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Best fast VPN 2020: which provider is fastest?

Best fast VPN
(Image credit: Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock)

Having a fast VPN gives you the best of both worlds – the privacy and security you'd expect from the one of the best VPN services on the market alongside connections so swift you won't even notice it's there.

However, every VPN has an impact on your connection thanks to the simple fact your traffic is going further, so making sure that slow-down is as minimal as possible is a top priority. Without having access to numerous VPNs yourself it can be hard to judge this, so that's why we've put together this list to help you make in informed decision.

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. 

That's why ExpressVPN has topped this guide. While Hotspot Shield provides faster outright speeds, few people have a 600MB+ internet connection to take advantage of this – plus Express provides a whole load more functionality alongside fully audited servers and privacy policy.

On that note, it's worth considering how fast your internet connection actually is – if it's under 100MB unprotected, a VPN's reliability is probably a more important factor than its absolute maximum speed.

Counter-intuitively, if you're subject to network throttling a VPN can actually make your internet connection faster. This is because 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.

1. ExpressVPN – your best overall option for a fast VPN
For the vast majority of users, ExpressVPN's connections will be more than capable of keeping up with your base internet connection – and you'll also get our #1-rated VPN for streaming, torrenting and more in the process. Plus, you can now claim three free months on a 12-month plan.View Deal

2. Hotspot Shield – the fastest VPN money can buy
If you're willing to make a few sacrifices in terms of usability and logging for the sake of having ultimate VPN speed, then Hotspot Shield is the one to go for. While it's not nearly as good an all-round performer as ExpressVPN, Hotspot's Catapult Hydra protocol beats all others in a sprint.View Deal

3. NordVPN – an excellent choice for VPN speed
From a daily usability perspective, NordVPN is one of the best fast VPNs out there. While speeds fluctuate a little compared to Express, they'll be plenty good for most users – and for $3.71/mo Nord offers excellent value, too.View Deal

The best fast VPNs available today

Expressvpn best fast vpn

1. ExpressVPN

The best fast VPN for the vast majority of users

Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 94 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum tested US speed on 600MB line: 250MB

Reliably fast connections
Plenty of servers for global speed
Excellent apps for everything
Brilliant support team
Maximum of five connections

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, means 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.

Get 49% off plus three months free of the best fast VPN
Tom's Guide readers can claim an extra three months free if they sign up for an annual plan – that's 15 months for the price of 12. If it's not to your liking, you're covered by the 30-day money-back guarantee, so there's no risk if you just want to try it out before committing.View Deal

Hotspot Shield best fast VPN

2. Hotspot Shield

The absolute fastest VPN – with a couple of drawbacks

Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 80 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Maximum tested US speed on 600MB line: 547MB

Unbeatable raw speed
Good selection of servers
Useful free version
Some logging concerns
Only one protocol available

With undeniable sheer speed, Hotspot Shield's paid-for service 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. 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

Nordvpn best fast vpn

(Image credit: NordVPN)

3. NordVPN

Privacy giant delivers excellent speeds

Number of servers: 5,000+ | Server locations: 59 countries | Maximum devices supported: 6 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum tested US speed on 600MB line: 300MB

Great top speeds
Tons of servers
Security-focused experience
Mobile apps are a little awkward

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

Surfshark VPN best fast VPN

4. Surfshark

Bargain fast VPN provides excellent bang for buck

Number of servers: 1,700+ | Server locations: 63 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Maximum tested US speed on 600MB line: 160MB

Tempting price
Great speeds on most servers
Simple to use
Not especially configurable

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 $2.50 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

Speedify best fast vpn

(Image credit: Speedify)

5. Speedify

Very fast but let down by streaming support

Number of servers: Undisclosed | Server locations: 50 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Streaming sites unblocked: YouTube | Maximum tested US speed on 600MB line: 403MB

Great speeds 
Useful free plan
Good value longer plans
Poor streaming support
Not much configuration

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.

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