Let's face it – having a fast VPN is at the top of your shopping list. All the security in the world isn't going to help you if your connection is slowed to a crawl. However, it's no secret that every VPN impacts connection speed in some way, due to the simple fact that your traffic is traveling further before it reaches its destination.
But, while there is an impact, you can minimize this by using one of the fastest VPNs known for delivering great speeds – and if your VPN can match your regular connection speeds, it might even be able to speed up your usage (more on that in a moment).
The fastest VPNs make maintaining online security a simpler task, and once they're switched on you won't even be able to notice they're active – so if you choose correctly, there's little reason not to use one.
What makes a great fast VPN?
Even the fastest VPNs need to provide ample security, so while you shouldn't need to make too much of a compromise, it's worth checking out the full feature-list of a VPN rather than just going by a headline figure.
So, how can a VPN make your connection faster? Well, if you notice your internet slowing down when you engage in certain activities like torrenting, gaming or streaming Netflix, that could indicate your ISP is throttling your connection. That means it's cutting your bandwidth and – whatever its reasoning – that's something you want to avoid.
A VPN anonymizes all your traffic, meaning your ISP can't detect what you're using your connection for. In turn, it can't single you out as a user who it thinks it should throttle. By using a VPN to avoid throttling, you can effectively speed up your connection and gain anonymity at the same time.
So, below is our selection of the best fast VPNs on the market. All you have to do is work out where your priorities lie, and which one you want to go with.
The best fast VPNs available today
ExpressVPN is absolutely killing it right now – out of all the fastest VPN services on the market, none come close to Express's versatility and ease of use. But why is it top of this list?
Well, in our testing it reliably delivered speeds of up to 250Mb on our super-fast 600Mb US line. For pretty much anyone that's plenty fast, and can easily stream 4K UHD content without breaking a sweat. But that's not all.
The process of using a VPN can be intimidating for first-time users, and the ExpressVPN apps (available on almost every device) make it really simple. You can stick with the recommended settings, just press the on/off button and get protected in an instant, or you can dive under the hood and start experimenting with various protocols, split tunneling, kill switches and more.
ExpressVPN also includes a built-in speed test, so you can monitor how your connection is performing. That, alongside DNS and WebRTC leak testers mean you can browse at incredible speed in total privacy. It's also able to access just about every geo-blocked streaming service from any location, so no matter where you are you'll be able to watch what you want, when you want.
However, if anything does go wrong, you've got the help of the 24/7 live chat operators who, in our experience, have always responded in seconds and delivered useful, actionable advice on how to remedy any issues.
Overall, ExpressVPN delivers an excellent service that will keep you anonymous whatever you plan on doing with it, which makes it our top recommendation for anyone seeking a truly fast VPN – and with a 30-day money-back guarantee you can test the service to make sure it's as fast as you need it to be without risking your money.
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With undeniable sheer speed, Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN available. This is thanks to its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol which can deliver incredible pace that's frequently only limited by your base internet connection.
And that's where your decision might be made – if you've got a 600Mb connection like the Tom's Guide US office you'll be able to reach speeds double that of ExpressVPN, but if your connection tops out at 75Mb like our UK testing base, both services will perform identically. In that case you should be guided by overall usability.
Hotspot's Catapult Hydra protocol is its main selling point, but also somewhat its downfall. As the only option, you won't be able to switch to the tried and tested OpenVPN protocol, meaning you won't have the device compatibility of others. Also, its not open to outside scrutiny, but Hotspot Shield claims it's used by other trusted security software providers, which implies its safety. On the whole, we're not too worried about the privacy of the Catapult protocol.
However, Hotspot Shield is known to log some user data, so for those looking for a privacy-first fast VPN this might be a red flag. Those looking to stream will be pleased, though, as it's able to access everything except Amazon Prime Video – and with frequent updates, that may have been resolved since our last review.
If you're looking for the very fastest VPN on the market, Hotspot Shield can deliver connections like no other VPN. However, if you're after true internet privacy and a slightly more user-friendly experience, ExpressVPN can cover that while providing similar speeds on all but the fastest base connections.
Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website
If you've heard of just one VPN, it'll be NordVPN. The old favorite is practically a hosuehold name now, with a huge public presence gained from television advertising and, frankly, a great overall service.
For those looking for a fast VPN, NordVPN can provide. While connections were varied in our testing, it never fell below 125Mb on our 600Mb test line, and topped out at around 300Mb. Again, like the others on this list, on less powerful lines you'll be getting a minimal 6-8% reduction in speeds.
