VPNs protect your security. They protect your anonymity. They help you download privately online. But is every VPN the same? Should you get a run of the mill “free VPN online” or a paid VPN service that won’t compromise speed or security? Here’s our review of the fastest VPNs in 2020.
When most people look for a VPN, their main concern is privacy. Hide your identity, protect your data, and do it with the most secure VPN around, end of story. An important consideration that often gets overlooked in the quest for anonymity is VPN speed. The nature of encrypting and rerouting traffic through different VPN servers can make a VPN slower than your average local service provider. Streaming movies suddenly take forever to load, and you can forget about online gaming and file sharing because of this VPN latency.
Running short on time? Here’s the tl;dr of the best and fastest VPNs currently on the market:
- NordVPN – Best for Speed – Ironically, NordVPN was once considered slow; but this reputation is firmly in the past. Continuous updating of their server network now allows for more connections than any other, and faster speeds to boot.
- Surfshark – Anti-adware, cutting-edge encryption and tunneling, plus highly responsive apps.
- ExpressVPN – One of the fastest networks, with efficient cryptography and next-gen tunneling.
- IPVanish – An oldie but goodie, still fast as ever for buffer-free streams and fast downloads.
- VyprVPN – This provider owns and operates their own dedicated server network, keeping traffic loads low and performance high.
Extra privacy and security with a VPN doesn’t have to come at the expense of speed. A number of the best high quality, reliable VPN services understand the importance of a solid internet connection and have taken extra steps to ensure downloads remain fast without giving up anonymity or privacy.
Evaluating The Best VPN Providers Based on Internet Speeds
Updated: December 11th, 2020
When looking for the fastest VPN providers and looking at the comparisons, download and upload speeds were naturally at the top of our VPN review list. We found that some VPN services boast fast downloads but don’t have the data to back it up, third party or otherwise. For our fastest VPN review, we chose the best available VPNs that have been thoroughly tested and verified and who are upfront with their speed policies, traffic restrictions, and connection information.
It’s important to note that VPN latency and speeds will vary greatly depending on your location as well as the location of the VPN’s server you’re connected to. To remedy this, a good VPN will offer unlimited and uncapped bandwidth, allow multiple devices to quickly connect at once, and will also let you switch servers to find a faster connection without penalty, all without sacrificing the same data protection features offered by other VPN providers.
- Up and Down Speed Test – This is where raw numbers carry a lot of weight. We looked at reported download and upload speeds for each VPN provider along with avg pings and latency. We found that the figures vary depending on location and who was running the test, but several VPN services stood head and shoulders above the rest.
- Server availability – Although it can be useful to route your traffic through a VPN server located on the other side of the globe, the added distance can create noticeable lag and latency. Some VPN providers offer more server location options than others, giving you more choices when it comes to finding a fast, closer connection.
- Simultaneous Connections – Almost all VPN providers limit the number of devices that can quickly connect to the service at one time. This can quickly cause speed and latency problems if you have downloads running on a PC while trying to surf on your tablet or play games on a console.
- Traffic limitations – Some VPNs block certain types of traffic, including P2P file sharing and BitTorrent. If you want to stream movies or download torrent files, you need to make sure the VPN will allow it, otherwise, those blazing fast speeds will go to waste.
- Bandwidth limitations – Apart from connection limitations and file type restrictions, a few VPNs insist on throttling bandwidth after a certain transfer amount has been met. We made sure the best VPNs below don’t put a cap on the amount or speed of the data you use.
- Logging policy – Privacy is still top priority in choosing a VPN. Each VPN below follows a strict zero-logging policy and encrypts all traffic that passes through its servers, keeping your information safe, free from leaks, and anonymous.
What’s the fastest VPN for the best price? Our VPN reviews
NordVPN has a stellar reputation for making privacy, security, and anonymity a top priority. The VPN service is no slouch when it comes to speed, either, with over 5,100 VPN servers spread across 60+countries, representing every continent except Antarctica. That list continues to grow over time, as well, ensuring easy access to nearby servers for optimum speed no matter where you’re located. You can also connect up to six devices to one account, the highest base number in the VPN services we tested.
One of NordVPN’s standout speed features is servers customized for specific types of online access. Ultra Fast TV servers, for example, are made for video streaming and can deliver consistently high speeds around the world. There are also VPNs designed for P2P and torrent use, all of which are included in NordVPN’s unlimited bandwidth promise.
