Best VPN service Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best VPN services you can buy in 2023.
Want to stay safe online and unlock geo-restricted websites? Then you'll need a VPN – or Virtual Private Network. This increasingly valuable piece of software lets you surf anonymously and unblock streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sling from overseas. But what's the best VPN service out there?
We've tested and ranked all the leading VPN providers to help you choose the best VPN service. From the fastest speeds to the highest security and the most reliable connection, our quick 'n' easy comparison will guide you straight to a rock-solid VPN from a trusted brand.
Yes, there are a few free VPN services around. But they tend not to work with streaming services and often make money by selling your usage data. The good news? You can subscribe to the best paid-for VPN services for around the cost of a cup of coffee. You might even get a free trial.
All of the VPNs listed offer cutting-edge servers, great customer service and 'no log' policies, meaning they don't collect or 'log' data. All you need to do is select the best VPN service for you...
We’ll cut straight to the point: ExpressVPN is the best VPN service we’ve ever tested (and we’ve tested plenty).
It's extremely reliable and hardly ever drops out, which is crucial when streaming video. It also unblocks the vast majority of websites, including a number of Netflix libraries, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and BBC iPlayer. It also unblocks many regional TV channels.
A quick look at ExpressVPN’s stats reveal why it runs like greased lightning: the company’s high-speed servers are spread across 94 counties, and over 70 percent of its traffic runs through state-of-the-art 10Gbps servers.
When you throw in the usual top-of-the-line AES-256 encryption, plus leak-prevention tools such as PrivateDNS and the company’s own next-gen Lightway protocol, you have a VPN that’s as private as it is fast. Better still, it's delightfully simple to use, making it the go-to for first-time VPN users.
You can install the app on almost any device including iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Linux and Kindle Fire. There are dedicated extensions for the Chrome, Firefox and Edge browsers, too.
Are there cheaper VPNs? Yes. But when you factor in everything that ExpressVPN offers – friendly 24/7 live chat support, blazing-fast speeds, bulletproof reliability – ExpressVPN is truly remarkable value for money. Which is why it’s the only VPN that gets five stars from us.
NordVPN is an extremely reliable VPN. This is largely because it boasts over 5,400 servers in 59 countries, ensuring a top-notch user experience (fun fact: NordVPN is the personal choice of YouTube megastar PewDiePie).
The service is ace at blocking malware, and features next-gen Threat Protection tech which promises to make browsing safer by stopping malicious bugs and intrusive ads. Better still, it continues to work even when you're not actually connected to NordVPN. Clever.
Connection speeds are super-fast and buffering is a real rarity. In our tests, NordVPN clocked speeds comparable to ExpressVPN when downloading large files and streaming videos. NordVPN also unblocked almost all of the websites we attempted to access, making it a great choice for streamers.
The software allows up to six simultaneous connections – one more than ExpressVPN – and there's a NordVPN app for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux and Android TV, plus extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Edge.
Downsides? NordVPN is not quite as user-friendly as ExpressVPN, so if you’ve never used a VPN before, we’d still recommend trying ExpressVPN. Still, NordVPN is a magnificent bit of kit and a great option for streamers who want extra threat protection.
On a tight budget? Surfshark could be the best VPN service for you. Monthly subscription fees are about as low as they get, especially when you consider the generous spec.
The headline news is that you can use Surfshark on unlimited devices, which is handy if you have a house full of tech addicts. The app is a brilliant – it's a doddle to use – and the customer service is exceptionally friendly.
You get all the usual bells and whistles, including split tunnelling (Surfshark calls it Bypasser), AES-256 encryption, PrivateDNS leak protection, ad-blocking and Antivirus protection. Surfshark also offers two-factor authentication, which is not something you’ll find on every VPN.
As for speeds, Surfshark performed well in our tests, broadly matching the market leaders. It also unblocks most websites including popular streaming services and plenty of live TV channels. There are apps and extensions for iOS, macOS, Windows, Linus, Chrome and Firefox, as well as smart TVs such as Android TV and Fire TV,
ExpressVPN is more reliable and has the edge when it comes to unblocking websites, but if the lure of unlimited connections is too strong, or you fancy a thoroughly premium VPN for a bargain price, Surfshark is a great buy.
Proton VPN is a high-speed VPN service based in Geneva, Switzerland. This means users benefit from some of the strongest privacy laws in the world, making it an excellent choice for those who are concerned about civil liberties – as well as unblocking websites when overseas.
Proton VPN was created by the scientists, engineers, and cryptographers behind Proton Mail, one of the world’s largest encrypted email services, so it's a trustworthy choice. The apps are all open source, so anyone can inspect them. You can even pay for your monthly subscription anonymously, via Bitcoin.
The technical stuff – strong encryption protocols such as WireGuard and OpenVPN – is impressive. And with servers in 64 countries, performance is up there with the best. You get support for up to 10 connections and streaming is fuss-free as ProtonVPN unblocks most websites. (Worth noting: there is a free version, but it doesn’t offer streaming capabilities). You'll also get Proton's unique Secure Core servers, physically located in bunkers around the world to provide the ultimate in data security.
All in all, Proton VPN is an impressive beast. It’s more expensive than some of the best VPN services, though.
If you find yourself torrenting tons of files, Private Internet Access could be the best VPN service for you. It’s been around for more than a decade and has over 10,000 high-speed servers in 84 countries.
Crucially, PIA lets you easily set up a multi-hop connection that routes your traffic through the VPN first, then through a SOCKS5 proxy, which provides extra privacy when torrenting.
PIA supports up to 10 devices at a time, is a dab hand at ad-blocking, and offers plenty of juicy features. You also get 24/7 live chat support and a large number of apps and extensions (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox and Opera).
PIA’s sheer number of servers, plus the maturity of its tech, seems to deliver a secure, reliable connection in pretty much any location. Speeds are very good but not always world-beating, and while it unblocks most websites, it occasionally struggled with the big streaming services.
Still, if you’re more interested in torrenting than streaming, PIA is a dirt-cheap VPN that delivers excellent results.
This feature-packed VPN combines lightning-fast speeds with streaming-friendly features galore. The company's network of over 8800 servers spread throughout 91 countries means you can locate yourself virtually anywhere.
CyberGhost’s USP is the ability to set up rules. So, for example, you can have it automatically route your IP address through a server in the US when you open the HBO Max app. Genius.
We had no performance issues whatsoever, and maximum speeds were comparable with market-leaders such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN. CyberGhost unblocked every website we tried, and there are plenty of apps and extensions (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV and other smart TVs). The presence of Smart DNS makes it easy to set up CyberGhost on games consoles too.
Like all of the VPNs listed on this page, CyberGhost has a strict ‘no logs’ policy. However, unlike ExpressVPN and others, it’s not independently audited. On the flipside, it's based in Romania, which has no laws requiring VPNs to store information and CyberGhost is one of the few VPNs to publish transparency reports every three months, as opposed to annually.
All in all, CyberGhost as plenty going for it, including a generous 45-day money back guarantee. It only loses out on one of the top spots thanks to its slight lack of polish, and the fact that the competition is so strong.
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