Our latest VPN testing results

Graphic representing the protection a VPN provides with the text 'Our VPN testing results 2024' next to it.
(Image credit: Future)

We spend over 3,000 hours undertaking 2,800 streaming tests and 28,000 speed tests on over a hundred VPNs every year – all in the name of delivering the most accurate and impartial results to our readers so they can make the most informed decision possible when picking the best VPN.

In this round of testing, we've made quite possibly the biggest change to our rankings since we started reviewing VPNs. After six years, NordVPN has finally dethroned ExpressVPN as our #1 provider. While both services are at the bleeding edge of VPN tech, NordVPN quite simply offers more features for a better price. It's also one of the fastest VPNs we've ever tested, and is a great VPN for streaming.

Elsewhere, Private Internet Access has shown continued improvement, moving up to fourth, followed by the ever-impressive Proton VPN in fifth. Some of the results in this round of testing were very surprising, so here I'll be running down all the juicy bits. First, though, I'll give you a quick breakdown of the very best providers right now.

The 5 best VPNs in 2024

1. NordVPN: the best VPN overall

1. NordVPN: the best VPN overall
NordVPN has been chasing after the #1 spot for years now, and it has finally managed to stake its claim as the top VPN on the market. From rock-solid privacy and excellent streaming performance to valuable extra products like NordPass and cyber insurance, it's a comprehensive package.

The slightly complex UI won't be for everyone, and beginners may still prefer to use a service like ExpressVPN, but overall I think NordVPN is the best provider out there for most people.

▶ Read more in my full NordVPN review

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NordVPN test results
DesignFun interface but might seem a little crowded for some users ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useThough simple to use, the map-like design might not work for everyone ⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of the fastest with an average speed of 950 Mbps⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly unblocks most content streaming platforms⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyStrong encryption with additional features like Threat Protection for safe streaming⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportReliable 24/7 customer support⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceProvides ample value for the price.⭐⭐⭐⭐
2. ExpressVPN: the best VPN for mobile and beginners

2. ExpressVPN: the best VPN for mobile and beginners
ExpressVPN may have lost the crown, but it's still an elite VPN that outdoes NordVPN in a few key areas. It provides impeccable privacy, is incredibly easy to use, and transfers a little better to handheld devices than my #1 pick.

For a stellar core VPN product, ExpressVPN is hard to beat, but its higher price and somewhat slimmer offering of extra features hold it back from being my top pick for most users.

▶ Read more in my full ExpressVPN review

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ExpressVPN test results
DesignSimple, navigable design that’s easy on your eyes and straightforward to understand⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useBeginner-friendly, little to no expertise needed⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceReliable and very fast, although some others deliver higher peak speeds.⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingServers in 160 locations and 90 countries ensure limitless content⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyTop-notch security with 256-bit AES encryption⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportExpert assistance is available 24/7⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceSlightly more expensive than other options ⭐⭐⭐
3. Surfshark: the best budget VPN

3. Surfshark: the best budget VPN
Surfshark is easily the best cheap VPN on the market, delivering incredible speeds, top-notch privacy features, and excellent streaming unblocking performance. It's a far better all-round product than anything else near this price point.

While I found a couple of very minor issues in my review, Surfshark is an excellent choice if your budget can't stretch to NordVPN or ExpressVPN, and it has very much earned its #3 spot.

▶ Read more in my full Surfshark review

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Surfshark test results
DesignMinimalistic, clean, and intuitive design ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useBeginner-friendly and easy to understand⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceSeriously quick and almost on par with NordVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingGreat at unblocking streaming apps and getting around censorship⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyKill switch isn’t the best, but everything else is excellent⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent 24/7 customer support and tons of help articles⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceCheap VPN with excellent value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Private Internet Access: the best Linux VPN

4. Private Internet Access: the best Linux VPN
PIA is another cheap provider that outperforms its price point, but its apps may be a little busy for newbies. While Surfshark's and ExpressVPN's apps are much simpler, PIA's offer a huge amount of customization for those who want it.

