When it comes to viewing streaming content in other countries, be it a sports event or your favourite TV show, using one of the best VPN services makes the process a whole lot easier. This allows you to bypass restrictions and access geo-blocked material, and on top of this, a VPN provides an additional layer of security with minimal loss of performance – or even improved speeds in some cases.
That’s the theory anyway, but not every VPN service is made equal, so there’s some serious picking and choosing to be done.
How to choose the best VPN service for streaming
In this case, your number one priority is clearly performance, as a fast and reliable connection is obviously good for consistent streaming with none of the dreaded buffering. A high server count is also a major boon in terms of finding a good connection.
You’ll also want user-friendly native clients – ideally optimised for streaming – with wide support for various devices, as you may well be viewing content across multiple bits of hardware, from phones to computers. Naturally, watertight security and privacy are important, as ever.
Now we’ve sorted that out, here are our five picks for the best VPN service for streaming.
- Check out the best VPN services of 2018
Best all-round VPN
Number of servers: 2981 | Server locations: 59 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
NordVPN’s specific focus on streaming is evident through its Smart Play technology, a secure proxy service that the provider uses to bypass the geo-restrictions of streaming websites. The feature is enabled in all NordVPN apps by default, automatically rerouting the user’s requests through an appropriate remote server. Users can access 400+ streaming services, including Netflix.
During our performance testing, we witnessed above-average speeds and laudable consistency, although latency increased on long distance connections. There are close to 3,000 servers at your disposal throughout the world.
This Panama-based provider does well on the security front. There is a Double VPN feature that encrypts data twice, sending it through two separate servers, along with a kill switch, 256-bit encryption and support for all major security protocols. You also get additional options like a dedicated IP address and Onion over VPN. NordVPN also benefits from a ‘no logs’ policy, although bear in mind that the company’s stance on session logging isn’t clear.
The provider offers a free trial, but it’s hard to locate on the website – you’ll find it here. In terms of paying options, there are four price plans complete with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee. The monthly plan is fairly expensive but the two-year subscription is a super-affordable option. The packages available are:
Best VPN for 4K streaming
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5
Having full control of its own network allows VyprVPN to deliver blazing speeds as we fully witnessed in our performance tests. Download speeds more than doubled compared to our normal rates, which is simply fantastic. With more than 700 servers in 70+ locations worldwide, finding speedy connections won’t be a problem, which is especially handy for demanding 4K streaming.
There are some interesting security features here. These include the provider’s own Chameleon technology which defeats VPN blocking and throttling, ensuring consistent performance. The usual security protocols and 256-bit encryption are part of the package, as well as a NAT Firewall and VyprDNS service.
A free 3-day trial is a welcome bonus to try out the service. For some reason, VyprVPN doesn’t allow refunds so make sure you give it a good run before you sign up for a subscription plan. Monthly plans are expensive so your best bet is annual billing, and the Premium service is worth going for because it sports all the advanced features – plus it doesn’t cost that much more when billed yearly. The packages available are:
- Basic: $9.95 monthly or $5 per month billed annually
- Premium: $12.95 monthly or $6.67 per month billed annually
Best VPN for mobile
Number of servers: 1500+ | Server locations: 148 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3
ExpressVPN boasts a 1500+ server count spread across 94 countries. In our performance tests, the service achieved consistently solid speeds without much variation throughout the network.
There’s a wide range of native clients including support for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but the service truly shines in the mobile department. There are intuitive apps for iOS, Android, and even BlackBerry, with additional instructions for a number of other devices. Another bonus is that these clients automatically connect to the optimal server to deliver the fastest speeds possible.
For security purposes, the software has a kill switch, along with manual or automatic selection of security protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP – IPSEC, PPTP, and SSTP are supported). You also get strong 256-bit encryption, zero-knowledge DNS and more. There is zero logging of network traffic such as connection times or IP addresses.
The main weakness here is on the pricing front, as subscriptions are somewhat expensive. That said, ExpressVPN does offer a free trial along with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Out of the three plans available, the yearly plan, as ever, offers the most value (and also gets you three months for free). 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 VPN for desktop PCs
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 44 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
In our performance testing, this Hungarian VPN outfit impressed by delivering solid download speeds overall, speedy uploads, and it actually improved the latency of our normal connection – which was great to see.
Bear in mind that the service only has native desktop clients, though (Windows, Mac, and Linux). There are setup instructions for mobile devices, but if you aren’t in the mood for the DIY approach when it comes to streaming-on-the-go, look elsewhere.
Buffered VPN makes the usual ‘no logging’ commitment, meaning your privacy will be protected. One of the service’s highlights is a generous refund policy, which allows you to get your money back if you haven’t used more than 10 hours of time, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth – whichever comes first.
However, Buffered VPN is also one of the pricier providers around, even with the choice of a cheaper yearly subscription which is the most acceptable plan here. The packages available are:
Best VPN for low-spec devices
Number of servers: 1000+ | Server locations: 40+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Speedify’s appeal to users intent on streaming lies in its ‘channel bonding’ feature that boosts speeds by joining together multiple connections (Wi-Fi, cellular, fixed broadband). You also get reduced latency, making it a great choice for users with low-powered devices.
The provider offers a suitably broad level of server coverage, and performance was satisfactory in our testing with very usable speeds (without using channel bonding, for those who don’t have access to multiple connections).
Speedify is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android but don’t expect anything fancy – the apps are pretty basic and lack options for advanced tweaking. ‘ChaCha’ encryption is the weapon of choice for security, while the provider clearly states it doesn’t log any of the user’s online activity.
Speedify's two commercial plans are reasonably priced with the yearly plan providing the best value. Both plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. As a rather welcome bonus, the service offers a free plan which caps at 4GB of data for the first month and drops to 1GB for subsequent months. The packages available are:
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018