Bringing you are latest line-up of the best VPN currently on the market, we've tried and tested leading services and ranked providers based on security, privacy, unblocking, usability, and other factors, informing you on where to invest your money when it comes to this nifty piece of software.
An abbreviation for 'virtual private network', a VPN is a piece of software that functions as the middleman between your device and internet connection. Hosting a whole network of servers based around the world, the best VPN is able to conceal your IP address, encrypt your internet traffic, and make it appear as if you're somewhere else entirely, essentially protecting your online footprint.
This means hackers, your internet service provider (ISP), or even the government can't see what you're doing. It also means you'll be able to more easily access overseas content which would otherwise leave you locked out when out of the country. Whether you're traveling or wanting to circumvent blocks within your educational institution or workplace, a VPN can really come in handy.
Both securing and optimizing any whole host of different devices, the best VPN is a great piece of software to have in your arsenal. We've rounded up the top providers on the market so you don't have to, comparing performance, features, unblocking prowess, and more.
1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN money can buy
After the best VPN money can buy? We'd recommend ExpressVPN every time. Not only is it easy-to-use, but it excellent speeds, works on pretty much every device, and boasts rock-solid encryption and security. Better still, T3 readers can claim three months free on a 12-month plan, as well as one year of unlimited Backblaze cloud backup.
2. NordVPN – the biggest name in VPN is still a strong competitor
In the world of VPN, NordVPN is a name you'll be far more familiar with. It's a seriously powerful security solution, and trails ExpressVPN by a fraction in functionality, offering a stellar performance at a slightly more affordable rate.
3. Surfshark - feature packed but affordable
You don't have to pay through the roof to get a good VPN - Surfshark is proof of that. With a range of great features, streaming service unblocking capabilities, you can subscribe for under $2.50 a month.
The best VPN service online in 2023
ExpressVPN maintains its iron grip as T3's #1 best VPN overall, with some subtle improvements that see it continue to have an edge against its biggest competitors.
Hosting a network of over 3,000 servers across 160 locations, you can carry those 94 countries around in your pocket with its excellent clients across a number of devices. With the option to run across five devices simultaneously - while other providers may offer more, for many that will be plenty.
Boasting improvements in our speed testing, ExpressVPN, while not the fastest, now sits comfortably above average thanks to its Lightway protocol, with peaks of 630Mbps. Great news from casual browsing to streaming, ExpressVPN is also one of the most competent streaming VPN out there.
While others have folded, especially in the face of Netflix's crackdown on IP addresses used by VPN services, ExpressVPN is still able to gain access to libraries in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. That said, it can be a bit hit and miss to find a server that works, and the likes of NordVPN and Surfshark are more reliable where Netflix VPNs are concerned. It'll gains access to BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video without trouble, though.
That's not mentioning its plethora of excellent security features that help maintain the privacy of your connection. As well as adding its new Threat Manager feature, which assists in blocking trackers, nuisance adverts, and other malicious websites, you'll also find split tunneling, its MediaStreamer (smart DNS), and Network Lock (kill switch).
Offering some of the best support, both with its 24/7 team and excellent online guides, new subscribers to ExpressVPN will benefit from the added reassurance of its risk-free 30-day money back guarantee - on top of our exclusive 3 months free and one-year of Backblaze cloud storage.
It's always a close battle between NordVPN and ExpressVPN to claim that top spot, and once again NordVPN is just a hair width behind. With an already huge volume of servers, NordVPN sees a boost to its network, now stretching across 60 countries with well over 5,400 servers around the globe. It's also certainly one of the most secure VPNs.
Boasting some impeccable security and privacy features, as well as offering the standard AES-256 encryption, NordVPN also has its Double VPN in its arsenal, on top of DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and proxy extensions across Chrome, Firefox, and now Edge. You'll also find its new Threat protection against ads and malware.
Its speeds aren't to be sniffed at either. While it has dropped a fraction compared to its excellent performance in our last tests, NordVPN is still comfortably above average with its NordLynx WireGuard with peaks of 760Mbps. Still, this round of testing has seen it succeeded by the likes of Surfshark and CyberGhost, as well as Hide.me and TorGuard, with IPVanish still offering one of the fastest VPN performances at 890Mbps.
NordVPN has actually become one of the strongest to in unblocking Netflix around the world. We regularly check now Netflix has become an even tougher nut to crack, and NordVPN breezed through, gaining access to libraries in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan. NordVPN will also help you gain access to Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Vide, and BBC iPlayer. On top of that, it's 2-year plan sees it at become a touch more affordable, with annual renewal rates dropping, too. Make sure you check our NordVPN discount codes to help lower the cost.
There are plenty of reasons to pick Surfshark as your preferred online VPN service – it's super affordable, covers unlimited devices and, if streaming is your concern, it unblocks key streaming services like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Netflix.
Whether you're a beginner or a VPN veteran, Surfshark is super easy and straightforward to get to grips with. Better still, it boasts a very speedy live chat support, so if you do have any queries these can be solved very quickly.
Let's not forget the unlimited devices policy – this means you can get as many simultaneous connections as you wish, and even share your plan with members of your household.
The provider also has a wide range of features, including a kill switch and split tunnelling. The former has proved a touch hit and miss when undergoing our stress testing. While these issues are unlikely to come up in every-day-use, it's worth pointing out for anyone in need of the best privacy from a VPN.
While Surfshark's OpenVPN performance wasn't great, you'll likely only be in need of this if you're setting up a router VPN or the like. With WireGuard available on all its clients, this is where Surfshark's speeds really excelled, jumping from peaks of 475Mbps previously to 700Mbps in the UK and 790Mbps in the US.
But the main hook – the price. Surfshark remains one cheap VPN , offering plenty of bang for your buck.
Proton VPN remains strong following its huge leaps at the end of 2021, retaining its reputation as a mighty free VPN option with speedy WireGuard performance, excellent unblocking track record, and a boosted network coverage that leaps up to 1,700+ servers across an increases 63 countries.
With Proton VPN you have the option of its Plus plan as well as its free option. You can then choose between three durations for its Plus plan. In terms of its free option, this comes with unlimited bandwidth and servers across three countries. To really get the benefit of Proton's power, though, you'll need to be a paying customer so you can enjoy its streaming service unblocking prowess - this includes Netflix (in the US, UK, and Canada), BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Vide, and Disney Plus.
Proton VPN also boasts an array of great features for added security. This includes malware and tracker blocking, as well as a dedicated kill switch, open source apps for optional customizable configuration, and no session logging with accompanying security audits. While a touch slower than previous testing, both its WireGuard and OpenVPN performance offer above average results, ranging from 360-670Mbps.
A good one for those users with a more technical understanding, Proton VPN has quite in-depth online support articles - though this could be a drawback for those not quite so tech-savvy.
What's more, as mentioned before, you can always try it out by initially signing up to its limited free plan, before splashing out on one of the paid-for plans.
When it comes to recommending a VPN with great clients across a choice of devices, Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of our go-to recommendations, in part thanks to its Smart DNS, which allows you to set up the VPN on smart TVs and gaming consoles.
And it doesn't skimp on the features or its connection allowance, either. You'll be able to cover up to 10 devices. Great news when you consider how great its iOS and Android offerings are with its full-fat apps.
Offering apps for a Mac VPN, Windows, Android, Linus, iOS and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, it's compatible with pretty much most software. With a couple of expert features, they're also really straightforward to use.
Also, if security and privacy is a concern then the provider has quite a few features that are ideal for this, including a kill switch, flash blocking, cookie cleaning, camera and microphone protection. Its lack of a security audit is a bit of a concern, though we're under good authority this is in the pipeline.
With a seemingly endless list of protocols too, including WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, DNS, and the option of a custom port and more, control over encryption is finely tuned where PIA is concerned.
Truthfully, its speeds are its downfall. While its WireGuard speeds previously saw it performing with comfortably average speeds, PIA has taken a bit of a dip, now peaking at 320Mbps. This is below average when compared to its competitors. For those keen to watch BBC iPlayer outside of the UK, you'll also be left disappointed with PIA unable to unblock it this time around. That said, for other services like Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and US, Canadian and UK Netflix, you're sorted.
CyberGhost may be Romanian and German-based, but it's a very internationally used VPN, once again saying a hefty boost to its network of servers, now up to over 8,000 across 91 countries.
It's other significant leap is in its speed performance across both OpenVPN and its WireGuard protocol, not lagging far behind the likes of IPVanish, TorGuard, and Modzilla which came out on top. Producing peaks of 830-850Mbps, this is one of the fastest VPN providers out there.
If you're after a good streaming unblocker, CyberGhost circumvents geo-restrictions on Disney Plus, Prime Video and BBC iPlayer - though you will struggle to watch Netflix from abroad other than accessing its US library. Plus, its innovative filtering system automatically displays suitable servers for what you're after – for example, torrenting or streaming using a VPN.
