VPN services allow you to access blocked videos and help to keep your internet activity private. Here we explain what to look for and recommend the services that you should put on your shortlist.
You can use a VPN on many types of devices, from your phone to your laptop and even some TVs. If you don’t have a compatible smart TV, you can use a VPN on a media streamer such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
The great thing about most VPN services is that one account can be used on multiple devices at the same time. This makes the low monthly price even better value as the whole family can use it.
Even if you’re already familiar with these benefits of a VPN, you may not know which one is the best. And that’s why you’re here of course.
What’s the best VPN?
If you don’t have time to pore over the finer details and just want to know which are the best value, here are four VPN services that you’ll love:
- Best VPN overall: NordVPN
- Best VPN for speed and value: Surfshark
- Best VPN for privacy: VyprVPN & Hidden24
- Best VPN for streaming video on a budget: Ivacy
If you want more recommendations, scroll down and you’ll also find more detailed buying advice if you do care about the finer points.
Why have we picked these VPN services?
Testing and reviewing VPN services isn’t as simple as you might think. There are many factors to consider: the cost per month, connection speed, number and location of servers, the apps on offer, quality of tech support and other important factors such as privacy and data logging policies.
There’s also the ownership. This should always be transparent, and it should raise red flags when it isn’t. For example, certain companies own both VPN services as well as website that review VPN services. This doesn’t always have to be the conflict of interest that it seems, but it certainly can be. (It’s worth noting here that neither IDG, which publishes Tech Advisor, nor its parent company owns any VPN services.)
We also look closely at companies that own multiple VPN services and whether they say data is shared between those services and what other activities they’re involved in.
When you use a VPN, you’re entrusting that service with all of your internet data because it passes through their server first, where it is decrypted before being sent to its final destination.
That’s why we place such high importance on independent audits: it’s not enough for a VPN to say they don’t log any data – they should prove it.
Most, but not all, VPN services rent servers from other providers. This means the providers own the servers and have physical access to them. VPN services should use reputable datacentres and put measures in place to safeguard your data, but this is why owning and operating their own hardware goes in favour of the few VPN services that don’t rent servers.
So all this means the services below are the only ones we currently recommend and, even then, sometimes only for streaming video rather than for privacy. They’re also the ones we’d use ourselves.
We have reviewed many others, which you can see if you browse all our VPN reviews, but they didn’t make the cut. They might have been included in this list before, but now they’re not.
ExpressVPN is one example. Previously an independent service with a great track record for privacy and ability to unblock is no longer one we can recommend. You can read more about the reasons for that in this article.
Other services we’ve reviewed but don’t currently recommend include: AtlasVPN, IP Vanish, HMA, Bullguard VPN, Bitdefender Premium VPN, Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium and ClearVPN.
Top 7 VPN services for 2021
- Excellent speeds
- Unblocks lots of video services
- Independently audited
- Not the cheapest
- Not unlimited connections
NordVPN is easy to use, fast and offers lots of servers around the world.
Based in Panama and with an audited no-logs policy, Nord is a good choice for many reasons. Thanks to NordLynx (based on WireGuard), it’s the fastest VPN around and and offers a good range of features including split tunnelling on Android and Windows, which was a notable omission until fairly recently.
The two-year subscription is the best value and represents 68% off the usual monthly price. There’s a money-back guarantee in case you’re not totally happy too. It’s not the cheapest but, overall, it’s still the best all-round choice.
See all prices and plans at NordVPN.com.
Read our full NordVPN review
- Unlimited connections
- GPS spoofing
- Multi-Hop severs
- No split-tunelling on Mac
Surfshark has a slick, simple interface and a good range of features. It has apps and extensions which protect popular devices and web browsers and it costs less than most of its competitors, despite allowing an unlimited number of connections.
Based in the British Virgin Islands with a strict no-logs policy and MultiHop servers for greater security and privacy, it’s a great choice no matter what you want a VPN for.
It’s very competitively priced, and you can sign up to Surfshark for just £2.15/$2.49 per month.
Read our full Surfshark review
VyprVPN – Best for Owned & Operated Servers
- Runs own hardware (doesn’t rent servers)
- Independently audited
- Only 5 connections
- Can’t pay anonymously
VyprVPN owns and operates its entire network of around 700 servers and has been audited to prove that it sticks by its no-logs policy. The fact it owns those servers means it does not rent servers from a datacentre and then install its VPN software on top, and that the datacentre employees have no access to those servers.
If privacy is your top priority, VyprVPN is therefore a good one to add to your shortlist. Just note that you can’t pay truly anonymously for the service.
Features vary by device, as they do with all VPNs, but the good news is that VyprVPN supports WireGuard now. Overall, this is a speedy and reliable service.
There’s more good news: VyprVPN’s multi-year subscriptions are very affordable. You can get a special deal with 75% (or more!) off the usual monthly price if you use this link to VyprVPN’s website.
