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VPNs are increasingly mainstream, as more people look to keep their online activity private and their data protected. A VPN, short for “virtual private network,” encrypts the connection between your device and the internet. This encrypted connection helps secure your privacy online, which is a must-have if you ever send or receive sensitive information over the internet.
A VPN is a versatile tool that not only increases your privacy protection online, but can also help you unblock geographically restricted online content while circumventing political censorship. In addition, it can help you connect more securely to shared Wi-Fi, avoid data throttling from internet service providers, and increase your personal safety by making it harder for private and public entities to view your search and browsing history.
However, choosing the best VPN for your needs can be tricky. The flood of VPN providers into the marketplace over the past several years has come with benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, the array of affordable VPN options now available means that — no matter how — there’s a VPN suited to your purpose. However, it also means consumers have to wade through even more provider advertising hype. That’s why our hands-on testing and review process is designed to cut through the hype by putting every VPN through its paces. We’re not just prodding VPNs for their technical weaknesses; we’re also looking for their individual performance strengths. We want to know what each service does best. We test each VPN across more than 20 factors and we’re always as we learn more.
We test VPNs for browsing and streaming speed in multiple countries as well as their connection stability and even the smallest potential privacy leaks. By testing across multiple devices and platforms, we’re able to assess which VPNs are best for gaming versus those best for streaming, torrenting, or sharing sensitive information. Most importantly, we focus on doing the deep-dive research necessary to vet each VPN’s historical credibility and its . Based on those continued evaluations, you’ll see a few bullet points on each entry in our list, highlighting each VPN’s strengths and the uses we recommend it for most. And because we strive to keep on top of a fast-changing market, you’ll notice that the rank of each VPN service changes as we learn more and retest.
Editors’ note, Feb. 9, 2022: The VPN industry has undergone significant change in the past few months, with in corporate ownership. In December, , a company that already owns several other VPNs and has . In February, , though they’ll continue to operate autonomously. We’re in the process of re-evaluating all of our top picks in light of these changes. We will update our reviews and, if necessary, our rankings to account for this new competitive landscape.
What’s the best VPN in 2022?
- received a CNET Editors’ Choice Award for best overall VPN. We evaluate VPNs based on their overall performance in three main categories: speed, security and price. Express isn’t the cheapest, but it’s among the fastest and, so far, is the most secure. (Note that we’re currently re-evaluating ExpressVPN based on the news mentioned above.)
- , with its lower price, is a close second among our picks, thanks to its impressive performance and unlimited devices.
- , our third choice, is a die-hard heavy hitter. It costs more than Surfshark but less than Express, has an enormous network that’s constantly getting faster and more secure and is easily the most reliable service we’ve tested.
What is a VPN?
A commercial virtual private network is technology that allows you to create a private connection over a less private network by creating an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the internet. You can or program on your smartphone or computer. A VPN can let you get around censorship in your country or access georestricted media content from another country — and prevents your internet service provider from being able to intrude on your privacy by snooping on your web browsing. VPNs do this by allowing you to appear as though you’re connecting from a different location or country.
A VPN is great for anyone using public, unprotected Wi-Fi, such as what’s offered in airports, bars or coffee shops. Your VPN protects your sensitive information — from your work projects to bank account login information — from being seen by malicious actors who trawl public Wi-Fi networks. When you browse the internet while on a VPN, your computer will contact the website through your VPN’s encrypted connection. The VPN will then forward the request for you and forward the response from the website back through its secure connection.
For more beginner-focused VPN help, we’ve demystified some of the jargon in our guide to you need to know.
The best VPN in 2022
Let’s look at each of our VPN vendors below in more depth. Keep in mind that this list is constantly being updated. We’re actively working on more VPN testing and research, so expect this guide to change throughout the year as we put each VPN through its paces.
The list below presents our favorites overall in 2022 so far. We’ll call out when specific traits make for a better choice in a more narrow evaluation.
Blazing speeds, proven privacy
- Number of IP addresses: 30,000
- Number of servers: 3,000-plus in 160 locations
- Number of simultaneous connections: 5
- Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- 94-plus countries
- (limited-time offer)
ExpressVPN gets our Editor’s Choice Award for best VPN. The VPN provider tells us its network is powered by TrustedServer technology, which ExpressVPN built to ensure that there are never any logs of users’ online activities. In the privacy world, ExpressVPN has a strong track record, having experienced a server seizure by authorities which proved its zero-log policy true at the time. We also like the quality of the VPN’s setup guides and the detailed information in its FAQ.
While its speeds consistently compete with heavy-hitting competitors, our saw ExpressVPN produce a 52% overall loss of our normal internet speeds, representing a significant slowdown compared with its 2019 score of 2% speed loss.
