 Gbps bandwidth channels
- Big discounts only available with long-term subscriptions
Refunds and support: All NordVPN subscription plans come with a full 30 day money-back guarantee. They offer 24/7 live chat support through their website along with numerous guides and videos.
NordVPN’s Cyber Deal is live:
Get 63% Off NordVPN plus an additional 3 months FREE:
(Coupon is applied automatically.)
See our NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.
Surfshark – Affordable, fast, and secure VPN service
|Based in||The Netherlands|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
Officially launching in 2018, Surfshark is taking the VPN world by storm and making a good case to be the best VPN. Despite being a relative newcomer, Surfshark comes loaded with features, great leak protection settings, access to numerous streaming services, and excellent performance. And there’s one big benefit with Surfshark that you don’t find with most other VPNs: Surfshark gives you an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Surfshark maintains strong privacy protection policies and is a no-logs VPN based in The Netherlands. The Surfshark apps incorporate good leak protection settings (kill switch) to ensure data remains encrypted and secure without any leaks. There is also a CleanWeb feature to block ads, trackers, and malware domains through the VPN. This is similar to the VPN ad blocker we find with NordVPN and CyberGhost.
Surfshark offers great security features and user-friendly VPN apps
Surfshark utilizes strong encryption with an AES 256 cipher. It supports both the OpenVPN and IKEv2 VPN protocols, as well as WireGuard. Similar to our other top VPN recommendations, Surfshark is now running all servers in RAM-disk mode for added security. It offers 14 double-VPN server configurations, allowing you to encrypt traffic over two servers at the same time.
Similar to NordVPN, Surfshark offers a privacy-focused version of the WireGuard VPN protocol, which you can select right in the app settings. In our tests for the Surfshark review, the WireGuard protocol with Surfshark servers gave us speeds up to 397 Mbps:
If you want to stream media and unblock websites, Surfshark is a great choice with 3,200+ servers in 95 countries. It currently supports 16+ global Netflix regions, as well as most other streaming services, including BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Disney Plus. It is a great VPN for Android and iOS with dedicated mobile apps.
Below is the Surfshark app we tested on Windows 10. You can see it is clean, simple, and user-friendly, without being overly cluttered.
Surfshark continues to gain traction in the VPN market. It remains a strong contender while also being one of the best cheap VPNs at only $2.30 per month with the coupon below.
- Unlimited connections
- User-friendly apps for all devices and operating systems
- CleanWeb feature to block ads, trackers, and malware
- Works great with Netflix and many other streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Strong encryption and security features (audited)
- Limited support for VPN routers
- Average OpenVPN speeds (use WireGuard)
Refunds and support: All Surfshark subscription plans come with a full 30 day money-back guarantee. They have 24/7 live chat support and many user setup guides.
Surfshark VPN Coupon:
Get 82% off Surfshark VPN (drops the price down to $2.30 per month) plus 2 months FREE:
(Coupon is applied automatically.)
See the Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.
ExpressVPN – Secure and reliable VPN service
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
ExpressVPN has long been one of the top VPN services on the market. It is a premium VPN that simply works without bugs, problems, or interruptions. And it also checks all the important boxes for privacy, security, and performance.
In terms of VPN apps, ExpressVPN offers everything you would expect from a top VPN. They have custom apps for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and even routers. All of the VPN apps come with good leak protection settings and also utilize secure VPN protocols. ExpressVPN also has a MediaStreamer app, allowing you to use the service on a wide array of other devices, from Smart TVs to gaming systems.
ExpressVPN has passed numerous audits for security and also privacy (no logs VPN audits). Unlike some of the other top VPNs, ExpressVPN does not support the WireGuard VPN protocol. Instead, they offer the Lightway protocol, which is a self-developed protocol that is very similar to WireGuard, but also better for privacy. Lightway has now been audited and is fully open source.
ExpressVPN is also a powerhouse when it comes to unblocking content and streaming. It works to unblock Netflix regions around the world on all types of devices. ExpressVPN has a dedicated Firestick VPN app and also works with BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Hulu, and more. Additionally, the MediaStreamer app will allow you to use ExpressVPN on many types of streaming devices, including Smart TVs.
And if you want to use a VPN browser extension, ExpressVPN also has you covered. They offer browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers (see the best VPNs for Firefox). We found the ExpressVPN apps to all be reliable, user-friendly, and secure in our test results. Below is the ExpressVPN Windows app that we tested.