Extras like port forwarding, a Linux VPN GUI, and a Dedicated IP service all add to PIA's value, and while it's not quite as polished as its rivals above, it has a committed user base that the developers regularly consult for updates and features.

Read more in my full Private Internet Access review

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Private Internet Access test results
DesignLoads of customization options, can be a bit overwhelming⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useGreat for tech-savvy users, not too beginner-friendly⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDecent speeds but falls behind the industry heavyweights like NordVPN and Surfshark⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking20,000+ servers in 84 countries for smooth and fast content unblocking⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyBest-in-class encryption with a proven no-log policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAdequate resources, plenty of guides, and a contact form to reach the team⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceOne of the cheapest VPNs, all the more ideal for the long term.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5. Proton VPN: the best of the rest

5. Proton VPN: the best of the rest
While Proton VPN has a little difficulty differentiating itself from some others on the market, it can do just about everything you need it to – and it's still quickly improving. Features like its Secure Core servers will appeal to privacy obsessives, while its streaming prowess is very impressive.

It's one of the more expensive providers, but it has an excellent free VPN you can use to test it out indefinitely before you upgrade – and the Proton suite of features like Mail, Pass, and Drive are all excellent, too.

Read more in my full Proton VPN review

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Proton VPN test results
DesignIntuitive and dynamic design with the dark mode as a standout⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSome desktop features may be too technical for regular users to understand⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDespite proprietary technologies to increase speed, it’s mid-pack⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingUnblocks most sites on the paid subscription⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyState-of-the-art security with Swiss law protection and an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent response time with countless guides⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceNot the most budget-friendly, but there’s a free plan for new users ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My latest test results

The constituents of my top five haven't changed, but their order certainly has – most notably with ExpressVPN dropping off the #1 spot in favor of NordVPN. Private Internet access has shown real improvement, and thanks to that it has just edged out Proton VPN for the #4 position. 

Elsewhere, we've seen some changes. Windscribe continues to improve despite a few setbacks – namely its cramped apps, lack of audits, and controversial April fools joke – while privacy-focused Mullvad and uber-configurable Hide.me round off my top 10. 

PrivadoVPN Free took its place as my top free provider a few months ago, toppling Proton VPN Free, but both are excellent and will suit different users.

Consistency is king

The most feature-packed VPN doesn't take #1 by default. Maintaining a quality privacy product year after year is the most important thing.

In my opinion, having great swathes of features and additional products doesn't necessarily make a product better than one that is only a VPN. 

For example, ExpressVPN offers very little other than its VPN, but the VPN itself is class-leading, and overall ExpressVPN outdoes Proton VPN, which has a whole ecosystem of apps.

Consistency is also essential. My choices and rankings are drawn not only from individual rounds of testing, but my years of experience using, reviewing, and writing about VPNs. 

The ones you'll see me recommending the most are those that I trust, and have seen deliver great results review after review, year after year.

Streaming site unblocking results

Most VPNs claim they're able to unblock just about every streaming site around the world – but this simply isn't true. The Tom's Guide VPN team and I test every VPN we review with a ton of different streaming sites to make sure the claims they make are true.

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VPN ProviderNetflix librariesUS servicesUK and Australian services
1. NordVPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
2. ExpressVPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
3. PIAUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
4. Proton VPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
5. SurfsharkUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
6. WindscribeUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
7. CyberGhostUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
8. PureVPNUS, UK, AU, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
9. Hide.meUS, UK, AU, CAAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
10. IPVanishUS, UK, CA, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
11. StrongVPNUS, UK, CA, JPAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
12. UltraVPNUS, AU, CA, JPAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
13. PrivadoVPNUS, JPAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, 9Now, 10 play
14. AtlasVPNUKAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
15. Hotspot ShieldUS, CA, JPAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
16. VyprVPNUS, CAAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
17. PrivateVPNUSAmazon, Disney9Now, 10 play
18. Windscribe (free)US, CADisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4
19. PrivadoVPN (free)US, JPDisneyiPlayer
20. Le VPNUKAmazoniPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
21. AstrillUS, UKFailediPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
22. FastestVPNUS, JPFailedITV, C4, 9Now, 10 play
23. Whitehat VPNCAAmazon, DisneyC4, 9Now
24. Norton VPNCAFailedC4, 9Now
25. TunnelBearFailedAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4
26. Hotspot Shield (free)FailedAmazon, DisneyiPlayer, ITV, C4
27. MullvadUSFailediPlayer, ITV, C4, 9Now
28. MozillaFailedFailedITV, C4, 9Now
29. Google OneFailedFailedFailed
30. Proton VPN (free)FailedFailedFailed

