Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (2024)

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Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (1)

1. The top 5 VPNs
2.
Latest test results
3.
Stream unblocking
4.
Malware, tracking and ad-blocking
5.
Speed tests
6.
Industry rankings
7.
How we test VPNs
8.
Our experts

The most recent round of VPN testing is complete, and after rigorous analysis and comparisons, we have a new top five best VPN services.

While ExpressVPN has maintained its number one spot, it's a closer call than ever seen before—NordVPN continues to close the gap on ExpressVPN thanks to its ever-growing mass of features, budget-friendly pricing, and consistent content unblocking. Plus, it even claimed the crown for the fastest VPN in our speed tests—maxing out our gigabit line.

In a surprise twist, IPVanish jumped up to fifth place, knocking CyberGhost all the way down to ninth. We've seen some pretty amazing things from our recent testing, but for now, here's a quick breakdown of the cream of the crop.

The 5 best VPNs in 2023

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (2)

1. ExpressVPN: the best VPN service in 2023
ExpressVPN continues to set the bar in the industry. It offers easy-to-use apps, lightning-fast speeds, peerless build quality, and reliable content unblocking—all with 24/7 customer support. It even comes with a built-in password manager, and the Windows app now has Threat Manager to block malicious websites and protect your device.

On the surface, it's pricier than competitors like NordVPN, but that's mostly because ExpressVPN offers a maximum 12-month subscription, whereas other providers will further cut costs on longer plans.

Still, ExpressVPN more than makes up for it by offering 1 year of unlimited cloud storage and 3 months of extra protection for free on a 1-year subscription.

▶ Read more in our full ExpressVPN review

Swipe to scroll horizontally

ExpressVPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA clean and simple design that gives you everything you need, exactly when you need it⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIntuitive apps with auto-connect functionality make life easier⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFast enough for anything you could throw at it, but slower than NordVPN and Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly gives you access to content around the world⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyExpress offers state of the art protection for total peace of mind⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAlways available, friendly, and helpful⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceMore expensive than leading competitors⭐⭐⭐

2. NordVPN: the fastest VPN around
NordVPN blew us away with its speed, and the investment in NordLynx is really paying off. Combine that with consistent stream unblocking, and an all-in-one security suite, and you can see why it was such a close call with ExpressVPN.

Where NordVPN falls down is attention to detail. The build quality is significantly lower than ExpressVPN, and there are lots of minor inconveniences that just make the apps feel unintuitive at times.

Don't underestimate Nord, though—these gripes are only minor. For the majority of users, Nord is a reliable and highly secure option that is absolutely brimming with great features. If you want super-fast value, NordVPN is an excellent alternative.

▶ Read more in our full NordVPN review

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NordVPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA fun design that can be a little busy for some people⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEverything is easy to find, but the map interface can be off-putting, and there isn't much attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceThe fastest VPN in our latest round of tests⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingPerfect for Netflix and other streaming sites⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyEvery bit as strong as ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportFriendly, supportive and professional⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceFantastic value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐

3. Surfshark: the best budget VPN
Once again, Surfshark secures the best cheap VPN title. Much like NordVPN, Surfshark maxed out our speed testing, and despite consistency with

With servers in over 100 countries, you can stream your favorite shows from almost anywhere. Best of all, Surfshark costs as little as $2.49 per month, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee to try it out.

▶ Read more in our full Surfshark review

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Surfshark test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignEasy to use and elegant⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useConnecting only takes a few clicks—ideal for newbies⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of the fastest providers we tested⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingUnblocks virtually everything you'll need⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyNot a comprehensive antivirus or ad-blocking solution, and some kill switch ossues⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportBrowsing support articles isn't as intuitive as I'd like⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceReal value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. Private Internet Access: the best Linux VPN
Private Internet Access continues to impress me with the depth of customization available—something even ExpressVPN could learn from.

Despite underperforming in our speed tests, it's still fast enough for torrenting, gaming online, and streaming in 4K. Plus, PIA is one of the only services to ever prove its no-logs policy in court, twice!

With apps for every major platform, including a Linux VPN GUI, it's perfect for the more technically savvy. With dedicated streaming servers, it unblocked every service we threw at it. But don't just take my word for it, make the most of the 30-day money-back guarantee, and see for yourself.

Read more in our full Private Internet Access review

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Private Internet Access test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignLots of customization, but could do with some attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the best for beginners, but great for advanced users⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceGood speeds, but generally average compared to industry leaders⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDedicated streaming servers and an enormous global network help you unblock anything and everything⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThe latest and greatest in VPN tech, and a proven no-logging policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportA mass of knowledge online and expert support on-hand at all times⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceBudget-friendly and offering plenty of value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. IPVanish: an up-and-coming provider
IPVanish stormed up the rankings this time, jumping from ninth to fifth place! I was impressed with the commitment to improving the service and the steps taken to verify the sanctity of its network and no-logs policy.