The ExpressVPN server network is also quite extensive. They currently offer 160 VPN server locations spread across 94 different countries. While ExpressVPN does not have any specialty servers, as we see with Surfshark and NordVPN, the network is nonetheless extensive and covers a large variety of countries.
Note: Earlier this year we learned that ExpressVPN was acquired by Kape Technologies. While we do not like to see consolidation in the VPN industry, we now know that ExpressVPN will continue to operate independently. Additionally, we also researched the background of Kape Technologies and learned more about the company’s history. Overall, this merger will help to ensure ExpressVPN continues to operate and grow, with a large company standing behind its development.
- User-friendly and secure apps
- Split tunneling feature (for Mac OS, Windows, and routers)
- Works with Netflix and most streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Passed independent third-party audits for security and no-logs
- Very large server network
- Above-average prices
- Fewer features
- Average OpenVPN speeds (use Lightway)
Refunds and support: All ExpressVPN subscriptions come with a 30 day money-back guarantee. They offer 24/7 live chat support as well as a large knowledge base with tutorials and videos.
Sign up for the 12-month plan and get 3 months added to your subscription for free.
(Coupon is applied automatically.)
Check out our ExpressVPN review for more info and test results.
PrivadoVPN – The best freemium VPN
|Support||Live chat; Email|
Much of the world right now is dealing with rising prices (inflation) and this leaves little money left over for things like a VPN service. PrivadoVPN offers a unique solution to anyone who wants a budget-friendly VPN that still delivers a premium service.
PrivadoVPN stands out from the other best VPNs in that it is a freemium service. It offers two different types of subscriptions that you can choose:
- Free plan – This is limited to 10 GB of data per month and only 12 servers. However, it still gives you the important features and may work for streaming.
- Paid plans – These are still quite affordable when you use this discount link to pay only $2.50 per month for the annual plan.
It’s great to have different affordable VPN subscription options, but let’s talk security. PrivadoVPN utilizes the WireGuard VPN protocol with Windows, Android, and iOS operating systems. Additionally, the PrivadoVPN apps include a kill switch to keep your traffic secure against any VPN leaks. PrivadoVPN put up great speed test results with download speeds over 200 Mbps on all US servers tested.
In terms of privacy, PrivadoVPN also does well. This VPN is based in Switzerland, which is one of the best privacy-friendly jurisdictions in the world. Additionally, PrivadoVPN is a no-logs VPN service, so your data is not being kept by anyone and your activities are not traceable back to your VPN account (based on logs).
The PrivadoVPN apps all performed well in tests for the review. The Windows app is clean and minimal. It did not have any bugs, delays, or problems in our tests. However, it is also clear that PrivadoVPN does not offer quite as many features as we find with NordVPN and Surfshark, for example. The macOS app is also a little behind the others, as it still only supports the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols (but WireGuard will be supported in the coming months). There is also no obfuscation (stealth VPN) feature, so PrivadoVPN probably won’t work in China.
Overall, PrivadoVPN is a great value. This VPN works well for streaming and torrenting, has user-friendly and secure apps, and deliver fast and consistent speeds. When you consider all this in relation to the low cost, it makes this VPN easy to recommend to our readers. Check out the free plan or use the coupon link below for 50% off paid plans.
- User-friendly and secure VPN apps
- Fast and consistent speeds
- Works with Netflix and other streaming sites
- Affordable prices (with a free plan)
- Strong encryption and security (with WireGuard)
- No logs and based in Switzerland
- macOS app needs some work
- Smaller server network
- No obfuscation (stealth VPN)
Refunds and support: All ExpressVPN subscriptions come with a 30 day money-back guarantee. They offer 24/7 live chat support as well as a large knowledge base with tutorials and videos.
Check out our PrivadoVPN review for more details.
VPN.ac – User-friendly and secure VPN from Romania
VPN.ac is a security-focused VPN that offers good performance and features at a competitive price. It is based in Romania and was started by a team of network security professionals. VPN.ac did well in testing for the review with fast speeds, strong encryption, and good privacy features.
VPN.ac currently supports the WireGuard VPN protocol. However, unlike with NordVPN and Surfshark, it takes some work to set up and use correctly because it is not supported directly in the apps. VPN.ac’s apps incorporate built-in leak protection, port selection, and offer a variety of VPN protocols and ciphers to choose from. They also have specialty servers, including double-VPN servers, P2P servers, and Obfuscated servers.
In addition to the desktop VPN app, you can also use VPN.ac’s secure proxy browser extensions, available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. This makes VPN.ac a good VPN for Chrome and other browsers.
- Dedicated bare-metal servers with self-hosted encrypted DNS
- Excellent speeds with plenty of available bandwidth
- Multi-hop (double VPN) server configurations
- Obfuscation features with many different encryption options
- Secure proxy browser extensions
- WireGuard VPN support
- Does not work well for streaming
- Fewer features than other leading VPNs
- Limited refund window (7 days)
Refunds and support: All plans come with a 7 day refund window. Support is available via email and they also have a knowledge base with many tutorial guides.
Discounted trial: You can get a discounted one-week trial for only $2 (see the FAQ section in the menu).
The VPN.ac review has more test results and analysis.
VyprVPN – A secure and private Swiss VPN
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
VyprVPN is another VPN service that has been around a long time and has an excellent reputation and track record. This virtual private network is based in Switzerland and checks all the boxes for privacy and security.
One thing that sets VyprVPN apart from many others is that it owns every server in its network, with no rented servers from third parties. This means that VyprVPN’s entire network consists of self-owned colocated servers that are completely under their control. The current number of servers in VyprVPN’s network is around 700.
Like the other top VPN services above, VyprVPN also fully supports the WireGuard VPN protocol. You can use WireGuard with VyprVPN on all major devices and operating systems simply by selecting the protocol in the user settings area. If you are looking for the best VPN for consistently fast speeds, VyprVPN is a solid choice, as you can see below:
Another thing that sets VyprVPN apart from most other services (except Surfshark) is the number of simultaneous connections. With VyprVPN, you get 30 simultaneous connections, which is far above the industry average.
Secure, reliable, and user-friendly VPN apps
One big thing to consider when evaluating the best VPN apps is whether or not they consistently work across all platforms and devices. VyprVPN meets that requirement with flying colors. VyprVPN offers secure and user-friendly VPN apps that connect fast, do not crash, and offer premium speeds.
In terms of streaming support, VyprVPN also does well. They have a large number of servers that work with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and many other services. Additionally, VyprVPN continues to expand their reach and add to this list with other streaming services around the world.
For security, VyprVPN utilizes the AES 256 protocol with OpenVPN and IKEv2 encryption protocols. All VPN apps include a VPN kill switch, secure DNS servers, and excellent leak protection. We could not find any leaks or problems in the tests we ran.
There is not much to dislike about VyprVPN. This service has been a major player in the industry for many years and continues to perform at a high level. While it may not have all the bells and whistles you get with Surfshark and NordVPN, VyprVPN is consistently reliable and just works well for nearly every type of application.
And with the option to have 30 simultaneous connections, you can give a VPN subscription to every person in your house (and all their devices).
- Secure applications with strong encryption
- Excellent speeds with all servers tested
- Full WireGuard support directly in VPN apps
- Chameleon protocol (obfuscation)
- Entirely self-owned server network
- User-friendly apps for many devices/platforms
- Based in Switzerland with an audited no-logs policy
- Requires name for registration
- No cryptocurrency payment options
- Above-average prices
- Fewer features than some other leading VPNs
Refunds and support: All VyprVPN subscriptions come with a 30 day money-back guarantee. Live chat support is available through the website.
Check out our VyprVPN review for more details on this industry veteran.
Perfect Privacy – Best VPN with advanced privacy features
If you are looking to attain the highest levels of privacy and security, Perfect Privacy may be a good choice. It is based in Switzerland with a strict no-logs policy and is run by a dedicated team of privacy enthusiasts. Although it might be overkill for some users, Perfect Privacy offers numerous advanced features to choose from:
- Multi-hop VPN servers: With Perfect Privacy, you can route your traffic across multiple VPN server hops (up to four). This offers a higher level of protection for those who want it. Additionally, the NeuroRouting feature (supported on all devices) dynamically routes traffic across multiple hops in the VPN network.
- Ad/tracking blocker: The TrackStop feature blocks thousands of ads and trackers, as well as malware and phishing domains at the VPN server level. You can also activate a filter to block social media trackers, like some of our other recommended VPNs with ad blocking.
- IPv6 support: Perfect Privacy is one of the few VPNs offering full IPv6 support (you get both an IPv4 and IPv6 address).
- Port forwarding: Perfect Privacy allows you to customize your port forwarding settings, which is ideal if you need a good VPN for torrenting.
- Strong encryption: This VPN secures data using an AES-256 cipher with a 4096-bit key exchange. Users can choose between OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols.
