Best VPN services in January 2023

Best Vpn Hero Blue
(Image credit: Android Central)

Since you've made it here, you probably already know that there are hundreds of VPN providers out there, all claiming to be the best. But what makes for the absolute best VPN? Some may say it's overall performance, others might praise flat-out speeds, while others might be all-in on security features. No matter what your feature of choice may be, all the top providers have something to offer.

From streaming to gaming to torrenting, the best VPN can keep your location hidden, your security tight and your speeds intact. Beyond that, you'll be able to access geo-blocked content, keep your online data safe and sound and even use certain websites you typically wouldn't have access too. 

Sure, it all sounds great on paper, but what is the absolute best VPN of the bunch? Read on as we break down our picks for top of the pops and help you decide which VPN service is the one to go with. 

Today's best VPN services

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

1. ExpressVPN - best VPN service in 2022 (opens in new tab)

1. ExpressVPN - best VPN service in 2022 (opens in new tab)
ExpressVPN comes in strong as our top overall pick for best VPN. Not only is its security top-notch, but speeds are great, customer support is second to none and there are some added perks as well. Yes, you'll be paying more for ExpressVPN than some other comparable providers, but in this case, it's very much getting what you pay for. You can even try it for 30-days risk-free.

2. NordVPN - the biggest name in the business (opens in new tab)

2. NordVPN - the biggest name in the business (opens in new tab)
You've heard the name. NordVPN is one of the most well-known providers out there. With consistent speeds, extra privacy features like 'Double VPN' and easy to use apps, it's no wonder you always here the name. There are plenty of features to love with NordVPN, and signing up for a longer term will net you even more value.

3. Surfshark - easy to use VPN that's great value (opens in new tab)

3. Surfshark - easy to use VPN that's great value (opens in new tab)
Surfshark continues to be a rising star, most recently crowning the list of fastest VPN (opens in new tab) in testing. Features are abundant here, with excellent unblocking, robust security features and clean interfaces with its apps. Surfshark won't disappoint, and can also go easy on the wallet when you pay for multiple months. 

There are so many options out there, some of which are free VPNs or cheap VPNs, but unfortunately not all of them are created equally. Worry not, though, as we've done the hard work for you with this guide. Doing your research to pick the absolute best VPN service is crucial in your overall experience, but that can be a time-consuming task. Worry not, though, as we've done the hard work for you with this guide.

Most of the best VPN providers allow the services to be used on popular devices like gaming consoles, PCs, laptops, phones, routers, and even web browsers like Chrome. Many of them connect in as little as one click, making it easy to use and understand.

If you will be trusting a VPN to help anonymize your web traffic and help keep you safe online, you'll want to make sure it is a reputable service. So much of our personal lives are spent online, like checking your bank account, paying bills, keeping up with friends on Facebook, emails, and more. This is all sensitive traffic, and you don't want it falling into the wrong hands. Maybe all you want is the ability to stream a show that's not airing locally to you, and a VPN can help with that as well.

We've gone through hundreds of VPN services and have narrowed down a list to just the absolute best VPN services that you should trust in 2022.

ExpressVPN

Expressvpn Devices

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The single best VPN service for almost everyone

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 3,000+
Server Locations: 160 in 94 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Superb 24/7 live chat customer service
+
Fast & reliable connections
+
Lots of international locations
+
Netflix unblocking

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than some competitors
-
Limited to five devices simultaneously

NordVPN

Best VPN Service - NordVPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

Best server options of any popular VPN

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, Hulu
Servers: 5,500+
Server Locations: 80+ in 60 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Over 5,500 servers
+
2048-bit encryption
+
Multiple plan options

Reasons to avoid

-
User experience issues
-
No router app

Surfshark

Best VPN Service - Surfshark

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark VPN

Best VPN service for those on a budget

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Amazon
Servers: 3,200+
Server Locations: 100+ in 65 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Over 3,000 servers available
+
Supports unlimited connections
+
Company based in British Virgin Islands
+
30-day money-back guarantee

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as fast as top two
-
Inconsistent performance

ProtonVPN

Best VPN Service - ProtonVPN

(Image credit: Proton VPN)

4. ProtonVPN

Best security-focued VPN provider

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 1,200+
Server Locations: 80+ in 55 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Based in Switzerland
+
Many servers utilize 10 Gbps connections
+
Has great free plan with unlimited bandwidth

Reasons to avoid

-
Free plan users are deprioritized during peak hours

PIA

Best VPN Service - PIA VPN

(Image credit: PIA VPN)

5. PIA VPN

Best beginner VPN option

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 35,000+
Server Locations: 95+ in 78 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Tons of servers
+
Easy to use apps
+
No data limits
+
Supports 10 devices at once

Reasons to avoid

-
Based in the U.S.