Other than its excellent connections, you might be drawn to Nord because of its security-focused service. With its double 2048-bit encryption and additional features like Onion over VPN and Double VPN it's a hacker's nightmare, and is all but guaranteed to keep you anonymous online.
A slight issue we have is with the layout of the otherwise polished and exceedingly usable mobile apps – the interface is cribbed directly from its desktop counterpart, and while it works well on larger screen, the map-based design is a bit awkward on phone screens. However, that's unlikely to truly put anyone off, as you'll only be in the app for a minute or two to select a server or adjust settings.
NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs around, and with great security paired with top-tier streaming performance, it's well worth a look.
Sign up now on the NordVPN website
If you want a fast VPN but don't want to spend a huge amount, Surfshark is fantastic option. While it's not quite as blistering as Express or Hotspot Shield, it still provides a swift service that's quicker than many providers costing twice as much.
Topping out at 160Mb on our 600Mb US line, Surfshark is still excellent for streaming ultra HD content and, like those before, on slower connections it imposes an almost negligible slow-down.
As one of the simplest VPNs to use, Surfshark really is plug and play. Install the app on your desktop or mobile device and in one tap you'll be connected. However, it also offers a nice selection of more in-depth features including a choice of protocols, a kill switch and double hop, which routes your connection through two of Surfshark's servers (increasing anonymity at the detriment of connection speed).
No, it's not quite as fast as the fastest VPNs, but for less than $2 a month it's a service we can't help but recommend. It's up there with the very best services overall, and at that price you really cant go wrong.
Sign up now on Surfshark's website
There's a lot in a name. Speedify is just that – very speedy – and it's evident that being a fast VPN is provider's main objective.
To reach speeds of up to 403Mb on a 600Mb line, Speedify uses some very clever tech which can combine any and all connections it has at its disposal. While other fast VPNs might only use your regular internet connection, or your mobile data when out and about, Speedify can tap into all of these and deliver searing speeds – at the expense of any data cap you might have, that is.
If you just want swift day-to-day browsing Speedify will do the job well, but if you're looking to stream geo-blocked content you're out of luck. It's unable to access any streaming site except for the virtually unprotected YouTube, and it's telling that there's a dedicated option to route streaming traffic through your unprotected connection if the VPN is turned on. If they've made the effort to do that, it doesn't look promising that this issue will be fixed any time soon.
However, for a relatively cheap yet seriously fast VPN, Speedify is a great option – just make sure you can live with its weaknesses.
Sign up now on the Speedify website
Why do I need a fast VPN?
While a VPN is a security tool first and foremost, usability shouldn't fall by the wayside in the process. A fast VPN means you can realistically use the service 24/7 without having any of the downsides commonly associated with VPN usage – poor streaming abilities, low connections speeds...
If you use a fast VPN, it makes it an easier transition from never having used one before, and for those who may have had bad experiences years ago or with crummy providers recently, any of the services on this list are sure to reinvigorate your trust in VPNs.
In essence, if you can get a fast VPN that does the job properly as well as delivering excellent connection speeds, why settle for anything else?
Why are some VPNs so slow?
Using a VPN put extra steps between your device and the sites you're visiting. That includes encryption, redirection to VPN servers and then on to the site you were initially heading for.
A fast VPN negates much of the slow-down by using modern servers and having massive bandwidth to share between its users. In many cases you'll now be limited by your own internet connection rather than your VPN provider.
While it's true that some VPNs still suffer from low connection speeds and struggle for bandwidth at peak times, top fast VPN providers like ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield really can be relied to deliver super-fast speeds at any time of the day. Plus, by avoiding throttling, you'll be able to use your connection for anything without being held back.
Is a fast VPN as safe?
Well, if you choose ExpressVPN, the answer's a big yes! However, it's understandable to worry about this, as surely to get great speeds means you've got to sacrifice something, right?
In truth, most VPNs run on very similar architecture, utilise the same AES-256 encryption and use protocols such as OpenVPN or IKEv2. The biggest difference is the server number, capacity and maintenance, all of which contribute to how fast any individual connection will be.
However, Hotspot Shield stands out here as it has arguably sacrificed some privacy for speed – but not nearly enough to put users at risk. While it does support 256-bit encryption, out of the box Hotspot Shield makes do with 128-bit. That's still practically impossible to decode but, along with its Catapult Hydra protocol, gives it the edge over pretty much every other provider.
Overall, in our eyes if we've included a VPN on any of our guides, we'd recommend it as safe for anyone to use.