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The 10 Fastest VPN Services (2023 Update)

By Tibor Moes / November 2022

Why do you need a VPN? Hackers steal your sensitive data, and advertisers track your browsing history. With a VPN, you can surf the internet anonymously.

  • Protection from identity theft. When you use VPN, hackers won’t have access to your data, even on public Wi-Fi.
  • Stopping advertisers from tracking you. If you use a VPN, advertisers won’t be able to follow you on the internet.
  • Streaming without boundaries. VPNs hide your IP address, allowing you complete freedom when streaming.

The fastest VPN service increases digital safety without sacrificing download speed or ping.

CyberGhost VPN - The best VPN

CyberGhost VPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

CyberGhost is the best affordable VPN of 2023. It’s ultra-fast, private, and secure. And it temporarily offers deep discounts.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 45-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 91 countries
✓ Protect: 7 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN - The most advanced VPN

NordVPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN of 2023. It has the best privacy technology (RAM-Servers and Double VPN) and a beautiful design.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 30-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 59 countries
✓ Protect: 6 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Ranking of the best VPN services of 2023

We have tested cybersecurity software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 4 from 30 paid and free VPN services (Virtual Private Networks).

Click the links or scroll down for more.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost VPN Review

Ranked #1 out of 30 VPNs

CyberGhost VPN Review

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CyberGhost VPN Review

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test. It also has the lowest price and the biggest server network. It's one of the best VPN services you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix US, Disney, Amazon, HBO Max, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on P2P servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 9,000 Servers in 91 countries
  • Connections: 7
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.64
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 45 days

Streaming

CyberGhost has dedicated streaming servers for Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and more.

Torrenting

CyberGhost has optimized P2P servers. It is an excellent VPN for torrenting, thanks to its kill switch, IP- and DNS-leak protection, and no logs policy.

Privacy

CyberGhost has a strict no-logs policy: It does not monitor or record what you do online, and it does not store your IP address. Therefore, you are completely anonymous when using CyberGhost.

Ownership

CyberGhost is owned and operated by CyberGhost S.A. from Romania. Its parent company is Kape Technologies from the UK, which also owns ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and ZenMate.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN services:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

CyberGhost applies the most important security and privacy features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling (on Windows and Android)
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP

But it lacks RAM-only servers and Double VPN, which NordVPN does offer.

Censorship

CyberGhost does not use obfuscation technology, which hides your VPN usage. Therefore, it is not the right VPN for high-censorship countries like China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, or the UAE.

Servers

CyberGhost has a huge number of servers: 9,000 in 91 countries.

60 Countries have physical servers within their borders, while the other 31 are virtual servers. Although virtual servers are not located within the indicated country, they will give you a local IP address from that country.

It also offers specialized servers:

  • Servers optimized for P2P
  • Servers optimized for streaming
  • Servers with static IP addresses
  • Servers with dedicated IP addresses
  • Fully owned NoSpy servers

Devices

You can install CyberGhost on 7 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and a range of routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Prices

CyberGhost has the lowest 1-year price in the industry.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is CyberGhost VPN the best VPN software of 2023?

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test and has the most affordable 1-year contract. On top of that, it is secure, private, and has one of the largest server networks. It's excellent.

You can try CyberGhost risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN

NordVPN Review

Ranked #2 out of 30 VPNs

NordVPN Review

NordVPN Review

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service you can buy. It uses the latest privacy technology, like RAM servers and double VPN, and works in China. It's one of the best VPN providers you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on 80% of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 5,600 Servers in 59 countries
  • Connections: 6
  • 1-Year Price: € 52.68
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

NordVPN unblocks Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Torrenting

NordVPN allows torrenting on most of its servers. On top of that, it has optimized P2P servers for extra high download speeds.

Thanks to its no-logs policy, kill switch, DNS- and IP-leak blocking, it is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

NordVPN has a strict no-log policy. So it does not record your IP address or online activities. It was the first VPN company to subject its privacy policy to an independent audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ownership

NordVPN is owned and operated by NordVPN S.A. from Panama. Its parent company, Nord Security, merged with the parent company of SurfShark to form Cyberspace BV in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN providers:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It includes both the mainstream security features and the highly advanced ones:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Meshnet (on Windows and Linux)

NordVPN is also available in a bundle, including NordLocker (encrypted cloud storage) and NordPass (password manager and data breach scanner).

