Choosing the fastest VPN: an in-depth guide

Whatever else a VPN is, it has to be fast enough. Whether you’re using one to protect your privacy online, keep your financial details safe or to access geo-restricted content on the move, if your VPN slows your internet right down to a crawl, it really doesn’t matter how secure it is. And even if your download and upload speeds are fast, if your latency or ping is too high, your gaming experience will suffer.

When you’re choosing a VPN, speed has to be a consideration. But it’s not always clear how to select a VPN that’s fast enough for your needs. Other VPN-speed-related questions can be murky too. How do you even measure a VPN’s speed? How do you choose a fast one, or speed up a slow one?

That’s why this guide exists.

We’ll explain everything you need to know to get a fast, protected connection.

Quick Navigation: HOW – ExpressVPNNordVPNCyberGhostPrivateVPNIPVanish

How are VPN speeds  measured?

VPN speed is measured by its effect on your basic connection speed. And that’s measured two ways: bandwidth and latency.

Connection speed and bandwidth

Bandwidth is a measure of how much data you can get from another server (download) and put on another server (upload) in a second. It’s measured in Mbps – Megabits per second.

Connection speed and ping

Ping is a rule of thumb measurement of latency – the time it takes for a piece of data to reach another computer and get a reply. It’s measured in ms – milliseconds.

These two different types of speed affect different activities.

If you’re streaming a movie in hi-def, you want high bandwidth because you’re downloading a lot of data, and you want it to arrive quickly enough that your movie doesn’t buffer.

If you’re playing games online, you want low ping above all. High ping means laggy gameplay.

And if you’re torrenting and you seed, you might want to look at upload speed. Lower upload speeds mean other torrenters have to wait longer for your stuff, and you’re tied up seeding the same files for longer.

Provider
Features
Price
Website
  • Highest Encryption Available
  • No Logs Policy
  • 2200 Servers Located in 60 Different, Countries
$11.99 $2.75 per month
Save 77%

"A speedy VPN that's very easy to use and covers basic privacy needs well enough"

  • Excellent available variety of servers
  • Servers are fast and secure
  • Offers six connections
$11.95 $3.99 per month
Save 66%
  • Servers number into the hundreds
  • BitTorrenting allowed
  • Offers a kill switch
$11.99 $6.49 per month
Save 46%
  • 256-bit AES Encryption
  • Blazing Fast Connection Speed
  • No Logs
$12.95 $8.32 per month
Save 35%

How does a VPN slow your internet down?

Using a VPN slows your internet connection down in three ways:

  • Encryption: when your data packets are wrapped in a layer of encryption, you’re doing more computing and sending more data. That tends to result in slower speeds.
  • Server distance: If you’re in Belize and you’re connecting to a server in Bel Air, you’re going to get slower speeds.
  • Server overload. If the VPN server you’re connecting to already has a lot of people using it, it might be reaching the limit of the data it can process. The result will be slower connection for you.

Can a VPN speed up internet ?

A VPN should slow your internet down, eve if only slightly.

That’s why the most important factor in VPN speed is your basic internet connection speed. But sometimes, a VPN will make your internet speed faster.

That’s because some ISPs throttle data. They’ll do it at certain times of day, or to certain types of data. So a VPN can prevent them throttling your speed and result in higher speed.

Could a VPN actually make your internet connection faster? 

Our VPN Speed Test 

We set out to deliver a speed test for the fastest VPNs that also have solid security. Bookmark this page, because we’ll be adding VPNs to it in an ongoing quest to answer the question: What’s the fastest VPN?

For now, we tested five of the best and fastest. To give a result that will be applicable to home users, we used a home wireless connection with other devices connected.

We tested each VPN’s speed across three servers: one local to our test site, one in Paris, France, and one in Los Angeles, USA. When we switched VPN server, we switched speed test server too, using Ookla every time.

We manually checked that Netflix worked for us with each VPN.

We tested:

For each VPN, we needed to know:

    • Download speed
    • Upload speed
  • Ping
  • Logs: what’s their policy on recording user data?
  • Security: what’s their security like?
  • Netflix: Does this VPN still work with Netflix in 2018?

Here’s our naked internet speed result from a local server:

Naked speed test local server
As you can see, a very ‘average’ internet speed.

How does each of our fastest VPN options speed it up or slow it down?

1: ExpressVPN speed test

Overall fastest

 

Bandwidth

Ping

Local server

9.61/0.92

24

US Server

9.09/0.83

161

French server

8.85/0.75

40

Logs

No logs

 

Security

256-bit encryption

 

Netflix

Yes

 

Speed test results

From a local server:Vpn Speed Test Local Server Express VPN
From a server in Los Angeles, USA:Vpn Speed Test Los Angeles Express VPN
From a server in Paris, France:Vpn Speed Test Paris France Express VPN

There’s not much difference in bandwidth across different servers compared to the naked speed test.

ExpressVPN boasts it’s the fastest VPN and overall, it seems like it is.

The security offered is solid – the OpenVPN protocol version offers 256-bit encryption, compared to the 128-bit industry standard.

What about logs? ExpressVPN says:

We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.

(ExpressVPN’s Privacy Policy)

When we tested the Los Angeles server, Netflix worked just fine.
It was also pretty simple to install and use.

Verdict: Best in class overall for speed.

2: PrivateVPN speed test

Runner-up overall – best US ping

 

Bandwidth

Ping

Local server

9.08/0.92

30

US Server

7.20/0.85

156

French server

11.42/0.95

31

Logs

No logs

 

Security

Rock solid – double encrypted

 

Netflix

Yes

 

From a French server, there’s barely any difference in bandwidth compared to a naked connection. But the American server had significantly worse bandwidth, albeit with the best US ping we recorded. That suggests this might be a better choice if you’re a gamer.