On the security side of things, NordVPN has a strong zero-logging policy, uses a DoubleVPN for an extra layer of encryption security, and features a kill switch to stop software from connecting to the internet if your VPN service drops.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Optimized servers for unblocking Netflix
- Different IP addresses aervers
- Connect up to 6 devices at once
- Strict zero logs policy on both traffic and metadata
- Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
- They can take 30 days to process refunds.
Surfshark has a few things going for it that enable it to be one of the fastest, most secure VPNs on the market. Before we get into the technical merits of this provider, it must be said Surfshark’s apps just feel fast. Across platforms, these are uniformly minimalistic without being abstract, extremely snappy and responsive, and don’t bog down the processing power of your devices.
Surfshark’s network speed is, of course, also blazing fast. Launched in 2019, this provider uses only the most advanced cryptography (256-AES-GCM) and tunneling protocols (which include OpenVPN for desktop, IKEv2/IPSec for mobile, and the cutting-edge WireGuard for maximum speed).
Need more from this VPN service? How about CleanWeb, which intercepts ads, popups, and malware links before they even have a chance to load, saving you time and mobile data. And with a modern, RAM-only network numbering 800 nodes in 50 countries, there’s always a highly responsive VPN connection nearby.
- Unblock 15 international Netflix libraries, including the US and Japan
- Every server is a speciality server
- VPN split tunneling available
- VPN home jurisdiction in British Virgin Islands is ideal for privacy
- Support staff manned by actual human beings 24/7.
- Growing network doesn’t have same coverage as more mature VPNs
- Apps don’t allow for much manual fiddling for power users.
BEST BUDGET VPN OPTION:
Read our full Surfshark review.
The aptly named ExpressVPN takes its network speed seriously and is one of the best and fastest VPN services available. The service doesn’t just promise fast downloads, it builds the tools you need to test server lag right into the software. While running the Windows, Mac, and Android versions of the ExpressVPN app, simply access “speed test” from the menu to run a quick check on the current server’s latency, download speed, and overall speed index. Your VPN connection will vary depending on your location and which server you’re trying to access, but with 3,000+ VPN servers in 94 countries, you won’t be spoiled for choice.
The only potential downside to ExpressVPN is the device limitation. The default is three devices connected to the network at one time, meaning you can have a PC, phone, and gaming console sipping data, but that’s it. You can purchase additional device licenses to get around this limitation, or you can install the ExpressVPN app for routers and manually set up your home Internet to connect as many devices as you need.
Putting security to one side for a moment, ExpressVPN is a great and affordable way to watch geo-restricted content like Netflix, Hulu or BBC iPlayer. If you’re streaming or surfing from China with this goal in mind, ExpressVPN is one of the only best VPNs that works in that market.
Rounding out ExpressVPN’s offers are unlimited speed, unlimited bandwidth, and no restrictions on what types of files you stream or download. In addition to being one of The fastest VPN services, it also hits all the right marks as far as privacy and anonymity are concerned, making it our review as a solid choice for one of the fastest VPN options that doesn’t skimp on security.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
- Fastest servers we have tested
- Supports ALL devices
- Strict no-logs policy
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- Max 3 simultaneous connections
- High cost for month-to-month users.
IPVanish offers a massive variety of servers to connect to, over 1,300 in 60+ different countries. Our fastest VPN review found that speeds can vary greatly depending on your location and the server’s origin, often more so than some of the other providers on the list, but IPVanish’s US-based servers show consistently high speeds that may be the fastest on the market. Further sweetening the deal, IPVanish doesn’t monitor or throttle bandwidth, allows unlimited server switches, and doesn’t restrict P2P or torrent access (though these downloads may be noticeably slower).
IPVanish allows up to five simultaneous connections to a VPN, giving you plenty of room to connect and stream Netflix without worry. If you need more than that, however, you’ll need to set up a router using the IPVanish network details. The process can be a bit of technical work, but the VPN company offers several guides to walk you through the process.
Read our full IPVanish review.
READER VPN SPECIAL:
VyprVPN bills itself as the network made for speed and is a popular choice with gamers. The company owns all of its VPN servers, writes code optimized for fast connections, and uses hardware specifically designed to handle high speed traffic, even under a full load. You won’t encounter any bandwidth or speed cap restrictions, either, and VyperVPN allows unlimited server switching so you can find the VPN connection that’s fastest for you. With 700 server locations in 70 countries, we’ve found that this fast VPN service provides plenty of options at your disposal.
