10 best VPN services to use in 2021 (top providers tested and compared)

Last updated by   Samuel Walker
Disclosure
We tested every major VPN provider to bring you the list of 10 best VPN services, with speed, apps, security, and more compared.

A VPN is a crucial security tool that will keep you safe when using the internet. It masks your IP address and encrypts your data to maintain your online privacy and security. The best VPN service will also unblock geo-blocked content.

It is important to note that a VPN typically adds a bit of load to your network and slows your internet speeds. This is because it has to encrypt your data and route it through secure servers. The VPN services on this list offer good speeds, and the impact on your speeds will be barely noticeable.

Continue reading to find out the best VPN services for 2021, why you need to use a VPN, features to look out for when choosing a VPN, and more.

Quick summary of the best VPNs for 2021:

  1. NordVPN – Our top VPN recommendation for all activities. It offers lightning speeds, watertight security features, and unblocks all major streaming sites.
  2. SurfShark – Unlimited simultaneous connections, SmartDNS feature, CleanWeb ad blocker, camouflage mode; all at an unbelievably affordable subscription cost.
  3. ExpressVPN – Offers budget-friendly long-term plan, zero logs policy, unlimited bandwidth and data, SmartPlay feature.
  4. CyberGhost – Expansive server network, beginner-friendly, 24/7 customer support, P2P optimized servers.
  5. VyprVPN – Unblocks multiple services, automatic kill switch, NAT Firewall, Chameleon protocol.
  6. IPVanish – Multiple encryption protocols, a no-logs policy, apps for all platforms, split tunneling, DNS leak protection.
  7. Private Internet Access – Unblocks Netflix, 30-day money-back guarantee, WireGuard protocol, ten simultaneous connections.
  8. Hotspot Shield – Free password manager, zero-logs policy, robust encryption, 45-day money-back guarantee.
  9. TunnelBear – Well-designed apps, unblocks geo-restricted content, 24/7 customer support, allows P2P connections.
  10. HMA – Strict no-logs policy, 30-day money-back guarantee, unblocks streaming sites, native apps for all platforms.

Top 10 best VPNs on the market

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Best VPNs 600x300

Key features

  • 5,532 servers in 59 countries
  • SmartPlay feature
  • P2P optimized servers
  • Quick Connect feature
  • Automatic kill switch
  • Tor compatibility
  • Double encryption

Headquartered in Panama, NordVPN is a well-established VPN. The impressive unblocking capabilities, P2P optimized servers, and robust security features make it an appealing service.

It is one of the most affordable premium VPNs on the market. The 2-year plan comes with a 68% discount plus three months for free. Luckily, you can try the service risk-free with the 30-days money-back guarantee.

The SmartPlay feature is designed to unblock all geo-restrictions while keeping you safe. We tested over 100 servers and unblocked all major streaming sites, including Netflix, ESPN, and Amazon Prime Video.

Does NordVPN support torrenting? Yes, with almost all its servers optimized for P2P sharing. Moreover, each server comes with unlimited bandwidth and data. This will allow you to torrent even large files without worrying about restrictive data allowance.

NordVPN maintains your security with AES 256-bit encryption. It is combined with perfect forward secrecy, SHA-384 authentication, and a 2048-bit DH key. With these features, no one can intercept your traffic or steal your data.

The provider observes a true no-logs policy and does not keep any identifiable information. Also, it is based in a privacy-friendly country that is not part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance.

When we compared ExpressVPN vs NordVPN, we found the double encryption features of the latter as one of its most striking qualities. Meaning it passes your traffic through two servers instead of one.

It is a great feature if you are concerned with your privacy. NordVPN is also compatible with the Tor network and even offers dedicated Onion over VPN for additional privacy.

Pros

  • Strong security features
  • Does not keep logs
  • Huge server coverage

Cons

  • No split tunneling on desktop

2. Surfshark

SurfShark 600x300

Key features

  • 3,200 servers in 65 countries
  • Leak protection
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • MultiHop mode
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • CleanWeb feature
  • Camouflage mode
  • 30-days money-back guarantee

Surfshark has been in the VPN industry for a short while but is already competing with established services. This is a user-friendly VPN with top-of-the-range features at an unbeatable value for money.

It has recently expanded its network to 3,200 servers in 63 countries. There will be less congestion on servers, which will improve the speed and performance significantly.  It also means you will have more options in case one of your connections is blocked.