Similar to Surfshark, Perfect Privacy gives users an unlimited number of connections, but at a much higher price. The server network is also smaller than other VPNs, with only 25 locations around the world. However, all of these servers are running on dedicated hardware with high-bandwidth channels to still offer good speeds.
You can use Perfect Privacy with custom apps for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android, along with support for other devices (including iOS). While the apps do not feel quite as polished as some other VPNs, it does offer a lot of features if you need a VPN for Windows or other desktop operating systems.
- Multi-hop VPN chains, up to 4 servers (self-configurable)
- Zero logs with an unlimited number of connections
- Dedicated bare-metal servers with full IPv6 support
- Obfuscation support (Stealth VPN)
- Customizable firewall and port-forwarding options
- TrackStop filter to block ads, trackers, malware, and more
- Does not work well with streaming sites, such as Netflix and Disney Plus
- No iOS VPN app
Refunds and support: 7 day refund window with all subscriptions. Email support is available 24/7 and they also have a user forum.
See the Perfect Privacy review for more test results and analysis.
OVPN – Secure, fast, privacy-focused VPN in Sweden
Next up on our list is OVPN, one of the best VPNs from Sweden. It was started in 2014 with a simple goal to be the “most reliable and trustworthy VPN provider.” They go to great lengths to safeguard the data of their users with a multi-layered approach to security. OVPN’s entire network runs on self-owned dedicated bare-metal servers with ample bandwidth and strong security. All servers operate in RAM-disk without hard drives, multi-hop configurations are supported, and no logs are stored.
OVPN did surprisingly well in our tests, competing among the top VPN providers. It offers secure apps that include built-in leak protection settings, and even has a full GUI Linux client with all features available. While OVPN does offer an Android app, the iOS app remains in development. The WireGuard protocol is also supported, but not directly in the apps, like with NordVPN and Surfshark.
From the very beginning, OVPN has offered a transparent and privacy-focused service. Here are some noteworthy details:
- Transparent and public-facing leadership (can be verified on the website).
- Monthly transparency reports are published going all the way back to 2014.
- OVPN even has insurance that will cover any legal fees necessary to fight against demands for user data by third parties.
- A 2020 court case proved OVPN is true to its no logs VPN policy
- Completely anonymous payments and signup methods
Even though OVPN is a privacy and security-focused service, they still offer some support for streaming services. This includes Netflix and Hulu, although they currently do not support as many streaming channels as NordVPN or Surfshark.
- Designed for maximum user privacy and security
- Dedicated apps for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and support for other devices
- No IP address or DNS leaks detected
- Support for streaming and torrenting
- Lots of configuration options
- Monthly transparency reports
- Multiple payment methods including anonymous payments
- Small server network with few locations
- Above average prices
Refunds and support: 7 day refund window with all subscriptions along with email support (no live chat).
See the OVPN review for more info.
Trust.Zone – Basic VPN with above average performance
Trust.Zone is a smaller, privacy-focused VPN service based in Seychelles, which is another good offshore privacy jurisdiction. It offers basic, user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, iOS, and Android with built-in leak protection. Additionally, Trust.Zone supports other operating systems through third-party apps, such as Tunnelblick and OpenVPN Connect.
Trust.Zone boasts a good selection of servers around the world, despite being a smaller VPN. Prices are quite reasonable at only $2.88/month with the two-year plan. When you pay with cryptocurrencies, you’ll get an automatic 10% discount. They are also offering a coupon code for RestorePrivacy readers (see below).
10% OFF Coupon Code for RestorePrivacy Readers:
Enter the coupon code RESTOREPRIVACY10 and get 10% off any subscription plan.
See the website for subscription plans.
TrustZone now supports the WireGuard protocol, but it requires custom setup and configuration. You will need to download config files from TrustZone and then import these into the WireGuard client. Therefore you cannot simply choose the WireGuard VPN protocol directly in the VPN client, like we see with NordVPN and Surfshark.
Speed tests for the Trust.Zone review were good, with most servers around my full baseline speed. Trust.Zone supports streaming US Netflix and Hulu, and also does not restrict torrenting on their network. It is one of the best VPNs with a free trial, allowing you to test the service without entering any payment info.
- Competitive prices
- Great speeds and reliability
- Good leak protection settings
- Can try the VPN for free
- P2P torrents allowed
- Dedicated IP addresses are available
- Fewer features than competitors
- No custom VPN clients for Mac OS (but still supported)
- Clunky apps
If you want to give Trust.Zone a test run, you can do so completely free for 3 GB of bandwidth or 3 days, whichever comes first.