The security features for VyprVPN are also top notch. Multiple encryption protocols ensure data stays scrambled, and zero-knowledge, zero-logging policies provide the maximum amount of privacy possible, all without sacrificing the fastest speed. VyprVPN also offers incredible geo-location options to bypass censorships and region-locked content. If you are looking for a VPN service to use when torrenting look elsewhere, VyprVPN doesn’t allow torrenting on its network but is a good choice for everyone else.
Why Do VPNs Tend to Be Slow and have Latency Problems?
Most speed issues with VPNs can be traced back to three basic causes: low-quality service, high encryption overhead, and geographic location. The service issue is easy to circumvent if you choose a well-known VPN like the ones listed above. These VPN providers are your best options because they don’t skimp on good hardware and keep the fastest VPN connections a high priority for all users.
Geographic location is probably the most important factor in latency and slow VPN connection speeds. There are many advantages to connecting to a VPN server in another country, including bypassing region locked content and gaining an extra measure of data privacy. But the physical distance can create a stuttering connection simply because packets have to travel a longer distance. To work around this, VPN providers offer dozens of servers in dozens of countries around the world, and also give customers the ability to pick and switch which ones they connect to on their own.
Encryption is a security and privacy benefit of a VPN, but with some drawbacks. The process of taking data and encrypting it requires adding extra data to make it difficult to decipher. This eats up available bandwidth, making every packet larger and more difficult to download. Weaker encryption makes for faster VPN speeds, but it also reduces your security by a notch or two.
Best and Fastest VPNs – How to Speed Up Your VPN While Keeping Your Privacy and Security
If you’ve chosen a reliable, fast VPN provider but are still having trouble with slow speeds, don’t worry, there’s hope! More often than not sluggish internet is a result of too much traffic already passing through a single server. It may be the middle of the night where you’re sitting and waiting for a download to finish, but if your VPN server is across the world in a different time zone, it could be rush hour. If waiting for the VPN congestion to dissipate doesn’t correct the problem, try the speed tips below.
1. Change servers – The physical distance between you and the server you’re connected to has a profound impact on VPN speed. If you don’t need to connect to a certain country’s VPN servers, try switching to a closer location to see if the connection issue resolves.
2. Switch devices – Some internet connected devices just aren’t built for speed. If the internet feels sluggish on your phone, try connecting from a laptop, desktop PC, or tablet to see if the problem persists.
3. Use a wired connection – Wi-Fi can be unreliable when it comes to speed, especially if you live in an area where lots of other wireless networks are in close proximity. Simply switching to a hard network cable connection can fix a number of speed issues.
4. Disable local security software – Firewalls and antivirus software can cause serious lag issues with internet connections as they scan incoming packets of data. Disable them temporarily to see if that clears up the speed issue with the VPN.
5. Change ports or protocols – VPN software connects using a specific port number and protocol. Some local networks restrict the speed of these ports which will cripple your connection no matter how fast the service provider delivers. Check your VPN software’s options to switch ports for an instant boost in speed.
6. Reboot – When all else fails, close your VPN software and restart your device back up.
Even with the Best and Fastest VPN, Your ISP is Still the Limit
No matter how fast your VPN service and no matter how thoroughly optimized your hardware and software, internet service providers are still the ultimate determining factor in how fast your connection is. Most high tier VPNs clock in with download speeds around 50-60 mbits per second. The average internet speed offered by service providers in the US is 50 mbits per second, with most low level and mobile plans barely reaching half of that. There’s plenty of room for overlap, but be sure to perform speed tests of your own to make sure the limiting factor isn’t your ISP, not the VPN provider when it comes to latency and speeds.
DID YOU KNOW? You can unblock Netflix in school, here’s how.
Best Speeds without the VPN Apps
Some VPN users follow the slightly controversial advice of disabling their VPN connection when engaging in bandwidth-heavy but data-light tasks. Online gaming is a prime example of this, as very little private information is being sent across the internet, just vague location details associated with your service provider’s IP.
Because a local ISP will usually have better speeds than any available remote VPN, temporarily disabling the connection software while gaming online is a valid method of squeezing out a little extra speed. Just don’t forget to re-enable it back on when you’re done.
Beware of Fake Speed Boosters
There are a number of browser extensions and third-party apps that claim faster VPN connections on any device. Some come with promises of free VPN service, while others tout a mysterious ability to speed up your connection no matter which VPN service or provider you use. The rule for virtual private networks is that if it’s free and costs zero money, you don’t want it. Deals that guarantee services and results as good as this should be read with suspicion. This holds true for third-party apps as well. Unless the software was made by your VPN service, it won’t speed up your connection, won’t be useful, and is simply not worth downloading.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.