It was also one of the fastest VPNs in our testing, joining NordVPN and Surfshark in maxing out our speed testing line. If this streak of improvement continues, I've no doubt it'll continue to climb the ranks.

Plus, unlimited simultaneous connections and a 30-day money-back guarantee mean you (and everyone you know) can put it to the test risk-free.

Read more in our full IPVanish review

View Deal

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IPVanish test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignDark and edgy, but generally complicated⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSome usability issues and a complex interface⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceIncredibly fast WireGuard speeds⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDecent unblocking with a couple of hiccups⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThoroughly audited and reliable encryption⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportSupport articles aren't as helpful as they should be and generally say the same thing⭐⭐⭐
PriceGenerally cheap, but renewal prices are quite a sting to users that get caught out⭐⭐⭐

Our latest test results

This round of testing saw some movement around the top players, but much of our best VPN list remains unchanged. NordVPN and Surfshark still stand strong to round out our top three, while PIA sits nicely in fourth.

The biggest mover, IPVanish, has some major app updates and new features to thank for the jump.In contrast, CyberGhost dropped to ninth place—decent speeds aren't enough to stand out in this competition, I'm afraid. Proton VPN also dropped to seventh place while PrivadoVPN climbed to sixth to take our best free VPN title.

Going a step further

It's not just about which VPN provider has the most to offer, it's about maintaining a reliable, high-quality service.

Mike Williams, our lead VPN Tester, puts it best: "A great VPN isn't necessarily about having the longest feature list or the highest possible speeds. What really matters is quality, attention to detail, and the kind of consistency that says not only can you trust this provider with your privacy right now, but you can be confident it'll stay that way for the foreseeable future."

I'd definitely agree. It's one of the key reasons ExpressVPN has held the crown for so long—the difference in quality between ExpressVPN and NordVPN is significant. There's so much attention to detail, even with the little things, so I know I can trust it with my life.

That said, with the recent Kape layoffs, I'll be watching ExpressVPN, PIA, and CyberGhost like a hawk, as I'm deeply concerned as to whether this will affect the quality of service on offer.

Stream unblocking results

VPNs regularly claim they unblock all of your favorite shows, but which ones really do? Check out the results from our testing below to see whether a service can access global streaming services:

Swipe to scroll horizontally

VPN ProviderNetflix librariesUS servicesUK and Australian services
ExpressVPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
NordVPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

PIA

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

Proton VPN

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

PureVPN

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

Surfshark

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

Hide.me

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

CyberGhost

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

Amazon

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now 10 play

Windscribe

US, UK, AU, CA, JP

DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

Hotspot Shield

US, UK, CA, JP

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

IPVanish

US, UK, JPAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

PrivateVPN

AU, CAAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

PrivadoVPN

US, UKAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
Atlas VPNUS, UKDisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

Astrill

US, UKFailediPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now

FastestVPN

US, JPFailedITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play

VyprVPN

US

Amazon, Disney

iPlayer, ITV, 9Now

Norton

AUAmazonITV, C4, 9Now

TunnelBear

FailedDisneyITV, C4, 9Now

Mozilla

FailedFailedITV, C4, 9Now

Mullvad

FailedFailedITV, C4, 9Now

Google

FailedFailedFailed

Malware, tracker, and ad-blocking results

Many VPNs say they have built-in ad, tracker, and malware blocking, and most reviews just take it for granted that these work and deliver useful results. Our lead tester aimed to measure this feature for each provider, and see how they compare to each other.

The tests included the following:

  • A custom tool that attempts to access 156 common trackers (Facebook, Twitter and so on), and records whether it’s still available.
  • A custom tool that tries to access a selection of URLs (300-600-ish) from a daily updated curated list of malicious URLs, like GitHub, and records what happens
  • Running a couple of ad-blocking testers (including AdBlock Tester) and recording the score.

