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Best VPN Services 2020: Reviewed & Ranked

Many people use a VPN simply to unblock video, but there are a good few other reasons to have one. And the best thing is that you can use a VPN subscription on several devices at the same time, so one could be streaming Netflix while another is browsing the web and another person in your household can use the service for security on public Wi-Fi.

Of course, while you may be familiar with the benefits of a VPN, you may not know which service is the best one for you to subscribe to. Which is why you’re here of course. We’ve tested many services and what you’ll find here is only the best ones.

In some respects it can be tricky to decide on your priorities: cost per month, connection speed, number and location of servers, number of apps on offer, quality of tech support and other factors.

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Surfshark VPN

What’s the best VPN?

And you probably don’t have time to pore over the finer details about each and every VPN service. We know that all you really want to know is which are the best value. So here are four that should be on your shortlist for the reasons listed below.

If you want to know more, below you’ll find our picks of the top 10 VPNs, as well as more detailed buying advice if you do care about the finer points.

Best VPN reviews 2020

1. NordVPN – Best overall

NordVPN

2. ExpressVPN – Best premium

ExpressVPN

3. Surfshark – Best value

Surfshark

4. CyberGhost – Best for Video Streaming

CyberGhost

5. Private Internet Access – Best for power users

Private Internet Access

6. VyprVPN – Best for Owned & Operated Servers

VyprVPN

7. PureVPN – Most countries covered

PureVPN

8. Ivacy – Cheapest over 5 years

Ivacy

9. Hide.me

hide.me VPN

10. IPVanish

IPVanish

If you’re interested in knowing 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 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 Netflix, Disney Plus or another service that’s not available in your country, then you don’t have to worry too much about any other details: just go for a well-priced service that offers unblocking for the services you need.

If your more concerned about privacy and security, you’ll want to go for a VPN that doesn’t log any data and ideally runs its own servers. The recent news that one of NordVPN’s servers was hacked highlights how even the big names can suffer security breaches, and the company is now in the process of changing how it runs those servers to mitigate the risk. 

Put simply, if you want to minimise the risk of your VPN service being hacked, opt for one which owns and manages its hardware. And if your life depends upon your VPN connection, don’t use a consumer service at all.

Don’t be persuaded by a bigger choice of countries: it doesn’t mean it’s a better service. What you should look for are servers in the countries you either need to appear to be in or are physically present in, as a local VPN server will always give you the fastest speeds from any given service.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever use other servers around the globe, and you certainly won’t want to connect to a server the other side of the world if it reduces your internet connection speed to a crawl.

Testing a VPN service’s speed is tricky as it varies all the time. The best way to find out if a service is quick or not is to read our reviews.

It’s important to note that installing a VPN on one device will only protect that device. If you want your media streamer (say an Apple TV) to use the VPN connection, you’ll either need to install a VPN app on it, or if there’s no way to install an app, then use a router which supports VPN which will protect all devices connected to it. 

Most VPNs support Windows, Android, iOS and macOS, but some offer apps for a wider selection of devices including Amazon Fire TV Stick, Linux and web browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox and others.

You don’t actually need an app if your device supports a VPN connection, so you can enter your username, password and other details into your NAS, router or other device. However, that’s a hassle when you want to change to a different server as you need to set up a connection manually for each one.

A great reason to use a VPN is whenever you’re connected to an open public Wi-Fi network in a cafe, hotel, airport or on public transport. When a Wi-Fi network doesn’t require a password to connect (and entering your email or other details in a web browser doesn’t count here) it means the connection from your phone to the network is unencrypted. And that means it can be very easy for anyone to spy on your activity. But the simple act of enabling your VPN means the connection is encrypted, and no-one can read your messages, snipe your credit card details or anything else.

Also, look out for any restrictions on usage – some ban P2P (file sharing) while others are fine with it. 

In addition to those listed we’ve reviewed other VPNs that didn’t make the cut including: Hide.me, Bullguard VPN, Bitdefender Premium VPN, Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium and Hide My Ass! VPN.

What is the ’14 Eyes’ collective?

If you’re most concerned about privacy, it’s important to know where your VPN is based. In recent years some countries have got together to exchange information freely, nominally in a bid to enhance everyone’s security. However, many groups are critical of this behaviour, believing that mass surveillance impinges on our freedoms.

The main group of countries that can share information freely is called the Five Eyes. They come from the UKUSA agreement that, although began back in 1941, was only made public knowledge in 2005. The agreement is between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, hence the name Five Eyes. Those countries have agreed to collect, analyse and share information between each other, and much of this intelligence is believed to be related to internet activity these days.

The Five Eyes has grown to include a total of 14 countries, which is why you’ll hear a lot about ’14-eyes’ when reading about VPNs. Third party countries were added over time, and now additionally include Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.

If your VPN provider is based within a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply. If your provider promises that it doesn’t log any information, you’re probably safe within the 14 Eyes, but it is more of a risk if privacy is your main concern and you might want to consider looking for a VPN provider that is based elsewhere.

What information does a VPN keep?

VPN providers generally promise zero logging. These days it’s rare for them to log connection time stamps, IP addresses and bandwidth used: they usually only log anonymous information ‘necessary to maintain and improve the service’.

Some will also store basic payment information such as your name and address.

However, if you’re looking for complete anonymity, choose a provider that accepts payment in the form of gift cards or Bitcoin, which makes it near-impossible to trace back to an individual.

VPN bans in China and Russia

Most VPN services claim to work in China and Russia. The truth is that it’s a cat-and-mouse game where the governments work out how to block connections if they detect you’re using a VPN and they’re very good at doing so. It means that you can’t know for sure if a certain service will let you access Google and other sites on a particular day, and that’s one reason why it pays to subscribe to a service with 24/7 live chat support: they’ll be able to help you pick the right server and settings to bypass the blocks at that time.

The same goes for unblocking streaming services: they don’t like VPNs and crack down on them as much as they can. And, again, having live chat support is useful when you run into problems.

We have lots more information and articles about VPNs here at Tech Advisor, all of which you can find over in our VPN hub.

Highlights include:

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