Censorship

NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that work in highly censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. This is thanks to its obfuscation technology that hides your VPN traffic.

Servers

NordVPN has an extensive VPN server network, with 5,600 servers in 59 countries. They are all physical servers, meaning every server is located within the country's borders.

It also offers specialty servers:

  • P2P servers
  • Streaming servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers
  • Onion over VPN servers
  • Obfuscated servers

Devices

You can install NordVPN on 6 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Considering that NordVPN is the most advanced VPN, it is a bargain.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is NordVPN the best VPN service of 2023?

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN software you can buy, thanks to its RAM servers, double VPN, Onion over VPN, and obfuscated servers.

You can try NordVPN risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

SurfShark VPN

Surfshark VPN Review

Ranked #3 out of 30 VPNs

SurfShark VPN Review

Surfshark VPN Review

Surfshark offers the best value for money. It is fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. It's one of the best VPN programs you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 3,200 Servers in 95 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.88
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

Surfshark can stream Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

Torrenting

Surfshark allows P2P file-sharing on all of its servers and offers optimized P2P servers for higher download speeds. Due to its kill-switch, no-logs policy, and leak-blocking, Surfshark is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

Surfshark has a clear no-logs policy. It does not track what you do online and does not store your IP address. In 2021, Surfshark underwent an independent server audit by Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm.

Ownership

Surfshark BV from the Netherlands owns Surfshark. In 2022, its parent company merged with Nord Security, creating the holding company Cyberspace BV, also located in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN programs:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

After NordVPN, Surfshark is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It covers all mainstream and advanced features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Rotating IP
  • Override GPS Location on Android

Next to its VPN service, Surfshark also offers antivirus software, personal data breach alert, and a private search engine. These features are sold separately or together with the VPN in SurfShark One.

Censorship

Thanks to its Camouflage and NoBorders Mode, Surfshark works well in censored countries like Russia, the UAE, Turkey, and Iran. However, it does not consistently work in China.

Servers

Surfshark has an extensive network, with 3,200 servers in 95 countries. However, some of these servers are virtual. That means that although you get a local IP address from the country of your choice, the physical server is located in a different country.

Surfshark also offers specialized servers, including:

  • P2P servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers (Multihop servers)

Devices

Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Surfshark's price is excellent. Especially considering that you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is Surfshark the best VPN service of 2023?

Surfshark offers the best value for money in the VPN industry. It is advanced, affordable, and allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices. It is one of the best VPN deals out there.

You can try Surfshark risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

IPVanish VPN

IPVanish Review

Ranked #4 out of 30 VPNs

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish: Temporarily get 61% OFF  🔥

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish is an excellent VPN. It's fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. However, it's not as advanced as the others in this list and has a smaller server network.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix USA, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 2,000 Servers in 50 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: $ 47.89
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

IPVanish is not the best VPN service for streaming. Although it works with Netflix in the United States, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, it has problems with streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

Torrenting

IPVanish allows torrenting on all its servers. And thanks to its no-log policy, kill switch, and no DNS leaks, it is a safe option to do so. The kill switch is necessary because it will block the internet traffic if the VPN connection drops.

Privacy

IPVanish has a clear no-logs policy. However, in 2018, it handed user data to the US government. Data it wasn't supposed to have, according to its log policy. Since then, it has changed owners twice, but the reputation remains.

Speed

We test every VPN service on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN connection set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the fastest VPN connections:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

IPVanish is the only VPN in our comparison that owns all of its servers and doesn't rely on third-party server parks, which is excellent. That said, it is not the most advanced VPN in our test.

It includes the following mainstream features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling

But it misses many of the advanced features:

  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers

Censorship

IPVanish does not work in censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Turkey, or Russia.

