Fastest VPNs 2022

All VPNs slow down your internet to some degree, some much more than others. It’s a sacrifice you make for a more private and secure internet connection or for streaming your favorite shows from any location. We’ll show you the fastest VPN experience along with a few tricks to maximize your speed that won’t cost you anything.

We’ll go into detail about how we test VPN speeds and the merits of individual providers. However, if you are just looking for a list of recommended VPNs for fast downloading or streaming, we have summarized our top picks here:

These are the fastest VPNs based on our speed tests:

  1. CyberGhost: The fastest VPN we’ve tested. Beginner-friendly service that’s great for streaming. No logs and strong encryption. Comes with a 45-day risk-free money-back guarantee.
  2. IPVanish: High speeds on a Tier-1 network. Private, secure, and easy to use. Unlimited simultaneous connections.
  3. ExpressVPN: A new proprietary protocol called Lightway vastly improves bandwidth. It works with a wide range of streaming services, uses strong security, and works in China.
  4. NordVPN: Huge speed improvements thanks to a new protocol dubbed NordLynx. The fourth-fastest VPN on this list but the best all-rounder for speed, streaming and privacy.
  5. Surfshark: Budget performer with unlimited simultaneous connections. A recent upgrade to Wireguard more than doubled its speed in 2022. Try it with a risk-free, 30-day, money-back guarantee.
  6. Atlas VPN: A newcomer with high speeds that’s great for streaming.
  7. UltraVPN: Another newer VPN with fast speeds and strong security.
  8. Private Internet Access: A fast VPN that emphasizes privacy and security above all else.
  9. StrongVPN: Fast VPN connection speeds combined with strong security and easy-to-use apps.
  10. PrivateVPN: Smaller server network, but good security and adept at securely accessing streaming sites.
  11. ProtonVPN: Good internet speeds for users who also value their privacy.
  12. Hotspot Shield: One of the easiest to use VPNs available, HSS has made big strides in both performance and privacy.
  13. TunnelBear: An easy-to-use VPN with fast connection speeds and a limited free tier.

Fastest VPNs 2022

Below we’ve listed our top twelve fastest VPNs tested in the last year, out of a total of nearly two dozen premium providers. Our speed tests factor largely into this list, but other non-quantifiable parameters based on our personal experience are also taken into consideration. These include how well they stream HD video and games online.

Note that the evaluations of speeds disclosed aren’t necessarily indicative of the performance you’ll experience on your device and are only intended to provide context between providers.

1. CyberGhost

CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost‘s latest update brought a huge speed boost, launching the VPN to the top of our test results. We recorded an average download speed of 548 Mbps across all locations and times tested. Much of that improvement is thanks to the adoption of Wireguard, a faster and more efficient VPN protocol that doesn’t sacrifice security.

CyberGhost is great for streaming region-locked content from abroad. It works with Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more. And with speeds like this, you can enjoy viewing everything in 4K UHD resolution.

CyberGhost adheres to a no-logs policy and uses strong encryption to keep your online activities private.

You can connect up to seven devices at a time on a single plan, with apps available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Fire TV, and Linux.

CyberGhost speed test data

No valueCyberGhost
Websitewww.Cyberghost.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)853 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)480 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)312 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.29
SAVE 82% on the 3 year plan + 3 months FREE

CyberGhost and Speedtest screenshot

Pros:

  • Fastest VPN
  • Great for streaming
  • Strong security
  • No logs
  • Live chat support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t reliably work from China or UAE

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

FASTEST VPN:CyberGhost is the fastest VPN we’ve tested yet, and it doesn’t skimp on streaming or security, either. It comes with a risk-free 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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2. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish’s recent upgrade to the Wireguard protocol resulted in massive speed improvements. It averaged 488 Mbps in our tests, which is more than enough for even the most bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing and live streaming in HD and 4K. IPVanish doesn’t put a limit on how many devices you can connect at once, either.

In addition to speed, IPVanish also has security. It’s leak proof, meets all of our encryption standards, and doesn’t keep any identifying logs.

IPVanish isn’t the most adept when it comes to accessing streaming services. It works with US Netflix, but you’ll want to test it out using the money-back guarantee before committing if you plan on streaming other services.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire TV.

IPVanish speed test data

No valueIPVanish
Websitewww.IPVanish.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)580 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)456 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)352 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.50
SAVE 77% on the 2 year plan

ipvanish speed test 2021

Pros:

  • Exceptional speeds
  • Very secure
  • No logs
  • Unlimited connections
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Doesn’t unblock some popular streaming services
  • Based in USA

Our score:

4 out of 5

RUNNER UP:IPVanish outperformed the competition in our latest round of speed tests without compromising users’ privacy. Try it out with a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested to date with an average global download speed of 475 Mbps. While many VPNs jumped on the Wireguard bandwagon to increase their speeds, ExpressVPN aimed higher. It created its own open-source protocol dubbed Lightway, which has resulted in huge speed increases, double and even triple the bandwidth of OpenVPN, without sacrificing digital security or privacy.

ExpressVPN is a great all-round VPN. It works with a wide range of streaming services including Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. It works in China. Robust security includes strong encryption, data leak prevention, and a kill switch. ExpressVPN keeps no identifying logs. Live chat support is available 24/7, year-round.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, and certain wi-fi routers.

