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Are you searching for the best VPN services 2022? There are many hazards online, most of which can be avoided if you use a virtual private network (VPN). If you’re a regular user of wireless hotspots, especially open ones in places such as coffee shops, you may well be surprised by just how vulnerable much of your data is.
Think of the numerous passwords you’ve typed, the credit card details you’ve entered, and the innumerable usernames you have thrown out into the world wide web—all of this is susceptible to criminals looking for an unencrypted way into your personal life.
VPNs are also an essential tool for those living in countries with severe online restrictions, such as the People’s Republic of China. For those of us with less online fencing to deal with, VPNs serve as a way to access content from other nations without regional blocking, with many paid-for VPNs overtly stating just how well they can access American Netflix in the US when you travel, plus others like Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.
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VPNs are also incredibly easy to install. We’ve got a simple guide on how to install a VPN if you’re interested in learning how it’s done.
If your company or ISP blocks certain applications, such as Skype, or certain types of websites, such as YouTube, you can use a VPN to circumvent those blocks. But what is the best VPN? Well, not all VPNs are created equal and a lot of it depends on your particular needs. Keep reading to find out what VPNs are the best in 2022 and find the one right for you.
Types of VPNs
VPNs open a secure “tunnel” between your laptop, phone, or tablet and the VPN provider. The data in this tunnel is encrypted end-to-end, and therefore unreadable to anyone who happens to capture and gaze upon that data. ISPs and the government keep a close eye on your browsing actions for various reasons, and even hackers want to steal your credit card or bank login details if they can capture them. That’s not to say that a VPN isn’t crackable, just that it’s a lot more difficult to do it.
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There are various types of VPNs, and you can create one using your home router. This procedure forms a private network for you and your family. VPN software is widely available by various providers, and you can even download VPN apps to your smartphone. Alternatively, if you have Kodi or an Amazon Fire TV Stick, it’s possible to install a VPN app directly onto them to allow you to access content from outside of your region.
Types of VPNs include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Paid and Free
- Extranet-based site-to-site (mostly business use)
- Intranet-based site-to-site (mostly business)
- Remote access (mostly conumer use)
Remote access is very common for the home user since it uses remote PCs and servers to create a virtual private network. Many PC and mobile apps from various VPN providers deliver VPN connectivity through those pipelines of PCs and servers, encrypting and jumbling all data up from numerous devices in various locations, preventing anyone from intercepting specific or isolated data and identifying the sending/receiving devices.
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As for paid versus free VPNs, the paid options often provide faster connection/transmission speeds and deliver more VPN features.
Paid VPNs often deliver some or all of the following features:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Ad/malware blockers
- Antivirus/security suites
- Dedicated VPNs
- Private browsers
- Dedicated streaming provider VPNs—free usually doesn’t work for streaming services (Netflix, HBO Max, etc.)
- Encrypted password managers
- and much more
Providers also offer different tiers of service, and the higher-priced options bring in more speed and more security benefits. The trouble is, with so many of these tools available across iOS, Android, Windows, and others, how on earth do you choose between them? Is it okay to use a free VPN, or should you pay? This is where this guide to the best VPNs of 2022 comes in handy.
Best VPN Services 2022
What’s the best VPN for protecting your privacy? Here’s a list of the five most popular VPNs to see how they stack up.
Price: As low as $99.95/yr | Score: 5/5
Promo: Get an extra 3 months for the first year free, and save 49% on the Express VPN annual plan for as long as you stay subscribed.
ExpressVPN is headquartered within the British Virgin Islands, which is outside of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes alliances. It is perhaps one of the most popular VPN services around, selling itself mainly on its speed and performance, but its compatibility with streaming providers gives it much attention, and for good reason. You don’t have to change anything to use streaming services through ExpressVPN—it just works.
It’s important that your VPN has as little impact as possible on your internet connection, especially if you plan to use it for streaming and large file downloads. Even though this is a difficult claim to test thoroughly, purely because there are so many variables and factors involved, their speed tests live up to the hype.
Given that it’s hard to gauge for yourself (something I always recommend you do), VPN providers offer free trials to show you what they have to offer. If a provider feels that their VPN services are safe, secure, and reliable, they usually offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, such as with ExpressVPN.
