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The best streaming VPN in 2021

best streaming VPN
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Using a streaming VPN is one of the biggest reasons why the best VPN services are exploding right now, and it's easy to see why. As more and more streaming sites pop up, content is spread thinner between them, and by using a VPN, you maybe able to access more content with fewer subscriptions.

Whether you want to access regional free services like BBC iPlayer or Peacock when you're abroad, you want more content from your Netflix subscription, or you've found a free sports stream only available in a different country, the best streaming VPN can get you access.

However, not every VPN is optimized for streaming, and here we'll be running exactly which ones are worth considering.

What makes a great streaming VPN?

When choosing a streaming VPN, you need to look for three things – reliable access to plenty of streaming sites, a decent variety of servers, and excellent speeds. Our top pick (read the full ExpressVPN review for more) combines all these with a clean, polished interface that makes streaming overseas content super simple, all alongside excellent privacy.

Not all VPNs have that combination, and it's worth mentioning that in mid-2021 Netflix cracked down hard on VPN use. Subsequently we saw almost every provider begin to struggle, although the best have now rallied and are performing well.

Also, while we've never heard of it actually happening, many streaming providers forbid the use of VPNs, under the threat of account termination. If you want to go on, though, alongside ExpressVPN there are a number of other excellent options that fill out this list. So, read on to discover which streaming VPN is the right one for you.

1. ExpressVPN – the best streaming VPN today

1. ExpressVPN – the best streaming VPN today
Whether you're on holiday and want to watch what you're used to or want to explore content from around the world from home, ExpressVPN can unblock Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Peacock, Prime, DAZN and plenty more – plus you can now claim three free months.

2. ProtonVPN – Super secure and great for streaming

2. ProtonVPN – Super secure and great for streaming
ProtonVPN is risen through the ranks of streaming VPNs, and has claimed second spot quite simply thanks to its excellent unblocking power. Outstripping all the competition bar Express, it's one of our new favorites, and is currently just $4.99 a month on a 2-year plan.

3. Surfshark – bargain VPN that's great for streaming

3. Surfshark – bargain VPN that's great for streaming
Surfshark is an excellent option for anyone on a budget that's also looking to access the world's content. You'll get access to US Netflix, plus iPlayer, Amazon Prime and more, and its current deal is also offering a great price – just $2.21 a month with three months free.

The best streaming VPN today

ExpressVPN best streaming vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

A great VPN for streaming – and everything else

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Server locations: 160 in 94 countries
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Maximum devices supported: 5
Reasons to buy
+Unrivalled streaming access+Excellent 24/7 customer support+Stream on any device+Top-quality apps
Reasons to avoid
-Only five simultaneous connections

From our testing, ExpressVPN is our #1-ranked VPN on the market. However, one of its standout features is its excellent capability as a streaming VPN, as it offers the triple whammy of speed, security and excellent international coverage.

That all means you can get access to over 3,000 servers across 94 countries, so no matter where you are it should be possible to get stuck into streaming media from back home. Connection speeds are reliably fast, so even streaming in 4K and HDR shouldn't be an issue. 

Unlike many other VPNs, Express unlocks Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, YouTube and more – all the more impressive when you know these streaming services are constantly trying to actively block VPNs. 

If you do run into any snags then excellent the 24/7 live-chat customer support is always there to get you going again. It's staffed by knowledgeable and genuinely helpful people that want – and know how – to get you what you need. 

While streaming might be a priority, security is also paramount and ExpressVPN sports enterprise-level encryption along with a selection of protocols. That means you're guaranteed online anonymity, letting you stream in peace without the threat of third-parties potentially invading your privacy. 

All that, and you also get a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning it's essentially free to try for a month to make sure it suits you perfectly.

Tom's Guide readers get three months free of ExpressVPN

Tom's Guide readers get three months free of ExpressVPN
Sign up for a full 12 months on ExpressVPN and you'll end up with 49% off the normal monthly price and three months extra FREE. And don't forget, if you just want to give it a try with no obligation, there's a 30-day money back guarantee that you can rely upon without any quibbles.

ProtonVPN streaming vpn

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

2. ProtonVPN

Great streaming VPN with free option

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Server locations: 1,300+ servers in 61 countries
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Disney+
Maximum devices supported: 10
Reasons to buy
+First-class Netflix unblocking+Great speeds+Powerful, secure apps+Free version is excellent
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively expensive

In our most recent ProtonVPN review, we discovered that not only is the Swiss provider one of the most secure VPNs on the market, but that it's a real streaming powerhouse as well.

First up: Netflix. In our testing ProtonVPN was able to unblock content from UK, US and Canadian libraries. That's only surpassed by ExpressVPN, which managed to get access to Australian content too. This is seriously impressive, considering the fact that Netflix's recent VPN unblocking has rendered many previously reliable services all but useless.

ProtonVPN completed a clean sweep of streaming services, including Disney+, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video, meaning whatever you want to watch, you'll be able to access it with ProtonVPN.

You'll have the option to bag yourself Proton's very capable free VPN, although you'll have to upgrade to the Plus plan to unblock streaming content. It's not hugely cheap, but special offers make Proton more affordable, and for the service you'll get we think it's worth it.

Sign up now on the ProtonVPN website

best streaming vpn surfshark on a variety of devices

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark

Bargain provider that's great for streaming

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Server locations: 100 in 65 countries
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Superb 4K and HDR streaming speeds+Live chat support+Affordable options+Use it on as many devices as you want
Reasons to avoid
-Privacy policy short on detail

In our Surfshark review, we found that the provider delivers an excellent mix of speed and value, but doesn't scrimp on security. As such, it's an ideal streaming VPN for use with US Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and more. 

Another bonus is that Surfshark works well as a Fire Stick VPN, so it's a great option for getting geo-blocked media streaming on your big TV. It's simple to use, which is perfect for beginners, but there's a fair number of settings to tweak, too.

Compared to some other further up the list there's not a huge amount of configuration on offer – but if all you're interested in is getting access to overseas Netflix then that's probably not a problem, and the unlimited simultaneous connections mean you can protect every device you own.

With a seriously tempting price and a 30-day guarantee, Surfshark's an excellent streaming VPN that should be on your list.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

NordVPN streaming VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

4. NordVPN

Streaming VPN that's hot on security

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Server locations: 80+ in 59 countries
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Maximum devices supported: 6
Reasons to buy
+Excellent streaming performance+Functional kill switch+Serious speeds
Reasons to avoid
-You may need to use the browser extension

NordVPN is built for security, and it's a great streaming VPN to use if you're concerned about anyone else watching with you (for a more in-depth analysis, check out our NordVPN review). The fact that it offers more than 5,100 servers in 59 countries is just a bonus which ensures great speeds no matter where you end up.

On top of excellent encryption there is a handy SmartPlay feature. This encrypts you data in a more streamlined fashion, allowing you to eke out every last drop of performance from your connection. Especially useful for streaming in HD, Nord's SmartPlay also sidesteps streaming services' VPN blocking tools, meaning you're guaranteed to have access to anything you want to watch.

It's worth noting that if you're looking for a dedicated Netflix VPN, NordVPN might not be the best choice right now. In our last round of testing, it was only able to unblock Canadian and Australian content, leaving the popular UK and US libraries inaccessible.

NordVPN's mobile apps are fully featured and provide much the same experience as the desktop clients. However, one thing we wish it had changed is the map-based interface – on a handheld screen it makes selecting servers a hassle, and we'd like to see a regular list from the start.

Other than minor issues with the apps, however, NordVPN is an excellent streaming VPN that almost always performs reliably.

Sign up on the NordVPN website


(Image credit: Future)

5. CyberGhost

Excellent streaming VPN with dedicated features

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Server locations: 7,100 in 91 countries
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Maximum devices supported: 7
Reasons to buy
+Excellent speeds+Dedicated streaming servers+Powerful apps
Reasons to avoid
-No independent audit-Support site is lacking

CyberGhost is a hugely popular and well-respected name in the VPN business, and has defined itself as a quality streaming VPN in recent years. In fact, out of the options here, it's probably most specialized, thanks to dedicated servers for particular services.

That pays off too, as it's capable of unblocking US Netflix, iPlayer, Prime and Disney+ – the full gamut of our tested sites.

However, CyberGhost simply isn't as polished as the rest of this list, and small inconveniences like no notifications when you connect or disconnect and the fact the support site could do with some work let it down slightly.

That's not to say CyberGhost isn't worth considering as a streaming VPN, though. It's great value, has a huge number of servers and you can test it out for a market-leading 45 days and claim a refund if you don't like the service.

Sign up now on the CyberGhost website

Streaming VPN FAQs

What is the best streaming VPN?

We rate ExpressVPN as the best streaming VPN on the market. It delivers excellent speeds, unrivalled content unblocking performance, and has servers in just about every country you could ask for. What's more, you'll get a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the service risk-free for a month.

How does a streaming VPN work?

Every VPN works in the same way – it diverts your device's connection away from your internet provider's and instead uses one its own servers. Doing this means your ISP can't see what you're viewing, and an added bonus is that VPN server traffic is much more encrypted than the naked connection from your router.

A streaming VPN can get you access to overseas content by rerouting your connection through one its servers in a foreign country. By doing that, to any website it seems like you're in that country, and subsequently you'll be able to access any and all content that's usually only available if you're physically in that area.

What can I use a streaming VPN for?

There are two basic cases for using a streaming VPN – you're either abroad and want to watch familiar but now geo-blocked content form back home, or you're at home and want to watch geo-blocked content from abroad.

Whatever your reasons, there's a huge amount of content on offer that you can only get with a streaming VPN. Netflix has a vast amount of content that's only available in certain areas, and services like Hulu and BBC iPlayer are only available in one country.

However, there's more to be had if you're a sports fan. If you're away from home and don't want to miss a game that's being shown on domestic TV, you can access that through a streaming VPN. The same goes if you're a paying customer of a sports streaming service – just turn on your streaming VPN, log in to your streaming service and watch.

What are the best TV streaming services?

There are more video services to pick from these days than there were big chain video rental stores in the nineties. We've come a long way. But some practices still seem outdated, like geo-restrictions to keep certain content for particular locations. All the best services have these in place, but many don't seem too concerned about VPNs which get around the issue.

From Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 4K and HDR to BBC iPlayer, Hulu and YouTube and Disney+ – there are lots of streaming services to pick from and enjoy anywhere using a VPN. Want to find the best one for you? Check out our best video streaming services guide.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.