VPN Services have become a necessity for users concerned about their online privacy and security. With literally hundreds of thousands of attacks daily, exploits and security vulnerabilities being discovered plus government agencies and ISPs monitoring user activity, the internet is no longer considered a safe place.
With the help of a VPN Service, users are able to hide their real IP address and online activities by connecting to a VPN server and passing all traffic through that server. This way, the internet only sees the IP address of the VPN server.
Today, extended VPN Services provide us with many different and useful capabilities. For example they can provide users with the ability to bypass geo-restrictions for streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. They also offer increased security and identity protection for mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, Laptops, Android smartphones, tablet devices etc. This makes finding and selecting the best VPN Service a difficult task as there are many parameters to take into consideration. Our dedicated network security team here at Firewall.cx has done just that for every VPN Provider and then put them to the test to produce the best VPN Service review ever.
Benefits of a VPN Service
Understanding the importance and benefits of a VPN is crucial to help you decide if you need a VPN and what features you should look for. Despite the different offerings from VPN providers there are some standard benefits that you’ll always get:
- Increased Privacy. A VPN will hide your activities from your ISP and government. Traffic entering and exiting your VPN-enabled device is encrypted, making it almost impossible to intercept and decrypt.
- Hiding your IP address. A VPN will hide your IP address as all traffic is tunnelled through the VPN provider. Addition security features such as DNS Leak Protection will ensure your IP addresses and online activity is not exposed.
- Unblocking Geo-blocking services such as Netflix, Hulu and others. By connecting to a VPN server located in the country you wish to access content from, you’re able to by-pass any geo-blocking.
- Increased Torrent Download Speed. Bandwidth throttling is big problem for home users as ISPs unofficially lower the priority of torrent data streams, resulting in slow download speeds. A VPN encrypts all traffic so the ISP is unable to determine what you’re downloading.
- Bypass Firewall Restrictions. When connecting to a VPN server all application traffic, regardless of the ports used, is channelled through the VPN. This bypasses all restrictions enforced by a firewall or proxy server allowing you to use any application (torrent, chat, streaming, gaming, SMTP etc).
Best VPN Service Review: Quick Summary
The Best VPN Service Providers. Scroll below for each provider's direct link.
How Our Best VPN Service Tests Were Performed
Evaluating the best VPN service can be a tricky task, especially when you take into consideration that not everyone is looking for the same features in a VPN. To give each provider a fair chance to live up to its reputation we decided to evaluate them based on the following criteria listed in order of importance:
- SpeedTest.net Download/Upload including Latency test
- Netflix VPN, Torrents and Blocked sites, Geo-blocking Bypass.
- Security features (DNS Leak Protection, Kill Switch etc)
- Encryption protocols (PPTP/L2TP IPSec/OpenVPN etc) & Support for Dedicated VPN Routers
- No-Log Policy & Bitcoin payment support
- User-Friendly VPN client interface
- Price – based on a 12 month subscription
Testing US Netflix Best VPN Providers
Accessing & streaming US Netflix content is a hot topic for most of our readers which is why we’ve included it in our tests. While other reviews might indicate whether or not US Netflix is supported, we took that extra step to test and verify the service.
All Netflix stream testing was performed from a 20Mbps home broadband connection using a US Netflix account configured to stream at the highest possible setting (High) which generates 3GB/hour for HD or 7GB/hour for Ultra HD. These settings would test each VPN Provider’s ability to perform continuous, uninterrupted streaming to a home or mobile VPN user.
Best VPN Provider Download/Upload Speed Tests
Speedtest.net was selected as a testing platform to evaluate download and upload speeds. Our tests were performed from Melbourne Australia using a premium 200Mbps link to the internet while OpenVPN UDP or OpenVPN TCP (when UDP failed) was the VPN protocol used to connect to each provider. The Speedtest.net server located at San Jose, CA Server (No.4) shown below was used for download/upload test. This server was strategically selected as it’s hosted by Speedtest.net and showed stable transfer rates capable of exceeding 185Mbps.
