Back again with another tech comparison, and this week in What the Tech, we are looking at the best VPN for you to use.
Before we start that, firstly a question. Why do you need to use a VPN service?
The main reason is that it provides security and privacy when using public networks.
You know that free hotel wireless, or Starbucks Wi-fi? Well, since they’re open to everybody, they are super insecure. It doesn’t take much for someone to track everything you are doing, steal your passwords and even replace legitimate websites with fake ones containing malware.
You should know that when in a public space, it’s probably more secure to not use the public Wi-fi and just use 4G or 5G tethered from your phone.
But it’s even more secure to use a VPN.
There are other benefits if you use a VPN as if in another country. Since you are now essentially browsing the internet from another country, it can unlock experiences that are locked by region from your own country.
Think, more Netflix or Amazon choices.
Lastly, before we compare, what is a VPN. VPN stands for a virtual private network. It’s kind of what it says on the tin. A private network between you and the end network. It’s secure so that nobody else can see what you are doing on the web.
Today we’re looking at the best VPN provider for you. Whether that’s for business use or for personal cases.
As always we will be covering a few key areas for each provider.
Ease of use
I won't be covering any additional features in this post, so let me know in the comments if you want me to make more to cover that, we're just focusing on the core VPN feature itself.
Here is the issue. There are just SO many VPN Providers out there that it would be impossible to review them all.
So what I've done here is looked at, seemingly the most popular options that are out there, thrown in a couple of other options - and we'll see where we end up. If you want me to do a second round of VPN Providers and maybe compare against whoever comes out on top of this review - then drop something down in the comments below.
These posts are never sponsored, nobody has paid to be in them as I think it's important for these reviews to stay sponsorship-free. With that said, If you wanted to sign up for any of these services, links will be in the post, and some of those I do make a small commission from. This in no way skews my opinion. I basically just signed up for any that had affiliate schemes as it helps cover the time that it takes to put these reviews together.
Anywho - on to the list of who made the cut for this video - they ARE!
If you prefer, you can watch the video for this post. Don't forget to subscribe for more if, that is something you wish to watch.
Right! Let us begin with...
Nord VPN is pretty much THE go-to when it comes to a VPN service. They're seemingly everywhere when it comes to marketing, and have notable celebrity endorsements from the likes of Casey Neistadt. They are fairly high in the rankings when looking at the App Store on iPhone or VPN Services for Amazon Fire TV.
When it comes to speed - I'll be downloading some large test files through a system that I know will max out my connection speeds. Because speed test websites aren't always that reliable. Whereas this way will give us a consistent figure for the duration of the download. I have a 1Gb Connection, so I should be able to download at a maximum of just over 100MB, well, it's actually 125MBps - because...well bits and bytes can get confusing. BUT so as not to confuse things, let's just say that 1Gbps = 100Mbps and we can all move on with our lives without boring you with the geeky details.
These tests were all done from an isolated machine, that was hard-wired into my internet connection. A lot of the reviews I saw were using mobile or wireless devices, which isn't a problem if you want to use a VPN, but if you're testing speed and performance then doing tests over wireless can give you dramatically different results each time. Also, something I noted was that lots of reviewers were testing the speed from already slow connections, so they can't really comment on how well VPNs perform.
I also ran the same tests a couple of other times, at different times of the day just to make sure the results weren't a one-off and to factor in times like when kids come home from school here in the UK, when the US wakes up later in our afternoon and so forth...
When it comes to NordVPN, this performed well, but being the first one I've tested it'll be interesting to compare. When connecting to nearby locations like the UK and France I got around 500-600Mbps which is fantastic. Halfway across the world to the US it was about 300Mbps, and going all around the globe to Australia or New Zealand reduced those speeds down to around 30Mbps, which I was surprised at, but it will be interesting to see how the others perform here.
Security & Privacy
In October 2019, a report emerged that one of its rented servers was accessed without authorisation. Though no user-identifying information was present - which supports Nord's statement that no user activity is logged on their systems, and secondly they followed this up with multiple audits, a bug bounty program, and a big investment in server security.
More recently when writing this, they announced they are moving their entire infrastructure to colocated servers. Which for the non-geeks amongst us, means that they will own the underlying hardware that everything sits on, rather than renting them from other providers. Which is Gooood.