Even before you get going, it’s worth noting that limits get imposed on simultaneous use with VPN providers. ExpressVPN allows up to five concurrent connections from any variety of devices. The monthly price starts at $12.99 per month (monthly) or $8.33 per month (yearly) if you pay for an entire year, and there is a 6-month package which comes to $9.99 per month (bi-annually).
ExpressVPN Review: Performance and Features
In testing, connection speed took a hit of around two-thirds when connecting via servers in the US. That’s similar to what other VPN services deliver, give or take. Your mileage may vary, however, depending on your ISP, the location of the server you wish to connect to, and the time of day you plan on using the service.
Performance isn’t the only factor you should consider when comparing VPNs with each other, however. One of those factors should be the country the service is based in, and the attitude that country has towards online privacy and the sharing of data. Another would be a commitment to keeping no logs of your internet activity and connections.
From a UI perspective, ExpressVPN is very easy to use
On this front, ExpressVPN is patchy. It’s based in the British Virgin Islands, which although isn’t part of the UK, is an administrative arm of it. This is significant since the UK is part of the infamous “Five Eyes” group of countries that have agreements in place to share intelligence with each other, thus potentially sidestepping domestic restrictions governing spying on its own citizens.
However, ExpressVPN doesn’t keep logs (records of your internet activities), it accepts anonymous payments, either via email or BitCoin, plus it has a kill-switch, so if you lose connection, internet connectivity will shut down before your IP address leaks out.
ExpressVPN Review: User Interface
From a UI perspective, ExpressVPN is very easy to use. You fire it up, pick from the list of locations, and off you go. There’s a speed test utility so you can get a view of how quick any given server is before you click on it, which is crucial if you plan to use it to stream HD video. Although it takes a few minutes to run, once completed, you can sort servers by download speed, latency, and location, depending on your requirements.
The only irritating thing is that you have to disconnect to change server location and settings, something you won’t want to do very often since it takes a while to establish a connection each time. The only other essential setting you can change, out of all of them, is the protocol.
In all, ExpressVPN is a solid, all-around offering, especially with that handy speed test tool, but it isn’t without its weaknesses. The biggest of all these problems is the cost, compared to NordVPN, which at only $48 per year.
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Price: As low as $143.88/yr | Score: 5/5
NordVPN is located in Panama, which is not part of the 5, 9, or 15 Eyes alliances. The company ticks many of the essential VPN boxes. It has a no-logs policy, is located far from the prying eyes of privacy-shy governments, and offers interesting features not available elsewhere such as double encryption and a choice over whether you connect via “superfast servers” or extra secure.
You also get kill switch support, the ability to use the service on up to six devices simultaneously, and support across all major platforms. Nord’s costs are considerably high at $11.99 per month for any subscription option, but they run promos that reduce prices for each one, and they have solid security protocols, top-notch services, very fast speeds, over 5,000 servers worldwide, double VPNs, and highly secure equipment that make up for the price.
The only major problem with NordVPN is the free trial, which “kinda” tricks people. NordVPN does not “technically” have a free trial. You have to pay for the service, and then you contact the support team for a refund before the initial 30 days passes. That scenario means you can have a free trial, so to speak, but then you lose your promotional subscription to get your money back, or you keep paying and not have a free trial at all.
Regardless of the pros and cons of NordVPN services, they are simple to use: just pick the country you want to connect to, and off you go. The Smart Play(TM) feature automatically uses DNS rerouting technology and processes to allow streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and more to work without any efforts on your part. It also allows specific websites and other types of connections to function under the VPN umbrella.
All in all, though, NordVPN is a solid VPN service with plenty of features, a great value for the money, and a top choice amongst its competitors.
Buy NordVPN now
CyberGhost VPN Review
Price: Free or as low as $29.77/yr | Score: 4/5
CyberGhost has been around since 2011 and is headquartered in Romania, which clears them from the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes jurisductions.
at the VPN game ever since the beginning of the internet – at least that’s how it seems to me. It’s pretty popular as a result of that, but it isn’t the cheapest on the block, costing between £3.74 and £3.99 per month for a service that provides a connection for only one device.
Only the Premium Plus service, which is a pricey £70/yr, gives you that, and even then you don’t get as many simultaneous devices as NordVPN.