Servers

IPVanish has 2,000 VPN servers in 50 countries. All servers are physically located within the country and entirely owned by IPVanish. Because it doesn't rely on third-party server providers, it has complete control over the hardware and software, which theoretically should increase its security.

Devices

IPVanish allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. But it has no browser extensions.

Prices

IPVanish has a very attractive price, especially as you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is IPVanish the best VPN provider of 2023?

IPVanish is fast, secure, and affordable. It owns its entire server network and allows you to install the software on unlimited devices. But it's not the most advanced VPN in our test and not the best option for streaming.

You can try IPVanish risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Comparison table of the best VPN services 

CyberGhost
NordVPN
Surfshark
IPVanish
Icon
CyberGhost VPN Icon
NordVPN Icon
Surfshark VPN Icon
IPVanish VPN Icon
Ranking
#1 / 30
#2 / 30
#3 / 30
#4 / 30
Logging Policy
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
Operating Company
CyberGhost S.A. (Romania)
NordVPN S.A. (Panama)
Surfshark BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
Holding Company
Kape Technologies PLC (UK)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
VPN Protocols
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, NordLynx (WireGuard)
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
Encryption
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
US Netflix




Torrenting




VPN Kill Switch




Split Tunneling




Ad & Tracker Blocker



No
Smart DNS



No
First-Party DNS


No

Dedicated IP


No
No
Double VPN
No


No
RAM Servers
No


No
Works in China
No


No
Countries
91
59
95
50
Servers
9,000+
5,600+
3,200+
2,000+
Speed on WireGuard or proprietary protocol
825-850 Mbps
725-800 Mbps
700-800 Mbps
700-725 Mbps
Comptatible Devices
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Number of Connections
7
6
Unlimited
Unlimited
1-Month Price
€ 12.65
€ 10.49
€ 12.95
$ 10.99
1-Year Price
€ 47.64
€ 52.68
€ 47.88
$ 47.89
2-Year Price
€ 74.88
€ 69.36
€ 59.76
-
3-Year Price
€ 82.29
-
-
-
Customer Support
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
Free Trial
1 Day
7 Days
7 Days
No
Money Back Guarantee
45 Days
30 Days
30 Days
30 Days

How we test the fastest VPN services

Our tests included 30 VPN services, both free and premium. We tested them on all major operating systems: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Here are 16 areas we consider and how we analyze them.

> Test 1: Logging policy

What is a logging policy?

While a VPN keeps your information safe from others, the service provider may track your behavior themselves. This is because a VPN service can act much like an ISP (internet service provider). The only thing that can limit the service’s access to your data is its privacy policy.

Since your internet traffic goes through a VPN server, all that data can be tracked. That’s why it’s important to review the provider’s logging policy. Anything related to data tracking must be revealed in that document.

However, the language used in the policy can often be hard to understand. In fact, some providers will use confusing terms on purpose to hide their intent to use your information. Nearly a third of VPN services monitor the IP addresses of their users, and around 5% track online behavior.

What do we test for?

We perform a thorough analysis of the logging policies of all tested VPN services. Our experts can decode the confusing language and determine whether the provider tracks private data or not. For instance, there’s no problem if the VPN collects information on server load or bandwidth usage.

However, if we determine that the provider collects originating IP addresses or browsing habits, that’s a severe issue. The best VPN services will clear such data as soon as your browsing session ends.

> Test 2: Ownership

What do we mean by ownership?

Although VPNs have specific names that may not remind you of other companies, they usually aren’t independent. Instead, a VPN provider could be a part of a different, larger company. Because of that, the parent company has the same access to your data as the VPN service.

Matters become more complicated when you consider that the parent company may not be from the same country as the VPN provider. This means that the two brands might be subject to different laws. Your provider may be in a country that prohibits data collection, but the parent company could be in a location where such activity is allowed.

Our research found that several companies own a large number of VPN providers. This information is crucial because researching those parent companies can help you learn more about their VPN services. Here are the largest companies we’ve found and the VPNs they own:

  • Kape Technologies (United Kingdom): Private Internet Access, ExpressVPN, ZenMate, CyberGhost VPN.
  • Ziff Davis (United States): Perimeter 81, IPVanish, SaferVPN, Buffered VPN, Encrypt.me, StrongVPN, and more.
  • Aura (or Pango) (United States). JustVPN, Hotspot Shield, and TouchVPN. The company also provides VPN solutions for Panda, Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and others.
  • CyberSpace (Netherlands). Atlas VPN, Surfshark, NordVPN.
  • Gaditek (Pakistan). Unblock VPN, Ivacy VPN, PureVPN.

What do we test for?

In our testing, we research the history and current state of the parent company. Then, we look at the laws and regulations regarding data collection in its location. Finally, we search for past incidents concerning cybersecurity and user privacy.

Some of the highlights from our research include Kape Technologies and Ziff Davis. Kape Technologies changed its name in 2018. Until then, the company was called Crossrider and produced browser extensions. However, after a scandal involving malware and ad injection, the company rebranded.

Ziff Davis, meanwhile, had a major incident in 2016, when it was discovered that IPVanish, one of the company’s VPNs, gave user data to Homeland Security.

> Test 3: Independent audit

What is an independent audit?

If you’ve seen an ad for a VPN service, you’ve probably heard about “military-grade” encryption and the provider’s “zero-log” policy. These are general terms and buzzwords that promise a lot but actually say little. While it’s normal for companies to use such language in marketing, it doesn’t reveal much about the service.

Independent audits provide much more reliable information. Many VPN providers have tested their policies and server infrastructures using independent auditors. The audit is done on a specific infrastructure element. The purpose of the process is to assess how well the selected aspect functions.

Here are some examples of independent audits hired by larger VPN companies:

  • ExpressVPN was audited in 2019 to assess its TrustedServer technology. The purpose was to see if the service deleted all the user data upon reboot.
  • Private Internet Access had an independent audit in 2022. The goal of the audit was to investigate server environment issues in terms of the company’s privacy policy.
  • NordVPN audited the configuration of their server infrastructure and tested for technical problems in logging. This audit expanded to the company’s employees.
  • Surfshark hired an independent audit to assess possible issues with its server infrastructure.

What do we test for?

We can learn a lot about a VPN company from their independent audits. Firstly, it’s worth noting whether the company ever performed such audits or not. With that in mind, we search for the results to see if any critical flaws were uncovered. Plus, the results of an independent audit can confirm or refute the provider’s claims.

> Test 4: Available VPN protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

When you connect to a VPN, your traffic goes through the provider’s app and the corresponding protocol. This protocol regulates encryption, data transfer, device recognition, and more. VPN services use different protocols, and those can change the user experience. For instance, some protocols will provide better connectivity and faster speeds than others. Crucially, some will be safer for users.

Examples of the most widely used protocols include:

  • OpenVPN: An open-source protocol, OpenVPN is a favorite of many VPN services. The protocol is very secure, fast, and versatile. It provides support for major operating systems and allows servers to make various adjustments.
  • WireGuard: This is another open-source protocol, but it represents next-generation technology. It can be used to improve other VPN protocols like IPsec and Open VPN while boosting download speeds.
  • L2TP/IPSec: This VPN protocol is somewhat old-school, particularly when it comes to speed. The protocol isn’t as fast as some modern variants but it’s straightforward to use.
  • IKEv2: Made by Microsoft and Cisco, this protocol is a relatively safe option, especially for services that are having second thoughts about their VPN protocol choice. The protocol was supposed to be very fast, but it falls behind solutions like WireGuard or OpenVPN.
  • PPTP: A legacy software, this protocol represents the oldest VPN solution on this list. While the protocol used to be more reliable in the past, it hasn’t kept up with the development of the digital world. Today, it’s considered more vulnerable than other options.

VPN services sometimes use their own protocols instead of using one of the common solutions. In those cases, the custom VPN service may represent an advantage or underperform compared to others. Here are VPN companies with unique protocols:

  • NordVPN: Uses the NordLynx protocol, an expansion of WireGuard
  • Hotspot Shield: Designed the original Catapult Hydra protocol
  • ExpressVPN: Uses the original, open-source Lightway protocol

For most VPN services, OpenVPN will be the default option. Alternatively, many services also use IKEv2 or WireGuard. Determining the overall best protocol depends on many factors and there’s no clear winner.