Like the rest of the top five VPN services we’ve reviewed, ExpressVPN offers a useful kill-switch feature that prevents network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. Unlike the others, though, gained points from us for its support of bitcoin as a payment method — something not all of our favorites offer, but which adds an additional layer of privacy during checkout. With a single ExpressVPN subscription, you can get VPN connectivity for every device you own — Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, routers and more.
The company has been in business since 2009, and has a substantial network of fast VPN servers spread across 94 countries. for an annual package, which includes three months free.
- Competitive speeds
- Solid security suite
- Company is based in privacy-friendly jurisdiction.
$6.67/mo for 1-yr plan + 3 mo free
- Number of servers: 3,200-plus
- Number of server locations: 65
- Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
While network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes it up on features and speed. Let’s start off with the biggest feature it offers: unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers anti-malware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.
And it’s fast. With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, we lost less than 17% of average internet speed during our most recent . That’s faster than the 27% speed loss we saw in previous tests, and pushes it ahead of ExpressVPN to be the current front-runner in our speed comparisons.
Surfshark received generally high marks when its Chrome and Firefox extensions were by German security firm Cure 53 () — though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.
The company has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and routers. Additional devices such as can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.
Surfshark also offers three special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn’t know you’re using a VPN. Multihop jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your trail. Finally, NoBorders Mode “allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions.” Just be careful. Doing any of these three things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we didn’t see a single IP address or DNS leak, and had no trouble accessing Netflix.
Unlike many of the other VPN providers, Surfshark doesn’t offer a one-year plan. Its best offer is for its two-year plan (you pay about $60 up front). A six-month plan is $6.49 a month (about $40 up front), and month-by-month plans are $12.95 a month. Definitely take advantage of its generous 30-day trial to decide if you like this service (and if you choose the two-year plan, maybe set a reminder in 23 months to see if you can talk Surfshark into a continued discount rate).
- Market-leading speeds
- Doorbuster pricing
- Multihop VPN
24 months + 2 months free for $2.30/mo
Best VPN for reliability and security
- Number of IP addresses: 5,000
- Number of servers: 5,200-plus servers
- Number of server locations: 62
- Country/jurisdiction: Panama
- 62 countries
is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, for those looking for a different level of VPN connection. NordVPN offers a kill-switch feature, and the ability to VPN into Tor. We detected no privacy leaks during our tests.
In our most recent , NordVPN’s performance was on par with many of its competitors, reducing our speeds by 53% on average (which is slower than the 32% loss measured in previous speed tests). We found NordVPN’s speeds were reliably fast. There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where we expected the VPN to underperform, it proved itself up to the task.
The company’s ($99 billed at once). That price is lower than most contenders, but creeps up for the one-year plan ($4.99 a month or $59 total) and the monthly plan ($11.99 a month). But it does have a full 30-day refund policy.
While NordVPN has lived on this list for a long time, we moved it to the penalty box in October 2019 to re-evaluate our recommendation after a report emerged that one of its rented servers was . Nord’s actions following the discovery included — eventually — multiple security audits, a and heavier investments in server security.
While we’d have preferred it if Nord had self-disclosed the issue much earlier, the fact that the served to further verify that NordVPN keeps no logs of user activity. As a result, Nord remains on this list as a recommended vendor.
- Reliable, competitive speeds
- RAM-disk servers
- Feature-rich software
$3.99/mo for 2-yr plan
- Number of servers: 1,259
- 55 countries
- Country/jurisdiction: Switzerland
- 30-day money back guarantee
When we speed-tested ProtonVPN, we saw an impressively small 9.6% speed loss compared with average speeds clocked without a VPN. ProtonVPN’s base speeds sent it blazing past most of our roster of tested services and into second place behind ExpressVPN. Even more impressive is Proton’s ability to reach those speeds despite a relatively small fleet of 1,259 servers in 55 countries. Like ExpressVPN, Proton also costs more than most of the VPNs we’ve reviewed. Even so, ProtonVPN’s high security standards and legacy of transparency may make this VPN option worth the price.
Along with its options to send your traffic through a secure bunker of private servers, we love ProtonVPN’s transparency policies: It’s completely open-source with , and includes a built-in route to VPN into . We’re also confident in recommending its mobile app, since it has eliminated the use of some weaker security protocols, like PPTP and L2TP, which are still used by some other VPNs.
On price, we’d like to see ProtonVPN come down a bit.
