Downloading the best VPN for your computer and smartphone in 2020 is a piece of cake. In addition to being the ideal way to help you safely use the internet and bypass blocked websites, the best VPN services will also give you access to the latest Netflix movies and shows abroad, secure streaming, and much more.
The abbreviation VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’. A VPN service allows you to change your IP address and ‘spoof’ (trick) to a secure server. This way you surf anonymously online and the VPN makes your laptop or smartphone think it is in a different location. It is no surprise that the best VPN services have become so popular, and in some cases are also being purchased to replace or extend traditional online security programs.
It is also not surprising that there are so many VPN services. Compare the current market to two or three years ago and the amount of options is overwhelming. Fortunately, we have tested and rated over a hundred of the best VPNs (and the worst!) To come to a final top list, along with the most important information and specifications for each option.
So whatever you plan to do with your new VPN service, we give you the confidence that you are installing the right VPN service and that you are avoiding a VPN service that can be dangerous.
What Is The Best VPN?
The best VPN at the moment is ExpressVPN . It is the best all-round option for speed, privacy, and website unblocking. A close second is Surfshark, a VPN that is simply incredibly easy to use and is an ideal VPN service for beginners.
Furthermore, NordVPN (one of the most famous players) is a very good third option, especially in terms of streaming and security. Read more about these VPNs and their competitors below.
ExpressVPN provides access to over 3,000 servers in 160 locations in 94 countries, along with arguably the most comprehensive platform support you can find anywhere.
We are not just talking about native clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. There’s a custom firmware for some routers, DNS content unblocking for a wide range of media streamers and smart TVs, and surprisingly well-functioning VPN browser extensions.
All that functionality can sound intimidating to VPN beginners, but ExpressVPN goes above and beyond to help. An excellent support website is filled with detailed guides and tutorials to get you started. And if you’re in trouble, 24/7 live chat support is available to answer your questions. It works: we got a helpful answer from a knowledgeable support representative within minutes of posting our question.
The good news continues elsewhere, with ExpressVPN delivering in almost every area. Bitcoin payments? Of course. P2P support? Yes. Unblock Netflix? Of course. Professional encryption, kill switch, DNS leak protection, solid and reliable performance, and a clear no-logging policy? You have it all.
Cons? We can only name a few. ExpressVPN supports five simultaneous connections per user (recently increased from three) and comes with a premium price tag. But if you want fast service, with top-notch features and with all the support you need to use them, ExpressVPN is a good choice. While they don’t have a free trial, ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the service.
Surfshark is known as a playful VPN. But when it comes to keeping you and your online identity safe, it’s very professional.
The base is and includes OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 security protocols, AES-256 encryption, and a kill switch to prevent your data from leaking if your connection is lost. Also, Surfshark has its DNS and an extra security blanket via a double VPN hop. Not to mention a logging policy that only tracks your email address and billing information. This VPN is also fast whether you’re connecting to a US or UK server or somewhere further away – for example, in Australia and New Zealand. Useful if you are trying to access your Netflix account from abroad.
If you’re someone who is quickly put off by complicated menus and myriad options, Surfshark might just be the best VPN for you. Its interface is very simple. All you see are the options for ‘Quick connect’ and ‘All locations’, accompanied by a settings icon and nothing else. Whether that level of detail (or lack thereof) is a blessing or a curse depends entirely on your perspective.
One of our favorite aspects of this VPN service (in addition to the price) is the fact that your subscription covers an unlimited number of devices and services. So if you plan to use your VPN on your laptop, desktop (compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux), tablet, a few smartphones (iOS and Android) that one account will be enough.
Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have plenty of time to try it before committing to it for a longer period. Even then, the annual plans are still very reasonably priced.
NordVPN‘s current products beat or equal competition in almost every area.
You can choose from over 5,700 servers in over 80 countries, 2048-bit encryption, standard support for 6 devices, strong DNS security, kill switches (application-specific and system-wide), proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers, and with payment options that include Bitcoin, PayPal and credit cards.
There’s also a fast, smart DNS-like SmartPlay feature that can be used to bypass geo-restrictions and unblock a wide range of streaming and other services.
Our performance tests have shown that Nord has greatly improved from previous tests, connecting to all servers each time. And the download speeds were well above average on all connections except the most distant.
If we see a tricky point, it is the user experience that NordVPN provides. Only small things like the destinations that are not in alphabetical order or we found our way but not through the different menus looking for more advanced settings. But these are fairly minor negatives.
After the recent news that the VPN was hacked in 2018, Nord seems to have taken all the right steps to hone its security measures. We will, of course, keep a close eye on future developments in this area.
NordVPN has several options available, including monthly subscriptions and a special offer offering excellent value for three years. If you want to try the service before purchasing a subscription, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you want something much better than one of the best free VPNs, NordVPN is a natural choice.
IPVanish is another strong candidate in our VPN tests. The service also has some impressive numbers: 40,000+ shared IPs, 1,400+ VPN servers in over 70 countries, unlimited P2P traffic, ten simultaneous connections, and 24/7 customer support. Regarding the support, we are very happy that you are directly connected to it via the app for Android or iOS.