Refunds and support: TrustZone has a 10 day refund window as long as you don’t exceed 1 GB of data. Support is available through email (no live chat).
See also the Trust.Zone review for more details.
Proton VPN – Simple, private VPN in Switzerland
ProtonVPN is a privacy-focused VPN that was created by the team behind Proton Mail in Switzerland. Since its debut in 2017, ProtonVPN has made some good improvements. Similar to a few of our other recommendations, ProtonVPN also offers double-VPN servers through a Secure Core configuration.
While ProtonVPN is largely a privacy-focused service, it also supports some streaming services. It currently works with American Netflix, Amazon Prime, and is also a good VPN for Disney Plus. But that’s not all. ProtonVPN works if you need a VPN for Hulu and a few other services. Torrenting is allowed on most servers, although speeds were not as good as our top recommendations.
If you want to combine a VPN service with a secure email, you can pick up the Visionary plan that includes both ProtonVPN and ProtonMail – but it’s not cheap. ProtonVPN also offers cheaper subscriptions, including a “Basic” plan at around $4.00 per month.
+ Proton VPN Pros
- Useful privacy features (no leaks)
- Secure server network (secure core)
- Good privacy jurisdiction and data protection policies
- WireGuard VPN support (but not on Linux)
- Transparent company with a good track record
– Proton VPN Cons
- Inconsistent speeds
- Above-average prices
- Restrictions on servers and features
- Limited support for streaming
Refunds and support: ProtonVPN has a 30 day refund policy and provides email support (no live chat).
See the ProtonVPN review for more test results and info.
What is the best VPN for privacy?
Any of the recommended VPNs in this guide would be good choices for privacy and data security. They have all been tested and found to be secure (no leaks), reliable, and operate in safe privacy jurisdictions (outside of Five Eyes countries).
With the exception of VPN.ac, all of the recommended VPNs are no-logs services. Additionally, these two have passed third-party audits verifying their no-logs policies:
- NordVPN has passed three separate no-logs audits performed by PWC in Zurich, Switzerland. It also has an ongoing partnership with Versprite to conduct infrastructure audits and carry out penetration testing to identify and fix any vulnerabilities. NordVPN has successfully converted its server network to only run in RAM-disk, ensuring no data can ever be collected.
- ExpressVPN has also passed two different no-logs audits performed by PWC.
- VyprVPN passed a no-logs audit performed by Leviathon Security Group.
These VPNs offer multi-hop servers (the ability to encrypt your traffic across 2+ VPN servers). This offers a higher level of privacy and security beyond single-hop VPN servers:
- NordVPN: Double-VPN servers and Tor-over-VPN servers
- Surfshark: Double-VPN servers with 13 different configurations around the world.
- VPN.ac: Offers 22 double-VPN servers
- Proton VPN: The Secure Core feature consists of double-VPN server configurations.
- Perfect Privacy: You can create multi-hop servers with every server in their network, with up to four servers. The NeuroRouting feature also routes traffic across multiple servers in the network.
If you are really concerned about achieving the highest level of online anonymity, you can also chain VPN services (using more than one VPN at the same time). This is discussed further below.
What is the best VPN for streaming?
Our top recommendation for streaming right now is NordVPN. Here’s why:
- Full access to all streaming services. NordVPN provides the best access to all major streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, HBO, SkyGo, and many more.
- Fastest VPN speeds to stream media without any pauses, interruptions, or buffering.
- Apps for all streaming devices, including Smart TVs, TV boxes, tablets, computers, phones, gaming systems, and more.
Below I’m using NordVPN to stream American Netflix. NordVPN currently supports the following Netflix regions: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Australia, Italy, India, and more.
Aside from unblocking content around the world, VPNs are also crucial for protecting yourself against ISP snooping and potential copyright issues when streaming from third party sites or when torrenting. (This is discussed more in our VPN for Kodi guide.)
Aside from NordVPN, two other VPNs that have been performing well with streaming lately are Surfshark VPN and ExpressVPN.
What is the top VPN for Android and iOS mobile devices?
We recently tested out numerous VPNs for Android and found the best one to be NordVPN.
NordVPN tops the list as the best VPN for Android and iOS mobile devices for these reasons:
- WireGuard VPN protocol – This protocol performs the best on mobile devices that may go in and out of connectivity. Connections are quick to establish, very stable, and fast.