That money does buy you a good selection of services, though, and CyberGhost’s long experience means its country coverage and number of available servers is impressive. At the time of writing, the company claimed to have 636 live servers running in 30 countries worldwide.
CyberGhost has made sure that all the major tick boxes are ticked. You get platform coverage across Windows, OS X, Android, iOS and Linux, as well as a Chrome extension. The software has an integrated kill switch, which shuts down your internet connection in the event of a service outage, preventing IP leakage. The firm also has a no logs policy, and since it’s based in Romania, there’s less chance that any data the firm does hold on you will be shared with others countries without your knowledge.
And, as if to justify the high cost, there’s a whole bunch of extras thrown in, from anti-malware protection to ad tracker blocking and data compression for faster browsing. I’m not sure, however, that any number of bonus features makes up for what is, fundamentally, a service that hugely overpriced.
If all you need is protection for your wireless hotspot surfing activities, CyberGhost’s free facility means it’s worth considering. You can’t set your location manually, and when you first connect, you have to wait for a few minutes in a “queue”, but there’s no data cap as with SurfEasy and I found speed when I was testing to be as quick locally as my non-VPN protected connection.
However, as an all-round offering, CyberGhost just isn’t quite up there with the best around, and that’s mainly due to its cost.
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Price: Free or as low as $47.88/yr; Mobile only: $29.88/yr | Score: 4/5
Owned by Opera, the web browser developer, SurfEasy is based in Canada, which is the first sign you should be cautious when considering this VPN – if you care about privacy, that is. Canada is part of the notorious Five Eyes group of countries that are known to have intelligence sharing agreements with each other (the others are the UK, the US, New Zealand and Australia).
SurfEasy does at least operate a no logs policy, however, so if your data ever does end up in the wrong hands, it won’t be your Internet usage data.
Still, if all you need a VPN for is for Wi-Fi hotspot protection, there’s are some things here to recommend the service. Like NordVPN, it’s well priced, with subscriptions starting at $4 per month if you pay annually. Unlike NordVPN, it’s easy to trial, either by using the bandwidth-restricted free service, which caps usage at 500MB per month or by taking advantage of the seven-day money back guarantee.
There’s also coverage of all the platforms you could need, and even a cheaper mobile-only service if you only want protection for one Android or iOS tablet or smartphone. That works out at $3/mth if you pay annually.
In other areas, though, SurfEasy is found wanting. Its server locations aren’t as widespread as others – in only 13 countries – although all the major locations are covered. The full service lets you up to five devices simultaneously, one short of NordVPN, doesn’t come with a kill switch to help out in emergencies, and has no support for anonymous payments.
It is easy to use, and mobile integration is elegant – I especially like the way it’s integrated with the Today menu in iOS, allowing you to enable and disable the service and switch locations from anywhere. However, there’s not enough here to edge it in front of our favourites.
Buy SurfEasy now
Opera browser VPN Review
Price: Free | Score: 3/5
The browser company from Norway already owns its VPN service in SurfEasy, but that hasn’t stopped it from building a VPN facility into its web browser. This is only available via the developer version of the browser for now, and only within a private browsing tab, but it’s remarkably restriction free for a service that costs nothing.
There’s no data cap at all, and you can even choose your location, although the list of countries available is somewhat limited compared with more premium services. You can only choose from the UK, Germany, Canada, Netherlands and US right now.
To use it, you have to open up a Private Window, then click the VPN button that’s located on the left-hand side of the address box at the top. This opens up a drop-down menu where you can switch on the service and choose where you want your connection to end. It also shows your current IP address and how much data you’ve used on the service in the current month. If you’re unsure you need a paid-for, unlimited VPN service, it might be worth giving this a try just to see how much data you actually use.
Since the service is operated by the self-same VPN company that Opera also operates, the Opera VPN has many of the same core features and limitations. There’s no kill switch capability, for instance, so if the service drops out, you’re going to be left exposed. But assuming that it operates under the same set of policies as SurfEasy, it won’t keep any logs of your online activity. Which is nice.
The Opera VPN isn’t the last word in privacy or security, then, but it’s ultra convenient and completely free. And when I tried it it didn’t impinge too heavily on download speed either. Given that it’s currently in development and not a final product, it’s tough to recommend it wholeheartedly just yet. Here’s hoping it comes out of beta very soon.