Our selected Speedtest.net server and non-VPN speed tests results (click to enlarge)
Our Speedtest.net test to San Jose, CA Server (No.4) without a VPN yielded an impressive 185Mbps download speed and 123Mbps upload speed confirming the path between us and the Speedtest.net server was not congested.
While test values still fluctuated, the tests we’ve selected to publish are the average results from each VPN Provider.
Best VPN Service Providers
Without further delay, let’s take an in-depth look at our Best VPN Service Providers:
StrongVPN takes the 1st position thanks to its performance and solid VPN client that provides a plethora of fine-tuning options. With more than 650 servers located in 22 countries, the number might seem small compared to other providers, but it’s rare you’ll need to frequently jump between servers to get a stable and fast connection.
StrongVPN No-Log Policy
StrongVPN provides a true No-Log Policy service which means no logs are stored about your connection or account. This makes StrongVPN ideal for users who take their privacy seriously and don’t want any type of logging from their VPN Provider.
While our test results fluctuated we were not concerned at all simply because the average results were significantly faster than all other VPN providers. It should also be noted that testing was performed using OpenVPN TCP as OpenVPN UDP didn’t seem to work with the US-based servers we connected to. Taking into consideration that OpenVPN TCP is slightly slower than OpenVPN UDP we are very surprised with the speeds we managed to get.
Download speeds averaged 67Mbps but managed to peak at a whopping 136Mbps, which was a fantastic result:
StrongVPN provides super-fast download speeds and exceptional upload speeds
Upload speeds were strong, averaging 96Mbps and peaking at an impressive 150Mbps. A similar surprise was the latency test, which averaged a very low 170ms making it amongst the fastest and lowest in latency connections. Running delay-sensitive applications or services such as VoIP or video won’t be a problem.
Finally StrongVPN offers unlimited downloading, uploading and streaming.
StrongVPN Client & Security Features
The desktop VPN client interface certainly brings back memories of an older GUI interface but we’ve been advised that it will soon be upgraded to a newer sleeker GUI on par with other providers.
The StrongVPN GUI interface
What the desktop GUI lacks in appearance it certainly makes up for in features but, most importantly, speed. The options available allow the end user to tweak the VPN connection to even adjust the MSS - MTU size, compression, encryption level and a whole bunch of other useful features Torrent users and Gamers will appreciate.
Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection are built into the client and users can select the encryption protocol of their choice which includes OpenVPN (TCP or UDP), L2TP-IPSec, PPTP or SSTP. Changing between countries or cities is an easy process, simply select the desired country/city from the middle drop-down list and click on connect. This will change your account preferences and force the client to connect to the new location.
In contrast to the desktop VPN client, the mobile StrongVPN client will leave you wondering if we are talking about the same provider. It’s an impressive stylish application that resonates with the message “We mean serious business here”:
StrongVPN mobile client – a stunning application
The StrongVPN client is available for Windows, MAC, mobile iOS and Android devices. Users can change country/city as required and simply hit the power button in the middle of the screen – once connected the button will turn green as shown above.
StrongVPN does not offer its own Linux-based VPN client, however, Linux users can download and use the open-source OpenVPN client which is fully compatible.
StrongVPN Supports Netflix VPN Streaming
We were very pleased to see US Netflix work with StrongVPN. StrongVPN had the most US-based VPN servers from which Netfix would work without a problem. This is definitely a major advantage over its competition.
US Netflix HD streaming with StrongVPN (click to enlarge)
Streaming High Definition video didn’t seem like a real challenge for StrongVPN as it was able to stream continuously without any glitches even when downloading torrents and performing casual web browsing. Again, speed and bandwidth availability is the key ingredient here.
StrongVPN Router Software & Support
StrongVPN does not develop its own router firmware, however, it does provide detailed instructions on how to setup DD-WRT, Tomato by Shibby (no longer developed), Sabai Router OS, Mikrotik RouterOS and other o/s to connect to its VPN network. StrongVPN support contains perhaps the largest database of router devices and operating systems amongst all VPN Providers reviewed.
