Best VPNs in 2021: ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and more!

Best VPNs in 2021: ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and more!

Nowadays, we spend a large proportion of our lives using the internet. But despite all the great things you can do online, the web can also be an unpleasant place. It presents many growing threats, from web tracking to cybercrime. There is a way to clamp down on these issues, though: installing a virtual private network. A VPN will not only conceal your internet protocol address but also encrypt your Wi-Fi connection. You can then access the internet anonymously, protect your data with end-to-end encryption, and ensure cybercriminals can’t compromise your Wi-Fi network.

However, VPNs are capable of much more than merely keeping you safe online. When you connect to global VPN servers, it’s possible to bypass troublesome geographic restrictions and unblock online content across the world. These services can also prevent internet service providers from throttling your internet speeds, improving streaming and gaming performance.

The simple fact is, you can do far more things online by downloading a VPN service on your smartphone, tablet, computer, and other connected devices. But given that hundreds of VPNs exist today, you might be having a hard time picking one. To help you make the right decision, we’ve ranked the best VPNs of 2021.

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Best Overall VPN: ExpressVPN

The ExpressVPN homepage.

ExpressVPN has topped our list of the best VPNs in 2021 due to its simplicity, wide range of features, outstanding performance, large server network, and lots more. Simply put, the British Virgin Islands-based company has all the absolute essentials of a top-class VPN service.

With ExpressVPN, you have over 3,000 servers in 160 global locations at your fingertips. By connecting to one of ExpressVPN’s high-speed servers, you can unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, YouTube, and lots of other streaming services in all parts of the world.

What’s more, ExpressVPN is available on all popular operating systems. You can get its official app on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and other platforms. Its user interface is super easy to navigate, letting you connect to the best available VPN server or browse a list of global VPN servers.

There are lots of other great features offered by ExpressVPN, including a no-logging policy, 256-bit encryption, a built-in kill switch, VPN split tunneling, TrustedServer technology, private DNS, a speed test, how-to guides, 24/7 support, and lots more. But something to remember is that ExpressVPN has a somewhat stringent 5-device limit.

    If you’re looking for the best overall VPN, look no further than Express. It offers lots of great features, outstanding performance, a large global server network, access to top streaming websites, and much more.

Best Affordable VPN: Surfshark

VPNs can do some pretty great things, whether it’s making public Wi-Fi networks more secure or letting you unblock restricted online content. And you may automatically assume that these tools are going to be expensive. But Surfshark is an excellent example of a VPN service that can do all these great things (and lots more) at a cheap price.

For less than $3 per month, Surfshark provides a lot of impressive features. For example, it operates a network of over 3200 servers across 65 countries. Each of these servers is not just fast but also protected by private DNS and a strict no-logging policy. Surfshark claims that its servers are also “P2P friendly”.

When connecting to one of Surfhark’s high-speed VPN servers, you can access streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and many more globally. Surfshark is also pretty unique in that it will let you connect as many devices as you want from one account. That’s certainly useful if you want to stream content on a range of different devices. On that note, Surfshark has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and many other platforms.

But Surfshark isn’t just a great streaming VPN; it’s also excellent for all your security and privacy needs. In fact, it’ll stop malware, phishing, web trackers, and spammy adverts in their tracks. Furthermore, there’s a no-logging policy, a kill switch, private DNS and leak protection, a camouflage mode, a no borders mode, strong 256-bit encryption, and secure protocols.

    For anyone who wants a cheap but effective VPN, your best option is Surfshark. Costing less than $3 per month, it provides an excellent range of features, easy-to-use apps, and impressive performance.

Best Known VPN: NordVPN

If you’re looking for a well-established and trustworthy VPN service to try out in 2021, you should take a look at NordVPN. In fact, maybe you’ve seen NordVPN appear in a television advert at some point; it’s put lots of money into marketing and advertising over the last few years.

NordVPN definitely lives up to its reputation, offering a large network of over 5500 servers in 59 countries globally. You’ll be able to unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, Dazn, and more by connecting to one of Nord’s fast and reliable VPN servers.

Like Surfshark, NordVPN has a useful cybersecurity feature that lets you block malicious websites and irritating adverts. Another impressive security function is double VPN, which will route your online traffic via two VPN servers. NordVPN says this encrypts personal data twice. On top of these unique security features, NordVPN also offers a kill switch, a DNS leak test, Onion Over VPN, and a no-logging policy.

