Sometimes it’s hard for a VPN to stand out from the crowd. All of them claim watertight security, website unblocking skills, and an array of easy-to-use apps and clients. Some of those boasts are pretty subjective – but figuring out and ranking the fastest VPNs is way more clear cut.
And it’s a very important metric for these services, too. Because VPNs work by sending all your internet traffic via your chosen provider’s secure server (twice, in some cases), that’s a lot of extra potential latency. Thankfully, by going for one of the best fast VPNs, you can pretty much avoid any slow down completely.
Depending on the robustness of the company’s network and the number of servers it offers (with closer servers generally providing better speeds), some VPNs barely impact your connection. And we’ve tested all the top providers out there on their speed to make sure that you can confidently pick out a provider that won’t slow you down – especially if you’re using your service to unblock sites or services and perhaps stream video, where having the fast VPN speed is obviously a priority.
Today’s top 3 best fast VPNs
1. NordVPN – one of the biggest names in VPN
It’s no surprise that one of the most famous names in virtual private networks is also one of the fastest out there. It’s the consistency from region-to-region that really impresses. And NordVPN delivers when it comes to security, usability and streaming service unblocking, too.
2. Hotspot Shield – mega fast in the US
Hotspot Shield has had some of the fastest VPN speeds on the block for some time now – especially stateside. So if your main VPN anxiety is system slow down, then this might just be the provider for you. It also has some of the best prices around, and you can try it risk-free for 45 days first.
3. ExpressVPN – the best overall VPN out there
ExpressVPN is right at the top of our list as the overall best VPN, and a big part of that is down to the speed – and it only seems to be getting faster! In addition, it has superb 24/7 customer support, works on a wide range of devices, is easy to use, and you can currently get it with 3 months extra free.
The fastest VPNs 2021
(Image credit: Future)
One of the biggest names in VPN really delivers
Max US speed tested: 480Mb | Speed test?: No | Number of servers: 5,400+ | Server locations: 80+ | Streaming sites unblocked:: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
NordVPN is fast becoming one of those brand names that’s just synonymous with the product itself – a bit like Hoover or Tannoy. And a good reason for its huge popularity (as well as all the advertising it does) is because of its speed.
When we tested it via US servers, we found connections speeds of up to 480Mb when you use its very own (well, WireGuard-based) NordLynx protocol. Now, there aren’t too many homes around that have broadband as fast as that anyway, so don’t expect your streaming or downloading speeds to suffer very much at all if you have NordVPN switched on in the background.
Unlike in previous years’ testing, we also found that NordVPN has improved things in terms of consistency on global servers, too. The UK speeds we saw, for example, were pretty much on a par with the US. That’s great news for travellers or people trying to access streaming feeds from other countries.
Outside that, NordVPN really comes good in terms of security and privacy. Its no-logs policy is independently audited and it brings features like Double VPN and Onion Over technology to the table to ensure that your private details will never be leaked.
And if you’ve got the need for speed, we reckon it’s because you’re probably looking for a top streaming VPN. Nord has you covered on that front, too – it nails Netflix, unhooks Hulu, delves into Disney+ and unblocks BBC iPlayer.
And there’s some really attractive pricing options available, too – especially if you up your subscription to a multiyear plan.
(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)
2. Hotspot Shield
A trusted VPN with amazing performance
Max speed tested: 450Mb | Speed test?: No | Number of servers: 1,800+ | Server locations: 110+ | Streaming sites unblocked:: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
The Catapult Hydra protocol may sound like the most recent Mission Impossible film, but it’s actually the feature that lets Hotspot Shield shoot towards the top of our list of the fastest VPNs. Log in to pretty much any server and you’ll barely feel any slow down at all when you’re streaming and surfing while Hotpot is keeping you protected in the background.
And that even goes for locations in even the furthest reaches of the world, although it was in the US where we saw the apex of its speeds – it’s 50-100% quicker than what we saw from a lot of the competition!
Of course, the reason you’ve landed on this page is to find out about speed, but Hotspot has so much more going for it as well. It’s really upped its streaming game of late, and we were able to get around the geo-restrictions posed by the likes of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and more.
It also has a 24/7 live chat support service that we found genuinely helpful. But Hotspot is so easy to use that you’ll only rarely need it.
It’s not all rosy – it’s iOS app isn’t exactly the best out there. And that proprietary protocol we mentioned before means that it’s not available to use on as many devices as NordVPN above (think gaming consoles, most Smart TVs, etc).
These won’t matter to everyone, though, and if you’re just looking for raw speed at a very low price then Hotspot Shield is well worth a look.
It’s worth mentioning that Bitdefender Premium VPN also uses the Catapult Hydra and so can attain similar speeds. But Hotspot Shield has the beating of that market-leading antivirus provider when it comes to other VPN features and functionality.
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Best all-round VPN is getting quicker and quicker
Max US speed tested: 630Mb | Speed test?: Yes | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160 | Streaming sites unblocked:: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, BBC iPlayer
ExpressVPN comes in just below Hotspot in our chart – although we ummed and ahhed about putting it all the way to the top.
The two factors most in Express’s favor are the fact that: a) it’s the very best all-round VPN we’ve experienced; and b) when we switched over to its proprietary Lightway protocol, we found peerless US connection speeds of a monumental 630Mb. That’s an astonishing rate, and more than fast enough to ensure that your streaming and general web surfing doesn’t stutter at all when the VPN is switched on.