Encryption protocols supported for Router VPNs are OpenVPN (TCP or UDP) and PPTP, however, in order to take full advantage of the speeds the VPN Provider is capable of delivering, you’ll need to ensure your router has enough CPU horsepower under the hood!
StrongVPN Pricing & Plans
The $3.97US/month price tag (based on a yearly subscription) is a fantastic deal considering the features the services provided. The limit of 2 simultaneous VPN logins is slightly restrictive but everything else was simply great. The 5 day money-back guarantee was also acceptable as it allows users enough time to properly evaluate the service.
Closing, StrongVPN accepts Bitcoin payments along with Paypal, and Visa, providing users with more than enough payment options.
Click here to read our recent in-depth review of StrongVPN
ExpressVPN is another great choice. A reputable VPN Service provider, ExpressVPN offers superior VPN connectivity and very fast download speeds across its +1000 servers spread among 87 countries.
ExpressVPN No-Log Policy
ExpressVPN’s No-Log Policy states that it doesn’t track its users’ activities but it does maintain information such as the dates (not times) connected to the VPN service, VPN Server connected to and amount of data transferred. While Torrent users might not like the idea that some information is logged, ExpressVPN clearly states on its website that the information collected cannot be used to identify its users.
ExpressVPN performed extremely well and was able to provide sustained transfers for both speed tests and torrent downloads. Download speeds averaged a bit more than 30Mbps which is adequate for torrenting, gaming, video streaming and casual web browsing.
ExpressVPN offers great download and upload speeds
Upload speeds were also a pleasant surprise averaging 65Mbps and peaking at 81.69Mbps! Our tests were performed using the OpenVPN UDP protocol.
Latency was a low and stable 193ms marking the provider suitable for all types of traffic including delay-sensitive VoIP. ExpressVPN offers unlimited downloading, uploading and streaming.
ExpressVPN Client & Security Features
Don’t be fooled by the ExpressVPN client’s simple interface as behind the three buttons and menu (top left) users will find a lot of features and settings that can be enabled as required. Security conscious users will enjoy the Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection and ability to easily select the encryption protocol of their choice which includes OpenVPN (TCP or UDP), L2TP – IPSec, PPTP, SSTP or simply leave it to the VPN client to select the most suitable.
The ExpressVPN VPN client: A combination of simplicity and great functionality
The Smart Location feature is extremely handy for users frequently travelling. It automatically selects the nearest VPN Server based on your current location, in an effort to provide you with the fastest possible VPN experience.
The ExpressVPN client is available for Windows, MAC, mobile iOS and Android devices but also Linux 32/64bit Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS. It should be noted that ExpressVPN is the only provider to have developed its own VPN client for such a wide range of Linux distributions. Nice!
ExpressVPN Supports Netflix VPN Streaming
After connecting to a number of US-based servers we were able to find a few that happily supported Netflix. Streaming High Definition video was smooth without delays, which was very pleasing. While Netflix buffers the video using short high-bandwidth bursts that reached up to 9Mbps, ExpressVPN was able to deliver without a problem.
US Netflix HD streaming with ExpressVPN (click to enlarge)
ExpressVPN Router Software & Support
ExpressVPN has developed its own firmware that supports specific retail routers enabling customers to tunnel all their internet traffic through ExpressVPN’s servers. Customers have the choice to purchase a router preloaded with firmware or download and install it on an existing compatible router. ExpressVPN also provides support for its firmware, ensuring customers are not left in the dark should problems arise.
ExpressVPN Pricing & Plans
At $8.32US/month (based on a yearly subscription) ExpressVPN’s pricing is higher than its competitors, however, it does support up to 3 simultaneous VPN logins and users will certainly get their money’s worth thanks to great speeds, support for Netflix (via specific US-based servers) and a 30 day money-back guarantee. Users who prefer can also make payments via Bitcoin, ensuring complete anonymity.