Should you decide to sign up for NordVPN, you can download its official app on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and other types of devices. The quick-connect button is very handy, allowing you to connect to the best VPN server quickly. But you’ll only be able to use the NordVPN app on up to 6 devices with one subscription.

    NordVPN might be known for its fancy TV adverts, but it certainly lives up to its reputation by offering a massive server network, useful security features, and much more.

Best Free VPN: Hotspot Shield

For anyone who doesn’t have the money to spend on a premium VPN app and is instead looking for a top-class VPN service that won’t cost a single penny, further than Hotspot Shield. The free version of Hotspot Shield provides impressive features, including military-grade encryption, a kill switch, several VPN protocols, and 500MB of data to use every day.

Unfortunately, you can only connect to one server (which is located in the US) and use a single device with a free Hotspot Shield account. But that should be fine if there’s a specific website you want to unblock, or if you’d like to try out Hotspot Shield before signing up for a paid subscription. Premium subscriptions start at $7.99, which is pretty expensive.

But Hotspot Shield is also one of the fastest VPN services on the market, claiming to reach speeds twice as fast as its rivals. In terms of other features, Hotspot Shield provides unlimited bandwidth, the patented Hydra protocol, apps for different operating systems, 24/7 support, and a large 45-day refund period.

    Hotspot Shield
    Not everyone can afford to pay for a premium VPN service, but Hotspot Shield offers one of the best free VPN services on the market. It provides so much at no cost, from a kill switch to 500MB of daily data.

Best VPN with loads of servers: Private Internet Access

When it comes to choosing a VPN service, one of the key things to consider is the number of servers it offers. Generally, the best VPN services provide large server networks, and Private Internet Access offers a jaw-dropping 24,364 servers in 77 countries.

Thanks to such a large selection of global servers, you should find it really easy to unblock restricted websites and streaming services all over the globe. In fact, Private Internet Access works with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and lots of other streaming platforms.

By installing Private Internet Access on your devices, you’ll be able to protect yourself from malware, web trackers, and unwanted advertisements. You also have a wide variety of VPN protocols, including WireGuard, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec.

Other great features provided by Private Internet Access include P2P support, the ability to use up to ten devices under one subscription, unlimited bandwidth, a no traffic logging policy, instant setup, a SOCKS5 proxy, and a wide range of apps. Premium subscriptions are also pretty reasonable, with the two-year plan working out as just $2.69 per month.

    Private Internet Access
    There’s a lot you can do with a large VPN server network, and Private Internet Access offers a humongous 24,000 servers around the world.

Alternate Option: IPVanish

Another VPN service you’ll want to consider is IPVanish, which offers lots of good features at a fairly affordable price. While IPVanish operates a smaller 1,600 server network than the other VPN services mentioned in this list, its servers are very reliable and provide access to popular online services like Netflix, YouTube, Kodi, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and Spotify in any part of the globe.

But it’s worth mentioning that many people have reported issues trying to access Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer with IPVanish. So, naturally, you’ll need a different VPN service if you want to unblock those websites. Despite this, IPVanish proves it’s still a competent VPN service thanks to features like strong encryption, unmetered connections, zero data transfer caps, shared IP addresses, a zero traffic logging policy, a proxy web server, different connection protocols, 24/7 support, multi-platform software, and more.

    IPVanish is another highly respected VPN service to consider, offering a decently sized server network and lots of different features.

As you can see, there’s a VPN service available for all users, needs, and budgets. Regardless of the provider, a VPN service will ensure you’re always secure while using the internet and provide access to lots more great online content. But if we had to choose one provider, it’d definitely be ExpressVPN thanks to its wide variety of international servers, easy-to-use apps, fantastic performance, and an impressive array of comprehensive features.

About author

Nicholas Fearn
Nicholas Fearn

Nicholas is currently Features Editor at XDA-Developers, where he writes about everything from the latest Huawei smartphones to the best VPN services. With a technology journalism career spanning nearly seven years, he’s previously written for publications such as the FT, Forbes, Engadget, The Next Web, TechRadar, Android Central, Windows Central, iMore, Tom’s Guide, Laptop Mag, Macworld, Computer Weekly, IT Pro, and many others. As well as being a tech fanatic, he’s also a diehard Mariah Carey fan. He tweets at @nicholasgfearn.