There are hundreds of commercial VPNs out there, which can make it difficult to choose one as they all seem to offer identical features. Each buyer has their own preferences on which VPN capabilities are more important to them. To make your purchase decision easy, we have reviewed the best and most secure VPN providers for 2021.
Our Ranking Criteria
In this review of VPN solutions, privacy and anonymity were very important considerations. Despite all our VPN providers claiming strong security protocols and a “no-logs policy,” the best way to ensure safety is to have your VPN data located outside the “Fourteen Eyes.” That said, our review also includes several US, UK and Sweden-based providers due to their support of cryptocurrency payments, IP shuffling, or other minimally invasive technologies.
On the performance front, we sought VPN connections which really delivered on high speeds with split tunneling or related features. The onset of IKEv2 and Wireguard protocol in VPN services is a game-changer. We also took into account consistent and stable server locations.
Having a large number of VPN servers in many countries was another important criteria, especially with as many US-based servers as possible. Reasonable pricing was a last but important factor: some VPNs are worth the extra cost.
Here are the best and secure VPN providers:
Rating: (4.9 / 5)
- Located in BVI outside the Fourteen Eyes, Bitcoin payments & Wireguard support, unlimited devices, split tunneling, Netflix unblocks easily, fast reliable speeds, low priced
Located in British Virgin Islands, SurfShark is well and truly outside the “Fourteen Eyes” and has a superb no-logs policy that doesn’t require your identity. This means the VPN provider can help you go truly anonymous by not requiring any personal details at the time of registration. It checklists almost all our selection criteria to provide a truly awesome VPN experience.
A Whitelister feature with split tunneling allows you to have specific important apps bypass the VPN. For example, mobile banking: no need to disconnect from the VPN while doing financial transactions. It supports fast and clutter-free Wireguard and Clean Web to remove malware, and with Double VPN, you get extra strong privacy. It has more than 15 Netflix libraries, which can guarantee access to the streaming site.
Another excellent feature of SurfShark is its ability to connect to unlimited devices at the same time. Most VPN players have a limit on how many devices you can simultaneously connect to, so Surfshark’s offering is one of the best overall deals, considering it is extremely low-priced compared to most others.
Rating: (4.7 / 5)
- Located in BVI outside the Fourteen Eyes, Bitcoin payments, fastest connection speeds, works in China, wide variety of servers, Netflix unblocks easily, split tunneling, IKVe2 support, best customer care
ExpressVPN is a superb VPN solution with extremely fast and reliable speeds and has a reliable no-logs policy since it’s based in the British Virgin Islands. With more than 3000 remote servers across 94 countries, ExpressVPN gives consistent performance in any location of your choice. The app’s performance in downloading streaming content is unparalleled. No matter where you’re based, you will never fail to connect to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or download torrents. Also, very rarely does ExpressVPN disconnect you: when it happens, the kill switch will ensure none of your ISP data is exposed.
For blazing fast speeds, you can use IKEv2 which nearly recreates what your ISP offers you. If there are any issues, a 24/7 live chat team is always there to help you out, and based on my own experience, they are very knowledgeable and responsive.
Are there any disadvantages? Yes, ExpressVPN does not yet have some advanced features such as WireGuard support, Double VPN capabilities, or IP shuffling. But you may not miss those considering there is so much focus on VPN speed performance with split tunneling and real privacy. Also, it’s an expensive solution, but if you go for a longer plan, it turns out cheaper: ExpressVPN does support Bitcoin payments for total anonymity.
Rating: (4.7 / 5)
- Located in Panama outside the Fourteen Eyes, Bitcoin payments, fastest connection speeds, works in China, wide variety of servers, Wireguard and IKVe2 support, double VPN, dedicated IP, reasonable price
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers, and that is perfectly understandable given its breadth of features, particularly its strongest security encryption (4096-RSA). Although the company did infamously encounter a server breach episode in 2019, it has now plugged the security holes but has a few issues due to the no split tunneling feature and somewhat confusing customer support. With nearly 5500 servers in 59 countries, of which nearly 2000 are in the United States, you get an extensive VPN platform.
NordVPN supports many specialty servers, including dedicated IP, double VPN, onion over VPN, and specific servers for P2P downloads. However, during actual usage, some of the connections may appear broken or unreliable, but they get updated constantly to keep pace with sites that block VPN traffic. It has also started rolling out the updated WireGuard protocol as of April 22, 2020, which is making the servers noticeably fast compared to before. NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, well outside the “Fourteen Eyes,” which is a plus for privacy lovers. NordVPN is generally an affordable service depending on a longer subscription.
4. Private Internet Access
Rating: (4.5 / 5)
Why Private Internet Access?
- Huge collection of worldwide servers with more than 6000 US servers, Bitcoin payments, fastest connection speeds, add applications to VPN, Wireguard support, split tunneling, small packets for faster speeds
With 12,970 servers in 95 locations across 74 countries, Private Internet Access provides a truly extensive VPN network with at least 6500 US locations. So if you’re looking to keep pace with sites such as Netflix, Hulu and Wikipedia, you will have a lot more options than other VPN providers. It also offers a split tunnel VPN capability where you can add your favorite applications, browsers, and IP addresses to navigate through the secured tunnel. Or, if you have sensitive websites such as bank accounts, you can choose to bypass the VPN. The service allows you to use up to AES-256 security with RSA-4096 handshake, which is a true military-grade encryption.
The best part of Private Internet Access is its support for WireGuard across all its servers. You can further choose to split your traffic into smaller packets, which ensures reliability on poor Internet connections. The server speeds are fast and reliable, and with such an extensive collection of US-based servers, Private Internet Access should definitely remain high in your consideration. However, as the company is headquartered in Colorado, USA, those who do not want a US-based VPN provider will have to think twice.
