When you surf the Internet, you’re rarely unobserved: Whether you’re sending emails on the go, shopping online, or streaming your favorite show – you’re always leaving virtual traces behind. And this data is often read and used, so your privacy suffers. But there is a remedy: If you want to surf anonymously, you can use a VPN service to hide or anonymize your IP address.
But the camouflage protection can do even more:
- You can unlock exclusive movies and series from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Co. worldwide, since the VPN removes the country restrictions of the streaming providers.
- Or you can buy online at a lower price thanks to better conditions abroad – VPN services are as versatile as a Swiss knife.
In the big VPN test, we compared 16 providers and rated them in terms of speed, security, streaming and ease of use, among other things. You can also find out what VPN actually is, how anonymous you actually are when surfing via VPN, and other interesting facts about the topic.
VPN test: 16 providers in comparison
In the test, we tried out and evaluated the largest providers of virtual private networks (VPN) in detail. Basically, clients are available for almost all common devices and systems: In addition to classic systems such as Windows, macOS or Linux, you can also surf securely and anonymously with an iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone. Many providers also offer browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Opera. Some of the VPN providers also allow you to connect your smart TV or set it up directly on the router. In the VPN test, we focused on paid clients – there are also free VPN tools, but they usually only offer limited protection.
NordVPN is the test winner
NordVPN’s client received top marks in almost all tested areas. Setup and operation are easy and convenient, and payment can be made anonymously via Bitcoin if desired. When it comes to security, Nord VPN can stand up to scrutiny: A “no-log policy”, overseas location, very good encryption, WireGuard support, and sophisticated obfuscation and protection tools make for a well-rounded picture. The infrastructure is also top: Over 5,000 servers in around 60 countries offer an enormous selection – also for streaming. File downloads and uploads were almost as fast in the test as in normal operation without a VPN tunnel.
Big shark or just a small fish? In the test, the VPN client impressed above all with many extra features, ease of use and excellent security. With just over 1,700 servers in over 60 countries, Surfshark can’t quite keep up with the test winner, but the speed is usually top. The only minor drawback is streaming Netflix. However, the very low subscription price (when taking out a 2-year subscription) and the option to use a license on an unlimited number of devices at the same time are unbeatable.
The grandfather among the best VPN providers scores with an extremely large number of servers and locations. The server details displayed for each connection and separate server lists for streaming and torrenting are also special. Useful additional features, such as kill switch, ad and tracking protection round off the good overall impression. Too bad: You have to do without many of these setting options in the mobile version. However, thanks to its location, company policy and extensive security precautions, the VPN provider deservedly belongs to the top 3.
Hide.me delivers exactly what the provider’s name promises: anonymity and security while surfing. The service works stably and at a good speed, the many additional features and top security protocols round off the comprehensive overall package. However, it comes at a relatively high price, the mobile version is slimmed down, and anyone who wants to use Netflix via Hide.me first has to find a suitable server. If you want to see for yourself: A reduced free version is available – it even runs completely without registration.
A provider of unlimited possibilities – at least almost: The VPN service convinces with outstanding encryption, excellent compatibility, many additional features and strong streaming performance. And all that for a reasonable price. As one of the few providers, you can even use Windscribe “for free” with slight restrictions. A small drop of bitterness: the company’s headquarters in Canada raises doubts when it comes to one hundred percent privacy.
A lot helps a lot: When it comes to the scope of services, no one can fool ExpressVPN. A high number of servers and locations, its own DNS servers, and the in-house TrustedServer technology ensure flexibility and a high level of security. The speed is good, although not top, and ExpressVPN also does well in streaming. One license can be used on an unlimited number of devices. However, logging in on the PC is sometimes awkward. Due to the slightly higher price and fewer additional features than the competition, ExpressVPN ranks sixth.
Those who mainly want to stream content from media libraries, live TV or Netflix via their VPN client will be very happy with VyprVPN – the provider proves to be above average in terms of strength and speed. The partly in-house security features and the easy handling are also convincing. Especially in countries with limited Internet, VyprVPN can show its strengths. However, because anonymous payment methods and individual functions that the competition already has to offer are missing, VyprVPN only achieves a medium ranking.