PrivateVPN has a Stealth Mode, requiring a different download at the installation stage. We used the regular version. Additionally, PrivateVPN has dedicated Netflix servers in New York and Los Angeles. We used the Los Angeles one for our US server and Netflix test.

PrivateVPN uses 128-bit or 256-bit encryption depending on the protocol used, but with an additional encryption layer on top – double-encrypted by default.

Speed test results

From a local server:Vpn Speed Test Local Server Private VPN

From a US server:
Vpn Speed Test US Server Private VPN

From a French server:
Vpn Speed Test French Server Private VPN

What about logs? PrivateVPN doesn’t keep logs:

PrivateVPN does not have access to any other information about customers apart from those reported at the customer’s registration on PrivateVPN’s website, i.e. a valid e-mail address, username and password.

(PrivateVPN’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.)

We tested Netflix, and it worked immediately.
The VPN client was easy to install and use.

Verdict: Might be best for gamers; good runner-up to ExpressVPN overall.

3: NordVPN speed test

Best for Bandwidth

 

Bandwidth

Ping

Local server

11.24/1.00

42

US Server

8.91/1.03

170

French server

11.23/0.97

29

Logs

No logs

 

Security

Double VPN, Onion over VPN and more

 

Netflix

Yes

 

Nord has a massive server net – it’s one of the biggest VPNs out there. You get double VPN, Onion over VPN, and obfuscation too. For bandwidth, it’s the clear winner: local and French servers show only minute bandwidth losses over the naked connection, while the US server has one of the highest upload speeds we clocked. That suggests Nord might be a good choice for torrenting, and there are guides on their site to using NordVPN for torrenting.

Speed test results

From local server:
Vpn Speed Test Local Server Nord VPN

From US server:
Vpn Speed Test US Server Nord VPN

From French server:
Vpn Speed Test French Server Nord VPN

Does NordVPN keep logs?

NordVPN strictly keeps no logs of your activity online. That means we do not track the time or duration of any online session, and neither do we keep logs of IP addresses or servers used, websites visited or files downloaded. In other words, none of your private and secure data is logged and gathered at any time.

(NordVPN’s logging policy)

We tested Netflix and it worked.
However, Nord has one of the most difficult-to-use clients we tested. When switching from server to server, it regularly stopped working and had to be uninstalled and reinstalled. Selecting specific servers isn’t as easy as it is on some other VPN clients, too.

4: Cyberghost speed test

Decent speeds, easy to use

 

Bandwidth

Ping

Local server

9.33/0.87

43

US Server

8.76/0.88

160

French server

8.75/0.87

34

Logs

No

 

Security

?

 

Netflix

Yes

 

 Cyberghost can’t match the top three for speed, but the loss of speed is still relatively small and consistent across servers. Its desktop client is also fairly easy to use and convenient, and there’s a browser extension too.

Speed test results

From a local server:
Vpn Speed Test Local Server CyberGhost 

From a US server:
Vpn Speed Test US Server CyberGhost

From a French server:
Vpn Speed Test French Server CyberGhost

Does CyberGhost keep logs?

They’re very clear on this:

Do we log, keep logs, protocol surfing behaviors or record content, visited websites or IP addresses of our users? No! Why? People in non democratic countries (so maybe YOU!) are in real danger, just for expressing their opinions. If we implemented back-doors,deep packet inspections or store information about our users and share those with authorities regardless their origins, we would risk the lives of people.We will not do that! Ever!

WE DO NOT LOG REAL IP ADDRESSES, WE DO NOT LOG ASSIGNED SERVERS, WE DO NOT LOG LOGIN OR LOGOUT TIMES, WE DON’T MERGE ANY REAL DATA (like purchase data) INTO ACCOUNT DATA, WE DO NOT LOG TRAFFIC DATA (e.g. which website are visited) NOR ANY INFORMATION SENT VIA A CYBERGHOST SERVER.

CyberGhost VPN neither observes nor records content like messenger chats, telephone calls, video chats, or other communication forms, nor stores IP addresses (not the ones the users are heading to, and not the ones users have, when logging into the CyberGhost VPN network). Furthermore it’s not possible to record, which account logged into which server at what time or to connect a real person to a certain CyberGhost VPN account.

(CyberGhost’s logging FAQ)

You can watch Netflix easily enough with CyberGhost, and their VPN client is simple and easy to use.

5: IPVanish speed test

Too slow overall – but upload speeds are good

 

Bandwidth

Ping

Local server

7.66/0.80

54

US Server

6.77/0.98

166

French server

6.00/0.92

31

Logs

May keep some logs

 

Security

256-bit AES encryption

 

Netflix

Yes

 

IPVanish cut bandwidth by around a quarter across the board compared to a naked connection. It’s slower than the other contenders by a significant amount.

Speed test results

From a local server:
Vpn Speed Test Local Server IPVanish
From a US server:
Vpn Speed Test US Server IPVanish

From a French server:
Vpn Speed Test French Server IPVanish

Upload speeds suffer less than download and ping. 54ms ping from a local server is far too slow, though.

Does IPVanish keep logs

IPVanish does not collect, monitor, or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network service, under any circumstances, on any platform.

(IPVanish’s Privacy Policy)

IPVanish’s loglessness has been called into question by a recent scandal, though, that saw IPVanish supplying Homeland Security with the details of one of their users – which they could only have if they were keeping logs.

Netflix worked fine, and the client was easy to install and use.

That’s all for now – but we’ll be regularly updating this page to bring you the skinny on the fastest VPNs available. If you think we missed out a contender, please contact us and let us know!

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