- Strong reputation of parent company
- Multihop and split tunneling
$8/mo (billed as $96/yr)
- Number of IP addresses: 40,000-plus
- Number of servers: 1,600-plus
- Number of server locations: 75-plus
- Number of simultaneous connections: Unlimited
- Country/jurisdiction: US
A big win for is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN.
A unique feature of the IPVanish VPN, and one we’re intrigued by, is the VPN’s support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. Any serious media fan has used or built Kodi or XBMC into a media player, and the integrated IPVanish Kodi plug-in provides access to media worldwide.
At , IPVanish is obviously trying to move you toward its yearly program. We’re a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee. That said, the company gets kudos for its recent increase from 10 to now-unlimited simultaneous connections. We also liked its connection kill-switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing.
- Competitive speeds
- Interface encourages learning
- 10 simultaneous connections
$3.75/mo (billed as $88.99/yr)
Other VPNs we’ve tested
Not every VPN can be a favorite. These are ones we reviewed, but they’re not full-throated recommendations for one reason or another, including limited features and concerns over adequately hiding your identity.
- Servers: 3,200-plus in 82 locations
- Country/Jurisdiction: US (Five Eyes member)
- Platforms: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV
- Price: $8 per month or $95.88 billed annually. Month-to-month plan at $13
Hotspot Shield VPN’s TLS-based Hydra Catapult protocol, US jurisdiction, 128-bit AES encryption support and large percentage of virtual servers might strip away our trust in its ability to provide more privacy protections than its competitors — but those are all key components to its ability to achieve the blazing speeds it delivered during its most recent speed tests.
It’s the , effortlessly delivers smooth-streaming media and can dance between server connections without missing a beat, no matter how many interruptions you throw at it. A 26% speed loss puts it in second place, falling behind — which lost just 16.9% of its speed the last time I tested it — and knocking down to third place with a 51.8% speed loss at last measurement. Speed losses on UK connections were under 8%. Gaming, torrenting, browsing, streaming — these speed-dependent services won’t be slowed down for Hotspot Shield users.
We’re not excited about Hotspot’s privacy and security, though. Since the services uses a closed-source proprietary , instead of the more transparent open-source OpenVPN protocol, we’d like to see Hotspot give the public more — a necessary step to bring Hotspot up to speed with routinely audited VPNs like . As recently as April 2021, review site VPNMentor discovered a in Hotspot Shield’s plug-in for Google Chrome. Hotspot acknowledged the issue at the time and aimed to improve the product.
While its interface is user-friendly and its speeds are thrilling, spending time with Hotspot is going to leave your wallet a little lighter than you might prefer. It’s current price is higher than its nearest competitors, its speeds slightly slower and its privacy more questionable. If you’re looking for a VPN purely on the grounds of speed, we still recommend passing on Hotspot until it improves.
- Average speed loss: 63%
- Number of servers: 1,800 in 23 countries
- Jurisdiction: Canada, with US parent company
TunnelBear’s gotten a lot of hype in the last couple of years. But when we looked under its hood and compared it with its VPN competitors, our excitement waned.
TunnelBear’s speeds are reasonable. We lost nearly 63% of internet speed overall when we used it, which is about average for a VPN. TunnelBear’s speeds have steadily improved over the years as measured by other review and testing sites, though, and the US scores we recorded saw a speed loss of only 54%.
On the plus side, TunnelBear is holding its own in the transparency competition among VPNs by publishing the results of its independent security audits and . No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during our testing, but in the past TunnelBear was observed to have been leaking WebRTC information. TunnelBear’s VPN encryption is standard AES-256 and it supports .
However, it’s also a Canadian business owned by US-based McAfee, so if you’re looking for subpoena-proof international online privacy, you’re playing with fire. It holds a paltry 23 server locations from which you can’t manually choose your VPN server or even a city. It doesn’t offer Tor-over-VPN, it offers split tunneling only on Android and it can’t even unblock Netflix.
On a per-month breakdown, the least expensive TunnelBear plan is its $120, three-year plan. You can also go month to month for $10, or pay $60 up front for a single year. Either way, TunnelBear accepts payment via credit card and bitcoin. Unlike other VPNs, it doesn’t take PayPal. Also unlike other VPNs, it doesn’t support or Android TV.
- Number of servers: Over 6,800 worldwide in 89-plus countries
- Number of server locations: 111
- Jurisdiction: Romania, with UK parent company
- Number of simultaneous connections: 5
In CNET’s previous coverage of virtual private networks, we’ve praised CyberGhost for its roster of competitive features. Our in-depth in 2019 included speed testing, security verification and an analysis of its full suite of tools. Since then, the VPN company has increased its number of servers and is prepared to roll out new privacy tools, all while remaining one of the cheapest VPNs we’ve reviewed — at
As we’ve bolstered our approach to VPN reviews, however, CyberGhost has raised some red flags. Its warrants skepticism; our previous tests have shown it to expose your VPN use to your ISP; its website and app trackers are more numerous than warranted; and its ad blocker uses an untrustworthy method of no VPN should even think about. Its low price previously made it worth considering if you needed to change the appearance of your location online, but not if you wanted best-in-class security.