The VPN is powerful enough to unblock major streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, BBC iPlayer, and more. It has high-speed servers, so you will always stream in high definition even if you connect to an international server. You can use the CleanWeb feature to eliminate pesky ads and block trackers and malware.

Sursfshark keeps you safe and secure with several high-end security features. They include DNS/IPv6 leak protection, AES 256-bit encryption, automatic kill switch, MultiHop (double VPN), and HackLock.

The camouflage mode will hide your VPN activities, allowing you to use the service in countries that restrict VPN usage. On the other hand, the NoBorders Mode of Surfshark automatically detects heavily censored regions and presents you with special servers to use.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Affordable long-term plan
  • 24/7 live chat support

Cons

  • Lacks some advanced functionalities

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Best VPNs 600x300

Key features

  • 3,000+ servers in 94 Countries
  • TrustedServer technology
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • Network Lock
  • Split tunneling
  • Leak protection

ExpressVPN is a well-known provider in the market. Even though the VPN market is very competitive, it has managed to stand out from the rest. It is easy to use, has a vast, fast, and secure network, unblocks Netflix, supports torrenting, and much more.

With over 3000 servers spread across 160 locations in 94 countries, you will be able to access content and services from anywhere. Its Smart Location Feature will connect you to the most optimal server with a simple click of a button.

The VPN has impressive unblocking capabilities and bypasses geo-restrictions of popular streaming services. Since the servers are super-fast, you will stream content in ultra HD on Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more. It is also a reliable option to unblock popular sites often blocked in workplaces and schools such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google.

Can ExpressVPN handle resource-heavy games like the League of legends? We tested it, and our gameplay was extraordinary. The VPN offers reliable and consistent speeds, so you will be able to keep up with your teammates.

The company uses advanced security and privacy features to keep you safe when browsing, streaming, gaming, or torrenting. You will get AES 256-bit encryption combined with a 4096-bit RSA key, AES 256-bit cipher, and SHA-512 HMAC authentication. There is also perfect forward secrecy that assigns you new encryption for every session.

ExpressVPN supports P2P sharing across its entire server network. Because it offers unlimited bandwidth and data, you can torrent as much as you want without any restrictions. Fortunately, it works well with uTorrent, BitTorrent, and other P2P clients.

The Network Lock is ExpressVPN’s version of an automatic kill switch. It is designed to cut off your traffic if the VPN connection is compromised to prevent leakage. There is also DNS/IPv6 leak protection for complete anonymity.

Pros

  • Fast speeds across all locations
  • Allows P2P sharing
  • Advanced security and privacy features

Cons

  • Slightly costly

4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost

Key features

  • 6,600 servers in 88 countries
  • 45-days money-back guarantee
  • Smart Rules
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • P2P optimized servers

CyberGhost is another formidable VPN to use in 2021. It has a good mix of ease-of-use, reliability, security, and affordability.

The VPN gets around geo-blocks of most popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and others. It has streaming-optimized servers for a smooth watching experience. Unfortunately, you cannot use it to access Amazon Prime Videos.

It operates over 6,000 servers in 90 countries, giving you plenty of options to unblock international content. The Best Server Location feature will enable you to connect to the fastest server based on your speed, distance, and latency.

CyberGhost is filled with all the features you will need to stay safe online. The AES 256-bit military-grade encryption ensures your data and traffic is protected from third parties. Furthermore, the automatic kill switch will break your traffic if the VPN connection is interrupted.

Pros

  • Strong security measures
  • Easy to use apps
  • Generous money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Some servers are slow

5. VyprVPN

VyprVPN Best Free VPNs 600x300

Key features

  • 700+ servers in 66 countries
  • Dynamic server switching
  • 30 days money-back guarantee
  • Zero-logs policy
  • Available on Android, macOS, Windows, and iOS

VyprVPN is a Switzerland-based vendor that boasts plenty of features you will need in a VPN. It offers high-quality services as it manages and runs its entire network.

The VPN has more than 700 servers in 66 countries and over 200,000 IP addresses. This means you will always find an alternative IP address even if one of your connections is blocked.

During our testing, we were able to unblock multiple services, including Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Most of the servers are plenty fast, and you will be able to stream smoothly.

One of VyprVPN’s notable features is the Chameleon protocol. It offers extra protection and additional muscle to bypass even the toughest geo-restrictions.