Without further ado, lets see which VPNs give you that little bit extra, and which ones are only offer lip service:

Swipe to scroll horizontally

VPN Provider

Trackers blocked

Malware blocked

Ad blocking score

Atlas

69%

21%

97%

CyberGhost

96%

55%

79%

FastestVPN

57%

87%

41%

Mozilla

74%

99%

90%

Mullvad

74%

99%

91%

NordVPN

64%

32%

56%

Norton

69%

100%

40%

PrivadoVPN

90%

43%

90%

PIA

96%

74%

96%

Proton VPN

81%

95%

71%

Surfshark

65%

26%

52%

Windscribe

94%

100%

93%

Disclaimer

These tests aren't large or precise enough to generalize from them, and only offer insight that the services will provide some additional protection. I would recommend taking the results with a pinch of salt. These built-in features are never a substitute for a dedicated antivirus/security app, and I would recommend using the best antivirus and a reliable ad-blocker to further shore up your security.

What is the fastest VPN?

It's a well-trodden sales technique for VPN providers to claim they have the fastest speeds—but they clearly can't all be the fastest. That's why we test the speeds on offer from all the top VPNs across different global servers and on a variety of protocols.

Below are the speed results for the top VPN services, during our latest tests:

Swipe to scroll horizontally

VPN ProviderWireGuard or proprietaryOpenVPN
1. NordVPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)140 Mbps
2. Surfsharkover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)130 Mbps
3. IPVanishover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)225 Mbps
4. Windscribeover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)330 Mbps
5. Hide.meover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)260 Mbps
6. Norton VPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)240 Mbps
7. Mullvad900 Mbps530 Mbps
8. PrivadoVPN880 Mbps130 Mbps
9. Atlas VPN860 MbpsN/A
10. ExpressVPN750 Mbps230 Mbps
11. FastestVPN730 Mbps170 Mbps
12. PureVPN650 Mbps140 Mbps
13. CyberGhost630 Mbps360 Mbps
14. Private VPN610 Mbps110 Mbps
15. Hotspot Shield570 MbpsN/A
16. TunnelBear500 Mbps310 Mbps
17. Proton VPN460 Mbps350 Mbps
18. Private Internet Access360 Mbps310 Mbps
19. Mozilla VPN360 MbpsN/A
20. Google One345 MbpsN/A
21. VyprVPN325 Mbps105 Mbps
22. Astrill VPN390 Mbps (inconsistent testing results)N/A

TechRadar's VPN rankings

There are hundreds, if not thousands of VPNs out there, and you've likely heard the names of countless services. Check out our rankings below of popular services and see some honorable mentions that can't currently compete with what's on offer with our top services.

Swipe to scroll horizontally

ProviderRatingSummary
1. ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐The best VPN overall and our top pick for most use cases.
2. NordVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐½The fastest VPN, plus a full security suite with ad-blocking and malware protection.
3. Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐½The best cheap VPN, and also the fastest in our tests.
4. Private Internet Access⭐⭐⭐⭐½The best Linux VPN. A dedicated GUI for Linux, and a no-logs policy that was proven in court twice.
5. IPVanish⭐⭐⭐⭐The best of the rest. An up-and-coming provider that supports Linux.
6. PrivadoVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐The best free VPN. It even unblocks Netflix.
7. ProtonVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐A popular free VPN service with a history of advocating for the freedom of the internet.
8. Windscribe⭐⭐⭐⭐A fast service with a popular browser proxy.
9. CyberGhost VPN⭐⭐⭐⭐A popular and easy-to-use platform that's great for beginners.
10. Mullvad⭐⭐⭐⭐Good for Linux, and you can even pay in cash.
11. PureVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐One of the cheapest premium VPNs on the market.
12. Hide.Me⭐⭐⭐⭐A speedy service with plenty of customization.
13. Atlas VPN⭐⭐⭐½A new player in the VPN industry that's already making waves.
14. TunnelBear⭐⭐⭐½A reliable free VPN but no support for content unblocking.
15. Mozilla VPN⭐⭐⭐½A well known brand with a VPN that currently underperforms.
16. Hotspot Shield⭐⭐⭐½A fast VPN service with lots of great features.
17. VyprVPN⭐⭐⭐A reliable VPN with a dedicated protocol for bypassing even the most severe censorship.
18. Norton VPN⭐⭐⭐Known for its popular security suite with a lacklustre VPN.
19. PrivateVPN⭐⭐½An excellent cheap service that offers plenty of support for streaming and torrenting.
20. AstrillVPN⭐⭐½A mid-range VPN that's popular for bypassing Chinese censorship.
21. FastestVPN⭐⭐½Making its way up the list, but not yet living up to its name.
22. StrongVPN⭐⭐Another mid-range VPN that continues to improve.
23. AirVPN⭐⭐Built by hacktivists, for hacktivists.
24. Goose VPN⭐⭐An incredibly cheap mid-range VPN.
25. TorGuard⭐⭐A torrent-friendly VPN that's good for accessing foreign content.
26. UltraVPN⭐⭐Fast and secure with plenty of server locations.
27. Le VPN⭐⭐Lots of locations to choose from and integrated SmartDNS technology.
28. VPNArea⭐⭐A mid-range VPN that struggles to hold up against the industry leaders.
29. ZoogVPN⭐⭐A fairly underwhelming VPN from Greece.
30. Google One⭐⭐Google's history with data doesn't give us much faith in the service.

