Whether you're after better privacy for everything you do on the internet or you have a specific need such as watching HBO Max in the UK or - now that Brexit has changed things - watching Sky from somewhere in the EU, you'll be after a VPN.

The choice is huge and, frankly, confusing. But we'll explain what to look for and recommend the services that you should put on your shortlist.

The great thing about the VPN services here (and many that aren't here because they didn't quite make the grade) is that one account can be used on several devices at the same time. This makes the low monthly prices even better value as the whole family can use the service: one person could be streaming something from HBO Max while another is browsing the web and yet another person could be using it for security on public Wi-Fi.

Even if you're already familiar with the benefits of a VPN, you may not know which service is currently the best. And that's why you're here of course.

Juggling priorities is one of the trickiest aspects of picking a service: cost per month, connection speed, number and location of servers, number of apps on offer, quality of tech support and other factors. We can't know you exact requirements, but the summaries below should help you quickly identify which is best for you.

What's the best VPN?

You probably don't have time to pore over the finer details about each and every VPN service and just want to know which are the best value. So here are four that should be on your shortlist for the reasons listed below.

If you want to know more, below you'll find our picks of the top 10 VPNs, as well as more detailed buying advice if you do care about the finer points.

Best VPN reviews 2021

1. NordVPN - Best overall

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NordVPN is easy to use and has a handy SmartPlay feature that will help you connect to the server best suited to your needs. 

  • 5017 servers across 59 countries
  • Works with Netflix & other streaming services
  • WireGuard support
  • 6 simultaneous connections
  • Mobile apps & browser extensions

Based in Panama and with an audited no-logs policy, Nord is a good choice for many reasons. Thanks to WireGuard, it's one of the fastest VPNs around and offers a good range of features including split tunnelling, which was a notable omission until fairly recently.

The two-year subscription works out at £2.86 / $3.71 per month which is 68% off the usual monthly price. There's a money-back guarantee in case you're not totally happy too.

See all prices and plans NordVPN.com.

Read our full NordVPN review

2. ExpressVPN - Best premium

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Easy to use, speedy and packed with features, ExpressVPN is the one to choose if you're looking for a top-notch, secure VPN service that will work on all your devices.

  • 3000+ servers across 94 countries
  • Works with Netflix
  • Kill switch
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Mobile & Amazon Fire TV apps, plus browser extensions available

As well as offering excellent security and privacy, it also unblocks your favourite streaming services (and other websites) and there's friendly tech support available round the clock.

Get 49% off and 3 months free when you sign up for a year of ExpressVPN

Read our full ExpressVPN review

3. Surfshark - Best value

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Surfshark costs less than most of its competitors, despite allowing an unlimited number of devices to connect to the service at once. It is constantly improving its offering, too, with new servers, locations and features.

  • 1700 servers across 63 countries
  • Works with Netflix & other streaming services
  • Kill switch
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Two-factor authentication
  • GPS spoofing

Some locations are virtual, but this won't matter to most people, as it does all the things you'd want including unblocking popular streaming services. MultiHop servers are handy when you want greater security and privacy, and for the price, it's hard to beat.

It's very competitively priced, and you can sign up to Surfshark for just £1.83/$2.49 per month.

Read our full Surfshark review

4. CyberGhost - Best for Video Streaming

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CyberGhost is an easy-to-use VPN which is great for unblocking streaming services and it has a huge selection of servers.

  • 6,500+ servers across 90+ countries
  • Works with 35 streaming services
  • Kill switch (Windows)
  • 7 simultaneous connections
  • Mobile apps and browser extensions

The NoSpy servers are owned and operated by the company at its Romanian HQ and provide a more secure option than all the other rented servers.

If you simply need a way to unblock streaming services and websites, CyberGhost is one of the better-value options, and has handy Amazon Fire TV and Android TV apps.

Sign up for the three-year plan and pay as little as £1.99/$2.25 per month.

Read our full CyberGhost review

5. Private Internet Access - Best for power users

Private Internet Access
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Private Internet Access (or PIA as it is more fondly known) is a great VPN service with a large number of servers and lots of advanced features. 

  • Over 18,000 servers across 77 countries
  • Unblocks Netflix, Disney+ & other streaming services
  • Kill switch
  • 10 simultaneous connections
  • Apps for Android, iOS, Fire TV and more

It's just as well suited to P2P downloads as it is to unblocking Netflix. It also has a built-in ad blocker and malware blocker, but do note that it doesn't unblock BBC iPlayer.

It's one of the cheaper options. With our special deal a two-year subscription costs £1.81 / $2.19 per month, which is 82% off the usual monthly price.

Even though it's based in the US, it logs literally nothing so wouldn't have any data about you to hand over even if it ordered by a court to do so. 

Read our full Private Internet Access review

6. VyprVPN - Best for Owned & Operated Servers

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VyprVPN owns and operates its entire network of over 700 servers and has been audited to prove that it sticks by its no-logs policy. If privacy is your top priority, it’s therefore a good one to add to your shortlist. Just note that you can’t pay truly anonymously for the service.

  • More than 700 servers across 70+ countries
  • Works with Netflix & other streaming services
  • Kill switch
  • WireGuard & Chameleon protocols
  • Up to 5 simultaneous connections

Features vary by device, as they do with all VPNs, but the good news is that VyprVPN has just added WireGuard support. Overall, this is a speedy and reliable service.

You can get a special deal with 75% (or more!) off the usual monthly price if you use this link to VyprVPN's website.

Read our full VyprVPN review

7. PureVPN - Most countries covered

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PureVPN is a good choice if you're after a service with servers in as many locations and countries as possible, and don't mind that some of those are virtual servers. It means they're not actually in the countries they claim to be, but they work as if they are, so it's not a huge issue. PureVPN is also reasonably priced and is situated outside of the '14 eyes'. 

  • 2,000+ severs across 140+ countries
  • Works with Netflix & other streaming services
  • Kill switch
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Mobile apps & browser extensions

The company now operates a strict no-logging policy, so offers better privacy than it used to.

The apps have lots of features and offer access to blocked sites and streaming including Netflix.

See all plans and prices on PureVPN's website.

Read our full PureVPN review

8. Ivacy - Cheapest over 5 years

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Ivacy may not have as many servers as NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but it does tick a lot of boxes. It allows five devices to use its service from a single account, and lets you download Torrent files.

  • Based in Singapore
  • 1000+ servers
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV
  • Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox

It offers a good range of apps and some of these have a decent set of features including a kill switch. There are a few niggles such as no automatic connection when your phone or laptop connects to an untrusted Wi-Fi network, nor any way to save favourite servers - or see how busy a particular server is. 

But this five-year deal is excellent value at just 74p ($1) per month.

For the basics, such as unblocking video streaming, it's very easy to use.

Read our full Ivacy review

9. Hide.me

hide.me VPN
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Hide.me lets you try its service before you buy with a completely free version, but while it now unblocks Netflix and other streaming services, it is still more expensive than certain rivals even with its best offers that bring it down to £3.33 / $3.33 per month.

It has recently rolled out support for WireGuard, and doubled the number of simultaneous devices to 10.

  • Free version
  • 1700+ servers in 70 locations in 45 countries
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Mobile apps & browser extensions
  • 24/7 live chat
  • 10 simultaneous connections

See plans and prices for hide.me.

Read our full hide.me VPN review

10. IPVanish

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings

IPVanish is a VPN that caters to beginners and families, but it has some downsides including difficulty connecting to streaming services and slow support.

  • More than 1,300+ servers across 75+ countries
  • Kill switch
  • 10 simultaneous connections
  • Mobile apps and Fire TV Stick app

IPVanish is simple to install with its own visual tutorial and it collects no data logs or connection details to ensure that your online activity remains private.

There's a kill switch, and the option to automatically change your virtual IP address at regular, user defined intervals.

The downside is the lack of browser extensions, poor support and difficulty connecting to Netflix and BBC iPlayer, as well as the price which is a bit more expensive than most others listed here. The cheapest option is a one-year plan, but note that this doubles in the second year. 

Read our full IPVanish review

If you're interested in knowing why we picked the services we did, read on.

What to look for in a VPN service

Because VPN services vary in price quite dramatically, it can be tempting to just go for the cheapest. That's not necessarily a bad idea, but it is still important to choose one you trust and that will offer the features you require. The old adage "you get what you pay for" doesn't really apply to VPN services.

The first major decision is what you want to use a VPN for. If you just want to watch videos from Netflix, Disney Plus or another service that's not available in your country, then you don't have to worry too much about any other details: just go for a well-priced service that offers unblocking for the services you need.

If you're more concerned about privacy and security, you'll want to go for a VPN that doesn't log any data and ideally runs its own servers. Put simply, if you want to minimise the risk of your VPN service being hacked, opt for one which owns and manages its hardware. And if your life depends upon your VPN connection, don't use a consumer service at all.

Don't be persuaded by a bigger choice of countries: it doesn't mean it's a better service. What you should look for are servers in the countries you either need to appear to be in or are physically present in, as a local VPN server will always give you the fastest speeds from any given service.

It's highly likely you'll only use a fraction of the servers around the globe, and you certainly won't want to connect to a server the other side of the world if it reduces your internet connection speed to a crawl.

Testing a VPN service's speed is tricky as it varies all the time. The best way to find out if a service is quick or not is to read our reviews.

It's important to note that installing a VPN on one device will only protect that device. If you want your media streamer (say an Apple TV) to use the VPN connection, you'll either need to install a VPN app on it, or if there's no way to install an app, then use a router which supports VPN which will protect all devices connected to it. 

Just about all VPNs support Windows, Android, iOS and macOS, but some offer apps for a wider selection of devices including Amazon Fire TV Stick, Linux and web browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox and others.

You don't actually need an app if your device supports a VPN connection, so you can enter your username, password and other details into your NAS, router or other device. However, that's a hassle when you want to change to a different server as you need to set up a connection manually for each one.

A great reason to use a VPN is whenever you're connected to an open public Wi-Fi network in a cafe, hotel, airport or on public transport. When a Wi-Fi network doesn't require a password to connect (and entering your email or other details in a web browser doesn't count here) it means the connection from your phone to the network is unencrypted. And that means it can be very easy for anyone to spy on your activity. But the simple act of enabling your VPN means the connection is encrypted, and no-one can read your messages, snipe your credit card details or anything else.

Also, look out for any restrictions on usage – some ban P2P (file sharing) while others are fine with it. 

In addition to those listed we've reviewed other VPNs that didn't make the cut including: Hide.me, Bullguard VPN, Bitdefender Premium VPN, Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium and Hide My Ass! VPN.

What is the '14 Eyes' collective?

If you're most concerned about privacy, it's important to know where your VPN is based. In recent years some countries have got together to exchange information freely, nominally in a bid to enhance everyone's security. However, many groups are critical of this behaviour, believing that mass surveillance impinges on our freedoms.

The main group of countries that can share information freely is called the Five Eyes. They come from the UKUSA agreement that, although began back in 1941, was only made public knowledge in 2005. The agreement is between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, hence the name Five Eyes. Those countries have agreed to collect, analyse and share information between each other, and much of this intelligence is believed to be related to internet activity these days.

The Five Eyes has grown to include a total of 14 countries, which is why you'll hear a lot about '14-eyes' when reading about VPNs. Third party countries were added over time, and now additionally include Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.

If your VPN provider is based within a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply. If your provider promises that it doesn't log any information, you're probably safe within the 14 Eyes, but it is more of a risk if privacy is your main concern and you might want to consider looking for a VPN provider that is based elsewhere.

What information does a VPN keep?

VPN providers generally promise zero logging. These days it's rare for them to log connection time stamps, IP addresses and bandwidth used: they usually only log anonymous information 'necessary to maintain and improve the service'.

Some will also store basic payment information such as your name and address.

However, if you're looking for complete anonymity, choose a provider that accepts payment in the form of gift cards or Bitcoin, which makes it near-impossible to trace back to an individual. Just note that a VPN does not make you anonymous online - even if you pay by Bitcoin.

VPN bans in China and Russia

Most VPN services claim to work in China and Russia. The truth is that it's a cat-and-mouse game where the governments work out how to block connections if they detect you're using a VPN and they're very good at doing so. It means that you can't know for sure if a certain service will let you access Google and other sites on a particular day, and that's one reason why it pays to subscribe to a service with 24/7 live chat support: they'll be able to help you pick the right server and settings to bypass the blocks at that time.

The same goes for unblocking streaming services: they don't like VPNs and crack down on them as much as they can. And, again, having live chat support is useful when you run into problems. At the moment, many VPNs are unable to unblock BBC iPlayer - even big names such as ExpressVPN. So if this is important to you, check with the company first to see what the current situation is. Usually there is a solution: ExpressVPN offers a separate Media Streamer service which allows you to watch iPlayer content abroad.

We have lots more information and articles about VPNs here at Tech Advisor, all of which you can find over in our VPN hub.

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