The provider ensures your data and activities are secure with AES 256-bit encryption. There is also a NAT Firewall to block malware and an automatic kill switch to prevent leakage.

Pros

  • Great at bypassing restrictions
  • Compatible with all major platforms
  • Responsive customer agents

Cons

  • Does not support anonymous payments

6. IPVanish

IPVanish

Key features

  • 1,600 servers in 75+ locations
  •  Allows P2P connections
  • SugarSync cloud storage
  • Zero-logs policy
  • 30-days money-back guarantee
  • Automatic kill switch

IPVanish is another top contender on our list. It offers fast-speed connections and robust security features at an affordable price.

The VPN has over 1,600 servers distributed across more than 75 countries. While it has few servers compared to bigger services like NordVPN, it has more server locations. So, you will access a wide range of international content and services.

Recently, the provider adjusted its policy to allow unlimited simultaneous connections. Since it supports all major platforms, you will be able to protect all your devices at once.

IPVanish can unblock Netflix US and other services such as DAZN, ESPN, and HBO Go. It guarantees to offer consistent connections and the best streaming quality. Unfortunately, it struggles to unblock some services.

The VPN allows unlimited P2P sharing so you can torrent securely and privately. While your download speeds might drop when torrenting, you will not even notice a change. Luckily, it offers 250GB of SugarSync storage to back up your files.

Pros

  • Allows unlimited connections
  • Affordable pricing
  • Easy to use apps

Cons

  • Struggles to unblock some sites

7. Private Internet Access (PIA)

Private Internet Access VPN

Key features

  • 23,715 servers in 77 countries
  • Full P2P support
  • No-logs policy
  • Automatic kill switch
  •  Split tunneling
  • 30-days money-back guarantee

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a well-known brand due to its reliability and dedication to privacy. It has a new user-friendly interface and can support up to 10 devices at once.

The provider has recently undertaken a huge expansion drive to amass over twenty thousand servers across the world. This is more than the combination of NordVPN, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Surfshark. A massive server network is better for speeds as there is less congestion.

PIA is a great VPN for security and privacy. It uses AES 128-bit encryption, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, IP masking, and OpenVPN protocol. While the AES 128-bit encryption is not the same as the industry-standard AES 256-bit, it is still extremely secure.

Pros

  • Effective malware and ad blocker
  • Good value for money
  • Dedicated apps for all major platforms

Cons

  • Inconsistent speeds

8. Hotspot Shield

HotSpot Shield Best VPNs 600x300

Key features

  • 1,800 servers in 80+ countries
  • Catapult Hydra protocol
  • Supports P2P sharing
  • DNS/IPv6 protection
  • 45-days money-back guarantee

Hotspot Shield is a good choice among VPNs if you value simplicity. It has decent global server coverage, is good at unblocking, and offers fast speeds.

The VPN app is compatible with all major devices, including macOS, Android, Windows, and iOS. Recently, it added support for Android TV and routers. Although it only allows you to connect five simultaneous devices, you can install it on your router to add more connections.

Does Hotspot Shield unblock Netflix? Yes, the VPN easily bypasses geo-restrictions of all the major services, including Netflix USA. You can use it to unblock the US, the UK, and other big libraries. We tested it with the servers in New York, Miami, and Dallas, and all worked perfectly.

Besides unblocking geo-blocked content, Hotspot Shield supports torrenting. With unlimited bandwidth and fast-speed servers, you will download and share torrent files seamlessly.

Hotspot Shield offers a free version, although it is very limited. It allows you to access only one server, caps data usage to 500 MB daily, and slow speeds. There are also a lot of ads and no live chat support. However, it provides a generous 45-day money-back guarantee so you can try the paid services risk-free.

Pros

  • Excellent speeds
  • Bypasses geo-restrictions
  • Generous 45-days money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Kill switch feature exclusive on Windows

9. TunnelBear

TunnelBear-Best-VPNs-600x300-1

Key features

  • ·20+ server location
  • Support P2P connections
  •  Zero-logs policy
  •  Ad Blocker

TunnelBear offers both paid and free services. However, the free version is limited to only 500MB of data per month, which is only enough to browse anonymously. The paid subscription is also affordable if you take the 1-year and 3-year plans.

The service operates a relatively small server network in 23 countries. They include Europe, North America, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, and more.

