DD-WRT has been delighting many folks ever since it first emerged in 2005. The Linux-based open source firmware for routers is the weapon of choice for people who want to get more out of their hardware in terms of performance and versatility than their stock firmware will allow. Built with not-quite-so-technical users in mind, DD-WRT supports a wide range of devices, making it an increasingly popular choice among the denizens of the net.
One of the most obvious reasons why DD-WRT gets so much love is its VPN-related use. Post-installation of the firmware, you can set up your VPN directly on the router, meaning that any device connected to the router is using the VPN. This is a major boon in terms of convenience, and it also allows you to use one of the best VPNs out there with devices which aren’t supported by the provider.
The most direct way to achieve this is to purchase a preconfigured VPN router from a manufacturer. But you can install DD-WRT on any compatible router yourself to save yourself a good deal of money, and choose whichever VPN provider you like. But the question is: which VPN is best in this case?
Best VPN for routers in 2019
Best all-round VPN
Number of servers: 3000+ | Server locations: 160 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3
ExpressVPN offers a range of preconfigured VPN routers, but also has a very detailed and clear tutorial for when it comes to setting up on your DD-WRT router.
The company also has its own custom firmware that makes connecting to the VPN and protecting all the devices in your home an easy task. There’s also an option to select which devices you want to connect through the VPN connection, and which ones through the ‘regular’ internet, so you can pick and choose while using the same router.
A really interesting feature is MediaStreamer, which allows you to unblock Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services from devices that don’t support the VPN, without needing to direct traffic through a VPN tunnel. Should you run into trouble during the process, ExpressVPN also boasts some impressive technical support including live chat with a response promised within minutes ‘day or night’.
In performance terms, this VPN is pretty good overall, with consistent speeds over both short and longer distances. Server coverage is also impressive with over 2000 servers across 148 locations in 94 countries, and you get P2P support. There is no logging of traffic data or your online activity.
It’s safe to say ExpressVPN costs more than most VPNs, but not by much. There is no free trial to test either, but all plans are covered by a 100% money-back guarantee for the first 30 days. Of all the plans, the 1-year subscription is the most reasonable option. The packages available are:
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.95
- [$6.67 a month] 12-months (plus 3 free months) - $99.95
Best balance of performance and price
Number of servers: 1200+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: 40000+ | Maximum devices supported: 10
You can buy a router with IPVanish’s VPN pre-installed on it or manually set up on your existing router. The provider has a great knowledgebase detailing the router setup procedure, and there are over a dozen manufacturers supported.
In terms of performance, this VPN actually improved our download speeds, particularly on short hops compared to rivals. And on the security front, IPVanish supports OpenVPN and PPTP for DD-WRT firmware, along with 128-bit and 256-bit AES encryption. The company makes it clear that there's no logging of your internet activity, too.
The pricing page is the only fly in the ointment here. The official prices are a tad more expensive than your average VPN, with no option of a free trial to test things out. However, whichever subscription plan you pick, there’s a 7-day money-back guarantee, so that provides something of a safety net if you’re somehow not satisfied with it.
As ever, the annual plan is the best value for money, and with our TechRadar Pro special offer, it’s considerably cheaper than it normally would be. The packages available are:
Most secure VPN
Number of servers: 5300+ | Server locations: 62 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
The good news here is that there are tutorials which explain how to connect your DD-WRT firmware-toting router to NordVPN using the L2TP and PPTP protocols, as well as via OpenVPN. The provider also offers a selection of preconfigured VPN routers if you want to take the easy (and pricey) way out.
Performance-wise, Nord more than delivers with above-average speeds, even on long-distance connections. On the security front, NordVPN has a few nifty tricks up its sleeve including CyberSec for blocking ads, suspicious websites and malware, DoubleVPN for encrypting internet traffic twice, and Onion over VPN for a private browsing experience.
On top of that, the provider maintains a ‘no logs’ policy, which is obviously good news. NordVPN has a three-day trial, although rather oddly the company doesn't advertise it on the front page of its site (find it here). This is a welcome option for testing as the monthly billing is quite expensive. The highly affordable limited 3-year plan offers the best money-for-value. The packages available are:
- [$11.95 a month] 1-month
- [$6.99 a month] 1-year - $83.88
- [$3.99 a month] 2-years - $95.75
- [$2.99 a month] 3-years - $107.55
4. Buffered VPN
Best for low latency
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 46 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
There is certainly no ‘buffering’ here when it comes to streaming, as this VPN provider offered a consistently fast performance on both short and long hops with minimal latency in our testing, making it an excellent choice for responsive browsing and online gaming. You can either flash your router at home with DIY instructions available, or just buy one of the Buffered VPN routers which the company sells.
There is no free trial here, but a generous 30-day refund policy which is valid for up to 10 hours, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth usage (whichever comes first) goes a good way to making up for this. Buffered is a bit more expensive than some rivals, with the annual plan being the most affordable choice. The packages available are:
- [$12.99 a month] 1-month
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.94
- [$7.62 a month] 13-months (1 month free) - $99.00
Best for unlimited connections
Number of servers: 540+ | Server locations: 100 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
Undeniably the main attraction here is Windscribe’s Pro plan which allows for unlimited connections, so you can have as many devices connected to your VPN router as you want. In our tests, performance proved a mixed bag – short-range hops were impressively quick, but longer distance connections exhibited a fair few fluctuations.
There is a free plan available with a 10GB monthly data limit, a generous amount of bandwidth you’ll rarely see elsewhere. This is great for testing on a single device, but if you want to run with a DD-WRT router, you’ll need to go for the Pro subscription, because only that offers OpenVPN configuration (and indeed unlimited devices – you’re limited to one device with the freebie offering). The packages available are:
- Pro: [$9.00 a month] 1-month
- Pro: [$4.08 a month] 1-year - $49
- Pro: [$3.70 a month] 2-years (includes free 6-month premium subscription to Dashlane password manager) - $89
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPNs
How to choose the best DD-WRT router VPN
For starters, you need a VPN that offers extensive support for upgrading your router with the DD-WRT firmware, either through web guides or customer support. Ideally, you also want OpenVPN support as it’s the most secure and configurable security protocol in use.
The VPN’s performance should be speedy and reliable, obviously enough, with plentiful server coverage always being a big plus point when it comes to finding a fast connection. And as ever, look for pertinent security and privacy features to keep your online presence secure and hidden from prying eyes.