How we test VPN services — our review methodology

While our experts use the top VPNs every day, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of the top 30 VPN services every 6 months with the help of Mike Williams and Anthony Spadafora. This allows us to keep track of who's really the best, and for which use cases.

TechRadar's VPN reviews begin at the provider's website, where we analyze the claims it makes, its privacy policy, its support options, and any other elements of note.We look for any tracking cookies on the site and if/when they activate to see if the service tracks people using the site.

Next, we ask ourselves the following questions: what security tools does the provider offer? Does it promise the world, or is it more realistic? Does the privacy policy clearly say how your data is handled? Are there any catches in the small print? Is the pricing open and honest? Ultimately, we're considering not just what the provider says it gives you, but what it really gives, and whether you can trust it with your data.

We don't take a service at face value

There's more to a VPN than just what its marketing says. Where possible, we try to go behind the curtains and look at what's really going on and doing our own testing to see whether the apps really work as claimed.

In order to make sure our reviews are as honest and realistic as possible, we make every effort to sign up for the services anonymously, so our results aren't skewed by the services knowing they're being tested by us.

After signing up for a plan, we install and test the Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux VPN apps, as these are the most popular platforms. Then, we move on to testing the features within those apps, like the kill switch, checking for data leaks, and generally confirming everything works as advertised.

As we do this, we play around with the different encryption protocols on offer, connect to different servers, throw malware at it, and generally look for any way we can stress test the service. If anything breaks under any of our tests, we report it back to the provider so they can fix the issue, but we make sure to include both the issue and the provider's response in our results where appropriate.

We test every VPN provider's speeds at least 120 times across two sessions, and use both a US home connection and a 1 Gbps UK data center to show us a provider's potential versus the real-world application. We measure using different encryption protocols, speed test websites, and features and use the average of the best session as the provider's peak speed. In doing so, you get a better understanding of what you can really expect when you use the service, and not just an arbitrary figure of its fastest speed.

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (7)

A good VPN should be able to unblock multiple streaming services. To check this, we try to access geo-exclusive content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer, repeating the test from three different locations around the world to get an idea of how the service performs in real life.

In our day-to-day testing, we take a more focused approach depending on the needs of the specific use cases we're writing about. Such as how easy it is to set up the VPN, how much attention to detail there is in the design, and whether a beginner can pick it up easily. We carry out constant real-world testing to make sure our analysis is always accurate and relevant.

However, I don't just trust what I see on the surface of a VPN provider's website. I'll take a peek behind the curtains of the software—view the contents of its RAM, even decompile and browse its source code (if I can) just to find out what's going on under the hood. Ultimately, I want to know whether the service gives you genuine protection or just a false sense of security.

Want to know more about how we test VPNs? We have a much more in-depth explanation on our VPN testing methodology page.

Our VPN testing panel

Meet the experts behind our VPN deep dives:

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (8)

Andreas Theodorou

A privacy purist at heart, Andreas is a VPN expert that believes that the best VPN doesn't have to be the most expensive—it's about what's right for you.

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (9)

Anthony Spadafora

Anthony helps us test real-world VPN speeds in the US so we get a more accurate view of what a service is really like to use around the world.

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (10)

Mike Williams

Mike regularly reviews our top picks, and loves looking behind the curtains to see how a VPN works in the background. If there's a skeleton in the closet, he'll find it.

Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (11)

Mo Harber-Lamond

One of our leading VPN experts, Mo tests VPN services every day to see what providers say they do, and what it's really like as a day-to-day user.

Disclaimer

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example: 1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service). 2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad. We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

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Our latest VPN tests are over and the rankings have changed (12)

Andreas Theodorou

Editor-in-Chief of Tech Software

Andreas has been with TechRadar as Future PLC's Editor-in-Chief of Tech Software since March 2023, supporting content and teams on VPNs, antivirus, and other cybersecurity tools. He's previously written for and led content at ProPrivacy, Business2Community, and The Tech Report. After completing a Master of Research degree, Andreas fell in love with all things cybersecurity; combining his passions to help expose the prevalence of ad tech in the charity sector and raise awareness of digital privacy around the world.

With contributions from

  • Mo Harber-Lamond
  • Mike WilliamsLead security reviewer
  • Anthony Spadafora

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