Getting started with the app is easy. It offers native apps for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. The provider also boasts Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browser extensions. The VPN allows you to connect up to 5 simultaneous connections. This means you will be able to protect most of your devices on a single plan.

The GhostBear mode acts as the obfuscation feature to obscure your VPN activities and make it look like regular traffic. This is a helpful feature in countries with heavy censorship like Russia, Turkey, and UAE.

VigilantBear mode is TunnelBear’s version of a kill switch. It prevents encrypted data from leaving your network even if the VPN connection drops.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Offers a free version
  • Native apps for all major platforms

Cons

  • Few server locations

10. HideMyAss (HMA)

HMA (HideMyAss)

Key features

  • 1,100+ servers in 190+ countries
  • 30-days money-back guarantee
  • P2P optimized servers
  • Military-grade AES 256-bit encryption
  •  24/7 live chat

HMA has a decent-sized network of 1,100 servers spread out in more than 190 countries. Some of its biggest strengths include an intuitive interface, incredible unblocking capabilities, and impressive speeds.

The latest version includes a new amazing design and comes with an auto-generated diagnostics mode. Perhaps the biggest update is the Lightning mode that automatically connects you to the fastest server available.

It protects your data and activities with several security features. They include military-grade encryption, DNS leak protection, and a smart kill switch for Windows, Mac, and Android.

HMA can bypass geo-restrictions, including stubborn blocks like Netflix. In fact, the provider offers five streaming-optimized servers so you can stream your favorite content smoothly without lags.

What’s more? You can test the services with the 7-day free trial or the 30-days money-back guarantee. All the plans are budget-friendly, with longer plans offering better value for money.

Pros

  • Incredibly easy to use
  • Affordable plans
  • Cross-platform capabilities

Cons

  • Unable to unblock some streaming sites

What is a VPN, and how does it function?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a privacy tool that provides a safe and secure way to connect to the internet. You can use it to access geo-blocked content, protect your data and browsing activities, and more.

VPNs were initially designed to connect business networks over the internet. Nowadays, they are popular with the general public as more people are becoming conscious of their online security and privacy.

How does a VPN work? It routes your traffic through a private server operated by the provider. So, when using the internet, your data will originate from the VPN server instead of your device.

Essentially, a VPN is an intermediary between the internet and your computer. This helps to hide your IP address and location, thereby protecting your identity. Premium VPN services offer high-level security and privacy measures to ensure you are safe and secure.

Why do you need a VPN?

There are many reasons why you should start using a VPN. Here are a few benefits of using a VPN service.

Protection

As long as your device is internet-enabled, you are at risk of cyberattacks. A VPN comes in handy by encrypting and scrambling the data leaving your device. It creates a secure tunnel that prevents your ISP, hackers, and other third parties from seeing what you are doing.

Unblock streaming services

Due to copyright and licensing issues, many streaming services use geo-blocks to restrict their content. As a result, the catalog of movies and TV shows you can view will depend on the region you live in. In fact, some countries such as the US, Canada, and the UK have more content than other regions.

A VPN will help you to get past the geo-restrictions and access your favorite from anywhere around the world. It will give you a new IP address and trick the streaming site that you are within the restricted country.

Evade censorship

In some countries, internet service providers (ISPs) are compelled to blacklist certain websites. For example, China uses the Great Firewall to block all major sites such as Google, YouTube, Skype, etc. Regardless of your country of residence, a VPN will help you evade censorship and access whichever content you want.

Torrenting safety

When torrenting without a VPN, other users can see your IP address. Besides, your ISP can throttle your internet speed if it notices you are torrenting. A VPN will mask your IP address and location, allowing you to torrent safely and privately.

Features to consider when choosing a VPN

Security

A VPN protects your data and activities when using the internet. Therefore, look out for features in a VPN that will keep you safe and secure. Some of the most common security features include military-grade encryption, kill switches, leak protection, and obfuscation.

Speed

Speed is another crucial aspect to consider when choosing a VPN. Although many variables can affect your internet speed, you wouldn’t want a sluggish VPN. Many providers have a feature that will enable you to connect to the fastest server.

Even better, some vendors offer multiple configurations for different purposes. This ensures you get consistent connections, whether you are streaming, torrenting, or gaming.

Accessibility

Some VPNs are only available in certain regions. If you want it to access geo-blocked content, you should look out for the VPN’s availability by country. A high-quality VPN will ensure you can connect to servers in different parts of the world.

Ease of use

A VPN that is hard to use is not worth your time. When looking for the best VPN services, don’t compromise on usability. The VPN technology is complicated, so the provider should make the interface as intuitive as possible.

Compatibility

Another critical factor to consider is device compatibility. A good VPN should support a wide range of operating systems and platforms. Most premium services offer between 5 -10 simultaneous connections. Still, some like Surfshark allows you to connect as many devices as you want.

P2P connections

Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) frown upon peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing. Although P2P is a grey area, it is incredibly efficient in several ways. So, look for a VPN that supports P2P connections and does not throttle the bandwidth. A reliable VPN should offer you outstanding sharing capabilities without any limitations. 

Bottom line

Due to the sheer number of VPNs available, it can be tricky to choose the right one for your needs. We have made it easier for you by singling out the top 10 best VPNs in 2021. Our research involved value for money, security, privacy, and performance.

Fundamentally, a VPN should safeguard your data and activities so no one can see what you are doing. Besides, it should help you to access geo-blocked content. The VPNs we have reviewed above are reliable and work well with almost every device. Our top pick is NordVPN, as it offers fast speeds, robust encryption, and unblocks all major streaming sites.

We hope that this list will help you narrow down your choices and choose the one that will meet your needs.

Best VPN services frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. Is it illegal to use a VPN?

There is a bad perception about VPNs because they are ordinarily associated with illicit activities. However, using a VPN is entirely legal in most countries around the world. The only countries that prohibit or forbid VPN usage include China, Russia, Turkey, the UAE, Iraq, and Iran.

Getting past geo-blocks, encryption data, and seeking anonymity with a VPN is not illegal. However, you should avoid using it for illicit activities because you can quickly get into trouble. We do not encourage using a VPN for unlawful activities.

2. Should I always use a VPN?

While it is not a must to connect to a VPN all the time, there are some situations you will need to. For instance, you should always connect to a VPN when using a public Wi-Fi network. This will prevent anyone from snooping on what you are doing or potentially stealing your data. If you live in a country with heavy internet restrictions, you can remain connected to avoid getting censored.

3. How do I test if the VPN service is working?

There is a way you can know whether your VPN is working. Connect to a server away from your location and check where the IP address is registered. You will know it is working if it does not show your real IP address and is connected to the location you choose. Take it further and test the service risk-free with the free trial or money-back guarantee.

4. Can I use a free VPN?

We don’t discourage you from using a free VPN. Operating a VPN service is costly as the servers will require maintenance, staff salary, and other overheads. Many free VPN services employ unscrupulous practices such as gathering users’ data and selling to third parties to make money. Instead of using free VPN services, you should subscribe to affordable premium services like NordVPN and Surfshark.

5. Is a VPN easy to use?

A good VPN should be effortless to use. Usually, you will have to download and install the app on your device. The services we have recommended on this list have a user-friendly interface and simple to use.

In most cases, you will only need to click a button to connect to your desired server. Some providers offer a quick connect feature to connect you to the fastest server available. If it is your first time using a VPN, you can check our VPN guide for beginners.

6. Can I use a VPN on my mobile device?

It is recommended to connect every internet-enabled device to a VPN. After all, every connection you make to the internet is susceptible to surveillance, hacking, and tracking. The VPN services we have reviewed above offer compatibility across all devices, including smartphones.

7. What makes a VPN stand-out from the rest?

Some of the most basic features you should look out for when choosing a VPN are security, privacy, speed, and ease of use. Having robust security is a significant consideration, but many providers don’t get it right. At the very least, it should have reliable encryption, a kill switch feature, and zero logs policy.  

Connection speeds will depend on the server network. A reliable VPN should offer unlimited bandwidth and excellent speeds so you can stream, torrent, and play unrestricted games.

8. What is a kill switch?

You might have come across the word kill switch when reviewing VPNs. A kill switch is a crucial security feature that cuts your traffic if the VPN connection drops. This will prevent your information and activities from leaking.

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About the author

Samuel Walker
Samuel Walker

Sam Walker is a tech-focused writer who has traveled the world but currently lives in Australia. He has a keen interest in digital privacy and security. Sam loves testing new technology and researching the latest security trends to keep others informed (and ultimately safe) online.

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