Hotspot Shield Premium
The provider promises its users the “best performance and speed”. This actually applies to the speed. No other VPN was this fast in the test. Hotspot Shield can also score with other key data, such as server and device selection. However, the service overshoots the mark when it comes to data collection, and it is unfortunately not possible to independently judge how secure the VPN protocol developed in-house is. Nevertheless: The performance is strong, but the price is comparatively hefty.
If you place a lot of value on security and anonymity, ProtonVPN is a recommendable VPN service, even if it is not quite cheap. The protection means are very good, the transparency excellent. The company headquarters in Switzerland with strict data protection laws also contributes to the good trustworthiness. However, the number of servers and locations turns out to be rather low, and what still works well when on vacation abroad – streaming German media libraries and German Netflix – leaves something to be desired when it comes to US services.
Private Internet Access
The “most anonymous VPN service in the world”, according to its own statement, presents itself as a solid and, above all, inexpensive overall package. There is some huge server selection, the client runs on up to ten devices. The operation is uncomplicated on the desktop PC as well as in the mobile version, and Netflix users also get their money’s worth here. However, only 128-bit encryption is set as the default, although the more secure AES-256 variant is available and can be set with a few clicks. The fact that the company is based in the USA is also a drawback in the B grade.
Avira Phantom VPN Pro
With an Avira license, you can connect as many devices as you want. Avira is one of the few providers that does not impose any restrictions here. The operation is uncomplicated and beginner-friendly. There is also nothing to complain about in terms of security thanks to top encryption, and the speeds and server selection are good. However, streaming is not one of the Phantom’s specialties, and the service does not have many extras on board. Important features like malware and WLAN protection are included, though – all in all, Phantom VPN Pro is a rock-solid VPN service.
The Swedish provider Mullvad VPN sets new standards in terms of payment and registration: users can register without providing an email address, and cash payment is also provided in addition to anonymous payment with cryptocurrency. Thanks to an excellent no-logs policy and good scores in speed and streaming tests, there is also little to criticize in terms of anonymity and performance. Mullvad VPN is also one of the first providers to integrate the brand-new WireGuard protocol into its VPN service. However, the design and user-friendliness are a few negative points, so Mullvad VPN only makes it to 12th place.
A very large number of servers and countries, numerous configuration options and additional features as well as a strong streaming performance: All these points make PureVPN appear to be a top VPN client at first glance. Unfortunately, weaknesses become apparent in the application. There were high speed losses in the test, and the operation on the desktop PC is unfortunately not much fun. The company’s headquarters in Hong Kong should also be taken into account. This circumstance could become increasingly problematic for privacy in view of the political development.
HMA VPN (HideMyAss)
Actually, HMA (HideMyAss) presents itself as a VPN provider that leaves nothing to be desired: The operation is simple, security and speed are decent, and with servers in 190 countries, the VPN is the front-runner in this point. Unfortunately, the company’s headquarters in Great Britain arouses suspicion, since the country belongs to the “Five Eyes”. There was a negative surprise when streaming US Netflix: Despite special streaming servers, HMA could not access the exclusive content of the US offer. Together with the frequent connection interruptions recorded in the test, it was only enough for a lower place.
Bitdefender Premium VPN
On the plus side, the VPN service is reasonably priced and offers solid security. But in practice, the competition has much better to offer. You might want to overlook the small country selection, but not the many disconnections that the VPN recorded in the speed test. The service is also not a reliable partner for streaming. Bitdefender still has to work on transparency. The provider is rather cagey about data protection.
Kaspersky Secure Connection
The well-known Russian provider of security software has also had a VPN in its range for quite some time. However, Kaspersky has not really been able to show its strengths here yet. The encryption is good with AES-256 and there are no leaks. However, apart from the low annual price, there are only a few reasons to buy it. The number of servers is low, and the service is only conditionally suitable for Netflix fans. The privacy conditions are opaque and the app hardly has any features. However, the red card is given because of the constant disconnections that occurred in the long-term test.