- Fast speeds – With the WireGuard VPN protocol and an upgraded network of dedicated servers, NordVPN is faster than ever before. It outperforms other VPNs and will give mobile users excellent performance.
- Great mobile apps – I really like NordVPN’s mobile apps (both Android and iOS) for two reasons. First, they are very secure with reliable leak protection features and strong encryption. Second, they include all of the main features of the desktop client, including CyberSec, WireGuard support, and all specialty servers.
- Better battery life – With NordVPN’s WireGuard implementation, you will find your mobile battery life is better than with the OpenVPN protocol used by most other VPNs.
We also have a guide on the best VPNs for iPhone and iOS devices.
Surfshark, VyprVPN, and VPN.ac also offer great Android VPN clients.
How to get the best VPN performance and speeds
How can you achieve the best speed and performance with your VPN?
If you are using a top-rated VPN service, you shouldn’t notice a huge reduction in speed. Of course, the extra work that goes into encrypting your traffic across VPN servers will affect speed, but usually it’s not noticeable for regular browsing, especially if you’re using a nearby server.
Here are some tips for getting the best VPN speeds and reliability:
- Use the closest server possible to your physical location. This generally reduces latency and improves performance.
- Choose the least crowded server or “recommended” server. Some VPNs help you select the best VPN server by showing server bandwidth loads or having “recommended” servers based on distance and loading.
- Experiment with different VPN protocols. OpenVPN UDP offers the best mix of security and speed. WireGuard is the fastest VPN protocol we’ve tested. Trying different VPN protocols and encryption options may help to find the best fit for your network.
- Consider antivirus and WiFi interference. Sometimes antivirus software or other WiFi networks may interfere with VPN speeds.
- Use a wired (ethernet) connection rather than WiFi. Wired connections (with high-quality ethernet cables) generally provide faster and more consistent speeds than WiFi, and are also more secure than WiFi.
- Consider processing power. Processing power on your device may also be limiting speeds, especially if you are using a VPN router.
- Consider your operating system. I’ve found VPN speeds on Linux and Mac OS to generally be better than Windows. When using a VPN on Windows, sometimes the TAP adapter will interfere with speeds, as well as background processes/updates that take up bandwidth and processing power.
- Upgrade your internet connection. Your VPN will not be able to exceed the baseline connection speed of your internet provider.
As you can see, there are many different factors affecting speed. Experimenting with these different variables will help you achieve the best VPN speeds possible.
Are VPNs safe?
First we will address the issue of safety.
If you are using a good, reputable VPN service that effectively secures your traffic (no leaks), then yes, a VPN is safe to use. But therein lies the catch because there are many unsafe VPNs on the market, especially when it comes to free VPN services, which we will explain further below.
Are VPNs legal?
In general, the answer is yes, it is perfectly legal (and normal!) to use VPNs, even if you are in places like China where VPNs are restricted. VPNs are used every day by businesses and individuals throughout the world for basic privacy and security purposes. Businesses rely on VPN technology and encryption for security reasons and it would not make sense for this to ever become illegal.
That being said, China currently has a “ban” on non-approved VPN services that do not go along with state censorship requirements. The United Arab Emirates and a few other Gulf State countries have laws against people using VPNs to evade state censorship, which we covered in our guide on the best VPNs for UAE. Fortunately, this is not an issue in Western countries, where VPNs remain a safe, legal, and popular tool. (But of course, none of this is legal advice!)
VPN jurisdiction, privacy, and trust
If you are serious about privacy and data security, you need to consider where the VPN is based (jurisdiction). We have seen many examples of privacy-focused services being compromised by governments in the countries where they operate. This is often the case with the United States and United Kingdom, which are both members of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance.
Let’s examine the United States, for example, and how VPNs based in the US could be affected.
- The United States has extensive (and powerful) surveillance programs allowing authorities to tap internet infrastructure for bulk data collection. These laws give the different agencies tremendous power to snoop on and record your digital activities.
- The US government has a long history of working with (and forcing) private tech companies to facilitate mass surveillance and bulk data collection efforts – see the PRISM program.
- US VPN services could be served National Security Letters or other lawful data collection demands, while also being prohibited from disclosing anything to their customers through gag orders.
These laws and capabilities essentially give some governments the authority to compel a legitimate privacy-focused company to become a data collection tool for state agencies. If a VPN were to be compromised, it would likely happen behind closed doors, without a word (or warning) to the users.