CyberGhost

Best VPN Service - Cyberghost

(Image credit: Cyberghost)

6. CyberGhost VPN

Best streaming VPN with easy one-click connections

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 6,800+
Server Locations: 110+ in 90 countries
Trial Period: 45 days

Reasons to buy

+
Over 6,900 servers available
+
Based in Romania & Germany
+
Automatic server matching for geo-restricted content unblocking
+
45-day money-back guarantee on 3-year plan

Reasons to avoid

-
Connection speeds are slower than competition

Hotspot Shield

Best VPN Service - Hotspot Shield

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

7. Hotspot Shield VPN

Best free VPN service with lots of features

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
Servers: 3,200+
Server Locations: 115 in 80+ countries
Trial Period: 45 days

Reasons to buy

+
Consistent speeds
+
Great customer support
+
Unlimited bandwidth each month
+
45-day money-back guarantee

Reasons to avoid

-
No longer supports OpenVPN protocol
-
Mobile apps not as powerful as desktop

IPVanish

Best VPN Service - IPVanish

(Image credit: IPVanish)

8. IPVanish VPN

Best VPN with free cloud storage

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, Hulu
Servers: 1,900+
Server Locations: 75+ in 52 countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Over 40,000 shared IP addresses
+
Great app interface
+
Now offers unlimited devices to be connected simultaneously
+
Cloud storage bundle

Reasons to avoid

-
No BBC iPlayer / Prime Video unblocking
-
No iOS kill switch

TunnelBear

Best VPN Service - Tunnelbear

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

9. TunnelBear VPN

Best easy-to-use VPN option

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 3,000+
Server Locations: 40+ countries
Trial Period: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
App is super simple to use
+
Uses independent specialists to conduct audits
+
Apps available for major platforms

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited server locations

PureVPN

Best VPN Service - PureVPN

(Image credit: PureVPN)

10. PureVPN

Worth trying out

Specifications

Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube
Servers: 6,500+
Server Locations: 180+ in 140 countries
Trial Period: 31 days

Reasons to buy

+
Over 6,500 servers
+
Round-the-clock customer support
+
Works with almost every device & browser

Reasons to avoid

-
Middling speeds

How to pick the best VPN

What's the best VPN for you?

Finding the best VPN service for you is not quite as difficult as it may seem at first glance. There are a few things that you will want to consider when purchasing a new VPN subscription for yourself, so let's break them down now to help you decide.

First up, you will want to make sure you find is a VPN provider that has a good app that's easy to use, which we've considered strongly in our rating of the below services. Nearly all the best VPN options will work on Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, Fire TV Sticks, gaming consoles, and more. This is important because the app is something you'll interact with daily to connect to the services, so if it's not easy to use, it may prevent you from wanting to use the service in general.

Another thing you will want to consider is how many devices can be used by your subscription at the same time, whether the company offers strong customer support for when you run into an issue, and the overall cost of the service that you are signing up for. The best VPN services vary in cost big time and range anywhere from $2 per month up to over $6 per month. Our top pick, ExpressVPN, happens to be one of the more expensive, while Surfshark makes the top three but is one of the cheapest.

When trying to pick the best VPN provider for yourself, there are numerous things to consider. Encryption is one of the most important features of a VPN, and one of the main uses for most people. Think about how much time you spend online each day. You enter banking details, credit cards, passwords, and more all around the web, and sometimes from an unsecured public connection. Using a VPN, you can keep all that data secure as it's passed from your phone through the virtual tunnels of the internet.

Another great VPN use is that you can easily connect to a server in a different location than where you are. This is called "spoofing", and it makes it appear as though your traffic is coming from somewhere it isn't actually. That means you can access local content like concerts, sporting events, news, and even things like Netflix libraries.

The hardest part about a VPN is not actually using it, but instead understanding which one to pick for yourself. Nowadays, you can find tons of different VPN options, some of which are free and others that are paid. Some of them have data limits, and others cap the number of simultaneous connections, and picking out the best VPN is not an easy task. Don't panic, though. We've done the hard part and have put various options through their paces so that we could break it down for you. Our top pick, for a number of reasons which are listed below, is ExpressVPN (opens in new tab). It provides the best overall balance between price, speed, reliability, ease of use, and customer service.

What about the other VPN companies?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other VPN providers. It seems like a new VPN provider pops up each week, and some of them make some pretty crazy promises. We've tested a ton to decide which is the best overall.

We'd recommend sticking to one of the options mentioned here when you get started with a VPN. We are constantly looking at new offerings, reviewing our picks on this list, and ensuring that the information included in this guide is as accurate as possible.

VPN FAQ

VPN Search Bar

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're in the market for a VPN and need a little more information on exactly what a VPN is, what you can use a VPN for, and some basics like that, we have you covered. There are a lot of competitors covered above, but picking the right one for you is dependent on your needs. Let's take a look deeper into VPNs and help you decide which one to buy.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. The idea behind it is to add an extra layer of security to whichever network you are trying to connect to, be it your home broadband, public Wi-Fi, or your mobile connection. It allows you to send and receive data privately while connecting to that network.

Once connected, your traffic is routed through a "tunnel" which encrypts the data so that outside eyes can't sleuth it. The protection prevents people from being able to not only see what is happening, but also prevents them from knowing where it is happening from.

In addition to adding security, you can use a VPN to "spoof" your location by connecting to a server that's based in a different location. This means you'd be able to bypass some geographic restrictions and view content that you may not have been able to otherwise.

How do VPNs work?

Though it seems complicated at first, a VPN works in a pretty simple manner. Behind the scenes, the VPN provider routes your traffic through a set of servers that can then protect it via encryption and change its location. That means others can't see what you are doing on public connections.

Instead of going from your device to the website, a VPN adds a middle step. Now the pathway actually looks goes from your device to secure VPN servers then ends up at the website.

All of this is done in the background once you are connected to the service and a server, adding very little lag to the process. One of the coolest parts is that you can be sitting in an airport in New York and connect to a server in Europe, without having to move. You'd think that this extra step could slow your speeds, or put a delay in getting things done, but many of the best VPN providers offer fast speeds and reliable connections, so you barely notice that it's even connected in the background.

VPN Flow

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In most areas of the world, VPNs are perfectly legal. Some countries have put bans in place to restrict VPNs as a whole, and others have limitations on their use cases, though these generally apply to people who live there not travel there.

For the countries that do restrict VPN uses, there are oftentimes some providers that are specifically approved for use there. This means that you may not have as many options, but some are better than none. For example, in China companies have to get Chinese government approval, and those who use unapproved VPNs can be fined heavily.

On the other hand, in the United Arab Emirates, things are far more serious. The fine for using a VPN (any of them) is over half a million dollars, and you can be sentenced to jail time.

If you are unsure of the legalities of a VPN where you live, be sure to seek some information from local authorities before getting one installed.

Is a VPN worth it?

Having a VPN is an intelligent choice to make these days, especially if you travel a lot and spend any time at all on public Wi-Fi spots (think airport lounges or your local coffee shop). These don't offer any of their own security measures, so you'll want to make sure your data is safe while you use it.

So much of our day-to-day activity is done online. Think about how many times you've accessed bank information from a public network, or logged into your most personal accounts from the airport. All of it is unprotected, and in the hands of the wrong people, it could be bad news for you.

In most cases, a VPN is a nominal cost each month, and there are even some free options that are definitely worth considering. For the price of a cup of coffee, or a fast-food lunch, you could add protection to all your browsing sessions for the whole month. If you do the cost-benefit analysis yourself, you'd probably come down on the side of wanting a VPN.

What are the best VPN uses?

There are many use cases for having a VPN, though there are two huge ones that most people will be drawn to. The first use is for additional security and privacy a VPN to secure their traffic, especially when connecting to public and open Wi-Fi. This is becoming a more popular requirement in the business world, where people are constantly traveling. Many companies require the use of a VPN to access the company's intranet and services.

Alternatively, many will use a VPN to be able to connect to a server in a different location to access content that may be regionally blocked. This is known as "spoofing" your location, and it allows you to do things like watch Netflix, Disney+, and more from anywhere even if it isn't officially supported where you live.

VPN Phone Tablet Laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Is a paid VPN better than a free VPN?

Many VPN companies these days offer both free and paid VPN options, but when you opt for the free one, you make some sacrifices. Most of the time, the free versions allow for fewer devices to be connected at the same time, slower speeds, fewer servers, and limits on data usage per month.

Some services, like ProtonVPN, offer unlimited data but will offer better speeds to paying customers during peak times. Windscribe allows you to score extra data each month by referring friends and tweeting about the service, so there are definitely ways to live with a free VPN, you just need to be a bit more aware of the limitations and factor those into your decision-making.

Upgrading to a paid plan ensures that you see no ads, oftentimes means that there are no data limits, and many companies offer unlimited connections as well.

Any VPN (free or paid) is better than no VPN at the end of the day. Give a free service a shot to see if it works out for you, and if you are happy with it, then maybe you should consider upgrading to a paid option for an even better experience.

What to look for when picking a VPN?

There's a whole lot of information above about different VPN providers, but knowing what's important to look for isn't always easy. We've broken it down into a few easy things that everyone should be focused on when researching different VPN providers.

  • Does the provider have servers in the country you need? Sometimes you are looking to watch specific content, or you only want to be able to connect to local servers, and every single VPN provider operates in different areas. Pure server count isn't always the biggest factor in determining speed or reliability — be sure to look specifically at the locations.
  • Can you connect everything you want at the same time? Some providers offer only one connection at a time, while others offer more spaces or even an unlimited amount. This is critical because you don't want to be worrying about disconnecting one device to protect another. Get one that works for everything you need it to, or even one that can run on your router to cover all the devices in your home.
  • What is the logging policy? Many providers have a "no-logging" policy, but that doesn't always mean the same thing to each of them. Be sure to read through their FAQ and take a look at the privacy policy so that you totally understand what information (if any) is being collected when you use the service, and how it is used.
  • Are you comfortable with the pricing structure? Prices vary from free to $10 or more per month for some services. The longer you commit to using the service (buying a one- or three-year plan) the cheaper you can get the per-month rate. It may prove worth spending a little more upfront to keep yourself protected for a longer period of time, for less. Most have trial periods or money-back guarantees, too.

Can a VPN unblock regional content?

One of the big selling points for many people is that you can use your VPN to spoof your location, meaning that you can access content that may not be available locally where you are at that moment. This is great for those who frequently travel and want to keep up with local shows.

Depending on your service of choice, you can use it to unblock content from Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and much more. Normally, you just need to connect to the VPN, then select a server based where the content you want to watch is streaming, and then you can watch it like you are in that country.

Some VPN services, particularly those with fewer servers, may have issues when it comes to unblocking some streaming content as their servers may be blacklisted by the content provider if they wish to stop this process.

Should I use a VPN on my phone?

In an ideal world, you would use a VPN on every device that connects to the internet. This is the absolute best way to keep yourself and your data safe from tracking, hacking, and more.

Luckily, every one of the VPNs mentioned in this best VPN guide offers mobile apps, which means you can easily get started using it on your iPhone or Android device. We've also rounded up the best VPNs for Android along with the best VPN for iPhone, so be sure to check those out.

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Adam Zeis
Editorial Director - High Yield

After getting his start writing about BlackBerry in 2008, Adam is the Editorial Director of High-Yield content at Future. Leading an outstanding team, he oversees many of the articles the publisher produces about subscriptions and services – VPN, TV streaming and antivirus software. From buying guides and how to watch content, to deal news and in-depth reviews. Adam's work can be seen on numerous Future brands including TechRadar, Tom's Guide, T3, TTR, Android Central, iMore and Real Homes.