While CyberGhost’s connection speed and security features appear to be improving, I don’t currently recommend using the VPN service provider if you’re in a . I also recommend that anyone in the US review CyberGhost’s parent company before deciding whether to pay for a subscription.
On the plus side, however, CyberGhost is still faster than Norton Secure VPN and was less taxing on my device’s processing power during testing. It also offers split tunneling in its Windows client and has its servers neatly organized into categories: NoSpy servers, servers geared for torrenting, servers best for streaming and servers best for use with a static IP address. CyberGhost imposes no data caps and allows unlimited server switching.
- Number of countries: 29
- Number of servers: 1,500 (1,200 virtual)
- Number of server locations: 200 in 73 cities
- Country/jurisdiction: US
NortonLifeLock, long known for excellence in security products, has a relatively limited offering in its VPN product. does not support P2P or BitTorrent, and it does not support Linux, routers or set-top boxes. Its Netflix and streaming compatibility is somewhat limited. Even worse, during testing, we experienced privacy-compromising data leaks.
During CNET’s testing, Norton Secure VPN speeds were comparable to other midtier VPNs but not particularly competitive. Although its VPN is only available on four platforms — Mac, iOS, Windows and Android — Norton gets points for its 24/7 live customer service phone support and 60-day money back guarantee.
Other VPNs in the mix
Below you’ll find some additional VPNs. We’re in the process of re-evaluating them in the coming months.
- Number of servers: 6,500
- Number of server locations: 180
- Country/jurisdiction: Hong Kong
PureVPN does not log connection information. The company joined the “no log” movement in 2018, which was verified via a third-party by (albeit one commissioned and paid for by PureVPN).
We like that PureVPN offers a 31-day refund policy and supports bitcoin payments, to further extend anonymous browsing. We also like that PureVPN has both Kodi and solutions available. In addition, PureVPN was the first VPN service we noted to fully implement the GDPR.
- Number of IP addresses: 59,500
- Number of servers: 650-plus
- Number of server locations: 26 countries and 46 cities
blasts onto our favorites list with excellent infrastructure and decent price performance. As with our other favorites, StrongVPN has a strong no-logging policy. Since a VPN should be all about protecting your privacy, that’s a place the savvy VPN providers can pick up points.
Strong also picks up kudos for its large base of IP addresses, which also helps protect your anonymity. It has a solid collection of servers and worldwide locations. For those of you who need a dedicated IP, you can get one from the company, but you’ll need to contact customer support to get help setting it up.
One of strengths is the company’s network. It owns and operates its entire network infrastructure, which means it has no externally dictated limits on bandwidth or the type of internet traffic allowed on the network. This gives you the confidence that you’ll be able to power through your work.
StrongVPN’s regular is in the middle of the pack, but its yearly price of $70 is among the lowest of our contenders.
- Number of IP addresses: N/A
- Number of server locations: At least 37 (101 with proxies included)
- Country/jurisdiction: US
Speaking of price, if you want one of the less expensive providers, is the place to go.
The key to getting the most savings with the Private Internet Access VPN is buying a three-year plan for $79. That works out to . It also offers a for $39.95 (which comes out to $3.33 a month) and a monthly plan for $11.95 a month.
The company does not release information on the number of IP addresses available, though it does offer a dedicated IP option. The company claims to have an extraordinarily high number of servers — more than 31,000. But Private Internet Access appears to have arrived at that number by servers. It is crucial to note that .
Operating since 2010, Private Internet Access now offers 110 simultaneous connections, a kill-switch feature and a 30-day refund period.
VPN FAQ continued
Since we’re living in a connected world, security and privacy are critical to ensure our personal safety from nefarious hacks. From online banking to communicating with co-workers on a daily basis, we’re now frequently transferring data on our computers and smartphones. It’s extremely important to find ways of securing our digital life and for this reason, VPNs have become increasingly common.
How do I choose the right VPN for me?
Picking a VPN requires knowing two things to start with: what you want to use it for and what you’re willing to pay. A vast number of VPNs are available to choose from that range widely in what they offer, but with those two answers, you can start hunting for a VPN that has the right blend of speed, security and cost. Below, you’ll find specific FAQ sections on picking a VPN based on the most common needs: gaming, streaming media, working from home and privacy-sensitive professions. For a deeper dive, check our and review VPNs. If you’re looking for some quick pointers, here are universally applicable advice guides for beginners.