What do we test for?

Our testing includes assessing which VPN protocol the server uses. We focus on whether the used VPN protocol is compatible with what the company advertises and if it has any limitations in terms of the operating system.

> Test 5: Supported encryption standard

What is an encryption standard?

Encryption standards are, as the name implies, crucial for data encryption. These algorithm keys are essential in defining the criteria to encrypt or decrypt data. An encryption standard applies that criterion to the complete data flow on a VPN server.

The history of encryption standards began in 1977 with the Data Encryption Standard or DES. This standard was used until 2002 when the U.S. government replaced it with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

AES operates in different block sizes, from 128 to 256 bits. It has several versions like CBC and GCM. A VPN service will use some variant of these standards, and each has certain advantages over the others.

The GCM variant performs better than CBC in several regards. It’s designed for increased data flow, faster speeds, and more security. The last trait is possible due to GCMs encryption of each individual block.

What do we test for?

We examine the default encryption standard used by the provider. Since certain standards are better than others in most regards, there are some options we prefer. In particular, our favorite AES standard is the 128-bit version of GCM. Alternatively, it can have 256 bits.

> Test 6: Basic security features

What are basic security features?

A good VPN service should provide several key security features to always keep its users safe online:

  • ES-256 encryption: This type of encryption is nearly impossible to hack, making it the preferred encryption standard.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch is designed to block the connection automatically in the case of encryption failure.
  • OpenVPN and WireGuard: As VPN protocols that perform the best, these two options are essential. The former represents the standard, while the latter is a more modern solution.
  • Split tunneling: This feature allows certain programs to bypass the VPN tunnel and access the internet unhindered.

What do we test for?

Testing a VPN service for security features consists of two parts. First, we check if the provider has the best available options. Second, we test if the features provide a safe online experience and if they perform as advertised by the service. Tests are usually focused on two crucial features: split tunneling and kill switch.

> Test 7: Advanced security features

What are advanced security features?

Certain security features provide additional protection and can ensure the user’s privacy. These features may include:

  • Ad tracker blockers
  • Malicious website blockers
  • Dedicated (unique) IP address
  • Double VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • RAM-only servers
  • Override GPS Location

What do we test for?

Our tests look for the mentioned advanced features and check if they work like the provider promised.

> Test 8: IP leak

What is an IP leak?

When a device goes online, it receives an IP address. This address can be public or private, with each type being used for different purposes. Public IP addresses are common in public networks, while the private types are often used for device communication on a single network.

Your devices get an IP address from the ISP. These addresses are, by default, public and are the same among all devices that connect through a single router.

IP address security is paramount for online safety. If it’s revealed, the address can pinpoint your zip code, neighborhood, or even your exact location. Your browsing history can also become accessible through the IP address.

Protecting the IP address is one of the most important functions of a VPN service. If the VPN can hide your IP address and encrypt your data effectively, it’s doing its job properly. In that case, the service can prevent your ISP from viewing your online behavior and stop websites and apps from tracking you.

However, if the VPN fails at keeping your address secure, it can leave you exposed. In that case, we’re talking about IP leaks.

What do we test for?

Our tests for IP leaks are relatively straightforward. We perform an address lookup and see if it shows the actual IP address or the one assigned by the VPN.

> Test 9: DNS leak

What is a DNS leak?

A DNS handles the names of internet domains such as website names and associates them with IP addresses. While the domain name is usually written in letters, the IP address will be a string of numbers.

Every internet service provider has control over the server that handles the DNS function. These servers are responsible for taking you to the right address when you visit a site. This means they also have access to information about your internet traffic.

A VPN service will often have its own DNS server. Your traffic is safe if it goes through that server, but it may get routed to the original DNS server. This is how DNS leaks can happen.

What do we test for?

The test for DNS leaks is similar to the one for IP leaks. Our process involves running a DNS check and seeing which DNS server appears in the results. If it’s not the VPN server, a DNS leak is the only viable answer.

> Test 10: WebRTC leak

What is a WebRTC leak?

WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. This process functions in all the most popular browsers and, as the name says, allows the user to communicate with a website in real time. WebRTC is crucial for certain functionality like live streaming.

Using WebRTC, your browser will communicate certain data during the exchange. For instance, the website will receive information about your IP address. Of course, a VPN should prevent the address from being revealed by substituting it with its own IP address.

What do we test for?

We connect to a VPN service and perform a WebRTC check. Then, we monitor to determine if the original IP address will appear in the results. In that case, we determine a WebRTC leak.

> Test 11: Download speed via OpenVPN

What is OpenVPN?

As mentioned previously, OpenVPN is our favorite protocol. It’s open-source, very secure, reliable, and a common choice of many providers. OpenVPN entered widespread use in 2001 and has seen many improvements over the past two decades.

Two versions of OpenVPN are in use today:

  • OpenVPN User Datagram Protocol (UDP) provides excellent speeds, which makes it the most common option.
  • OpenVPN Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is slightly slower but allows for greater data control.

What do we test for?

We test OpenVPN speed through the Windows version of the app. Then, we set the connection speed to 1,000 Mbps and test download speeds. This way, we bring the protocol near its limits and see which provider achieves the best results.

> Test 12: Supported speed via WireGuard

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard is also an open-source protocol that belongs to the next generation of software. It’s faster and less bulky than most options – the code for WireGuard consists of only 4,000 lines. In comparison, some VPN protocols can reach over 500,000 lines of code.

In terms of speed, WireGuard performs better than OpenVPN. It can also run on Linux, Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS machines.

What do we test for?

The testing for WireGuard isn’t very different from what we perform for OpenVPN. We use the Windows app and set it to use WireGuard. The connection rate is set at 1,000 Mbps and pushed to the maximum. We then compare how the VPN service performs compared to the benchmark.

> Test 13: (Virtual) VPN servers and locations

What are (virtual) VPN servers?

A virtual VPN server creates a new IP address for your VPN server. The address is assigned by the VPN provider and will be local. The server will have an IP address from a different location. This way, it may seem as if you’re accessing the internet from another country or even continent.

The purpose of the VPN server is to create an encrypted pathway for your data – a VPN tunnel. As an additional security measure, certain servers might be hosted in a device’s RAM instead of regular memory storage.

Since your VPN server exists on a physical device, it will have a physical location in one or more countries. This means that your traffic will pass through those local servers, and you’ll be assigned an IP address of a particular country.

Virtual VPN servers don’t have a set physical location. Such services can even be used by entire countries that lack their own servers. A virtual server will also be able to offer VPN service in many countries, and some services might have almost no limitations in terms of your virtual location.

What do we test for?

During testing, we first look at the number of servers provided by the VPN service and determine whether their servers are virtual or not. Preferably, the VPN provider will be able to offer a large choice of locations, including distant countries.

> Test 14: Streaming compatibility

What is compatibility with a streaming service?

We’ve mentioned that a VPN service can allow you to stream content that normally isn’t available in your location. This feature can be very useful, especially when it comes to widely popular streaming platforms like Hulu or Netflix. These services limit the streaming of some movies and TV shows to certain countries. A VPN can bypass these restrictions.

A streaming service can filter locations through IP addresses. But a VPN can assign you any address you want if the provider has a server in the desired country or runs virtual servers. Suppose you want to watch a show limited to the U.S., but you’re located in Europe. In that case, you can choose a U.S.-based VPN server and receive the appropriate IP address. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to stream the content without issues.

Of course, if we know about these possibilities, so do the streaming platforms. As a result, certain services – most notably Netflix – block IP addresses assigned by VPNs. However, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Certain VPN providers can bypass even those blocks by not allowing the streaming platform to classify the IP address as false.

What do we test for?

The test for streaming service compatibility is relatively simple, although it can be time-consuming. We connect to a VPN service and attempt to view content that’s restricted by location. The platforms we test with this method include Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and, of course, Netflix.

However, the method for testing Netflix is broader. In this case, we test the VPN service against several regional versions of Netflix outside of the U.S. The testing is done on Japan, the UK, Mexico, Germany, and Australia Netflix services.