Malware, tracker, and ad-blocking results

Lots of VPNs include extra malware- or ad-blocking tools to bolster their offering, but do these actually work, and can they outdo a dedicated service? We always test these, and we check them using:

  • A tool we've built that tries to access over 150 common trackers (Facebook, Twitter, etc), and notes down whether or not they're blocked by the VPN.
  • A tool we've built that attempts to visit a list of around 500 URLs (updated daily from sources like GitHub) that have been flagged as malicious to see what happens.
  • Running a few ad-blocking testers (including AdBlock Tester) and seeing how the VPN's ad blocker stacks up.

Here are our results:

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VPN Provider

Trackers blocked

Malware blocked

Ad blocking score

Proton VPN81%85%75%

Bear in mind that while our results give a good insight into the quality and efficacy of a particular tool, they're not scientific or comprehensive enough to give the full picture. In my opinion, I would never solely rely on a built-in tool for any of these purposes, and recommend signing up to one of the best ad blockers and best antivirus software for full protection.

What is the fastest VPN?

Almost every VPN on the market will claim to be the fastest provider around. Some have even based their whole branding around it (ahem, FastestVPN, ahem), but in reality, there's a huge difference between the truly speedy and desperately sluggish.

Bear in mind, too, that speed isn't everything – if you've only got a connection that can deliver, say, 100 Mbps, having a VPN that tops out at 1 Gbps won't make your connection any faster, and often it's worth making your decision elsewhere.

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VPN ProviderWireGuard or proprietaryOpenVPN
1. Surfsharkover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)640 Mbps
2. Mullvadover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)410 Mbps
3. Proton VPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)400 Mbps
4. Windscribeover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)240 Mbps
5. PrivadoVPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)220 Mbps
6. NordVPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)110 Mbps
7. Norton VPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out our testing)240 Mbps
8. PureVPN880 Mbps210 Mbps
9. Atlas VPN785 MbpsN/A
10. IPVanish770 Mbps230 Mbps
11. CyberGhost760 Mbps360 Mbps
12. FastestVPN730 Mbps170 Mbps
13. AirVPN710 Mbps300 Mbps
14. Hide.me690 Mbps210 Mbps
15. Hotspot Shield600 MbpsN/A
16. VyprVPN590 Mbps145 Mbps
17. TunnelBear480 Mbps180 Mbps
18. ExpressVPN410 Mbps210 Mbps
19. StrongVPN395 Mbps210 Mbps
20. Astrill VPN390 Mbps (unstable speeds)N/A
21. Private VPN350 Mbps125 Mbps
22. Private Internet Access330 Mbps270 Mbps
23. Mozilla VPN360 MbpsN/A
24. Google One345 MbpsN/A
25. UltraVPN300 MbpsN/A

Tom's Guide's VPN rankings

The VPN market is huge with a new name apparently cropping up every week. Below are my top 20 services that I've reviewed – some aren't worth your time, while others may offer you a certain feature that you can't get elsewhere. 

