Among all the considerations you need to think about when selecting your new VPN - server count, streaming capabilities, security smarts - one of the most significant is speed.
Because VPNs work by sending all your internet traffic via your chosen provider's secure server (twice, in some cases), that's a lot of extra potential latency. Thankfully, by going for one of the fastest VPNs, you can pretty much avoid any slow down completely.
Depending on the robustness of the company’s network and the number of servers it offers (with closer servers generally providing better speeds), some VPNs barely impact your connection. And we've tested all the top VPNs out there on their speed to make sure that you can confidently pick out a provider that won't slow you down - especially if you’re using your VPN to unblock sites or services and perhaps stream video where speeds are obviously are a priority.
Today's top 3 best fast VPNs
1. Hotspot Shield - fastest VPN bar none
After testing Hotspot Shield ourselves, we couldn't quite believe the connection speeds we were seeing. If you know you want a VPN and your main anxiety is system slow down, then this might just be the provider for you. And, as an added bonus, it has some of the best prices around, too.
2. ExpressVPN - the best overall VPN out there
ExpressVPN is right at the top of our list as the overall best VPN, and a big part of that is down to the speed and consistency of its server connections. In addition, it has superb 24/7 customer support, works on a wide range of devices, is easy to use, and you can currently get it with 3 months extra free.
3. NordVPN - one of the biggest names in VPN
It's no surprise that one of the biggest names in virtual private networks is also one of the fastest out there. Like Express, it's the consistency from region-to-region that really impresses. And NordVPN also delivers when it comes to security, usability and streaming service unblocking.
The fastest VPNs 2021
The Catapult Hydra protocol may sound like the most recent Mission Impossible film, but it's actually the feature that lets Hotspot Shield shoot to the top of our list of the fastest VPNs. Log in to pretty much any server and you'll barely feel any slow down at all when you're streaming and surfing while Hotpot is keeping you protected in the background.
And that even goes for locations in even the furthest reaches of the world, although it was in the US where we saw the apex of its speeds - it's 50-100% quicker than what we saw from most of the competition!
Of course, the reason you've landed on this page is to find out about speed, but Hotspot has so much more going for it as well. It's really upped its streaming game of late, and we were able to get around the geo-restrictions posed by the likes of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and more.
It also has a 24/7 live chat support service that we found genuinely helpful. But Hotspot is so easy to use that you'll only rarely need it.
It's not all rosy - it's mobile apps aren't the best out there. And that proprietary protocol we mentioned before means that it's not available to use on as many devices as ExpressVPN below (think gaming consoles, most Smart TVs, etc).
These won't matter to everyone, though, and if you're just looking for raw speed at a very low price then Hotspot Shield is well worth a look.
It's worth mentioning that Bitdefender Premium VPN also uses the Catapult Hydra and so can attain similar speeds. But Hotspot Shield blows that provider out of the water when it comes to other features and functionality.
ExpressVPN comes in just below Hotspot in our chart. Although it's not necessarily the absolute fastest across all servers, it ticks the boxes of both being generally super fast, and also serving up the best all-round VPN experience.
To connection speed first of all. In our latest round of testing, we found that ExpressVPN delivered some superb speeds across servers in different territories. We saw connection speeds of up to 220Mb in the US (it's been as high as 240Mb in previous tests) - that's an astonishing rate. More than fast enough to ensure that your streaming and general web surfing doesn't stutter at all when the VPN is switched on.
A nice extra touch is that ExpressVPN offers its own speed test that helps you make sure that you're connecting to the best possible server. We like that extra dedication to performance!
As we say, outside pure performance, ExpressVPN has really got things sewn up - from its superb array of apps and clients (it works like a dream on Windows, Mac Linux, Android, iPhone, games consoles, TV streaming devices, routers, and more) to the way it automatically connect to the optimal server so you can experience the best possible performance right from the off.