IPVANISH is one of the most popular VPN Service Providers available. Its robust VPN services are spread across more than 700 servers located in 60 countries. IPVANISH offers a number of great features including a Socks5 Proxy for its customers who want to quickly bypass regional restrictions and are not concern about encryption.
IPVANISH No-Log Policy
IPVANISH advertises a No-Log Policy which means users can connect to the global IPVANISH VPN network knowing their activities are not tracked or monitored by the provider. IPVANISH does not indicate that it keeps any type of logs that might be able to be used against its customers.
Logging might be enabled in case of a technical support case with the purpose of helping troubleshoot a customer problem.
Bandwidth and VPN performance won’t be a problem thanks to fast servers which didn’t appear to be congested and were able to provide a sustainable download speed for our Torrent download test and video streaming. Our tests were performed using the OpenVPN UDP protocol and showed average download speeds of around 39Mbps while upload speeds were averaging an impressive 90Mbps peaking at 121.69Mbps!
IPVANISH speed tests provided excellent results and acceptable latency
Latency was a low at 215ms considering our packets were travelling from Melbourne Australia to San Jose US via the VPN Provider. The round-trip delay for voice packets (VoIP) shouldn’t exceed 300ms, or 150ms latency in each direction, so the 215ms we got was suitable for pretty much any application or service a user would want to run over the VPN. IPVANISH offers unlimited downloading, uploading and streaming.
IPVANISH VPN Client & Security Features
IPVANISH offers a great VPN client that supports Windows, MAC, iOS and Android (phones + mobiles) plus Ubuntu Linux, making it one of only two providers offering native application support for the great Linux operating system.
The VPN client is packed with some great security features, including Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection, IPv6 Leak Protection and the ability to obfuscate OpenVPN traffic to avoid it being detected by intelligent Firewalls. It even has an awesome Simple Mode feature that replaces the fairly large GUI interface with a small neat window as shown below:
The IPVANISH VPN client switching between Advanced and Simple mode
Support for all the popular VPN protocols, such as PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) is there to accommodate different encryption requirements even though users would rarely want to use anything other than OpenVPN.
Finally, a neat feature we really liked was the ability to automatically locate the best VPN Server based on the country we wanted to connect to – this made it really easy to ensure we were automatically directed to a non-congested VPN server.
IPVANISH Supports Netflix VPN Streaming
Netflix users will be happy to learn that we were successfully able to watch our favourite movies using the highest possible video streaming setting (HD – High Definition) for our test bed (HD Laptop). The VPN provider was able to provide a sustainable 5Mbps download speed delivering an enjoyable experience without any glitches:
US Netflix HD streaming with IP Vanish VPN (click to enlarge)
While Netflix users might need to try different US-based VPN Servers to find a server that is not blocked, we were able to stream from the first VPN server we connected to! Further testing did reveal some of the provider’s servers are blocked from Netflix, however that to be expected with most VPN providers.
IPVANISH VPN Router Software & Support
While IPVANISH doesn’t create its own Router App it does support the well-known DD-WRT and Tomato by Shibby software platform. IPVANISH provides detailed step-by-step instructions on its site on how to setup OpenVPN (UDP and TCP) on these platforms to connect with its network.
IP VANISH Pricing & Plans
With up to 5 simultaneous VPN logins allowed (one for every family member!), a monthly price of just $6.49US (based on a yearly subscription) and a 7 day money-back guarantee, you definitely can’t go wrong. It should also be noted that IPVANISH fully supports Bitcoin payments.
NordVPN is amongst the Top VPN Providers. NordVPN certainly has significant features that will appeal to many of our readers. With more than 720 servers world-wide across 56 countries it’s hard to neglect this provider.
NordVPN No-Log Policy
NordVPN advertises a No-Log Policy which will certainly attract attention. According to NordVPN, the company doesn’t track any information and this is thanks to its headquarters being based in Panama, which doesn’t require data to be stored or any reporting.
While NordVPN didn’t break any records for its download speeds, its upload speeds were exceptional and consistent.
At an average 26Mbps download speed home users can easily download torrents or stream videos without concern.
NordVPN download, upload and latency tests were great
Upload speeds shone at average of almost 88.5Mbps and, as previously mentioned, they were steady across all tests performed which is a sign of a stable VPN provider. Upload peaks of 89.52Mbps were nice to see but we would have preferred seeing them in the download test instead.
Latency was a bit of a concern at 221ms which means that online games that don’t tolerate lag very well might give users a hard time, however, connecting to VPN servers within the country of residency would surely make a difference.
OpenVPN UDP was the encryption protocol under which the tests were performed. NordVPN offers unlimited downloading, uploading and streaming.
NordVPN Client & Security Features
The NordVPN client is a really nice one, packed with a number of great features that helped it earn its No.4 position in our Best VPN Service comparison. When launched it provides a map of the world allowing you to quickly connect to a server of your choice. Intermediate users can visit the servers tab to obtain a full list of servers or quick shortcuts to categorized servers depending on the application of interest e.g P2P servers, Ultra-fast TV servers, Double VPN servers etc. Security features include Kill Switch, Auto Connect, DNS Leak Protection, Selection of TCP/UDP for VPN connectivity, custom DNS servers and more.
The Kill Switch provides the additional functionality of killing a specific application when the VPN fails – a very handy feature.
NordVPN Client – a VPN client packed with features (click to enlarge)
NordVPN offers support for the Windows platform, MAC, Mobile iOS and of course Android. This means it is capable of covering the majority of devices in the market today. Similar to other VPN Providers, Linux users will have to use the open-source OpenVPN client which is fully compatible with the provider.
NordVPN Supports Netflix VPN Streaming
During our tests we were able to confirm that NordVPN provides support for US-based Netflix. The NordVPN client provides a feature named Smart Play which allows its users to stream Netflix and similar services from anywhere in the world no matter which VPN server they connect to.
We tried this fantastic feature but were disappointed as it didn’t seem to work as advertised. We initially connected to an Australian VPN server and logged in to our US Netflix account, however, when we attempted to stream a movie we were greeted with a familiar error in our browser:
NordVPN Smart Play feature for Netflix didn’t work for us (click to enlarge)
We then decided to connect to a US-based VPN Server and try to stream Netflix from there – that seemed to work fine, however, we did notice it was taking slightly longer for the video stream to start:
US Netflix HD streaming with NordVPN connected to US VPN Server (click to enlarge)
NordVPN Pricing & Plans
As with all VPN Providers, purchasing a 12 month subscription provides considerable savings. NordVPN pricing at $5.75US/month (based on a yearly subscription) is a great deal and ideal for users with multiple devices since it allows up to an impressive 6 simultaneous VPN logins. The equally impressive 30 day money-back guarantee gives users plenty of time to properly evaluate NordVPN’s service.
Sceptical users can even try NordVPN Free of charge for 3 days without entering any financial details (Visa, Paypal etc) which is a great feature and one you should try if you have the time.
Users who decide to continue using the service can also opt to pay via Bitcoin to further secure their details.
Private Internet Access is a well-known VPN service provider that’s rightly earned its position amongst our best VPN Service Providers. Its huge VPN network, consisting of more than 3270 servers located in 24 countries, means it will be difficult to find a congested server at any time of the day or night. Private Internet Access is the second provider who offer a free SOCKS5 proxy server to their users.
For an extensive review on PIA, including security tests, DNS Leak tests, Torrent Protection, Kill-Switch test, Netflix support and much more, read our Best VPN Review: Private Internet Access (PIA)
Private Internet Access No-Log Policy
Private Internet Access is another VPN Provider that offers a No-Log Policy which means anonymous browsing and user privacy is a top priority here. Users requiring complete anonymity can even use Bitcoin to pay for their subscription in which case the provider won’t store any financial information on your account.
Private Internet Access Performance
Similar to our other tests, we connected to a US-based VPN server via our premium internet connection.