Download the Opera browser now
Hotspot Shield Review
Price: £71.88/yr | Score: 4/5
You’ll always lose a certain amount of bandwidth when you run a VPN, but not every VPN is equal. Some are faster than others, which is great if you’re a BitTorrent user who wants to protect their identity. Hotspot Shield is among the fastest VPN services we’ve come across, and even when connecting across the Atlantic via the US, we saw download speeds hit 78% that they were when we ran an unprotected connection.
However, there are some negatives. When we tested it, we found that US Netflix was blocked, and since the company’s headquarters are in the US, its privacy credentials aren’t the greatest.
However, it remains a good choice if you’re not planning on leaking top-secret government secrets, and the company states that it doesn’t keep information on what you get up to online.
If you don’t want to spend big on your VPN, the good news is that Hotspot Shield offers a free version of the service that allows unlimited browsing, with the catch that you can’t designate the country you want to browse from. That means the free version isn’t much use if you want to watch US Netflix, or BBC iPlayer from abroad, but it is a good way of trying out the service to see if you like it.
Buy Hotspot Shield now
Price: £48/yr | Score: 5/5
Most VPN services negatively affect the speed of your internet connection. We usually see a 30% reduction in download speeds when connected to servers based in the US, which for most purposes is an acceptable compromise.
If your VPN activities require the fastest, most reliable connection possible, though, there’s no better option than Pure VPN. In our tests, we saw speeds that fell only 11% via the services New York server compared with an unprotected connection to our regular ISP, which means you’ll almost certainly be able to watch streaming video without it continually buffering.
That’s good news, but what about the rest of the features? Well, it turns out that PureVPN is pretty well endowed. We liked the interface, particularly the Stream mode, which offers a simple list of on-demand video services you might want to use. There are eighteen services listed, including HBO Now, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and US Netflix.
The latter worked perfectly, although do bear in mind that with Netflix actively working to block VPNs such as PureVPN, this unfettered access may not work in the future.
Elsewhere, there’s more good news. PureVPN is based in Hong Kong, which has no data retention rules, so your internet activities should be safe from prying eyes, and you can also pay for the service with a variety of gift cards and cryptocurrencies.
The only slight hitch is that PureVPN isn’t cheap and there’s no free trial available. Prices start at around £8 per month ($10) while a year’s subscription costs around £48 ($60). If your need for performance outweighs everything else, however, that price is worth paying.
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|NordVPN||SurfEasy||HideMyAss||CyberGhost||Opera browser VPN||ExpressVPN|
|Location||Panama||Canada||UK||Romania||Norway||British Virgin Islands|
|Servers||100+, in 47 countries||13 countries||920+, in 120+ countries||636, in 30 countries||5 countries||100+, in 94 countries|
|No logs policy?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Platform support||Windows, OS X, iOS, Linux, Android||iOS, Android, Amazon, OS X, Windows, Chrome, Opera||Windows, OS X, Android, iOS,||Windows, OS X, Linux Android, iOS, Chrome||Opera for Windows and OS X (developer version)||Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Free trial/service? (restrictions)||3 days (on request)||No free trial, 7 day money back window, restricted free service (500MB/mth bandwidth cap)||No free trial, 30-day money back window||No free trial, 30-day money back guarantee, free service (speed and location restricted)||Free||1 day free trial (mobile only), 30-day money back guarantee|
|Number of simultaneous devices||6||5||2||1 (5 with Premium Plus service)||N/A||5|
|Torrents allowed?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (Premium service only)||N/A||Yes|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin, Paymentwall, Braintree||No||No||Email, Bitcoin, cash (only in some countries)||N/A||Email, Bitcoin|
|Extras||Tor over VPN, Smart Play||Ad tracker blocking||Secure IP binding, server speed test, random IP address change||Anonymous proxy browser, anti-malware, force https, ad tracker blocking, data compression||None||Server speed test|
Best VPN Services: Key Factors to Consider when Getting a VPN
There are hundreds of VPNs out there, and the landscape is ever-changing, so it’s useful to know how to evaluate those you come across. I’ve listed below some key factors to consider if you find another that’s cheaper and seems to offer more for your money.