5. Mullvad VPN
Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- Best for Firefox users, Bitcoin payments, fastest connection speeds, extensive Wireguard support, split tunneling, small packets for faster speeds
Mullvad VPN is Firefox’s official partner, which makes it worth our consideration. After a download, you get a login account number, which allows you to explore its breadth of features. It’s a reliable high-speed VPN with an important disadvantage that the company is based in Sweden, well within the Fourteen Eyes. But you can use Bitcoin payments.
The app has some advanced features, such as IPv6 support and your Internet connection always requiring VPN. This is something we won’t recommend, as it can be messy and has been poorly designed. Its strongest capability, however, is support for Wireguard, and you can clearly see the servers supporting it.
Mullvad has around 750 servers in 36 countries, which is slightly less, but there is a huge collection of US-based Wireguard servers which can be utilized using regenerated keys. The speeds are very reliable.
6. Hotspot Shield
Rating: (4.4 / 5)
Why Hotspot Shield?
- Bitcoin support, fastest connection speeds with Speedtest support, add applications to VPN, Whitelisting and blacklisting feature, extensive Wireguard support
With more than 1800 servers in 80 countries, Hotspot Shield is another reliable VPN solution which comes with added benefits, such as malware and phishing prevention, and a strict no-activity logs policy. According to Speedtest.net, it was voted the “World’s Fastest VPN,” which along with its military-grade encryption capability, makes it worth our consideration. A big disadvantage is the company is based in Silicon Valley, USA, so those needing a non-US VPN provider might look for other options.
In terms of security and privacy features, Hotspot Shield has a rather impressive profile. It offers a smart VPN feature, which allows whitelisting or blacklisting select apps and websites as per your choice. So if using VPN in another country gets you locked out of Google or banking websites, such a feature can help you bypass the VPN for those select services. It has a proprietary Hydra protocol which can ensure fast, secure connections for gaming, streaming, downloading, P2P, and related activities.
Hotspot Shield has a Speedtest button to give you the reliable values. All these features make Hotspot Shield a notable recommendation. However, there are a few caveats for streaming users: some of the servers may not unblock Netflix or Amazon Prime Video properly. Also Hotspot Shield does not support split tunneling.
Rating: (4.2 / 5)
- Based in Romania outside the Fourteen Eyes, affordable, Bitcoin support, reliably fast connection speeds, extensive servers collection in many countries, Wireguard support
Romania-based CyberGhost is a military-grade VPN provider at an affordable price. CyberGhost currently has nearly 7000 servers in 90 countries. The connection speeds are fast and reliable for most servers but may leave a lot to be desired compared to our other examples. However, the company just last month made a contribution to WireGuard which should now put it in the top bracket of VPN providers.
To ensure online anonymity, you may choose not to submit usage data and not launch CyberGhost at the time of PC boot-up. It has a built-in Wi-Fi protection feature to prevent snooping on public networks. Overall, CyberGhost is a good value-for-money VPN provider given its modest range of reliable servers and cheap pricing.
Rating: (4.1 / 5)
- Based in Switzerland outside the Fourteen Eyes, Bitcoin support, Wireguard support
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN comes from the same product family as Protonmail, one of the most secure email services. It supports more than 700 servers in more than 50 countries, with a large number of US- and EU-based servers. Depending on whether you’re in the Western Hemisphere or Eurasia, your connection speeds will be very fast for a location close to you. ProtonVPN guarantees your privacy by not logging user activity or sharing data with third parties. In fact, news due to journalists use this service to stay free of surveillance. This it achieves using a “secure core” network feature.
ProtonVPN also connects with Tor for a double VPN arrangement. it supports up to 10 devices, which is a respectable tally. On the downside, this is the most expensive VPN solution in our list, costing even more than ExpressVPN. Also, it promises three perpetually free servers, but they are hard to locate.
A major downside is the lack of live chat customer care to take care of your issues: they have to be resolved using tickets. If you’re stuck in a bad VPN connection, you will have to wait for a few hours to get back on track. Fortunately, the app does have a kill switch for such situations. Also, ProtonVPN is yet to support Wireguard and many other advanced features.
Freemium VPN Services
Are free VPNs as good as paid ones? Usually no, as hosting VPN servers costs money, so many of the VPN providers claiming to offer you free connections are really after your personal data. Still, if you’re looking for a reliable “freemium” service, you can’t go wrong with TunnelBear. After a simple registration, you get up to 500 MB of free data acess which may not mean much, but if you tweet about the company, they’re giving you 1 GB extra. Plus, if you have other email addresses, you can create many more free TunnelBear accounts.
Only when you get down to the TunnelBear app, do you realize the free VPN service is at least as feature-rich as the Premium VPN apps. A feature called “GhostBear” randomizes your Internet traffic. TunnelBear unlimited plans start at only $3.33 per month and give you access to a huge range of fast, reliable servers, making it a truly wonderful VPN app.
Another freemium VPN service, WindScribe also offers access via free mode. This is a high quality app which supports up to 10 GB free bandwidth; however, only a few servers are accessible for free.
Some of the advanced features in free mode include support for WStunnel, a powerful stealth VPN feature, which is helpful in overcoming firewall restrictions such as in China. To be able to use the service properly, you need access to its annual plan which is reasonably-priced.
The good thing about our top VPN picks is that they easily fulfill considerations from all kinds of VPN users. Now that you have checked out the best and secure VPN providers, if you have trouble connecting to a VPN instead, try some of the fixes here.