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The best VPN services for 2021


It’s scary knowing your data might not be private. VPNs help shield your online activities. To help you pick the right one, these are the best VPN services.
We do many (if not most) of our everyday activities on the internet nowadays, which means that digital security and privacy are more important than ever. A virtual private network is one of the cheapest, simplest, and most effective ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from today’s online threats. More good news is that these services are also very user-friendly, so even if you’re not all that tech-savvy, installing and using a VPN on your computer and other internet-connected devices is not a difficult task. But with so many providers to choose from, finding the best VPN for your needs is not as easy, as not all virtual private network services are the same. To help you decide which one is right for your digital lifestyle (and your budget), we took the time to round up the best VPN services and lay out all of their features, pricing, and other relevant info right here, along with answers to some common questions. NordVPN isn’t free, but with three different encryption protocols (IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and NordLynx), it’s easy to see that this provider values your privacy. The company has also worked hard to build up its server network to include more than 5,400 servers in 59 countries around the world. One stand-out feature that makes NordVPN a strong contender for the best VPN service out there is split tunneling. If you’re not familiar, split tunneling is the ability to whitelist some activities (such as gaming or streaming) to bypass the VPN and use the regular “clearnet” for better performance. From protected DNS queries to a kill switch feature that automatically disables your connection when you lose sync with the VPN server, NordVPN wants you to know that your information won’t fall into the wrong hands. It’s also one of the most open VPNs about exactly what servers it offers in what countries, and provides 24/7 live chat support for questions. The company has recently improved its platform support, adding in iOS and Android and thus overcoming its one weakness. You can also use it on six devices simultaneously. The NordVPN client provided one of the most attractive interfaces, and connecting to a server is straightforward and very quick, so much so it’s also our top pick for the best Chrome VPN extension. It’s also available for a host of devices and topped our list for the best Fire TV Stick VPN. Other supported devices include Chromecast, Raspberry Pi, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Fire TV. During our testing, we also found it to be the fastest VPN in our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison, so if it’s speed you’re after, look no further. ExpressVPN’s “#1 Trusted Leader in VPN” claim may be a bit difficult to prove, but the service offers a compelling list of features nonetheless. It also constantly tries to make regular improvements in speed and simultaneous streaming capabilities, and with support for all major platforms (Windows, MacOS, Android, etc.), you won’t need to worry about compatibility. ExpressVPN shows up on a number of best VPN lists, including our list of the best VPN for Linux and the best VPN for Windows, so its relatively high prices seem justified. The more than 3,000 servers are all well placed throughout common travel destinations and urban centers. Any package will land you high-speed unlimited bandwidth and 24-hour customer service. With so many features, including bypassing ISP throttling, free cloud data backup, and split tunneling, it’s no wonder this vendor is considered the best VPN by many users — although you should note that ExpressVPN only supports up to five simultaneous connections with a single subscription, which is the lowest number of the services on our list. But they also provide a workaround of sorts for that: If you install ExpressVPN on your router, your router can protect all of your devices (as the router itself only counts as one device towards your subscription), regardless of how many other devices are connected to that network hub. This way, you can have well more than five devices protected at once. Setting up ExpressVPN and connecting to a VPN server was easy enough. Netflix complained about a proxy in use when we used the automatic configuration option, but it worked fine when we manually selected a local U.S. server, so it’s a working Netflix VPN. Amazon Prime Video played just fine, and our other internet tests were completed without issue. It may not quite rank as the best VPN, but when it comes to price, Surfshark is hard to beat and is a great option for those looking to protect their privacy while minimizing costs. Surfshark is available for as cheaply as $2.50 per month for the two-year plan ($60 upfront), and to sweeten the deal even more, that includes an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. Feature-wise, Surfshark is fairly basic. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you don’t need any bells and whistles and just want a solid VPN on the cheap. In fact, the simple, no-nonsense interface, intuitive setup, and simple operation could easily be selling points if you explicitly don’t want to fuss with unnecessary complications. It supports a host of different devices, and made it on to our list fo the best Apple TV VPN too. That’s not to say it’s completely bare-bones, though; you get multiple encryption protocols to choose from (OpenVPN UDP or TCP, IKEv2, and WireGuard) and a double VPN hop that lets you route your connection through two remote servers instead of one, adding an extra layer of security when desired. Surfshark also works quite well with streaming services, although its speeds aren’t quite as good as other top VPN services like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. All in all, though, it’s the best VPN of 2021 for those on a budget, and especially for larger local networks such as family homes and offices. IPVanish offers all the key features you could need from a VPN at a great price. With regular sales being part of the IPVanish experience, you can commit for a year at a very low cost, enjoying the protection that comes from a choice of more than 1,600 VPN servers across more than 75 different locations. Besides offering extensive protection whether you’re browsing from home or using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, IPVanish also makes it simpler to avoid Deep Packet Inspection — a method used by ISPs to limit your internet speed at times. The VPN offers unmetered data transfer caps and there’s no limit on how many devices you can use it with so it’s incredibly flexible for high-volume users and larger local networks. No logs are kept, plus there’s a choice of multiple connection protocols which is useful if you want to get more involved in your VPN settings.24/7 customer support means the VPN is always on hand to help you out, too. Not that you should need it too often thanks to simple-to-use apps for all major platforms. If you want even more from IPVanish, you can also opt to sign up for its VPN + Backup plan. This offers all of the above along with 500GB of secure cloud storage including multi-folder syncing and ransomware protection. Combined, it’s a great service and it’ll even help you avoid geo-restrictions on many of your favorite streaming apps. Speed can be a limiting factor with even the best VPN, and Hotspot Shield — a relatively new player in the virtual private network space — sought to make that problem its main focus. With up to gigabit speeds, we can safely say that Hotspot Shield seems to have succeeded in that endeavor. The virtual private network was named the fasted VPN in 2019 and 2020 by Speedtest.net, too, so that doesn’t appear to be mere marketing. But Hotspot Shield isn’t a one-trick pony and has more to offer than just fast speeds. Its list of features also includes military-grade encryption and unlimited bandwidth (at gigabit speeds, mind you). Hotspot Shield is also very simple to set up and use, but we’d like to see a little more customization options, such as control over encryption protocols. This is part of the deal you get with this VPN, though, as Hotspot Shield utilizes its own proprietary “Hydra” encryption protocol which the company claims is what makes it so fast.

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