Among all the considerations you need to think about when selecting your new VPN, one of the most significant is speed.
Because virtual private networks work by sending all your internet traffic through an extra set of encrypted tunnels via the provider's secure server, 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.
1. ExpressVPN is the best fast VPN
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 now get it with 3 months extra free.
2. Hotspot Shield - trusted VPN with amazing performance
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 concern 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.
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.
Our top picks for fastest VPN 2020
ExpressVPN takes the top spot in our fastest VPN chart. That's not necessarily because it's the absolute fastest across all servers. But 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 250Mb in the US - 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). Furthermore, 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 that's audited by PricewaterhouseCooper.
And if you've got the need for speed, we reckon it's because you're probably looking for a top streaming VPN. Express has you covered on that front, too - it nails Netflix, unhooks Hulu, delves into Disney+ and unblocks BBC iPlayer.
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.
Get the best fast VPN 2020: with 3 months FREE
You can tell that we really rate Express - it's the VPN we use ourselves. And the good news is that TechRadar readers can get a little perk, too. ExpressVPN has agreed to give readers three months extra free when you sign up. And if you're not convinced within the first month, you can always take advantage of that 30-day money-back guarantee.
Time and again Hotspot Shield has some of the fastest download speeds out there. Log in to pretty much any server and you'll barely feel any slow down at all when you're streaming and surfing.
That appears to be largely thanks to its Catapult Hydra protocol (and no, that's not the most recent Mission Impossible film). And that even goes for locations in even the furthest reaches of the world. A small note regarding the protocol - since it's proprietary and there's no public information on how it works, there's no telling how will it perform in all situations.
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. In excess of 3,200 servers, for starters. And a 24/7 support service that we found genuinely helpful.
It's not all rosy, as it lacks Bitcoin support for example, and it's mobile apps aren;t the best out there. 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.
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 300Mb. Now, there aren't too many homes around the States 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 125Mb-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.
Unblocking streaming services and other apps in different geo-locations is also grist to Nord's mill. And there's some really attractive pricing options available, too - especially if you up your subscription to a multiyear plan.
In our testing, we found Windscribe to have some of the most consistent speeds and connections around. During all our testing on US servers it didn't fall below the 240Mb-mark - that's really rapid.
But it's more than just the numbers. We were really encouraged by the way that we didn't encounter a single connection error when we logged on to different servers. That's comforting to know, so that you won't be constantly trying - and failing - to connect.
Windscribe proved itself to be a great companion for streamers, unblocking all the usual suspects with some ease. And if you did want to give your new VPN a try without going through the rigmarole of having to cancel later on, Windscribe has a full free VPN version letting you get to grips with its service before committing your cash. And if you do choose to go all out with a full subscription, you'll be able to use Windscribe on as many devices as you can muster - there's no limit.
There are a few reasons why Windscribe doesn't feature higher in our overall countdown. We'd like to see it add live chat support for example (would come in handy for making sure you connect to the fastest possible server if you're ever struggling) and one look at the spec sheet shows it has far fewer servers to choose from than the competition.
But in terms of sheer speed, it comes out near the very top.
With over a thousand servers available, you won’t have trouble finding a good connection with IPVanish. During our performance tests, we encountered excellent download speeds in particular and there were almost no connection failures. Normally, the performance dropped on longer distances, with average speeds in the US, and in Asia speeds were acceptable.
This VPN also offers impressive desktop and mobile clients, although we have to mention that we had some problems with the Windows client, and the odd network issue therein – but then your mileage may well vary.
Sadly, IPVanish doesn’t offer a free trial to test out the service. The packages available are:
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