Also point of note that NordVPN operates in Panama, outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance, which means that NordVPN can't be forced to hand over your data to the government. This is one to watch for those of you particularly security conscious about your data. Also, NordVPN was audited to confirm their essential privacy protection measures and that their no-logs policy is actually true. They also commit to annual third-party audits with independent specialists and conduct security audits and penetration testing. So they really do take this seriously.
So in summary, Nord VPN seems to be committed to improving its security, which is good... because, that's kind of what a VPN is all about.
Ease of use
Things, in my opinion, are great in this department. The apps are all around just great, simple, and easy to use, and really I've no complaints here. Fire it up, choose a location and connect. Boom - you're done.
A well-known feature of VPN services is that it can unlock services like Netflix, Amazon Video, and a whole host of other video content - because it thinks you are physically sat within that country and therefore unlocks a tonne of content that would otherwise be restricted from being viewed.
When it comes to which streaming services you can watch whilst pretending to be in whichever country you are connected to, then you should be able to get to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO, and Disney Plus. Being completely open in this review - I've tested some of these - but I don't have subscriptions for all so can't be 100% sure, so my advice would be to test this before committing, and all of the tested VPN providers offer money-back guarantees.
Pricing wise there aren't any different features really. It's just a 2 Year Plan. A 1 Year Plan or 1 Month plan. £2.86 per month on the 2 Year, £3.79 on the 1 Year, and £9.20 on the 1 Month. Obviously, the 2-year plan provides the best value here. For that price, you can use up to 6 devices. Something to add here, as I always do is that I contacted NordVPN to see if I can offer any extras to people watching this video. You can use the coupon code 'pete' to purchase a 2yr plan, and you will receive 4 months for free AND a surprise gift.... !?
Overall impression - This is a really strong contender, to begin with. Seems to be priced reasonably, it's secure, and doesn't store user data, speed seems good unless perhaps you are in the UK and want to VPN to NZ or Australia!
Let us continue, and over to one of the most highly rated VPNs I've seen in other online reviews - ExpressVPN!
When researching which VPN Providers I should trial as part of this review - ExpressVPN was one that always came out on top, though I'd never heard of it before. So let's see how they get on!
In terms of speed, Ph3xcz3u UK to the UK hit 500Mbps UK to the US around 60-100Mbps, and when I tried that again to Washington DC it was even worse at half the speed of even the last test. Results for the UK to Australia were between 26 - 40 Mbps UK to New Zealand ranged from a whopping half a meg but did hit up to 130Mbps at different times of the day.
So, a pretty mixed bag - some good speeds in New Zealand some of the time. I would probably say that NordVPN definitely takes the medal on reliable speed so far - but let us continue!
Security & Privacy
I couldn't find any reported breaches, though my searches were just full of news articles about how they're partnering with various other companies like LastPass. The fact there hasn't been a breach that I can tell is good news and in terms of that whole 5 eyes, 14 eyes thing, well ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands and have proved that it doesn't retain data logs and is unable to provide any identifiable, (is that a word?) data on its users to governments, which is all good stuff! so, let's move on.
Ease of use
As with NordVPN - It's easy. Choose the location, hit connect and you're in.
All of the services as with Nord, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO, and Disney Plus should all work just fine. Again, if you're unsure then test this first - they have a 30-day moneyback guarantee if you have any issues.
Pricing Is £10.09 per month, £7.78 per month if you sign up for 6 months, and £4.48 p/m if you sign up for 12 months. Except for the 1 month, those prices are significantly more expensive than Nord, almost double! But also the prices changed a few times when making this post - so 1. Those prices may not be right, and 2. Just, why?
Some great speeds, great security - pricing is a bit off - however again, after getting in touch with Express VPN, you can get 3 months free when you sign up for 12 months.
Now, onto SurfShark!
Surfshark is also one that crops up on all of those top reviews and particularly from what I read, one of the fastest VPNs around - so let's see!
Ok, so for speed we ran the same tests. UK to the UK hit 600 - 700Mbps UK to France nearly 500Mbps UK to US 200Mbps and 400Mbps in other tests. UK to Australia 30-40 Mbps as well as 140Mbps in other tests. UK to NZ 20, nearly 30Mbps and then again 140Mbps in other tests done in the early hours here in the UK. So wow - that is pretty great on speeds! So far that's definitely the best overall that we've seen.
Surfshark is one of the only ones where I could see that they had invited an independent company in to vet them and produce a security report - which was good to see. Though I noticed the report only covered the Google Chrome and Firefox extensions, rather than the actual clients themselves and not an internal security assessment. So whilst it's great, the browser addins got a clean bill of health, it's not really what most of us are interested in in terms of knowing how safe our data is.
No reasons to raise a concern here, no reports of breaches and equally no independent verification that they don't store any of that data... One thing that's worth noting here is that SurfShark does have the option to use MultiHop VPNs, which means it will literally jump from one country to another. Probably useful more for maybe, journalists who are travelling through countries with certain restrictions - but just be aware that since you will be jumping across 2 VPN connections this will impact your speeds further. Surfshark is also based in the British Virgin Islands which is friendly to your privacy - so no issues there.
Ease of use
Again as with ease of use - it's easy to use. Select a server, click connected and you're straight in. Also, a personal opinion here, but I'd say that the interface on Nord is slightly nicer than Shark. Nord gives you a nice map view that you can zoom in and out to decide where you want to connect to, though that is just a personal opinion and realistically you're just going to search for the country hit connect, and be done with it.
The last couple of things is that you can hook up unlimited simultaneous connections, so you could technically connect and use this VPN on say, your Laptop, desktop, amazon fire stick, Chromecast, games console, mobile phone - all at once! And, maybe for friends and family too...?
As in the previous 2, all the usual suspects in terms of streaming. So no concerns here at all either.
With that said, I did find the app awkward to navigate and search on the fire tv so that's worth a mention.
You can sign up for a 7-day trial if you sign up using the mobile app, then For 1 month it's £9.78 per month, 6 months it's £4.90 per month, but if you wanted to sign up for 24 months then you can pay £45.14, which comes to just £1.67 per month and get a further 3 months for free. Incredibly low price!
Again, I contacted SurfShark to see if there were any deals - and you can get an 84% discount plus 4 months for free. That is incredibly aggressively priced! Wow.
Payment is worth mentioning here, as Surfshark also allows you to pay in CryptoCurrency. So for those of you who do want to stay completely anonymous, then you can pay using that.
Overall, SurfShark actually seems like a really, really strong contender. I mean, it's slightly cheaper than NordVPN, it has some incredibly fast speeds... and well, it seems to work pretty well, aside from being awkward to use on the TV - plus it does have that unlimited devices thing... this could well be a great option...
Next up -
Getting straight into CyberGhost in terms of speed
Ok, so for speed we ran the same tests. UK to the UK hit 750Mbps UK to France nearly 600Mbps and 700Mbps in other tests. UK to US 160Mbps 'ish here but 340Mbps in other tests. UK to Australia nearly 300Mbps - wow! UK to NZ 170Mbps
So wow! Speeds are definitely improving here. I'd say that it's between Cyber Ghost and SurfShark for pure speed. If you're looking to use a VPN particularly for Australia and NZ VPN Services - then this so far is definitely one of the better choices.
They reported a data breach due to a third-party service, TypeForm, which had compromised some surveys which were sent back in 2018. They reported the information and confirmed that it only affected 120 email addresses and 14 CyberGhost users. So I would say that's a good response, they communicated it well. The only other concern here is that the company has gone through some changes over the year, and previously it was bought by a company that was infamous for bundling adware into its downloads. That's possibly not a reflection on who they are now as of course, things can change - but that's something to be aware of at least.
The same on paper as with everywhere else. They don't have any independent audits, however, they do release a transparency report every 3 months to chat about key stats, the people behind the company, malware activity was seen on its network - so that's kind of nice and err, transparent. They are also based in Romania, again outside of the 14 eyes so there's no risk there of their hand being forced to share user information with governments.
Ease of use
Yep - Easy to use. One thing I liked to see was that you can see how congested each of the servers that you are connecting to are. Which you can see on some of the other one's tests, but makes you wonder if the other VPN providers I was using and seeing much slower speeds, just happened to be on servers that were too busy... we'll never know!
When using it on fire tv the sign-in was simple, HUGE congratulations to them for this as they’ve taken the same approach as YouTube where you visit a website, enter a code and it links the accounts with no faffing to type your username and password manually using the remote control.
Streaming services seem a bit of a mixed bag. It should support everything, but I've seen reports that Amazon Prime TV won't work, though my experience was just fine... so again, test this out first.
One thing I did like here is that when using the Amazon fire tv, it had specific servers for streaming services. So whilst on one hand there are reports of issues streaming, well, I like this implementation.
£10.89 per month, £3.45 per month for 1 year, £2.89 per month for 2 years or £1.99 / month for 3 years and 3 months. Pretty good on the pricing front than in comparison to the others - and they give you a 45-day money-back guarantee which always helps.
Overall - CyberGhost seems to have a good product. The speeds I saw in my tests have been almost unbeaten so far, but personally - with the questionable ethics in previous years as well as the odd reported hiccup in Amazon Prime streaming, and the pricing which is middle of the road for all of the providers - it's not great. It's not bad. But when there are other options available like SurfShark with almost as good speeds, but none of those questions hanging over... then I would only recommend this if the slightly faster speeds to Aus and NZ are the only thing you are bothered with.
Finally, on to
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access is one that I see crops up sometimes on YouTube videos as sponsors, but isn't really widely reviewed and certainly not ranked in many of the VPN Comparisons that I've looked over. So we'll give this one a try just to see how it compares...
In terms of speed:
UK to the UK hit almost 400Mbps UK to France 300Mbps UK to US 250Mbps UK to Australia 50Mbps, 60Mbps, took ages to ramp up, and in other tests hit around 160Mbps UK to NZ topped out at around 150-160Mbps but reached almost 200 in other tests.
Overall - pretty OK results.
Privacy seems all above board, though it is worth mentioning that PIA is in the 5 eyes, or rather now 14 eyes country which means they could be forced to give up information to the government if so requested, however, they have confirmed that they don't store any local user data. In fact, a post on Reddit claims that when Russia tried to force their hand and make them log all Russian internet traffic for up to a year, they stopped doing business in Russia and shut down all their VPN services there, as well as - apparently, in Brazil, South Korea and more recently in July of 2020, in Honk Kong.
So that's nice to know - but there aren't any independent audit's that I've seen, even though a post from around a year ago on their website states that they would be looking to conduct audits to share the results with the world - none have yet to make an appearance. Unless I'm looking in the wrong place, which is likely.
Ease of use
No issues using the client. Though on the Mac this sits in the menu bar at the top rather than a standalone application like all of the other clients I used.
In terms of steaming with the fire tv app, no issues there, though they are one of the companies who haven’t got a Clever pin or login system so you do have to sit there and type it in using the remote... a little naff, but once you’re in the interface is super clean and simple.
Here is the main issue for PIA. In that, it does seem to struggle with many of the streaming services. Netflix and iPlayer are but a few that I had issues with and so you'll likely need to choose an alternative VPN provider if this is the main reason for you signing up.
For those of you who do just want a good VPN Service, then you can pick up 1 month for £8.09, one year for £2.71 per month, and two years for £2.19 per month with 2 months free. Pretty great prices.
So which one is it? There are so many services here and to be honest, the results are pretty much too close to call.
I think for me I would say it's probably going to be SurfShark as the overall winner, with NordVPN a very close overall second - because Nord is a well-known brand, the software is clean, easy to use, and just works. With good speeds to boot. But with SurfShark - they simply had Incredible speeds at an Incredible price, plus, it has unlimited devices which means you can install and use Surfshark VPN on multiple devices, and be connected. Whereas Nord is limited to 6 devices, Express VPN to 5, CyberGhost is 7, and PIA for 10 devices.
For the best NZ and Australia speeds (at least here from the UK) then CyberGhost is worth looking at.
I would suggest that you pick the one that best suits your needs, and make use of any trial periods or money-back guarantee periods - as you'll be able to make sure that it's fast enough and works with your streaming services.
Phew! And we're done.
That is everything for this post, this one was super difficult to make as you can go into so much detail on the VPN Services and everything that's involved - but then each service would need its own post and it would just be a monster of a post to write and video to shoot.
Hopefully this, fairly high-level overview of each service has done it justice. Please head over and subscribe to the channel for more and comment below with any questions, and I'll do my best to respond to each and every one of them. Otherwise - Like, Subscribe, all the things - and see you soon... Cheers!
👨🏽💻 Sign up for NordVPN
👨🏽💻 Sign up for SurfShark (83% off AND 3 months free!)
👨🏽💻 Sign up for ExpressVPN (3 Months Free)