- Since the VPN provider is the only party that knows who you are and what you’re doing online, do you trust them? How do you know if they’re not going to sell your information to the highest bidder? How can you tell if their security is up to scratch? How do you know that they won’t be compelled to give up your data if the Government comes calling?
- First, is the company big enough? Does it have a community of happy and satisfied users? Does it respond to support requests promptly? You can find this out by having a dig around in online forums.
- Next, look for VPNs that don’t hold logs of your internet usage. If a VPN firm doesn’t keep a record of your internet activity, then that data can’t be compromised or surrendered in the event of an official request. You’ll generally find this information on a VPN provider’s “About Us” page or buried in the terms and conditions.
- Another important consideration is location. If a VPN company is based in a country that considers spying on its citizens (whether directly or indirectly) an acceptable thing to do, then it may be a service you want to avoid.
- Can you pay anonymously? Any worthy VPN provider offers a variety of anonymous payment methods.
Best VPN Services: Performance and Features
- Another important consideration when it comes to choosing a VPN is its performance. A VPN provider may have many thousands of customers, all of which will be accessing the internet through the same selection of servers. Those connections will often be data-heavy – video streams, large downloads and so on – and the VPN provider also needs to encrypt those data streams, so you may see your internet connection speed take a hit.
- Performance varies hugely depending on the time of day, how many people are using the VPN service at the time (contention) – even the weather outside, so it’s difficult to test reliably. All you can do is to use the service yourself for a while to see if it’s up to the mark.
- You’ll also want the most fully featured VPN you can afford. One of the main considerations will be cross-platform support. In other words, does your selected service support all the major device and OS types – Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and Linux? Most of us own multiple devices and you don’t want to be paying extra just to use a VPN on your phone and laptop.
- The location and the number of servers a VPN operates are another chief concern, after all, if you’re interested in spoofing your location, you need servers located in the country you want to look like where you’re browsing from.
- Other important features include support for torrent downloads and kill switch functionality. The former should be obvious: not all VPN providers allow torrent downloads, so if that’s what you want one for, check first; the latter is a safety-net that monitors your internet connection for VPN dropouts (they do happen), shutting it down to prevent your own IP address from being exposed. This is called IP leaking.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service that protects your privacy online. It protects your identity by hiding your IP address, creates an encrypted tunnel for data, and allows people to use public Wi-Fi hotspots safely. Basically, it hides a user’s online behavior from snooping third parties.
What are some of the most popular uses of VPN services?
A VPN service will allow you to access international content. Perhaps you’re curious what Netflix is like in the US or UK, or you are in a country that doesn’t allow Netflix. No matter the reason, using a VPN service can grant you access to content that is otherwise inaccessible unless you are in a certain location.
Another use of VPN services is increased security for eCommerce. Buying things online can be a bit tricky. A VPN hides your web activity, helping ensure that your financial information is safe.
Furthermore, VPN services can increase security on public networks. Such networks are more susceptible to hacking, as your web traffic and IP address are easily accessible. Using a VPN will replace your IP address and encrypt web traffic, enhancing privacy and online security.
What’s the difference between VPNs and Proxies?
An alternative to VPNs is proxies. VPNs route all traffic through the VPN server, including programs and applications you’re using on a laptop or phone, but proxies act like filters for the web only.
A proxy applies only to your internet browser, regardless of the browser used. The added security, speed, and location information only apply to web pages. A proxy will ignore all other applications being used.
Final Thoughts on the Best VPN Services 2022
Given the rise in VPN popularity, it can be a daunting task to decide on the best one to use. Hopefully our suggestions helped. Remember, a VPN is only as a good as its practices and implementation, if they log activity and sell your data, they’re no better than an ISP that does the same.
Whatever you do, however, make sure that you try before you buy. Most VPN companies offer a free trial period so you can give the service a dry run before subscribing. You might find that, even though the features stack up, the performance isn’t good enough, or that the service keeps switching itself on and off without you knowing about it.
And do bear in mind that there’s no substitution for a paid VPN. Free VPNs are ten a penny, but usually involve some compromise: that can be a feature restriction, a performance cap or a traffic limitation. Either way, if you care about your privacy, it’s worth paying for it.
What VPN do you use? Let the community know in the comments below.
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