On the security front, you get a thorough choice of protocol support - including ExpressVPN's custom-built Lightway that should help to boost performance even more. You get a kill switch, and private ‘zero knowledge’ DNS solution, among other privacy boons. And speaking of privacy, there is no logging of network traffic such as connection times or IP addresses.
If there's one disadvantage to ExpressVPN, then it's probably the price - we think 'reassuringly expensive' is probably a good way of looking at it. Still, the provider does offer a hassle-free 30-day refund and an extra freebie besides.
NordVPN is fast becoming one of those brand names that's just synonymous with the product itself - a bit like Hoover or Tannoy. And a good reason for its huge popularity (as well as all the advertising it does) is because of its speed.
When we tested it via US servers, we found connections speeds of up to 350Mb when you use its very own (well, WireGuard-based) NordLynx protocol. Now, there aren't too many homes around that have broadband as fast as that anyway, so don't expect your streaming or downloading speeds to suffer very much at all if you have NordVPN switched on in the background.
We could say that the speeds were less consistent than others. The lowest connection speed we tested went down to around the 75Mb-mark. But let's face it... that still isn't exactly what you call slow!
Outside that, NordVPN really comes good when it comes to security and privacy. Like Express, its no-logs policy is independently audited and it brings features like Double VPN and Onion Over technology to the table to ensure that your private details will never be leaked.
And if you've got the need for speed, we reckon it's because you're probably looking for a top streaming VPN. Nord has you covered on that front, too - it nails Netflix, unhooks Hulu, delves into Disney+ and unblocks BBC iPlayer.
And there's some really attractive pricing options available, too - especially if you up your subscription to a multiyear plan.
IPVanish isn't currently able to boast its own proprietary protocol like the providers above, but with speeds like the ones we saw in our tests, it doesn't seem to matter! Using the secure IKEv2 protocol, we registered rapid and consistent speeds to UK and US servers alike (unfortunately the same couldn't be said when jumping on servers located on the other side of the world).
This provider is an old favorite of ours. On top of the speeds displayed, it's pretty easy-to-function software. One subscription allows you to use it across a vast array of devices. In fact, you can use it on as many as you like - so desktop, laptop, mobiles, TV streaming devices, routers... the lot.
Other areas for improvement would be when it comes to streaming. In IPVanish's defence, it doesn't make lofty claims in this department. But it would be nice to know that your VPN of choice works effectively to unblock iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video, which this one currently can not.
Speedify is another VPN provider that implements its own custom protocol, not even offering support for the usual tools like OpenVPN or the emerging WireGuard. The result is a service that delivers some of the very fastest VPN speeds on test. That means that you can safely run it in the background on your computer or mobile phone, knowing that you'll retain online anonymity without slowing down your system. We like that.
Now you may notice Speedify's top speed above, compare it to some of the other provider's in this list and think: "Hang on a minute... why isn't it higher up?". Frankly speaking, it's because this is a much less versatile and fully formed VPN. To its credit, we suppose, it states very openly on its website that it won't help you unblock Netflix and the like (and it isn't lying!). There's no live chat support, bits and bobs of session logging, and it can sometimes be fiddly to use. That proprietary protocol also makes it a bit of a pain to use on certain, less usual devices.
But if it's purely the need for speed you have and you're attracted to Speedify's reasonable plans, then you could do a lot worse...and slower.
How to choose the fastest VPN
A lot of VPNs claim to be the fastest around, but as you can imagine, in many cases that’s an idle boast. In this article, we are going to pinpoint the providers that we’ve found really deliver on the performance front, going by our reviews and testing.
Of course, speed isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, and we always expect solid security and privacy from any VPN. As mentioned, broad server coverage is important here in terms of getting a fast and stable connection. And user-friendly native clients never hurt.
Bear in mind that the VPN won’t be the only thing affecting the performance of your internet connection, and this can vary depending on your ISP, the time of day (particularly whether it’s peak traffic times), and also the status of the service or website you’re using.
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN