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The best VPNs of 2021 identified and reviewed

Ari Howard

Jun 12, 2021 — 8 min read

Looking for a way to access the internet more securely? A Virtual Private Network may be the solution for you.

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If you are looking for added security when browsing the internet, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is likely what you need. A VPN is a connection method, often used by corporations, that allows verified users to connect to a private network that has been extended across a public network. 

This means that wherever users are connecting from, their computers, smartphones or tablets can privately send and receive data through the VPN’s “encrypted tunnel.” When in this tunnel, users’ IP address and all other sensitive data will be shielded from third parties, such as hackers and even internet service providers (ISPs). This shield even works when connected to public Wi-Fi

Although VPNs have been used for years by large corporations and governments, they have recently become essential in everyday society as an unprecedented number of businesses now work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter who you are, therefore, purchasing a VPN is a great way to stay safe online no matter where you are. 

If you need help setting up your VPN, you can check out our step-by-step tutorial for setting up a VPN. We also have a tutorial for connecting your smartphone to the VPN

The best VPNs all around

Although most VPNs have a lot of the same features, such as strict no-logs policies, unlimited bandwidth, anonymous browsing, IP address masking and more, there are some key differences between each option. Find out our top-ranked VPNs and what type of user each option is best for. 

VPN comparison

How we chose the top VPNs

We assessed over 15 VPN products and narrowed it down to the top four based on a variety of factors. We considered pricing, contract length, availability, VPN connections, speed, encryption, additional security features and more.

We assessed over 15 VPN products and narrowed it down to the top four based on a variety of factors. We considered pricing, contract length, availability, VPN connections, speed, encryption, additional security features and more. The chosen four VPNs all stand out for different reasons, ensuring that no matter what you are looking for, there is a product listed that will satisfy your needs. 

Learn more about our methodology

When it comes to trying to decide if there are specific VPNs that work better with one device type over another, like which VPN is best for iPhones or which is best for Androids. The truth is your manufacturers device doesn’t necessarily matter, instead ask yourself what type of function do I want my VPN to play, and how much do I want to pay for protection? Below we’ve identified the best way to look at which VPN to choose and highlighted the best VPN for the job. Wondering which VPN is best for chrome or which VPN is best for safari? The answer is once again similar to above where the software or internet browser you use does not have a great impact.

Highest security protection: NordVPN

The NordVPN is one of the best options available for a well-priced VPN. There is one plan option but three different contract options: one-month ($11.95/mo.), 1-year ($4.92/mo.) and 2-years ($4.13/mo.). The longer the contract, the more you save. This VPN is available for apps and devices, including Macs, Androids, Windows, iPhones, Chrome, Firefox and more. You can also connect up to six of your devices at a time to the NordVPN and travel to a total of 59 countries. 

The NordVPN has 22 features listed, all of which ensure safe internet browsing and data sharing no matter where you are. The most important feature, however, is the NordVPN’s next-generation encryption. With this advanced encryption methodology, you can be assured that your personal information is completely safe. On top of all that, you are also guaranteed the fastest VPN speeds available with the NordVPN. 

Best for travelers: ExpressVPN 

The ExpressVPN is one of the more robust/extensive/impressive VPNs on the market but also one of the more expensive options available. This VPN is ideal for travelers since the ExpressVPN is available in an impressive 94 countries. This means you are guaranteed protection with your devices in nearly every part of the world. 

Like the NordVPN, there is only one ExpressVPN plan but three contract options to choose from: 1-month ($12.95/mo.), 6-months ($9.99/mo.) and 12-months ($8.32/mo.). The longer-term contract options will save you some money but not as much as other VPN companies offer. There also aren’t any two- or three-year long contract options like many of the other VPNs available. 

With the ExpressVPN you will be able to connect up to five of your devices at a time, which is likely more than enough, but considering the price of the ExpressVPN compared to other products, this is definitely not impressive. Overall, however, the ExpressVPN is one of the best options for a simple interface and strong data protection. 

Best for bargain hunters: CyberGhost 

CyberGhost is arguably the best deal available for VPN products with plans starting as low as $2.25/mo. Plus, CyberGhost is available in 91 countries and can connect up to seven devices at a time. If you are looking for a great deal and willing to sign a long-term contract, CyberGhost is likely the VPN for you. There are four contract options: 1-month ($12.99/mo.), 1-year ($3.99/mo.), 2-year ($3.49/mo.) and 3 years + 3 months ($2.25/mo.). The 3-year and three-month contract makes CyberGhost one of the cheapest options available without sacrificing any of the security features or speeds. There are even cheaper options available on the market but none of those products compete with the quality of CyberGhost. 

CyberGhost is able to protect all devices, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux so no matter which seven devices you want protected, CyberGhost has you covered. CyberGhost also has one of the long trial periods, where you can use Cyberghost for up to 45 days (if you sign a long-term contract) and still get your money back if you decide CyberGhost isn’t for you. 