Private Internet Access Download / Upload Speed & Latency Tests
Speed tests showed an average, but acceptable, 23.94Mbps download and an impressive 108.41Mbps upload. Testing different servers yielded similar results, however, these speeds are more than capable of delivering an enjoyable browsing and downloading experience without any interruptions.
The latency test was a big surprise, 168ms – only 2ms faster than StrongVPN. Given most VPN Providers averaged around 200msec, it was nice to see Private Internet Access provide such a fast connection to the other side of the world. Finally Private Internet Access offers unlimited downloading, uploading and streaming.
Private Internet Access Client & Security Features
Unlike other VPN clients, the Private Internet Access client stays continuously minimized in the task tray. To open the client’s control settings users must right click on the Private Internet Access icon in the task tray and select settings as shown below:
Accessing Private Internet Access VPN client settings
The VPN client offers a Simple and Advanced mode. Switching between the two is as simple as clicking on the Simple/Advanced toggle button on the bottom left side:
Private Internet Access VPN client Advanced Mode settings (click to enlarge)
The Private Internet Access client provides a healthy amount of security options and settings. Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection, IPv6 Leak Protection are all included within the client plus PIA’s MACE service which blocks ads, trackers and malware while connected to the VPN service. The Region settings on the left allows the user to connect to different VPN Servers, an option also available when right-clicking on the PIA icon in the task tray.
The VPN client also integrates a firewall to help stop incoming connections reaching your PC or mobile device and adding an additional layer of security.
The Private Internet Access VPN client is built on OpenVPN and provides strong data encryption and authentication but it does not support PPTP or L2TP/IPSec encryption protocols. To connect via PPTP or L2TP/IPSec to a Private Internet Access VPN Server, users must use their device’s (workstation, mobile phone etc) built-in native VPN client which can prove a bit of a tedious task – especially if you’ve never done it before.
Thankfully Private Internet Access provides a well-documented support section to help get users connected with these alternatively supported encryption protocols.
The Private Internet Access VPN client is offered for the Windows, MAC OS, Apple iOS, Android and Linux (Ubuntu) platforms. Users with other Linux-based distributions will have to install and use the native open-source OpenVPN client from openvpn.net.
Private Internet Access also provides support documentation for configuring DD-WRT, Tomato by Shibby and other platforms.
Private Internet Access Supports Netflix VPN Streaming
Surprisingly enough we were able to access our US Netflix account using most of Private Internet Access’s US-based VPN Servers - a pleasant surprise considering they won’t admit US Netflix works from their VPN network!
US Netflix streaming with Private Internet Access (click to enlarge)
Streaming in High Definition (HD) was excellent without any problems. Videos loaded without noticeable delay providing a great experience that would easily satisfy demanding users. We also tried placing some load on our broadband connection by downloading files, however, Private Internet Access’s VPN Server was able to keep pumping traffic to us without an issue.
We should remind our readers that the US Netflix streaming for all VPN Providers was performed from a 20Mbps home broadband connection to help simulate the majority of user environments.
Private Internet Access VPN Router Software & Support
Private Internet Access doesn’t provide any custom Router app, however, it does support and provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to setup DD-WRT, Tomato routers and PfSense with its network using OpenVPN.
Private Internet Access Pricing & Plans
Private Internet Access provides a generous up to 5 simultaneous VPN logins which is enough to support a laptop computer, desktop workstation and 2-3 mobile devices making it a very attractive and flexible solution.
With a pricing of just $3.33US/month, it is the cheapest VPN Provider solution in our review and shouldn’t be overlooked. There is a 7 day money-back guarantee which is enough to test the service and it accepts Bitcoin payment for complete anonymity.
Private Internet Access could easily be in the Top 3 Best VPN Service Providers if download speeds were faster.
The Best VPN Service Providers. Scroll above for each provider's direct link.
Summary: Best VPN Service Providers
We hope this extensive comparison of six of the Best VPN Service Providers has provided enough information to help you decide which VPN provider is best for you. As VPN providers upgrade and introduce new features we’ll ensure this VPN Service comparison guide is kept up to date.
The ultimate choice lies with the end customer – you.