Tech Review Ninja Logo
Tech Review Ninja

The Best VPN Software for 2021

  RECOMMENDATION

Updated on: 10 May, 2021
   Share on Twitter
 6 Minutes
The Best VPN Software for 2021
Image by David Mark from Pixabay (Source: Pixabay)

A VPN is a cost-effective way of improving both your privacy and security on the Internet. Using a VPN can help you access content that would otherwise be blocked by your local ISP or government restrictions or allow you to access media that is restricted outside of specific geographies. A VPN can effectively make you anonymous on the Internet, leaving no footprint of your search history or the information you enter into Websites.


Disclosure

I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about the best technology products. I am an independent blogger and the reviews are done based on my own opinions.

The Top 5

The following are our top rated products. Please read on for a more detailed assessment of each product and our individual scoring.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our favourite VPN for good reason. It offers a solid set of features, has one of the best performing VPN connections and supports a wide number of devices. It does cost more than most other VPN services, but we think that the additional cost is worth the extra investment.

84.1%
CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of the best VPN services you can choose and have over 15 years of experience in offering VPN solutions, something evident in their solid features, wide device support and large geographic coverage. They were let down slightly in our performance testing, they only offer 7 simultaneous device connections, and you will need to sign up to the 3 year plan to get the best pricing. However, the money-back guarantee of 45 days is industry leading where 30 days seems to have become the standard.

81.7%
NordVPN

NordVPN is a good all round VPN service. Whilst not offering the best features, the best performance or the best geographic and device coverage, they offer a proven and reliable VPN service. They have one of the best technical support with fast turnaround and comprehensive responses.

80.6%
Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is an okay VPN service. There is no specific standout feature, but they do offer a stable and reliable conenction, even if it does not have the highest bandwidth.

80.0%
IPVanish

Overall IPVanish offer an affordable VPN service. The subscription covers unlimited simultaneous devices that is only equaled by Surfshark. The service is let down by limited device support, not even providing browser plugins that are offered by most other services. They are a bit cheeky with their pricing as the discounted price is only available for the first 12 months, after which the price nearly triples.

77.7%

Disclaimer

Please note that in some cases you can use a VPN service to circumvent certain legalities, such as bypassing government Internet controls or downloading copyrighted TV and movies. I am in no way endorsing the use of a VPN service for such activities and it is recommended that you check any legal ramifications of using a VPN service within your region or country.

What are the Benefits of a VPN Service?

There are several benefits of using a VPN on your computer, mobile device or router. Whilst I do not think that everyone needs a VPN, they can offer you a more secure and private Internet and web browsing experience, something that is becoming increasingly important.

Let’s look at a few ways a VPN service can help secure your Internet connection and improve your privacy.

Hiding your IP Address with a VPN

When your device connects to the Internet, your location is made available to the websites that you visit. For a mobile device, this may be the specific suburb you are located in and for your home Internet, it may be either your physical location or the location where your Internet Service Provider (ISP) connects to the Internet.

To see what location you are sharing, you can use an online service such as https://where-am-i.org to check.

The geographic restriction is the primary technique that websites use to restrict content to a specific location. For example, the BBC iPlayer service in the UK restricts content to only UK residents. This is due to content developed by the BBC is funded by the UK TV licence fees that are paid by UK citizens.

A VPN can be used to circumvent such restrictions, allowing you to connect to a UK based VPN server and therefore appearing to the BBC iPlayer service as if you are located in the UK.

BBC is known to block VPNs

Please note that the BBC is known to block access from some VPN services, so please check with your chosen VPN provider to determine they allow access to the BBC iPlayer. This is also true of other geo-restricted content, so it is worth checking before you commit to a VPN subscription. It would also be worth asking if you can cancel the subscription at any time if the content is subsequently blocked.

Enhancing your Privacy with a VPN

A VPN service can effectively make your Internet use anonymous. Every website you visit will log information to support both operational monitoring and contextual advertising and customising the experience to your specific profile. Some of this information can potentially be used to personally identify you and therefore you should be looking to minimise the footprint you leave across the Internet.

VPN services usually offer a no-log policy, providing a guarantee that they will not store or record any details about your use of the VPN service, including the data passed over the VPN or the websites that you visit. The issue is that such logs can be handed over to authorities upon request. Whilst there have been cases in the past of VPN services being caught logging such details, many are now audited by third parties to ensure compliance with this policy, publishing the results of the audits on their website.

  • In 2016, IPVanish provided user logs to the US Department of Homeland Security, even though at the time, they advertise as a no-logs VPN service. IPVanish is now owned by Stackpath who state that IPVanish does not log user activity.
  • In 2017, PureVPN handed over logs to the FBI. PureVPN completed a no-log audit in 2019 by Altius IT and another audit in 2020 by KPMG.

Accessing Blocked Websites with a VPN

A VPN allows you (in most cases) to access websites that have been blocked either by your local Internet Service Provider (ISP) or by government controls and restrictions. I say in most cases as the use of a VPN service is detectable, so the VPN connection can easily be blocked. This is a relatively rare scenario, but countries such as China, Turkey, UAE, and Iran are known for blocking most VPN connections when they are detected. Some countries, such as China are infamous for their use of the Great Firewall of China, where many western websites and services are blocked due to the lack of control the government has over the content that its citizens can view.

Is Using a VPN Service Legal?

Yes, using a VPN service is legal. However, a VPN can be associated with illegal activities, such as hacking, downloading pirated material or accessing the dark web.

Our VPN Testing

We test each VPN services for at least over 6 months to ensure a level of consistency in our testing results, especially regarding the connection stability and speeds when making both local and international VPN connections, which can vary each day.

VPN Service Features

Most VPN services offer a very similar feature set, so comparing services can be tricky.

VPN No-log Policy

Mandatory

A no-log policy is a mandatory feature of any VPN service. Even though all VPN services we test include a no-log policy, it is worth reading through the policy to ensure you are comfortable with the specific terms and conditions.

Split Tunneling

Whilst not essential, a split tunnel can help improve the performance of your internet connection. A split tunnel allows you to configure the VPN service so that you specify what data uses the VPN and what can use your regular Internet service. For example, you may be happy that gaming does not use the VPN, but web browsing and streaming media do.

Internet Kill Switch

When there is an interruption to your Internet connection and you are connected using your VPN, an internet kill switch will immediately cut the internet connection. This ensures your activity remains anonymous and private.

Number of Simultaneous Devices

Most VPN services restrict the number of devices that can use the VPN service simultaneously. Most offer at least 5 devices with some (such as IPVanish and Surfshark) now offering unlimited simultaneous devices.

Unlimited VPN Bandwidth

All of the popular VPN services provide unlimited bandwidth; however, it is worth checking the fine print if you are offered a very attractive deal, such as any bandwidth limitations or throttling.

Private DNS

All VPN services provide a private DNS that ensures your DNS requests are not sent over a public network, adding an additional level of privacy.

Dedicated IP Address

Most VPN services use a shared IP address when they connect to the internet at a remote location.

Some VPN services do offer you an option for a dedicated IP address, usually for an additional monthly cost. NordVPN includes a dedicated IP address for free as part of their standard service.

VPN Speed & Performance

To test the speed and performance of a VPN service, we connected using a desktop iMac from our Sydney location and connected to VPN locations in Sydney, London and San Francisco. We are connected to the Internet using a 50Mbps download 20Mbps upload broadband connection. On a typical day without connecting to a VPN, we would typically get 54 Mbps download and 19Mbps upload speed. The Speedtest result is shown below.

To determine an overall speed & performance rating, we performed general web searching and streaming from Netflix and Disney+ over several weeks to ensure consistency.

Sydney No VPN Speedtest

Sydney No VPN Speedtest

Sydney VPN

We performed a speed test connecting to a local Sydney VPN server using the Speedtest website.

Sydney VPN Speedtest

Sydney VPN Speedtest

You can see that the ping time is similar with only a slight reduction in download and upload bandwidth. When browsing or streaming media, we did not notice any difference in speed or performance.

London VPN

We performed a speed test connecting to a remote London VPN server using the Speedtest website.

London VPN Speedtest

London VPN Speedtest

Here you can see a significant increase in ping time. Whilst the download bandwidth reduced slightly, the upload bandwidth took a big hit. Both browsing and streaming performance was noticeably slower, and streaming from UK sites did introduce a few buffering delays in the streaming, especially for 4K content.

San Francisco VPN

We performed a speed test connecting to a remote San Francisco VPN server using the Speedtest Website.

San Francisco VPN Speedtest

San Francisco VPN Speedtes

As with London, San Francisco also suffered an increase in ping time and a reduction in both download and upload bandwidth; however, this was not as significant as using the London VPN. The browsing and streaming performance felt somewhere between the Sydney and London VPNs.

Security & Privacy

To determine a security & privacy rating we assessed the range of security protocols supported. All VPN services use AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit keys, also known as AES-256. There are a large number of VPN protocols available, including IKEv2, OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec and PPTP. Some VPN services are starting to support WireGuard, a relatively new protocol that offers a combination of both performance and security.

VPN Geographic Coverage

The number of countries where they offer VPN servers is important if you are looking to access content from a specific country or you are looking to circumvent controls within your own country.

The number of servers is not a great metric to compare services as this does not give any indication of the capacity and bandwidth available for each server.

VPN Device Support

The range of devices that are supported varies between VPN services. We have divided them into several categories.

  • PC and Mobile - covers Microsoft Windows PC, Apple Mac, various Linux distributions and the iPhone and Android mobile phones.
  • Media - covers both Smart TVs and devices such as Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
  • Routers - some routers offer the ability to be configured with a VPN service, effectively providing VPN coverage for all devices connected to the router. Not all routers are supported, so you should check the VPN providers website to see if your specific router is supported and for configuration instructions.
  • Gaming - covers Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation and Nintendo Switch.
  • Web Browser - plugins are predominantly available for Google Chrome and Firefox, with limited coverage of Apple Safari and other web browsers.

Technical Support

When evaluating the technical support capability for each VPN provider, we considered both general support information available and the quality of their technical support.

We looked through the general support information available on the website, including how comprehensive the support articles were and how simple and easy they are to understand.

We contacted technical support for assistance with configuring their VPN service on an Apple Mac computer. We looked for how responsive they were following the initial contact, how good they were at following up, and the overall quality of the responses and help provided.

VPN Cost

All VPN services are offered through a subscription model, where you pay a monthly fee for the service. They all offer discounts if you prepay for 12, 24 or even 36 months, but you need to read the small print on any cancellation charges if you decide to cancel. They all also offer a money-back guarantee period, usually limited to the first 30 days, with CyberGhost offering a slightly longer 45 days.


Product Score Breakdown

Please find below our individual product scores and assessment.

#1 ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our top rated VPN service. The desktop and mobile applications are very easy to configure and use. ExpressVPN has VPN servers in 94 countries, the highest number of countries available across the VPNs we have tested. ExpressVPN is more expensive than the other VPNs we have tested, but we found the stable connection and consistent performance outweighed the increased cost. There is nothing more frustrating than dropped connections or buffering streaming media. One negative is the limit of 5 simultaneous devices, which is very low. This may not be enough devices if you use a VPN on each of your devices rather than configure a VPN on your network router.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our favourite VPN for good reason. It offers a solid set of features, has one of the best performing VPN connections and supports a wide number of devices. It does cost more than most other VPN services, but we think that the additional cost is worth the extra investment.

84.1%

Criteria

Features
88.0%
Speed & Performance
86.0%
Security & Privacy
88.0%
Geographic Coverage
88.0%
Device Support
82.0%
Technical Support
85.0%
Cost
72.0%

  • Has VPN servers in 94 countries, the highest we are aware of.
  • Large number of supported devices.
  • Simple and intuitive desktop and mobile applications.
  • Consistent performance with minimal degradation when connecting to international VPN servers.
  • Not the cheapest VPN service.
  • Only supports 5 simultaneous devices which could be too low for many users.
  • Dedicated IP address not available.
Check Prices...
ExpressVPN

#2 CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of best value VPN services we have tested, only beaten by ExpressVPN in features and performance if not in cost. We were impressed by the good device support they offer, including Apple TV, Android TV, gaming consoles and router support. Configuring our ASUS router was quick and simple using their well-written support articles. We did find the speeds to be slightly slower when connecting from our Sydney location to International VPN servers, but the slight reduction in bandwidth was not usually noticeable when browsing or streaming content. You can optionally pay for a dedicated IP address, something most other VPN services do not provide. One negative is the limit of 7 simultaneous devices. This may not be enough if you use a VPN on each device rather than configure a VPN on your network router, something many ISP provided routers do not allow. Having to sign up to a 3 year plan is a bit cheeky. The money-back guarantee of 45 days is longer than all other VPNs we have tested, where 30 days seems to have become a standard.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of the best VPN services you can choose and have over 15 years of experience in offering VPN solutions, something evident in their solid features, wide device support and large geographic coverage. They were let down slightly in our performance testing, they only offer 7 simultaneous device connections, and you will need to sign up to the 3 year plan to get the best pricing. However, the money-back guarantee of 45 days is industry leading where 30 days seems to have become the standard.

81.7%

Criteria

Features
74.0%
Speed & Performance
78.0%
Security & Privacy
86.0%
Geographic Coverage
86.0%
Device Support
79.0%
Technical Support
84.0%
Cost
85.0%

  • One of the lower cost VPN services available.
  • 45 day money-back guarantee better than the 30 day offered by others.
  • Has VPN servers in 90 countries.
  • Include support for the WireGuard protocol.
  • Dedicated IP address available as an option.
  • Supports a wide range of devices compared to most other VPNs.
  • Not as fast when testing compared to others, especially international VPN connections.
  • 7 simultaneous devices may not be enough for some.
  • You need to sign up to the 3 year plan to get the best pricing.
Check Prices...

#3 NordVPN

You cannot fail to recognise NordVPN, they seem to have the most advertising of all VPN services. Whilst not offering the best features, the best performance or the best geographic and device coverage, what they offer is a proven and reliable VPN service. We like to think of them as the Toyota of VPNs, perhaps not the most exciting or innovative, but solid and dependable. One negative is the limit of 6 simultaneous devices, only 1 more than ExpressVPN. This may not be enough if you use a VPN on each device rather than configure a VPN on your network router.

NordVPN

NordVPN is a good all round VPN service. Whilst not offering the best features, the best performance or the best geographic and device coverage, they offer a proven and reliable VPN service. They have one of the best technical support with fast turnaround and comprehensive responses.

80.6%

Criteria

Features
81.0%
Speed & Performance
81.0%
Security & Privacy
88.0%
Geographic Coverage
74.0%
Device Support
76.0%
Technical Support
86.0%
Cost
78.0%

  • Consistent performance for local and international connections.
  • Includes a dedicated IP address at no extra cost.
  • Only supports 6 simultaneous devices.
  • Only has VPN servers in 59 countries, so worth checking to ensure required coverage.
Check Prices...

#4 Private Internet Access

There is much to like with Private Internet Access, but ultimately there is also nothing to love about it either. They provide an industry leading 34,000 VPN servers across 77 countries, but there is no way of knowing if such a large server count is better than others with far less servers. We did not notice connection times, dropouts or bandwith to be any better than others, so unsure if this is simply a marketing statement. From a cost perspective, it is quite a good value VPN if you opt for the 2 year plan. You can get a dedicated IP address for an optional cost and the 10 simultaneous device connections is above average.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is an okay VPN service. There is no specific standout feature, but they do offer a stable and reliable conenction, even if it does not have the highest bandwidth.

80.0%

Criteria

Features
68.0%
Speed & Performance
84.0%
Security & Privacy
88.0%
Geographic Coverage
86.0%
Device Support
69.0%
Technical Support
84.0%
Cost
81.0%

  • Good value if you opt for the 2 year plan.
  • Supports an above average 10 simultaneous devices.
  • Dedicated IP address for an optional cost.
  • Supports WireGuard, fast becoming the VPN protocol of choice.
  • Provide an industry leading 34,000 VPN servers across 77 countries.
  • Poor device support, no Smart TV or gaming console support.
Check Prices...

#5 IPVanish

Overall IPVanish offer an affordable VPN services ... for the first 12 months at least. They are a bit cheeky with their pricing as the discounted price is only available for the first 12 months, after which the price nearly triples. I would recommend you either contact support to get a continued discount or start to shop around when your service is due to expire. The license does cover unlimited simultaneous devices, which is a big advantage over other services. On the flipside, the service is let down by limited device support. They do not even provide browser plugins that are offered by most other services. I guess the reason they can offer unlimited connections is because they support such a limited range of devices!

IPVanish

Overall IPVanish offer an affordable VPN service. The subscription covers unlimited simultaneous devices that is only equaled by Surfshark. The service is let down by limited device support, not even providing browser plugins that are offered by most other services. They are a bit cheeky with their pricing as the discounted price is only available for the first 12 months, after which the price nearly triples.

77.7%

Criteria

Features
68.0%
Speed & Performance
81.0%
Security & Privacy
85.0%
Geographic Coverage
82.0%
Device Support
68.0%
Technical Support
85.0%
Cost
75.0%

  • Being able to use on unlimited simultaneous devices is a major bonus.
  • We found the support Website to be pretty comprehensive and well written.
  • Also offers a VPN service with 500GB secure cloud storage.
  • Device coverage is not as good as other VPN services.
  • No browser plugin available.
  • Discounted pricing is only available for the first 12 months, then the price nearly triples.
Check Prices...

Home:About:Contact
Copyright © 2022 Neon Pixel Studios. All Rights Reserved.