Do I need a VPN?
People who access the internet from a computer, tablet or smartphone will benefit from VPN usage. A VPN service will almost always boost your privacy by encrypting your online activity. Communications that happen between the VPN server and your device are encrypted, so an internet service provider or someone on your Wi-Fi network spying on you won’t know which websites you access. They also won’t be able to see private information like passwords, usernames and bank or shopping details. Anyone who wants to protect their privacy and security online should use a VPN.
What’s the best free VPN?
to find one in your price range.
Does everything I use need a VPN?
If your goal is to protect your personal data from prying eyes, you want a VPN on whatever you are using. That mean and your smart TV.
If your goal is to use a VPN to gain access to streaming services which have been made unavailable in your country for whatever reason, you want a VPN on whatever you are using to access those streaming services. This could be as simple as a or . Whatever your reason for wanting a VPN, it’s usually a good idea to have it set up on as many of your web-connected devices as possible.
What is a mobile VPN?
Use a mobile-friendly VPN to avoid slower speeds and ensure greater data privacy for your whole device. Mobile VPNs generally have a smaller memory footprint, and require less processing power than desktop VPNs, so they run faster and save more battery life. Our top three VPN picks all have excellent, easy-to-use mobile VPN app options for their services. Some VPNs will only work with one type of platform — like Apple or Android — and some are universally compatible. To find the right mobile VPN for you, check out our mobile-specific VPN guides below. We routinely update them with our retesting information, so check back often.
What’s the best VPN for working from home?
If you’re working from home, you may be sharing your internet connection with multiple devices and family members or roommates. That’s a lot of simultaneous connections to a VPN and a lot of drag on a network. Pick a VPN that lets you use one subscription on as many devices as possible and has excellent speeds so your Wi-Fi isn’t bogged down. If your job involves handling sensitive information like financial or medical records, however, your priority VPN criteria is security. Our top three VPN picks are the most secure we’ve found, and each has a different number of connections they’ll allow for a base-level subscription. There are a few other factors worth considering for a home office VPN, though, so check out our guide to .
What’s the best VPN for gaming?
Most VPNs are chosen based on having a good balance of speed, security and cost. But if you want a VPN specifically to connect to game servers in another country, speed is everything. Free VPNs won’t be fast enough, but, fortunately, high-end security won’t be a cost driver, which gives you more . Since all VPNs reduce speed — most by half or more — that means picking one from the set that . In tests, Surfshark managed to win our speed race while still being one of the least expensive VPNs we’ve seen. If you’re focused on VPNs for game consoles, have a look at and .
What’s the most secure VPN for privacy?
If you’re a journalist, a turkish citizenship immigration lawyer or a professional in any other privacy-sensitive field, forget about speed and price when choosing a VPN. Focus, instead, entirely on security. Your VPN may be somewhat slower but, for both VPNs and presidential motorcades, speed is always the trade-off for privacy. Avoid free VPNs, and any VPN headquartered in . Keep an eye on encryption: Your VPN should offer a protocol called OpenVPN TCP (for its mobile apps, IKEv2 is fine). You may find useful. Although speed does play a factor in our rankings, our top three VPNs were all selected by veteran journalists, scrutinized and reviewed with complete editorial independence, with the most privacy-sensitive professions in mind.
How do I use a VPN for Netflix?
If you live in a country that censors its media or are traveling to one, geo-restricted content is a pain. You can use a VPN to circumvent censorship or access your home country’s normal media content for an like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or Disney Plus. Pick a VPN that lets you manually select which: You’ll find only paid VPN options on this list above because they’re the only ones we can recommend.
: The best VPNs keep as few logs as possible and make them as anonymous as possible, so there’s little data to provide should authorities come knocking. But even “no-logs” VPNs aren’t 100% anonymous.
: Many services use “warrant canaries” as a way to passively note to the public as to whether or not they’ve been subpoenaed by a government entity, as many investigations from national security agencies can’t be actively disclosed by law. But — like the no-logging issue — warrant canaries aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. You should spend more time investigating whether your prospective VPN has cooperated with authorities in the past, and how and when it’s disclosed that fact.
: The Patriot Act is still the law of the land in the US, and that means US-based VPNs have little recourse if and when the feds show up with subpoenas or in hand demanding access to servers, VPN user accounts or other data. Yes, they may have little data to access if the service has a strong no-logs policy, but why not just choose a service that’s based outside Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction? (If this is a concern for you, you’ll want to avoid countries that the US has intelligence-sharing agreements with, too.)
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