Best user experience: Tunnelbear 

More than anything, Tunnelbear is known for its adorable bear graphics throughout its website. However, even beyond its eye-catching marketing, Tunnelbear is known for having one of the best user experiences for VPNs. This is because Tunnelbear is unmatched in its simple interface and straightforward setup. If you aren’t too familiar with VPNs, Tunnelbear is a great option for you.

Tunnelbear offers its unlimited plan with three different contract options: 1-month ($9.99/mo.), 1-year ($4.99/mo.) and 3-years ($3.33/mo.). This VPN plan offers unlimited secure browsing, allows up to five connected devices at a time and is available in 41 countries. Although the unlimited plan is what most customers are looking for, there is also a free version. This version of tunnelbear, however, has much slower speeds and is only for limited usage (500 MB of secure browsing). Lastly, if you would like more than one user on the VPN, you also have the option of a team plan, which starts at $5.75/mo. 

Best free VPN: ProtonVPN

If you are looking for a free VPN, your best option is likely ProtonVPN. With the ProtonVPN free plan, you get access to 17 servers in three countries, are able to connect one device to the VPN and are able to receive medium speeds. This is a great option if you only need one device connected to the VPN, such as your computer, and aren’t traveling too frequently. Although there aren’t as many features as some of the other VPN brands, ProtonVPN guarantees privacy and safe browsing. 

What are the limitations of a VPN?

Although a VPN server is a great way to hide your geographic location and avoid data tracking, it doesn’t fully protect you from computer viruses and password hacking. For instance, if you accidentally download a virus onto your computer from the web or give up personal information to scammers, a VPN won’t be able to protect you from the repercussions of these actions. A great addition to a VPN server, therefore, is to download antivirus software and use a password manager. 

Bottom line: Allconnect’s favorite VPN is CyberGhost 

CyberGhost is the most affordable option (besides the ProtonVPN) and it has just as impressive features as some of the more expensive options. You are even able to connect as many as seven devices at a time to the VPN, which is more than any of the other VPNs listed. 

A VPN subscription should not break the bank, so finding one that is reliable, fast and cost-efficient should be your main priority unless you are extremely concerned about security. If the most advanced encryption and security features are a must for you, however, then go with NordVPN. 

What is a VPN and how does it work?

Simply put, a VPN is a connection method with built-in protection and security measures. VPNs are typically used by corporations in order to shield sensitive data from third parties. Personal VPNs have also become popular as more and more users work from home and shop online. 

Before you set up your VPN, it’s important to understand the benefits of this tool to maximize your experience. Depending on the VPN you choose, once you activate it, your VPN will:

Cloak your IP address

Your web traffic will be routed through the VPN’s “encrypted tunnel” and appear to come from the VPN’s server. This will hide your real IP address and essentially, your location — IP addresses are distributed geographically.

Thwart throttling

Throttling” is the process of your internet service provider slowing speed or limiting bandwidth during certain high-speed activities, like HD streaming or gaming. Luckily, your VPN will mask your IP address from online threats and your ISP, which can help keep your speeds consistent no matter what you’re doing with your internet connection.

Encrypt data transfers

A good VPN will “encrypt” or padlock your data so that only permissible computers on either end of the tunnel will be able to “decrypt” or unlock your data.

Bypass web restrictions

Because you’ll be browsing anonymously, you can access websites and applications with geographical restrictions or blocks. These benefits make VPNs especially popular choices in countries where internet censorship is prevalent.

How to choose a VPN

There are a lot of subscription VPN services out there, varying in price, terms of service and even location. Compare and contrast a few important details before you select the right service for you.

  • Paid pays off: A free service has to make their money some way and if they aren’t requiring payment from you, they just might be selling your data to the highest bidder instead. The average VPN can cost $3/mo., so looking at services in that price range isn’t a bad place to start your search.
  • Reviews matter: Look to a credible source for a review on a potential VPN to avoid native advertising. In some cases, the sparkling review you look to as a guiding light could be written by the service themselves.
  • Read the permissions: That “permission agreement” that pops up during setup is more than just a step in the process. Take a good look at the kinds of information the service is asking to access. Also, look at terms of service to see which information the VPN collects and what it’s planning to do with it. Good terms of service statements will plainly state what you can expect from the services, whereas a suspicious VPN will leave an air of mystery around its intent.
  • Encryption is provided: Encryption works to scramble your data so that it’s only legible to permissible parties. Use services that are known to provide maximum security like NordVPN or OpenVPN.
  • Get a “kill switch”: Select a VPN that has a built-in “kill switch” or auto-shutoff if the encrypted connection fails. This feature will stop all network traffic in and out of your computer if your VPN leaves you vulnerable to threats.

Making sure your VPN meets these basic requirements can ensure your data is in the hands of a trustworthy source and not someone looking to sell it.

Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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