A nice extra touch is that ExpressVPN offers its own speed test that helps you make sure that you’re connecting to the best possible server. We like that extra dedication to performance!
But ultimately, we found Nord and Hotspot’s speeds to have a better, higher consistency when we did our checking on international servers. In our latest UK test, for example, Express’s speeds were relatively underwhelming (although still no slouch).
Outside pure performance, ExpressVPN has really got things sewn up – from its superb array of apps and clients (it works like a dream on Windows, Mac Linux, Android, iPhone, games consoles, TV streaming devices, routers, and more) to the way it automatically connect to the optimal server so you can experience the best possible performance right from the off.
On the security front, you get a thorough choice of protocol support – including that custom-built Lightway. You get a kill switch, and private ‘zero knowledge’ DNS solution, among other privacy boons. And speaking of privacy, there is no logging of network traffic such as connection times or IP addresses.
If there’s one disadvantage to ExpressVPN, then it’s probably the price – we think ‘reassuringly expensive’ is probably a good way of looking at it. Still, the provider does offer a hassle-free 30-day refund and an extra freebie besides.
(Image credit: CyberGhost)
Great speeds around the globe – with or without WireGuard
Max US speed tested: 450Mb | Speed test?: No | Number of servers: 7,000+ | Server locations: 105+ | Streaming sites unblocked:: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, iPlayer
You’ll often see CyberGhost pop up in our various VPN buying guides. For a while now, it has impressed with the amount of solid features you get – especially on its desktop clients. And although it isn’t quite as strong as the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN on streaming, it’s a fantastic option if that isn’t your primary concern.
It wouldn’t be on this list, of course, unless we’d registered some impressive server speeds in our latest 2021 testing. On regular OpenVPN we clocked top speeds of 150Mb and 400Mb respectively in the US and UK. And when we turned on the WireGuard juice, that went up again to 450Mb and 500Mb. What does that mean in real life? Well, that by having it running along in the background, you’ll barely notice a jot of performance issues.
CyberGhost may have even threatened to climb higher in this chart, but it’s true that the variation in the speed testing was wider than some of the competition above. For example, the lowest speeds we saw were down below the 100Mb-mark (US and UK). So that suggests that you may have times when it does cause an iota of an issue.
With a generous 45-day money back guarantee and excellent pricing on longer-term plans, CyberGhost is very much worth considering.
(Image credit: Speedify)
Fast VPN to leave running in the background
Max US speed tested: 700Mb | Speed test?: No | Number of servers: 200+ | Server locations: 50+ | Streaming sites unblocked:: iPlayer, YouTube
Speedify is another VPN provider that implements its own custom protocol, not even offering support for the usual tools like OpenVPN or the emerging WireGuard.
The result is a service that delivers some of the very fastest VPN speeds on test – we saw a scarcely believable 700Mb in one of our US tests – which means that you can safely run it in the background on your computer or mobile phone, knowing that you’ll retain online anonymity without slowing down your system. We like that.
Now you may notice Speedify’s top speed above, compare it to some of the other provider’s in this list and think: “Hang on a minute… why isn’t it higher up?”. Frankly speaking, it’s because this is a much less versatile and fully formed VPN. To its credit, we suppose, it states very openly on its website that it won’t help you unblock Netflix and the like (and it isn’t lying!). There’s no live chat support, bits and bobs of session logging, and it can sometimes be fiddly to use. That proprietary protocol also makes it a bit of a pain to use on certain, less usual devices.
But if it’s purely the need for speed you have and you’re attracted to Speedify’s reasonable plans, then you could do a lot worse…and slower.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
Fastest VPN FAQ
How to choose the fastest VPN
A lot of VPNs claim to be the fastest around, but as you can imagine, in many cases that’s an idle boast. In this article, we are going to pinpoint the providers that we’ve found really deliver on the performance front, going by our reviews and testing.
Of course, speed isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, and we always expect solid security and privacy from any VPN. As mentioned, broad server coverage is important here in terms of getting a fast and stable connection. And user-friendly native clients never hurt.
Bear in mind that the VPN won’t be the only thing affecting the performance of your internet connection, and this can vary depending on your ISP, the time of day (particularly whether it’s peak traffic times), and also the status of the service or website you’re using.
What is the fastest free VPN?
When it comes to getting the best performance from your VPN, both in terms of speed and other areas, we always recommend paying for your VPN. While free VPN tools are available, it’s wise to err on the side of caution with many only able to maintain the infrastructure to run its VPN by logging and selling your information onto third parties. This means they’re really not as secure as you’d like.
That being said, with Hotspot Shield offering fantastic speeds, it may be worth trying out its free plan option before upgrading to reap the full benefits of its features and extensive list of servers.
Most other VPN services give you a courtesy window to try out the VPN with the safety blanket of an all-your-money-back-guarantee, spanning anywhere from 30 to 45 days.
Is NordVPN or ExpressVPN faster?
In our recent round of testing, NordVPN claimed the top spot as fastest VPN, with its protcol NordLynx securing speeds ranging from 480Mbps up to 820Mbps. ExpressVPN doesn’t trail too far behind with its new Lightway protcol, though, reaching up to 630Mbps.
Need help deciding which to go for? Why not check out our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison piece to help you choose?
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN