Best VPN Service: If you’re struggling to decide between ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and more – we can help
Having a Virtual Private Network – or VPN – installed can unlock a host of benefits. VPNs encrypt all of your web traffic – keeping it safe from prying eyes, which ensures that your online passwords and banking details can’t be intercepted when using a public Wi-Fi network, like those in coffee shops and airports. The layer of encryption also prevents your Internet Service Provider, like BT, Sky or Virgin Media, from being able to keep tabs on what you’re doing too. It’s the reason that your workplace probably requires you to switch on a VPN before working remotely… so why should you treat your own data differently to that owned by the company?
That’s all incredibly important. However, the most exciting feature included with any VPN is the ability to spoof your location to anywhere on the planet.
Switching location with a VPN means you’ll be able to side-step the geographic restrictions placed on some of your favourite streaming services, like Netflix and Prime Video. It’s well known that UK subscribers have access to a smaller catalogue of shows, documentaries and movies than US counterparts, despite paying the same monthly fee. Using a VPN to virtually relocate to the United States will unlock a bevvy of new shows and films to watch on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, tablet, or streaming set-top box, like the Fire TV, Roku, or Chromecast with Google TV.
There are a dizzying number of VPNs out there at wildly different prices. Express.co.uk has been testing VPNs for weeks to find the best combination of price, features, and speed. Here’s our definitive list of the best VPNs for January 2022…
What Is A VPN?
VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, is software that creates a secure, encrypted tunnel whenever you head online. If you’re using a busy public Wi-Fi network, like those in the most popular coffee shop chains or airports, this shield around your online activity will prevent bad actors from intercepting your data. It will also stop your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from keeping tabs on your online activity too …similar to a supercharged version of the Incognito Mode built into the Google Chrome web browser. You might also want to rely on a VPN to keep your internet history from your Government too, with these apps particularly crucial to whistleblowers and sources helping journalists uncover wrongdoing, for example.
But while encryption is an essential aspect of a Virtual Private Network (and the reason that your workplace likely requires you to turn on a VPN before working remotely), it’s their ability to manually change your IP addresses that makes these apps infinitely more exciting. For those who don’t know, an IP address is assigned to your device whenever you connect to the internet and contains information on your location. It’s the reason you’re able to see your current address on Google Maps or the way that retailers enable features like Find Your Nearest Store on their websites.
Some of the most popular streaming services place geographic restrictions on their content, usually due to different licensing agreements in each country. For example, while Tina Fey’s seminal sit-com 30 Rock is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix in the United States, the show is only available via Sky Comedy (either via Sky Q, Sky Glass, NOW TV, Virgin Media or BT TV) in the UK due to different agreements between the broadcasters. Given that a subscription to Netflix costs the same in the UK as it does in the United States, shouldn’t you be able to watch the entire catalogue of shows available over there?
VPNs can manually tweak your IP address – making it appear as if you’re on holiday in the United States for the evening. Just like when you’re visiting on holiday, your existing UK login credentials will work on all of the Netflix apps, but the catalogue of shows, documentaries, and movies will be completely different.
And it’s not just for Netflix either. VPNs can be used to unlock a bevvy of shows and films across a wide range of streaming services, unlock sporting events that aren’t broadcast in your current location, and subscribe to new services that haven’t yet launched where you’re based.
Likewise, if you’re away on holiday and some of the online services that you subscribe to aren’t yet available in the country you’re staying in – a VPN can help. For example, following the UK’s departure from the European Union, Sky Go no longer works for UK subscribers on the continent. If you’re abroad for a few weeks, you won’t be able to watch live broadcasts from terrestrial channels in the UK, or download on-demand boxsets ready for the journey back home.
In some countries, like Turkey or China, a number of the globe’s biggest internet services have been banned due to tough censorship laws. If you’re visiting and need access to the likes of Twitter or Google to continue working, you’ll need access to a VPN.
VPNs can help protect your payment details and unlock more content to stream
Does A VPN Change My Internet Speed?
Yes, most likely. Encrypting all of your internet traffic adds an extra step in the process, which impacts the amount of time that passes between clicking a button in your web browser and your request being received by the website itself. On top of this, the further that your data has to travel, the slower the connection will be. If everything you’re doing online is being routed via Missouri in the United States, that’s going to slow things down even further.
One of the biggest differentiators between VPNs is how much they alter your internet speed. In our testing, NordVPN and ExpressVPN provided the fastest connections, with SurfShark – which, admittedly, has both of the two others in this list beaten when it comes to pricing – resulting in slightly slower connections.
Most VPNs will allow you to customise which apps use their services when connecting online. For example, you might want your social media accounts to connect to the internet without a VPN. After all, this means you’ll be able to refresh your social feed much faster and can easily tag yourself in specific locations. However, you might want all of your video streaming services, like Prime Video and Netflix, to default to the VPN.
Can I Use A VPN On My iPhone?
Yes, Apple has ensured that iOS – the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone – works with VPNs. After downloading the iOS app developed by your VPN provider from the App Store, you’ll need to grant a few permissions. After switching on the VPN connection within the app, anything you do on your iPhone will be encrypted and protected. You’ll also be able to launch the same video apps as usual, including Netflix, Disney+, and Sky Go to access more content as part of your existing subscription.
Can I Use A VPN On My Android Smartphone?
Yes, Android is fully compatible with all of the VPN services in this list. And many, many more. Connecting to a VPN for the first time, you will need to grant a few permissions to the Android app, but this only takes a few seconds. Once connected, everything you do on your Android device will be encrypted and shielded from outside eyes. Your streaming apps, like Netflix and Prime Video, will also be able to load content that’s usually geographically locked in other countries.
Can I Get A Free Trial With A VPN?
Unfortunately, the VPN providers that we recommend do not offer free trials. However, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and SurfShark VPN all offer 30-day money-back guarantees, so if there are any issues with the VPN within the first month, you’ll be able to get a complete refund. NordVPN, ExpressVPN and SurfShark VPN all offer 24/7 customer service too, so no matter where you’re located in the world, you’ll be able to get hold of someone to help fix your issue. Sure, it’s not quite as good as a week of free access to the VPN, but it’s a good compromise that should ensure you feel confident at checkout.
NordVPN is our top pick – the best VPN service that we’ve come across
Best VPN Service: 1. NordVPN
NordVPN is a stellar VPN service that boasts the best mobile app of any of the services on this list. Available on iOS, iPadOS and Android, this app makes it ludicrously easy for newcomers to get connected for the first time. Switching locations around the globe is incredibly simple too, and frequently-used countries will be listed at the top – making it easy to jump back into your favourite series on US Netflix, for example.
NordVPN doesn’t offer connections in quite as many countries as ExpressVPN (60 versus 94), so those who want to appear in more exotic locations might want to look elsewhere, but for most of us, NordVPN more than makes up for this shortcoming with the dizzying number of possible servers it has on offer for subscribers to connect to (more than 5,000 available worldwide compared to just 160 for ExpressVPN). That means you’re always able to find a solid connection to a server that isn’t too congested.
In our testing, internet speeds only dropped a fraction. Without NordVPN enabled, we clocked up 130Mbps download speeds. A few moments later, with the VPN shielding all of our data and enabling a bucketload of new series to stream, we registered 100Mbps.
NordVPN allows subscribers to connect a generous 6 different devices at the same time. That’s especially handy since NordVPN has apps for almost every device you could think of – from smartphones, to tablets, games consoles, to Fire TV Stick dongles, Windows and Mac. You can even install NordVPN directly on your router, so that every device that connects to your home Wi-Fi network will be automatically routed via the VPN.
NordVPN offers some incredible deals, especially if you sign up to its one-year or two-year plans – with prices plummeting as low as £2.75 a month.
Following behind in an incredibly close second place, ExpressVPN easily makes the Best VPN list
Best VPN Service: 2. ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a brilliant VPN provider that could’ve easily pipped NordVPN to Gold Medal position. With the same 24/7 customer support and 30-day money-back guarantee as our top pick, ExpressVPN is clearly just as confident about its product as NordVPN. But that’s hardly surprising – in our testing, ExpressVPN performed brilliantly with only a marginal impact on download speeds. On top of that, ExpressVPN works hard to ensure that it has a steady stream of new servers coming online to escape Netflix’s recent crackdown on VPNs. So while some providers struggle to unlock the full catalogue available in the United States, ExpressVPN never runs into an issue.
If you’ve got a truckload of gadgets, the 5 device limit might put you off ExpressVPN. However, like NordVPN, the company offers dedicated apps to install on your router – encrypting every device that you own each time they connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Express VPN pledges to never collect identifying information about its customers, including IP address, online activity, traffic destination, or even the length of each session.
For those who want a VPN for privacy benefits, this is immensely reassuring. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has no data retention laws. So the company isn’t legally obliged to keep tabs on the browsing habits of its customers.
As one of the market leaders, ExpressVPN charges a little more than the competition. If you’re looking for a truly competitive deal, it might be worth looking elsewhere than ExpressVPN. However, those who want to subscribe to the service should look at the 6-month and 15-month options, which offer some huge savings compared to a monthly rolling contract. With one of these promotions, you’ll be able to drop your monthly bills as low as £5.20 or so.
Surfshark VPN finished in our third place in our ranking, but offers some unmatched discounts
Best VPN Service: 3. Surfshark VPN
The one advantage of picking SurfShark VPN over any of the other services in this list is the ability to login with an unlimited number of devices. That’s not something we’re used to seeing from VPN providers and means you’ll be able to login from any number of gadgets that you want – from anywhere in the world. Like the providers above, SurfShark boasts a wide variety of apps, including iOS, iPadOS, Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and more.
Elsewhere, you’ll find the same 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 customer support as NordVPN and ExpressVPN, so there’s no risk signing up for the first time and seeing how SurfShark performs for you. It’s also based in the British Virgin Islands, just like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, to avoid any data retention laws forcing it to store information on its customers about what they’re doing with the service, how long they’re connected, their real IP address, and more.
SurfShark is incredibly competitively priced. With the right deal, you can drop the monthly cost down to a criminally low £1.65 a month. That’s ludicrously cheap for a service that’s so useful. There are always new deals and promotions available, so check below for the latest offers.
Published at Tue, 11 Jan 2022 10:25:00 +0000