> Test 15: Torrenting compatibility

What is compatibility with a torrent network?

As a peer-to-peer service, torrents don’t communicate through servers. Instead, this service accesses special clients, for example BitTorrent. These clients allow for file sharing among users. In the case of some more modern clients like Stremio and Popcorn Time, users can also stream media.

If you’ve heard of torrents before, you might’ve gotten the impression that they’re somehow illegal. However, this isn’t always the case. Torrents are designed for file sharing and using them doesn’t mean you’re involved in piracy. However, if the shared content is copyrighted and contains protected movies, music, or games, the torrent could be considered illegal.

Certain VPN providers will support torrenting, while others won’t cover this activity.

What do we test for?

Testing for torrent compatibility consists of connecting to a VPN and checking if peer-to-peer services like torrent clients function over the VPN server. We test for this ability by attempting to download a file through a VPN.

> Test 16: Annual price and price per device

What is the annual price and price per device?

Like with most services, pricing will be a deciding factor. However, in the case of VPNs, a low price doesn’t mean a good deal. We’ve talked about the issues with free VPN services previously. That’s why services that offer a subscription model are our choice.

Certain VPN services will be more costly than others, while some will have limitations in terms of the number of devices they can be used on. Where one VPN may allow you to use it only on a set number of devices, another one won’t have a limit in that sense. Whichever service you choose, it would be best to opt for a longer subscription since those will be more cost-effective than single-month ones.

What do we test for?

We compare the price of an annual subscription for each VPN service. When assessing the pricing, we take the number of supported devices into account. Then, we divide the total cost by that number to determine how much the service costs per device.

Most providers don’t differ too much in pricing. ExpressVPN is the outlier here, being the costliest service. In terms of device limitations, IPVanish and Surfshark stand out, allowing users to connect any number of devices.

What fastest VPN services have we tested?

We have tested 30 paid and free VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Proton VPN is the best free VPN service. But if you have the money, we recommend getting a paid VPN service.

In the best case, the free version allows you to protect only one device and doesn’t offer you unlimited bandwidth / unlimited data. And in the worst case, the free VPN providers show you ads or secretly sell your browsing history to advertisers and your internet service provider.

And should you be strapped for cash, don’t opt for an expensive VPN like ExpressVPN. Instead, get a cheap VPN, like Surfshark, that allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices and share the cost with a friend.

  • Astrill VPN
  • Atlas VPN
  • Avast SecureLine VPN
  • Betternet VPN
  • Bitdefender VPN
  • CactusVPN
  • CyberGhost VPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • HideME VPN
  • HMA VPN (HideMyAss VPN)
  • Hola VPN
  • Hotspot Shield VPN
  • IPVanish VPN
  • Ivacy VPN
  • IVPN
  • Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
  • McAfee Safe Connect VPN
  • Mozilla VPN
  • MullVad VPN
  • NordVPN
  • Norton Secure VPN
  • Private Internet Access VPN
  • PrivateVPN
  • Proton VPN
  • PureVPN
  • StrongVPN
  • Surfshark VPN
  • Tunnelbear VPN
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe VPN

The best are: CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) protects your online privacy. It creates an encrypted VPN tunnel between your device and a VPN server. This tunnel hides your IP address, restores your anonymity online and makes you safe on public Wi-Fi networks.

Why do you need a VPN?

You need a VPN to restore your online privacy and security. Without a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and advertisers can track everything you read, watch and download online. On top of that, if you don’t use a VPN, hackers will be able to steal your data on public Wi-Fi networks, which can lead to identity theft.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN creates an encrypted connection, called a VPN tunnel, between your devices and a VPN server. This hides your IP address and what you do online. As a result, your ISP won’t be able to see what websites you visit, and advertisers won’t be able to know what your IP address is.

What is the best VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the best VPN services of 2022. NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service. CyberGhost has the highest download speeds and the lowest one-year price. And Surfshark allows you to install the software on unlimited devices.

What is the fastest VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the fastest VPN services of 2022. Although CyberGhost is slightly faster than the other two, the difference is not noticeable for most users.

About the author

Tibor Moes

Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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