The need to stay private online is at an all-time high, and the best VPN of 2023 is the perfect tool for protecting your digital life.
Virtual Private Networks anonymize your online activity, and can also make you appear to be in a different physical location. From avoiding government snooping and accessing blocked apps to streaming overseas TV, there’s a ton a VPN can offer you – and you’ll find the cream of the crop right here.
While VPNs might sound techy, they’re now very easy to use. They almost all offer simple, attractive apps for many different devices, and you can get connected in a single click. So, don’t be intimidated – if you managed to install Facebook on your smartphone, you can install a VPN as well.
If you just want quick access to the three best VPNs of 2023, simply pick from ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark below – in our hands-on expert reviews we rated them as the very best in their respective price ranges. However, If you want more in-depth info, simply keep scrolling for our rundown of the 15 top VPNs available today, and a detailed FAQ section at the bottom of the page.
What is a VPN?
If you’re wondering what is a VPN, in short it’s an application installed on your device that redirects your internet connection through its own servers around the world. This allows you to virtually change your location online, making you more anonymous and tricking sites like Netflix into showing you content that’s blocked in your country.
A VPN also encrypts your traffic, which means that if it’s intercepted, your activity can’t be seen. That goes for hackers, your government, and even your internet service provider – a VPN lets you browse in total secrecy.
This in turn allows you to access sites that might be banned by your ISP – perhaps that’s YouTube or TikTok at school, or Western news and social media if you’re in Russia or China.
In short, the best VPN makes the internet a freer place, and allows you to do what you want, when you want to do it – and with the current VPN deals on offer, there’s never been a better time to sign up.
What’s the best VPN?
The competition between the best VPN providers becomes stiffer every time we re-review VPNs – and with new features and usability tweaks coming regularly from the developers, change is always on the horizon.
However, in our latest round of testing, only one provider earned five stars out of five: ExpressVPN (opens in new tab).
The simple reason for this is because for the vast majority of users, it offers the best combination of rock-solid privacy, excellent apps on a huge range of devices, some very interesting additional features, plus great streaming performance with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN Plus, and even more.
To top it off, you’ll be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee which means you can effectively test out the service and its 3,000+ servers for a whole month risk-free before you buy – you can find out all the details in our in-depth ExpressVPN review.
Feature-packed, but not a perfect streamer
Number of servers: 2,000+ | Server locations: 75+ in 52 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Verified as no-logging
- Unlimited simultaneous devices
- Tons of features
- A number of Netflix locations are unavailable
- Apps are complicated
IPVanish is a VPN service based in the United States that has been around for a while and has earned a reputation for being secure, dependable, and trustworthy. Because of its focus on the advanced user, it includes several helpful extras and robust applications capable of displaying any information the user may choose.
Our IPVanish review testing revealed acceptable throughput of roughly 720Mbps while utilizing WireGuard, which is on par with that of CyberGhost and Windscribe, two of IPVanish’s main competitors. Although we only achieved 120Mbps throughput with OpenVPN, the vast majority of users will be switching to the new protocol soon enough. While not as powerful as other specialist China VPN services, ‘Scramble’ is an intriguing feature that enables VPN usage in countries like China.
Similarly, streaming is a hit or miss. We were able to watch US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Prime (an improvement from our last check), but we were unable to watch Netflix in other countries, including Australia and Canada.
IPVanish’s app development has improved since our previous review, which was critical of the company’s infrequent app updates. The new user interface is visually appealing, keeps many of the in-depth capabilities we cherished, and adds a favorites feature and in-app assistance. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that several specialized functions were eliminated rather than being relocated.
Even if IPVanish has fallen behind the leading providers in certain respects, it is still a strong contender, particularly if you like complex, technically advanced programs.
Privacy extraordinaire lives up to expectations
Number of servers: 820 | Server locations: 68 in 38 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live support: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Excellent speeds
- Open-source apps
- Good kill switch and leak protection
- Not designed for streaming
- No live chat
Mullvad is an intriguing idea since it doesn’t rely on tricks to protect users’ privacy. While this may win over VPN experts and purists, more mainstream services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN are likely to appeal more to the average user.
Mullvad is one of the few providers that, despite its popularity, does not make questionable promises like “unblocking everything” or “guaranteed anonymity” on its website.
