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How We Test VPNs

There are hundreds of VPNs out there, but not all of them are good or even legit. Before you can decide which VPN is right for you, it’s important to research which ones are tested and verified. That way, you’ll be able to invest in a VPN you know you can trust.

We’ve tested the top VPN brands and purchased their services. After looking at the VPN’s interface, features, pricing, and after performing speed tests, we’ve compiled a list of VPNs from the top brands on the market. Feel free to use the same research methods in your own hunt. To help your search, here is our research method for how we test VPNs.

Take a good look at the interface

If you can’t stand your VPN’s interface, using your VPN can become a hassle. At worst, a bad interface will make it difficult to understand how the website works or how to connect to a specific server. That’s why investing in a VPN with the right interface makes a huge difference. Because, let’s be honest, nobody has time for complicated websites and confusing apps.

It’s easy to tell if a VPN has a good interface. Think through these questions when experimenting with the interface:

  • Can you easily navigate around the app?
  • Are the features well organized?
  • Are there instructions on how to use the VPN?
  • Are these instructions easy to use, even if you’ve never downloaded a VPN before?

A good VPN will be easy to use, include clear directions, and highlight server options available to you.

If you’re someone looking for a professional, clean interface, try using ExpressVPN. If you enjoy an interface that’s fun and slightly entertaining, give TunnelBear a try. Whichever one you decide to go with, pick the VPN with an interface that’s straightforward and that you can use on any device.

Comparing the right features is key

Another extremely important factor is which features are offered. We often compare features where you can easily tell which is better, such as:

  • Number of servers
  • Variety of countries
  • Security protocols
  • Number of devices allowed per subscription

Features can include extra services unique to a specific VPN. For example, Private Internet Access allows you to purchase a plan using gift cards from Target or Starbucks. NordVPN offers access to a free malware protection software, while TunnelBear comes with a free ad blocker.

When looking at VPN features, first compare the ones you can easily measure (number of servers, countries, and devices). Then, look at the extra features. What’s unique about this VPN? Think about what features are important to you. Some people value security and privacy the most, for others, it’s all about internet speed. Each VPN brand will emphasise different kinds of features.

Best VPN services of 2020
BrandPriceNumber of VPN serversMost powerful featureDetails
NordVPN$11.95/mo.5,760Free malware protection softwareView Plans
Hotspot Shield$7.99/mo.3,200+Free password managerView Plans
ExpressVPN$12.95/mo.3,000+Best interface that’s clear and easy to useView Plans

Data effective 07/31/2020. Offers subject to change.

Compare prices to find the deal that’s right for you

If the VPN service doesn’t match the price, then it’s not worth purchasing the VPN. Some VPNs are more pricey because they provide quality service or additional features. Others might be charging you for a service that doesn’t work well at all. We’ve done our research and testing so that you know the difference. You’re the one picking up the tab, so you should be aware of the prices, plans, and VPN options available to you.

VPN plans cost anywhere between $5 and $14 per month. If you’re looking to save money, sign up for a yearly plan. Typically, the longer you sign up for, the more affordable your VPN will be. CyberGhost has a unique 18-month plan for only $2.75 per month. IPVanish is also one of the more affordable VPNs. It’s one year plan costs $3 per month on average.

If you’re looking at prices but want the quality of the VPN to match what you’re paying, you can find a free trial and test the VPN yourself. Many VPN apps offer free trials for up to 30 days. VPN Secure, Norton Secure VPN, Windscribe, and PureVPN all have free trials available. Sometimes doing your own test will be the best way to find the right VPN for the right price.

Speed tests are important, here’s how we do them

In order to test a VPN’s speed, we download a file and run this free speed test, both when the VPN is turned on and off. The speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). By comparing the results, you can see which VPNs will slow your internet down the most and which ones barely make a difference.

Due to added encryption with a VPN, most all of them technically slow your internet slightly. The question is whether you can tell a difference. Below is a list of some of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested.

Fastest VPN speed comparison1
BrandPriceDownload speedUpload speedDetails
NordVPN$11.95/mo.214 Mbps60 MbpsView Plans
MullvadVPN$5.41/mo.127 Mbps53 MbpsView Plans
Hotspot Shield$12.99/mo.203 Mbps44 MbpsView Plans

Data effective 08/20/2020. Offers subject to change.

Now that you know how we test VPNs, here are your next steps.

Test your internet speed in one click.

TAKE OUR INTERNET SPEED TEST

See our picks for the top VPNs.

THE 5 BEST VPN SERVICES

Sources

  1. Ethan, Payne, VPNpro, “Fastest VPN in 2020—Top Best-Performing Services,” August 7, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2020.

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