It's got a super effective kill-switch, which is pretty handy in terms of security, alongside a stream of excellent, reputable features, including blocks on malicious websites, ads and trackers.
The speedy live chat support is also pretty handy for anyone who's a VPN newbie or has any questions or queries, though its support site could do with some work if it wants to climb up the rankings and join the big boys. You get a 24 hour trial for the desktop app, and it does lead the charge with its 45-day money-back guarantee.
For those who want to really put a VPN through the wringer before committing, Hotspot Shield is a great shout with its completely free VPN service. While it has dropped off in some areas of its performance, for many it will still be a reliable VPN to have in your arsenal with a decent streaming service unblocking track record, powerful Windows kill switch, and great value bundle that loads you up with a call blocker and password manager.
It has a great selection of apps to load onto your chosen devices - though we have clocked some inconsistencies across apps, with its mobile clients missing out on features.
In terms of functioning as a great streaming VPN, Hotspot doesn't do too badly in this area. You'll be able to access BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, YouTube and a bunch of other sites. However, for Netflix bingers, there are stronger, more consistent VPN out there.
Once known as the leader for the fastest VPN, the introduction of WireGuard in other VPN providers has seen Hotspot Shield lag behind. Unfortunately, while still great speeds for most, what was its real standout attribute now falls somewhere in the average with results averaging 300-310Mbps.
It's also worth noting it's based in the US and not zero-logging, though the logs Hotspot collects can't be tied back to your activity, so we've got no real qualms about it.
For those who love a good map interface when it comes to their servers (but NordVPN just isn't cutting it) IPVanish does promise one of the best map designs, with a bunch of status information for you to get a handle on - likely for those who prefer a more in-depth reading on their VPN provider.
It also manages to sustain its reputation as one of the most speedy VPN thanks to its WireGuard infrastructure offering results of 880-890Mbps. This does see a slight drop from our last round of testing - and TorGuard has trumped it with a 950Mbps peak - but this performance is still exceptional.
Hosting more than 40,000 IP addresses, with 2,000+ servers in 75+ countries, subscribers get unlimited peer to peer sharing and as many simultaneous connections as you can handle - it's a VPN with some serious credentials.
For keen streamers, IPVanish may not be your first choice depending on what you want to watch. While it can now unblock BBC iPlayer, you'll only be able to gain access to US and UK Netflix, and Disney Plus. Unfortunately it's still unable to unblock Prime Video.
In addition to its unblocking creditentials, you'll find a kill switch for those shaky moments where connection is lost, and AES-256 encryption, as well as OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
Typically with most VPN, IPVanish doesn’t offer a free trial, but there is still a 30-day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t live up to your expectations. Its annual plans have also got more affordable for your first year, and now include IPRE antivirus, too.
Hide.me is going from strength to strength since its arrival onto our best list at the end of 2021, offering an excellent tool that offers a few key developments that see it staking its claim as one of the best VPN. Boasting a generous free option, too, this could be a great stepping stone for those new to VPN and looking for one to give a whirl.
Hugely configurable, you can choose between a number of protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, SoftEther, SSTP, its WireGuard speeds are where it really stood out this time, with performance peaks of 900Mbps. This places it at #2 behind TorGuard in our speed testing, which is an impressive feat indeed. You'll also find port forwarding, as well as leak checks for DNS, IP, and the like, as well as a generous 10GB allowance with its free offering.
Hide.me is also a great option for those to unblock streaming platforms. Hide.me adds Prime Video to its list along with BBC iPlayer, and Disney Plus. Unless you're after Netflix (which it completely failed to unblock in our most recent tests) while overseas and wanting to access your streaming services like you would back home, then Hide.me should do just the job.
It's worth noting we did experience some kill switch niggles during testing and its support website isn't the best (though if you can talk to an actual human being, you'll be better off), and for some the interface may prove too complex if you're a newbie to VPN. That said, it's still a clean and smooth one to work with and is definitely one to check out if you're at all enticed by its free offering.
Windscribe offers unlimited device connections and is a great option for those looking to avoid spending a penny with its generous 10GB free plan. There are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and the service also offers browser add-ons with useful features such as ad-blocking.
This allows the freedom to simply add Windscribe to your gadgets as you go, never having to think about how many you're already using it on. If you’re looking to protect the data from a whole bunch of devices - an office, perhaps, or just a smart home - the support for unlimited connections is a real stand-out feature.
In terms of speeds, its performance has slipped with OpenVPN slipping below average at 120Mbps, while WireGuard sits at a slightly more healthy 200-490Mbps range. Still, these speeds should more than cater towards streamers, with the ability to unblock BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, and Disney Plus, adding US Netflix back into its arsenal this time around.
When you make the leap from free to its paid for service, Windscribe allows you a ton of options here, too. Get a monthly or annual plan, or even build your own.
What is a VPN and why do I need it?
Breaking down its abbreviation, a VPN stands for 'virtual private network'. Its primary function is to better improve security and privacy while online through any number of your personal devices.
It does this with its hundreds, sometimes thousands, of servers. Connect to one of these and your IP address will be changed, meaning you won't be tied to an IP your Internet Service Provider or government can track you on. It also utilizes encryption and other security features to ensure your personal information is kept secure as it travels from A to B.
By changing your IP address, this subsequently makes you appear as if you're browsing elsewhere. As well as boasting better online anonymity, this also means you can spoof your device and certain websites with geo-restrictions into thinking you're elsewhere, gaining access to overseas content and so on.
Is using a VPN online legal?
VPN services are legal in most countries (though watch out for the countries that do regulate or outright ban the use of VPNs). It's completely legal to mask your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic.
There is nothing about using a VPN that's illegal and VPN services themselves do not and cannot do anything illegal.
The only thing that's illegal is if you were to break the law while using a VPN - for instance if you were to infringe on someone's copyright. But that's the action of infringement that's illegal, not the use of the VPN.
Which VPN services work with Netflix?
The streaming giant has been fairly clear on its stance with utilising VPN to access its library of content in other regions, and has severely cranked down on IP addresses in an attempt to block VPN users. That said, many will still take the risk if it means watching Friends through the UK library, or other country exclusives.
Below you'll find a breakdown of which VPN have success with which Netflix libraries.
- ExpressVPN - UK, US, Australia, Canada
- NordVPN - US, UK, Australia
- Surfshark - UK, Canada
- ProtonVPN - UK, US, Australia, Canada
- Private Internet Access - US
- Hotspot Shield - Canada
- CyberGhost - US
- IPVanish - US
- StrongVPN - US
- VyprVPN - UK
How secure are VPN services online?
There are a lot of great reasons why people choose to use a VPN. The main reason to use a VPN online is security - in theory, the data that travels across your VPN should be impossible for anybody else to intercept, so it can protect your online banking or confidential business communications - but there are other benefits too.
VPNs can make it much harder for advertising to track you online, and they can overcome geography-specific blocks that prevent you from accessing some country-specific services such as online video.
When we say that in theory VPNs can’t be intercepted, that’s because they are like any other form of security: if you use them on a device that’s already been compromised by malware such as keyloggers or other security threats then they can’t do their job properly.
If you’re on Windows, then good quality, up to date anti-virus software isn’t a luxury. It’s absolutely essential.
Can a VPN really make you anonymous online?
VPNs can make your browsing private, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anonymous. VPN services can and do log traffic (even the ones that say they don’t log do need to log some information, or they wouldn’t be able to function properly), and those logs can be requested by the authorities. Think of a VPN as being like curtains: people can’t peek through your curtains if you’ve got them closed, but curtains won’t hide your house.
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
What’s the difference between a VPN and a proxy?
A proxy server is another way to conceal your real location. By transferring data through a proxy server the data appears to be going to that server, not you - so for example if you’re in the US and the proxy is in Switzerland, the website or service will think it’s talking to a machine in Switzerland. The main difference is that VPNs protect all your traffic while proxies tend to be limited to specific types of data, such as peer to peer networking or web browsing.
Can I trust a free service?
You get what you pay for. Or rather, with free services you tend to get what you don’t pay for in the form of advertising, lower priority connections, blocks on data hungry apps such as peer to peer networking, session limits and in most cases, a lack of any guarantees about service availability or quality.
If you only want to protect a laptop from time to time in a coffee shop a no-fee VPN will be fine, but for anything more serious we’d recommend a paid-for product. If you're in search of a VPN without cost, why not check out our best free VPN buying guide?
How do I choose an online VPN service to download?
To choose the best VPN for you, it's more than just whether to go for a free VPN versus a paid for provider. Put short, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription.
Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for? Most important of all, will you be able to unlock Netflix and Disney Plus?
Wherever possible try before you buy. In some cases there won’t be a free trial, but most reputable VPN providers offer a money back guarantee if the service doesn’t meet your expectations.
More VPN guides you might like:
- Outside of the UK? Use the best iPlayer VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer
- Here are the best Samsung Smart TV and Galaxy phones VPN for your device
- Get the best laptop under £500 with our guide