The apps are a big plus. Not only are there a lot of them (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, even Fire TV), but they are packed with unusual features, options, and settings, which throw the horrible “list of flags and a connect button” overboard.
The good news continued when we did some tests. Servers were always live and connected quickly; download speeds were above average; torrents are supported on every server and we were able to unblock Netflix in the US.
There are also some problems. The apps are powerful, but that means there’s a lot to learn, and we’ve noticed a few minor issues. A small number of servers turned out not to be in the locations indicated, and there is no kill switch in the iOS app.
If you need the ten simultaneous connections or the power and configurability of the apps, choose this VPN service. If you’re somehow dissatisfied, you’re protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost is a popular VPN service, based in Romania and Germany, whose combination of power and ease of use has won over ten million users.
The app interface is a major highlight. CyberGhost doesn’t just let you guess which server to use to unblock a website, for example. Just choose a geo-blocked service from the list – Netflix, Hulu, YouTube – and the app will automatically connect to the best server and open a browser window at the target location. That’s what we call handy.
There are also plenty of extras. The service can block ads, trackers, and malicious websites. Automated HTTPS redirect ensures you always have the most secure connection. Optional data compression can save money on mobile devices.
But it is not all good news. The desktop interface can seem complicated, the customer service doesn’t like it, the trial version for PCs only takes 24 hours, and while the speed in the US and Europe is good, a few of our long-distance connections barely reached 10Mb.
Overall, however, CyberGhost offers you a lot of unusual features for a very fair price, and it’s worth a closer look. There is also a 45-day money-back guarantee, which is very decent.
How Do You Choose A VPN?
There are several factors to consider when choosing a paid VPN. Here are six tips.
1. Does the plan have servers in every country and region you need? Having more than one server in a country can help spread traffic, but does not guarantee better performance, so don’t assume that a 500-server subscription will automatically beat another 100-server option.
2. Check the number of supported simultaneous connections. This is usually 3-5, which allows you to connect a PC, mobile phone, and tablet at the same time. But beware, many companies say this is for one user only, and they all have fair usage policies to keep people from consuming resources. If you let the whole family download and stream videos separately, you will run into problems.
3. Some providers list the connection protocols they use. OpenVPN and IKeV2 are good choices, fast and safe. You can see SSTP and the older PPTP, but also protocol options (TCP or UDP for OpenVPN). You don’t need to understand the technical details, but the extra options can help the service to make faster and/or more reliable connections.
5. It is important to consider the client (the software that controls your connections). These all have a list of servers and a Connect / Disconnect button, but could you use more? Some versions display loading and ping time in the interface so you can choose the right server. Regular users can appreciate a “Favorites” system to store and reuse specific servers. If you know what you are doing, accessing network settings will help you fine-tune the entire system.
6. And finally the price. Beware of seemingly cheap deals: these can have limited options, give a discount only for the first billing period, and renew automatically. Search for a Price link, read the fine print, and if possible use something like PayPal, which allows you to easily check and cancel a subscription yourself.
Once you’ve found a good VPN, try it out before spending a lot of money. A short trial period can tell you something, so once it has expired, pay for a month, run as many tests as you can, and upgrade to a cheaper (and usually longer) subscription if you’re satisfied.
Are VPNs legal?
VPNs are legal in most of the world, but some countries have banned VPNs altogether or have severely restricted their use. Those rules are more relevant to the people who live there than to the people who travel there: we are not aware of tourists being thrown into the bin using a VPN to secure their hotel wifi.
In countries that do restrict the use of VPNs, there is often a distinction between approved and unapproved services. In China, for example, VPNs have to be approved by the Chinese government (Read: They probably won’t hide your data from the government). If you use an unapproved VPN, you can be fined.
In the United Arab Emirates, you can even be fined more than half a million dollars and/or jailed for using a VPN. It’s a similar story in Russia, while in Iran using an unapproved VPN can send you to prison. In Uganda, ISPs block all VPN services, Oman prohibits unauthorized services, and Iraq, Belarus, and Turkmenistan prohibit all VPNs. North Korea too.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, there is no prohibition and you can safely use any VPN in this list.
For example, we test VPN services
We looked for features, value for money, and clear, fair prices. Freeways to learn about a service – free subscriptions, trial periods, refund periods – were important, and we also looked for companies that maintained your privacy when you signed up (no email address required, trials available without credit cards, Bitcoin available as a payment option).
VPN performance is difficult to measure because there are so many variables, but we’ve used multiple ways to try to measure the capabilities of each service. We first used speedtest.net to measure the latency, upload and download speeds for a remote connection, immediately repeated the test with the VPN disabled, and looked for any changes.
We followed this up with a much shorter connection to see a more typical peak performance, did a second benchmark to confirm our results, and ran some general browse tests – including streaming HD videos – to look for other issues.
VPNs will always give you a new IP address, but some services may have DNS or other leaks that indicate your identity. We visited IPLeak.net and other privacy sites to find issues.
At the client and interface, we were looking for good server selection tools (by country, region, server, speed, with filters, a Favorites system, display of loading and ping time per server), with many configuration options, but also a client that stays when you don’t need it.