Software Reviews, News, Tutorials, Buying Advice


Best VPN Services 2021: Reviewed & Ranked

Whether you’re after better privacy for everything you do on the internet or you have a specific need such as watching HBO Max in the UK or – now that Brexit has changed things – watching Sky from somewhere in the EU, you’ll be after a VPN.

The choice is huge and, frankly, confusing. But we’ll explain what to look for and recommend the services that you should put on your shortlist.

The great thing about the VPN services here (and many that aren’t here because they didn’t quite make the grade) is that one account can be used on several devices at the same time. This makes the low monthly prices even better value as the whole family can use the service: one person could be streaming something from HBO Max while another is browsing the web and yet another person could be using it for security on public Wi-Fi.

Even if you’re already familiar with the benefits of a VPN, you may not know which service is currently the best. And that’s why you’re here of course.

Juggling priorities is one of the trickiest aspects of picking a service: cost per month, connection speed, number and location of servers, number of apps on offer, quality of tech support and other important factors such as security. We can’t know your exact requirements, but the summaries below should help you quickly identify which is best for you.

What’s the best VPN?

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

If you want more recommendations, scroll down and you’ll also find more detailed buying advice if you do care about the finer points.

Best VPN reviews 2021

1. NordVPN – Best overall

2. Surfshark – Best value

Surfshark

3. Private Internet Access – Best for power users

Private Internet Access

4. VyprVPN – Best for Owned & Operated Servers

VyprVPN

5. CyberGhost – Best for Video Streaming

CyberGhost

6. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

7. Ivacy – Cheapest over 5 years

Ivacy

8. Hide.me

hide.me VPN

9. PureVPN

PureVPN

10. Hidden24

Hidden24

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 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 other details: just go for a well-priced service that offers unblocking for the services you need.

Most offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try them out and make sure they let you access the services you need.

If you’re more concerned about privacy and security, you’ll want to go for a VPN that doesn’t log any data and ideally owns and manages its servers, rather than renting servers from a datacentre. 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 better. 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 likely you’ll only use handful of the servers available, 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.

Just about all 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. Plus, it means you miss out on advanced features only available in the apps, including a kill switch if the operating system doesn’t provide one.

Public / free Wi-Fi

You should use a VPN is whenever you’re connected to an open public Wi-Fi network in a café, 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: AtlasVPN, IP Vanish, HMA, Bullguard VPN, Bitdefender Premium VPN, Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium.

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 claim to not log anything. 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’.

We check carefully using information available to us exactly what each service logs, and include this in each review.

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 any activity back to an individual. Just note that a VPN does not make you anonymous online.

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. At the moment, many VPNs are unable to unblock BBC iPlayer – even big names such as ExpressVPN. So if this is important to you, check with the company first to see what the current situation is. Usually there is a solution: ExpressVPN offers a separate Media Streamer service which allows you to watch iPlayer content abroad.

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

Related articles for further reading

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.