VPN services in risky jurisdictions have been forced to log users
Just take a look at the case with Lavabit. Rather than comply with the lawful requests for user data and encryption keys, the founder was basically forced to shut down the business.
The same circumstances unfolded with Riseup, a Seattle-based service that offers a VPN and secure email:
After exhausting our legal options, Riseup recently chose to comply with two sealed warrants from the FBI, rather than facing contempt of court (which would have resulted in jail time for Riseup birds and/or termination of the Riseup organization).
There was a “gag order” that prevented us from disclosing even the existence of these warrants until now. This was also the reason why we could not update our “Canary” [warrant canary that warns users about these events].
Ignoring jurisdiction (where the service is based) when selecting privacy tools could put your privacy and security at risk.
What is the best FREE VPN service?
When searching for a VPN service, many people are looking for the free version — but there’s no good way to cut corners. We generally do not recommend free VPN services because they are not safe.
“When something is free, you are the product.”
This famous quote certainly holds true for “free” VPNs because you are likely paying for the service with your private data, which is sold to third parties. Recent news also confirms free VPN apps are being used to deliver financial malware.
Free VPN services will offer a free product that collects your data for profit. Here a few well-documented reasons showing why free VPN services are risky:
- Malware – Malware is often hidden in free VPN services to collect your data. One study found malware in 38% of free VPN apps for Android devices.
- Tracking – Tracking libraries hidden in free VPNs are also used for data collection. The popular Betternet free VPN app was found to contain 14 different tracking libraries.
- Third party access to your data – Everything you do through a free VPN could be provided to third parties – and many VPNs explicitly state this in their privacy policies. Hotspot Shield was publicly called out for doing this by the Center for Democracy and Technology.
- Browser hijacking – Some free VPNs have been found to hijack and redirect browsers to e-commerce sites, such as Alibaba and eBay, through partner networks.
- Traffic leaks – This is perhaps the greatest risk for people using a free VPN because it exposes your identity. One study found that 84% of free Android VPN apps leaked user data, thereby rendering the VPN useless.
The general consensus in various forums on free VPNs is to avoid, as we discussed in our guide on the best VPNs according to Reddit. With that being said, there are some decent freemium VPN services, such as with ProtonVPN and PrivadoVPN. These offer a basic and limited free version, as well as premium (paid) plans.
Even if you are just a casual streaming user, such as using a VPN for Amazon Prime, you will still want to avoid risky free VPN apps.
What devices can you use with a VPN?
A VPN can work with nearly any device that connects to the internet:
- Computers – Whether you’re running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or even a Chromebook, you will be able to use a VPN on your computer. Installation and setup options will depend on the VPN service you go with.
- Phones and tablets – VPNs are also very popular on phones and tablets. Whether you are running Android or iOS, you will be able to use your VPN on any smart phone or tablet. Ubuntu Touch should also work with a VPN.
- Routers – When you install the VPN on your router, all the devices that connect to your router will be using the encrypted VPN tunnel – without the need to install VPN software on each device. The router will only count as one VPN connection under your subscription, even if there are numerous devices using the router’s encrypted VPN connection. There are some important considerations before you do this – see my VPN router guide for setup tips.
- TV boxes – Most TV boxes are built on the Android operating system. This means that you can install a VPN on your TV box using your VPN service’s Android app. Check with your VPN provider for instructions.
- Smart TVs – Whether or not you can use a VPN on your smart TV will depend on the type of smart TV you have and whether your VPN supports it. Android-based smart TVs can use an Android VPN app.
- Fire Stick and Fire TV – VPNs can also be used on Fire Stick and Fire TV. For more information, see the best VPN for Firestick and Fire TV guide.
Conclusion: Use a good VPN in 2023
In a world with eroding digital privacy, it’s crucial to use a VPN to not only restore privacy, but also to access the content you want. Many services, including Netflix, are now restricting access using various parameters. A VPN remains the best tool to access the content you want from anywhere in the world.
In this guide, we examined the top-rated VPNs that met all of our criteria. These services passed all tests with no data leaks. They also offer good speeds, reliable VPN apps, and strong encryption standards. Additionally, they are located in safe privacy jurisdictions and have an established track record and good reputation.
And for those who are on a budget, you may want to check out our guide on the best VPN coupons that are currently working now.
That’s all for now. Stay safe, secure, and private online in 2023 and beyond!
This best VPN guide was last updated on March 2, 2023 with new info and test results.