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ProviderHeader Cell - Column 1 Summary
1. NordVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐½Our choice of the best VPN with unrivaled privacy features and apps for tons of platfoms..
2. ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐½Very high quality service with simple, effective apps and excellent privacy.
3. Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐½Our choice as the best cheap VPN, and also the fastest I've tested.
4. Private Internet Access⭐⭐⭐⭐½Excellent for Linux thanks to a dedicated GUI, and the no-logs policy has been proven in court twice.
5. Proton VPN⭐⭐⭐⭐Great paid and free plans, with the option of a wider security suite.
6. CyberGhost⭐⭐⭐⭐Easy to use, fast, and cheap – a good choice for newbies.
7. Windscribe⭐⭐⭐⭐Free plans standout more than paid, and the Chrome extension is very useful.
8. IPVanish⭐⭐⭐⭐An established provider that's still top-tier, but lags behind the best
9. Mullvad⭐⭐⭐⭐A very privacy-focused VPN that even accepts cash, but don't expect to stream with it.
10. Hide.me⭐⭐⭐⭐Fast, and great for those who like to tinker with settings under the hood.
11. PrivadoVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐The very best free service, with extraordinary Netflix unblocking performance.
12. TunnelBear⭐⭐⭐½Simple and effective, but too basic for all but the lightest users.
13. Atlas VPN⭐⭐⭐½NordVPN-owned provider focusing on providing a reliable, cheap product.
14. PureVPN⭐⭐⭐½Well-known for its incredibly cheap deals.
15. Hotspot Shield⭐⭐⭐½Speedy VPN with a few interesting features.
16. StrongVPN⭐⭐⭐Mid-range provider that's making improvements.
17. VyprVPN⭐⭐⭐Excellent for evading VPN blocks in countries like China, but generally outclassed elsewhere.
18. AstrillVPN⭐⭐⭐Another provider known for its excellent performance in China
19.AirVPN⭐⭐½Hacktivist-built provider that sits in the mid-tier.
20. TorGuard⭐⭐½Useful VPN for torrenting and accessing overseas websites.

How we test VPNs

When it comes to recommending a product that users will entrust with quite possibly every byte of their online life, I have to be absolutely sure that my choices are correct, and thoroughly tested.

For a comprehensive rundown, check out our full methodology of how we test VPNs. For the time-poor, though, here are the crib notes.

Unlike some sites, we don't simply reel off a spec sheet and declare the provider with the most impressive claims the winner. Instead, we have a dedicated team in-house that gets hands-on with all the providers listed (and more). 

Every 6 months, after scouring the website for new claimed features or changes in policy, we sign up to a plan and install it on a range of devices. The Windows app sees the most rigorous testing, and it's here that we'll try to break the kill switch, ensure any leak protection is working correctly, and measure connection speeds.

The other apps, including the Mac VPN, iPhone VPN, and Android VPN also see comprehensive testing, and we'll check every available setting in every app to make sure it's functioning as promised by the provider.

As we use the apps, if anything appears to be behaving strangely we'll investigate that. We might dig into the source code, or view the contents of its RAM. This general usage stage is also how we make decisions on aesthetics and ease of use – although these are admittedly more subjective.

Then comes the streaming testing. We'll test each VPN with all the big streaming sites from a number of locations to ensure it's working as claimed. As Netflix is still hugely popular and somewhat troublesome when it comes to VPNs, we test the biggest providers every month to make sure my recommendations are still relevant.

Meet the experts

Meet the people behind our VPN reviews and rankings:

Headshot of Tom's Guide VPN Editor Mo Harber-Lamond
Mo Harber-Lamond

I've been in charge of Tom's Guide's VPN articles since 2020, and in that time I've helped test and review over 100 VPN providers for both Tom's Guide and TechRadar. I strongly believe that privacy, price, and ease of use all go hand in hand to make the very best VPN. 

I've covered cybersecurity and tech in TechRadar, T3, and What Hi-Fi?, and you'll also find my work in titles from Watkins Publishing, and even the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

Anthony Spadafora is the senior security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and malware to password managers. He also undertakes VPN testing for Tom's Guide and TechRadar.

Mike Williams in the dark
Mike Williams

Mike regularly reviews our top picks, and loves looking behind the curtains to see how a VPN works in the background. If there's a skeleton in the closet, he'll find it.


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.

With contributions from