Read our full VyprVPN review
- Audited no-logs policy
- Good unblocking
- Servers in 140 countries
- Not as cheap as it used to be
- No WireGuard protocol
A decent choice for streaming, thanks to a huge choice of countries and – when we last checked – actually able to unblock Netflix, iPlayer and other services with zero hassle.
PureVPN has now switched from its previous Hong Kong jurisdiction to the British Virgin Islands, which is much more privacy friendly. It can also be commended for allowing its no-logs policy to be ‘snap audited’ (an unscheduled audit that the company couldn’t prepare for) and when this happened recently, KPMG was able to certify it again as a true no-log VPN.
Another recent improvement is the removal of almost all virtual servers and now claims 98.7% physical server locations (that’s 67 servers in total which remain virtual), and the upgrade of UK and US servers to 20Gbps connection speeds.
A few drawbacks include the lack of WireGuard (it’s in beta in the Windows app and promised for all platforms by the end of 2021) and redesigned apps (which are much more streamlined) have lost some of the features they had before.
Right now there’s a two-year plan available with 81% off and also a five-year deal for $1.49 per month (around £1.10) – you can find them on PureVPN’s website.
Read our full PureVPN review
Hidden24 – Best for privacy
- Owned & managed hardware
- Unblocks Netflix & iPlayer
- Best for privacy
- No apps
- Not the most user friendly
- Only 1 connection at a time
Hidden24 is different to the other services here. It’s designed for privacy, first and foremost.
That’s why it takes a completely different approach, using a device’s own VPN capability instead of an app. That means it will work on Android, Mac, iPhone or Linux as well as Windows, but you can’t change servers as easily as you can in a VPN app and there’s no kill switch.
There are currently seven location to choose between, but while that’s a small number, Hidden24 owns and operates all those servers and they’re designed to be as secure as it’s possible to be. Not even Hidden24’s staff can access those servers and they run custom code – not open source software on top of Linux as with most rented VPN servers in the cloud.
That’s why it’s a solid choice if security and privacy are your top priorities (and why it’s ideal for journalists, who can use the service for free).
It also reliably unblocks Netflix, iPlayer and other streaming services, which is a bonus, but only in the seven countries available: UK, US, Germany, Italy, France, Spain & Sweden.
Because Hidden24 logs literally nothing, not even user sessions, you’re restricted to using just one device at a time and connecting on a second device will stop the connection on the first device.
You could get unlimited connections by configuring a compatible router to connect to the VPN instead.
This alternative approach to VPN isn’t for everyone. But it’s a great choice if you want the best privacy are are happy to forego convenience to get it. It’s also much cheaper than its rivals if you only subscribe for a month. If you prefer a longer subscription, you can get an exclusive deal on a two-year plan for £3.29 per month.
Find out more about the plans available at Hidden24.co.uk.
Read our full Hidden24 review
Ivacy – Cheapest over 5 years
- Very cheap
- 24/7 tech support
- Unblocks Netflix & iPlayer
- Fewer servers than rivals
Ivacy may not have as many servers as some VPN services, but it does tick a lot of boxes. Those servers allow P2P downloads and they unblock a lot of popular streaming services (though not Amazon Prime).
Apps are available for a wide selection of devices. They’re not the most polished around, and speeds aren’t the best, either. We’re told that WireGuard support is coming, but for now the best speeds are via OpenVPN.
There are a few niggles such as no automatic connection when your phone or laptop connects to an untrusted Wi-Fi network, nor any way to see how busy a particular server is.
But for unblocking websites and video services at a very low price, Ivacy’s five-year deal is great value.
Read our full Ivacy review
- Free version
- IPV6 support
- Customisable double-hop servers
- Relatively expensive
- No independent audit since 2015
Hide.me is a good VPN service overall. It has made some changes to its service which address our previous criticisms, primarily the fact that it now unblocks Netflix and other streaming services.
You can try Hide.me before you buy with a completely free version (which is, of course, feature-limited) but if you want to unlock the full range of servers and get unlimited bandwidth, you’ll find it’s more expensive than certain rivals even with its cheapest multi-year subscription plans.
It’s one of the few VPN services that supports IPv6 and also the WireGuard protocol. It now allows you to use 10 devices simultaneously, which is double what it used to.
See plans and prices for hide.me.
Read our full hide.me VPN review
If you’re interested in knowing more about why we picked the services we did, read on.
What to look for in a VPN service
Because VPN services vary in price quite dramatically, it can be tempting to just go for the cheapest. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it is still important to choose one you trust and that will offer the features you require. The old adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t really apply to VPN services.
The first major decision is what you want to use a VPN for. If you just want to watch videos from HBO Max, Disney+ or another service that’s not available in your country, then you don’t have to worry too much about any…