Google One, the tech giant's comprehensive paid package deal, offers plenty of features to enhance your online life, but the most interesting of all (to us, at least) is the box-fresh Google VPN – or, more technically, VPN by Google One.
Taking on the best VPN providers is one of the few things Google has yet to go for in earnest, the Google One VPN shows those tides are changing. However, although it's certainly got the financial clout and manpower to develop a world-class product, will users really want to use privacy software from a brand well-known for having its business model centred around harvesting the data of its users?
Here, we'll be running down exactly what the new Google VPN actually offers, how it compares to the current market leaders, who can use it, and whether it's worth your time and money.
What's the competition?
1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN available
If you want an established, proven VPN, then we still recommend ExpressVPN over any other service. With over 3,000 servers, great speeds, top streaming performance and zero logging policy, it's the full package – plus you can now get three months free on a 12-month plan.
2. Surfshark – the best-value VPN on the market
If Google One just seems a little pricy at $9.99, Surfshark offers a cheaper alternative. At just $2.49 a month it's the best-value service on the market, and makes very few sacrifices in the process. Plus, with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try before you buy.
3. NordVPN – the biggest name is still one of the best
NordVPN is arguably the biggest name in the CyberSec community. With excellent apps for all your devices, tons of extra privacy and security features plus incredible encryption, it's here to stay.
Who can get Google VPN?
As of August 2021, users in the US, UK, Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Italy can sign up to Google One and use the VPN. That's a big improvement on the US-only support announced initially, but it still can't compete with the global reach of just about every other dedicated VPN provider.
What's more, the Google VPN is solely an Android VPN, meaning that if you want protection on your iPhone, Mac, or even Windows PC, you'll have to look elsewhere.
How much is Google VPN?
Google VPN comes bundled with the 2TB and above plans of Google One – there's no other way to get access. Starting at $99 a year (or $9.99 paid monthly) it's no bargain, but combined with the vast online storage, access to Google Experts, a tasty 10% back on all Google Store purchases, and 'extra member benefits', it starts to look like a better-value proposition.
However, while many VPN providers offer freebies like secure cloud storage, the security software itself is invariably the main attraction. Here, Google VPN seems to be more of an add-on to the 2TB of storage, and the fact it can't be purchased separately means it's likely to be an added bonus to Google One subscribers, and not the priority for most users.
Is Google VPN a real VPN?
If you're an Android user, then yes, VPN by Google One is a real VPN. It providers encrypted access to websites, hiding your activity from everyone – even Google itself – meaning you should be able to stay more private.
We haven't had the chance to test out the Google VPN for streaming, but we expect it not to offer the benefits of the best Netflix VPN services. As just about the biggest tech brand in the world, Google's got to keep its nose clean, and the grey area that is streaming unblocking is likely a feature it would want to avoid.
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What does Google VPN offer?
In short, not a lot. It's very much a back-to-basics VPN with a single switch and no settings. You can't even select which server location to connect to.
Google states in its press release that it uses a proprietary protocol rather than the industry-standard OpenVPN, but claims to be planning on integrating IPsec soon, with the possibility of WireGuard support in the future.
Otherwise, it looks very simple to use, but doesn't offer nearly the amount of features dedicated providers do. That may be a positive for some, but for many it simply won't offer enough. And, combined with its current Android-only status, it may well find itself both priced and performed out of the market.
Can you trust VPN by Google One?
This is the big question everyone's asking. Seeing as one of the most popular VPN uses is to avoid Google trackers and targeted ads, can an in-house Google product really be trusted to do the same?
Well, the clients are open-source, and have been independently audited, which is a good start. However, we expect many users simply won't be able to get over the apparent contradiction of a company that makes a profit by analysing data providing software to evade just that.
How does Google VPN stack up against the competition?
The VPN market is getting more crowded by the day, and a number of providers have cornered their niches and command imposing presences. We haven't had as much time to test Google VPN as we have some other services, but below we’ll compare what we do know about it with its three biggest rivals to see what the newbie’s up against.
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ExpressVPN vs Google VPN
First up is ExpressVPN – probably the most respected and capable VPN on the market today.
While ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive VPNs on the market, Google One as a whole is exactly the same price for 12 months – $99. While it's worth noting that you can claim three free months of ExpressVPN through Tom's Guide, both are roughly similar in terms of cost.
However, when it comes to the functionality of the VPN itself, it's clear ExpressVPN has the upper hand. Not only does it work on just about any mainstream device, but you can access over 3,000 servers at will and unblock tons of streaming content.
Google VPN, on the other hand, automatically assigns you a server and, well... that's about it.
It could be argued that Google One's extra features make it a more well-rounded subscription, but ExpressVPN also offers a free 12-month subscription to Backblaze, a leading cloud backup service – so unless you really need 2TB+ of online storage alongside your VPN, Express is the clear winner.
Tom's Guide readers get 3 months free from ExpressVPN
Sign up for 12 months of ExpressVPN and you'll get 49% off, plus a three free months of coverage. And don't forget, if you just want to give it a try with no obligation, there's a 30-day money back guarantee in place that you can rely upon without any quibbles.
Surfshark vs Google VPN
Again, you'll have fully configurable servers and protocols, with clients for a huge number of devices including a Fire Stick VPN and even a router VPN. Plus, you can choose between a number of protocols to tailor the app's performance.
One upper hand Google had on Surfshark was its independent audit, but in May 2021 Surfshark was investigated by Cure53 and found to be secure.
So, again, if you don't need all the extras that come with Google One and just need a VPN, Surfshark is by far the better choice.
Get the best value VPN for less than $2.50 a month
It's no secret that Surfshark offers incredible value. For less than $2.50 a month you can get a genuinely fully-featured VPN that does absolutely everything you want it to. And if it's not for you? You've got 30 days to claim your money back.
NordVPN vs Google VPN
A huge name in the VPN market, NordVPN has over 10 million customers and a powerful suite of security-focused VPN clients and apps. However, Google's most powerful tool when entering into the VPN war is its brand, so trading on its name shouldn't be an issue.
It's the same old story again, though. As a dedicated and established VPN provider, NordVPN offers a huge array of privacy and usability features, whereas Google VPN is just a single switch with no configuration.
Currently we can’t see any burning reason why you’d choose Google VPN over a giant like NordVPN – unless you're in dire need of some extra online storage.
The biggest name in the VPN world is still one of the best
There's not much that inspires confidence more than having more than 10 million people making the same decision as you. If you're after stellar security and excellent functionality, NordVPN should be on your shopping list.