Instead, it serves as an example by never asking for personal information, only collecting payments in cash by snail mail, and providing only free, open-source software. A recent DNS server audit and the option to buy Amazon account numbers are two recent enhancements that enhance anonymity.
It also avoids the enormous complexity of other “expert” VPNs; although a subset of users may wish to fiddle with dozens of DNS settings, the vast majority will be content with the straightforward method.
However, as we’ve said, Mullvad has a few shortcomings that many users won’t want to live without. While its connection speeds are comparable to those of IPVanish and CyberGhost, it is not now (and probably will never be) capable of unblocking any streaming services.
The applications also lack key standard usability features like a favorites list or the option to automatically choose the location that is closest or quickest. Additionally, the assistance options available to you in the event of a problem are limited to email or a sparse online knowledge base rather than real-time communication.
You could do worse than Mullvad if you’re searching for a VPN that prioritizes your privacy while yet being transparent.
Superb customization and well-suited for experts
Number of servers: 2,000 | Server locations: 75 | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Excellent OpenVPN and WireGuard speeds
- Good for streaming
- Very configurable Windows app
- Free 2TB Internxt cloud storage
- Mac app is relatively underpowered
- Potentially intimidating design
Hide.Since its launch in 2011, me has earned a name for itself in the VPN community and gained a sizable user base.
Its network size, at roughly 2,000 servers in 75 locations, is average compared to those of competitors like Private Internet Access (PIA), CyberGhost VPN, and NordVPN, but is more than sufficient for any user. Speeds of up to 880 Mbps were achieved in our most recent tests, making for very rapid connections.
Torrenting is supported, DNS leak protection is enabled by default, and the Windows VPN applications from Hide.me are highly customizable. It’s clear that it’s meant for power users, and those with the expertise and patience to sift through the options will be rewarded handsomely.
However, it’s probable that it may be too much for certain people, and that the whole experience won’t be as smooth as with more inviting providers like ExpressVPN; moreover, its Mac capabilities are far poorer than the competition.
It’s also important to note that we ran across some minor technical difficulties with the applications, including a kill switch problem that might put users at risk when switching servers.
The streaming tests we ran with Hide.me were successful. It has access to a wide variety of Netflix regions, as well as BBC iPlayer, Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and more.
Finally, Hide.me has a solid reputation when it comes to protecting users’ privacy, despite the fact that the service hasn’t conducted an audit since 2015 and provided few information about the results. The new free 2TB cloud storage plan from Internxt is nothing to sneeze at, but otherwise it’s a terrific option, particularly if you want to play with your software.
Keep your paws clean with this easy-going VPN
Number of servers: 3,000 | Server locations: 48 | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: No | 30-day money back guarantee: No (but limited free version)
- Extremely user-friendly
- Excellent security guarantees
- Very secure
- Little in the way of features
- Poor for streaming
If you’re new to VPNs and are put off by the complexity of services like Hide.me and IPVanish, TunnelBear may be the best solution for you. You may begin with the free, but severely restricted, plan (500 MB of data per month) or pay for the premium service and have access to more than 3,000 servers located in 48 different countries. For additional information, see our in-depth review of TunnelBear.
However, tunnelbear’s ease of use might also be its undoing. It’s simple to get started with, but so are ExpressVPN and the other best VPNs out there; once you’re comfortable, you can go deeper if you choose. Unfortunately, this is not the case with TunnelBear due to its lack of configuration options and the incomplete integration of the new capabilities that are being created, leading to significant discrepancies.
Some privacy-conscious customers may also be put off by the fact that you must use TunnelBear’s client software unless you’re using Linux, and that you can’t set up TunnelBear connections on routers or other devices. Finally, the Canadian startup TunnelBear has been acquired by US-based antivirus powerhouse McAfee, which might make it vulnerable to US search warrants.
But if you want a VPN that you can configure once and then forget about, TunnelBear is a decent choice.
Another privacy heavyweight worth considering
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 45 in 32 countries | Maximum devices supported: 7 | 24/7 live support: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Zero-logging and audited
- Open source
- Wide range of features
- Can’t unblock streaming sites
Like its predecessor, Mullvad, IVPN is a VPN service that prioritizes user anonymity above other concerns (a good thing), but it also lacks several capabilities that have become standard, such as the ability to access geoblocked content like Netflix. (bad).
You don’t have to provide your email address or any other personal information to join up, and the plans are adjustable, beginning at only a week. The IVPN Pro package, on the other hand, is not cheap. While a 2-year subscription with Surfshark or PIA costs less than a year of IVPN, the latter costs more than a year of ExpressVPN, which is commonly considered to be one of the most premium-priced providers.
However, there is a lot of value for the cost. Ad and tracker blocking, as well as support for paying with Bitcoin, and WireGuard integration, are all common features. Multi-Hop connections and port forwarding are available on the Pro plan, which may be of interest to avid torrent users.
In a nutshell, IVPN competes with Mullvad but stands out because of its hipper branding. If you don’t care about streaming, you should really think about it.
13. Hotspot Shield
Solid VPN with a tempting free plan
Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 130+ in 80+ countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45-day money-back guarantee: Yes (Plus limited free version)
- Decent free version
- Good unblocking performance
- Servers in China and Russia
- Some minor session logging
- Can’t match rivals’ WireGuard speeds
Oh, the fall from grace of the great… Despite its history as one of the top VPN services, our most recent assessment concluded that Hotspot Shield has fallen behind the pack. It’s not that Hotspot is a bad service; it’s just that other providers have improved greatly in the previous several years while Hotspot has remained mostly unchanged.
Hotspot Shield, which still uses its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, reached speeds of up to 375 Mbps during our tests. Even yet, with the introduction and extensive use of WireGuard, it has been one of the slowest major providers.
You’ll have a wide selection of server locations to choose from among the 3,200 available in 80+ countries. To its credit, we also discovered that it successfully unblocked several popular streaming services in addition to Netflix and Prime.
However, it is not quite up to level with the finest because of certain drawbacks, including a subpar help site, greater session tracking than most other VPNs, a kill switch that may fail in severe scenarios (such as if your router reboots), and no independent audit.
So, Hotspot Shield is still a reliable VPN, but it has to improve in order to stay up with the times because of a few minor app glitches, slow peak speeds, some logging, and the ever-improving alternatives.
14. Bitdefender VPN
Antivirus star takes on VPN
Number of servers: 1,300+ | Server locations: 48 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live support: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Increased server spread
- Simple and to the point
- Simple P2P auto-protection
- An absolute bare minimum of features
- Reliant on Hotspot Shield
Bitdefender, one of the leading antivirus (opens in new tab) suppliers, has released a VPN service on its own. Bitdefender VPN was previously only accessible as part of a larger antivirus package, but it is now sold alone and at a very affordable price.
Bitdefender VPN, which is based on the same Catapult Hydra technology as Hotspot Shield, has respectable throughput rates. Bitdefender cannot manually configure Hotspot Shield as a router VPN, and it has limited control over Hotspot Shield’s logging policies.
Depending on your preferences, the ease of use of Bitdefender’s mobile app may be a plus or a minus. You’ll have access to an on/off switch, a list of around 30 server locations, a handy checkbox for further security while engaging in P2P activity, and a fully operational kill switch to prevent data loss in the event of a connection failure. The discussion is over.
Bitdefender’s auto-connect menu is the sole really distinctive feature. The VPN may be configured to launch automatically whenever you access certain types of websites, which can be quite convenient. These include P2P, banking, adult material, dating, and others. Aside from it, though, there isn’t much to recommend this service above the others on our list. Explore more in our in-depth review of Bitdefender VPN. (opens in new tab).
Very cheap, but lacking power
Number of servers: 5,700+ | Server locations: 75+ locations | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live support: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
- Long plans are super cheap
- Tons of extra features
- Netflix, Prime, iPlayer, and Disney+ unblocked
- WireGuard kill switch non-functioning
- A number of bugs in our testing
If you’re willing to commit to a lengthy five-year plan, Ivacy is the most cost-effective VPN service available. The service is very cheap at just around $1 per month, but will Ivacy still be relevant in five years?
Ivacy is a good VPN service overall, and its applications provide a wealth of extra features compared to Bitdefender’s. The program promises to examine downloaded files for malware and lets you filter your servers to find the best ones to use with any certain streaming service. You also get split tunneling and a kill switch, however the kill switch is useless with WireGuard.
However, there are certain problems with the interface that we found unsatisfactory. The default server wasn’t always the one we’d choose, and Streaming Mode presented a number of issues, such as concealed IP addresses and un-switchable servers.
If the monthly cost is your sole worry, though, Ivacy is a significantly better option than what you’d think for the price.