So as one can see from the below 500 word reviews, Nord VPN has lesser cons and the cons are not deal breaker; Surfshark VPN has more features than Nord VPN albeit some key features are in the form of affordable addon, is priced more competitively than Nord and has unlimited simultaneous connections and has more much more locations covered.
In the nutshell Surfshark VPN has more features but few more cons too while Nord VPN is more well rounded without necessarily lacking anything.
Previously Surfshark VPN was behind Nord VPN but now both are neck and neck. In my opinion if IPs being blacklisted and CAPTCHAS are not a deal breaker then for an average Joe Surfshark VPN is the better choice.
I would say go for Surfshark VPN.
My Nord VPN review in 500 words:
PROS:- Fast Speeds; No leaks; Stable connections; Sufficient servers, IPs and locations; Great PC and Android Apps; Numerous well implemented security and privacy features; Static IPs; Obfuscated Servers; RAM only servers; IPs not blacklisted; Dedicated IP available; Unblocks Str.; Fast, professional and helpful support; Independently Audited; Privacy friendly jurisdiction; CONS:- Expensive subscription renewal price and monthly price; NOT CONSISTENT as performance varies from server to server;
My Surfshark VPN review in 500 words:
PROS:- Fast Speeds; No leaks; Stable connections; Lots of servers, IPs and locations; Great Android App; Numerous well implemented security and privacy features; Static IPs; Unlimited connections; Unblocks Str.; RAM servers; SShk NEXUS; Fast, friendly and helpful support; Independently Audited; Additional paid security and privacy Addons; CONS:- Expensive subscription renewal price and monthly price; IPs blacklisted leading to CAPTCHAS and blocks; Slow Open VPN speeds; PC app is slow and clunky.
Hi RP Community,
NordVPN latest Realise notes:
We’ve redesigned the Threat Protection experience! Threat Protection is now divided into “Web protection” and “File protection” for more clarity and convenience.
Fixed: The issue of Threat Protection suddenly causing high CPU usage and network problems (*ouch*) has been solved.”
Hi RP Community,
NordVPN Threat Protection (NTP) fails again.
A major international financial institution I am a customer of was blocking services to me, and I isolated this to having NTP activated or inactivated. It clearly and demonstratively works with NTP ‘off’ and clearly and demonstratively fails with NTP ‘on’. Further, once testing these major sites, NTP ‘on’ – ‘off’ a few times (less then 10 times), they fingerprint the browser and block access completely.
NTP doesn’t work well.
Major Corps have fingerprinting tech which is well beyond privacy browsers – sure disabling JS may defeat this fingerprinting but then when JS is disabled, they block access because JS is disabled.
The sites I have come across with these capabilities are companies who use Cloudflare, a major international bank I am a customer of, and a major government new agency. If these organisations what to fingerprint you they will, and if they can’t they will block you.
In practice NordVPN ‘Threat Protection’ is full of bugs.
Today it was slamming my CPU. Not even my AV runs my CPU continuously at 100%.
Previously, ‘Threat Protection’ by Nord, was being flagged by Cloudflare.
-Buggie software – should be still in beta.
Love is Empathy and Dignity
@BoBeX Sir I beg to differ. On my pc Threat Protection by Nord is very CPU efficient.
Hi @Love is Empathy and Dignity,
A fair assessment of a service comes from a range of testers.
I am glad you shared your experience.
Ambrosial Skunk 🦨
Hi Sven Sir,
What are your views on self hosted VPNs? Suppose a user is technical enough to be able to self host VPNs for his or her personal needs, should he or she make the effort to self host VPN or pay for a trustworthy VPN provider? Which is better for online security and privacy point of view?
Hi @Ambrosial_Skunk, Self hosted VPNs are not usually recommended for privacy. If you actually are technical enough to self-host a vpn you would be not here asking this question.
In short, a self hosted VPN will not mix your traffic with other users.
By all means set up a self hosted VPN, just think of it as an educational exercise and not a privacy tool.
I found only Express VPN is completely transparent with the number of server locations (data centres) they have. This information is located on their website and you don’t need to be a premium member.
As an example. Express VPN for Canada have 4 locations: two in Toronto, one in Montreal, and one in Vancouver. This seems quite common. Whereas the heavily promoted Surfshark and NordVPN won’t reveal the same information even when contacting their support team. NordVPN claims so many data centres but in reality only a few work, say, 4 for Canada that work.
As such, the importance of trying before you buy is imperative/prudent in choosing a VPN provider. I think this is something this site should remind everyone.