ExpressVPN speed test data

No valueExpressVPN
Websitewww.ExpressVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)472 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)499 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)453 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan

expressvpn speed

Pros:

  • Fast speeds
  • Strong security
  • No identifying logs
  • Can securely access all of your usual services
  • Works in China

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than rivals

FAST VPN:ExpressVPN is the one of the fastest VPN we've tested yet, and it performs well on all other fronts, too. Try it with a risk-free, 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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4. NordVPN

NordVPN Sep 2022

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN pegged an average download speed of 369 Mbps across all times and locations tested. Its rise to near the top of our list is largely due to the launch of NordLynx, a custom VPN protocol built on Wireguard that delivers data more efficiently without impacting security or privacy. NordLynx nearly doubled NordVPN’s throughput in our latest tests.

NordVPN performs well in other areas, too. It works well with a wide range of streaming services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video. This provider’s security consists of uncrackable military-grade encryption, an app-specific internet kill switch, and airtight leak protection.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Fire TV.

NordVPN speed test data

No valueNordVPN
Websitewww.NordVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)460 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)349 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)299 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.09
SAVE 62% + 3 months FREE

NordVPN speed test.

Pros:

  • Faster VPN
  • Works with most streaming services
  • Works in China, UAE
  • Strong security
  • Zero logs privacy policy

Cons:

  • No kill switch on Android
  • Streaming servers aren’t labeled

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

ALL-ROUND FAST VPN:A well-rounded VPN that outperforms the most of competition by a wide margin in our speed tests. Best combination of speed, features, security and value for money. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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5. Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark’s latest adoption of the Wireguard protocol has resulted in huge speed improvements. It averaged 324 Mbps in our tests. This budget-friendly VPN allows for an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, making it a great option for a family or group of housemates with lots of devices.

Surfshark’s security meets all of our standards, and it keeps no logs. It’s great for streaming Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+, among others. Live chat support is available around the clock.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Fire TV.

Surfshark speed test data

No valueSurfshark
Websitewww.Surfshark.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)317 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)253 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)400 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.21
Get 3 Months FREE with a 2-year plan

surfshark speed test

Pros:

  • One of the fastest VPNs
  • Unlimited connections
  • Works in China
  • Great streaming potential

Cons:

  • Some inconsistent speeds
  • Smaller network than rivals

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

FAST ON A BUDGET:Surfshark is the 5th fastest provider we’ve tested and the only one to allow unlimited connections. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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6. Atlas VPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android

Website:  www.atlasvpn.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

This newcomer impressed us with its fast speeds and ability to access a huge range of streaming services. It averaged 247 Mbps in our latest tests. As with most of the other VPNs on this list, it defaults to the Wireguard protocol. Like IPV and Surfshark, a single plan covers an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.

Atlas is still a bit bare when it comes to features, doesn’t work in China, and its customer service could use some improvement. But if you just want a fast VPN that can stream anything from (almost) anywhere, it’s a solid choice.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

Atlas VPN speed test data

No valueAtlas VPN
Websitewww.atlasvpn.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)349 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)180 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)212 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$1.99
SAVE 82% on a 3 year plan

Atlas_VPN - Speedtest Screenshot

Pros:

  • Very fast
  • Works with most streaming services
  • Good security
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Customer support is slow and unresponsive
  • Doesn’t work in China
  • Limited features

Our score:

4 out of 5

STREAM FAST:Atlas VPN is a great choice if you want to stream high quality video from region-locked services. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Atlas VPN review.

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7. UltraVPN

UltraVPN is a newer entrant to the VPN space that burst onto the scene with high speeds and strong security. It averaged 211 Mbps in our tests when using the proprietary Hydra protocol. The server network is smaller than most VPNs on this list, but it does cover 85 countries. It unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Disney+, among others. All connections are secured with 256-bit AES encryption and data leak protection.

Apps are available for Windows, Android, MacOS, and iOS, and UltraVPN allows up to six simultaneous connections.

UltraVPN speed test data

No valueUltraVPN
Websitewww.ultravpn.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)236 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)209 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)187 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE 60% on the 1 year plan

UltraVPN speed test average image

Pros:

  • Fast connections
  • Works with many streaming services
  • Covers 85 countries
  • Six simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Hydra protocol is not open source
  • Stores device identifiers
  • Android app could use improvement

ULTRA FAST:UltraVPN is a solid VPN to improve your security and access streaming services without slowing down your connection. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full UltraVPN review.

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Editor’s note: UltraVPN is part of Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.

8. Private Internet Access

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.PrivateInternetAccess.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Private Internet Access impressed us with high connection speeds across the board, averaging 94 Mbps across all times and locations. This secure, no-logs service is great for improving your online privacy without sacrificing speed. On the downside, it’s not as useful for accessing worldwide content, and it has relatively few server locations compared to ExpressVPN. Live chat support is available on the website.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.

Private Internet Access speed test data

No valuePrivate Internet Access
Websitewww.PrivateInternetAccess.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)93 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)58 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)200 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 year plan

pia speed test

Pros:

  • Impressive security features and privacy protections
  • Keep no logs, DNS leak protection and internet kill switch are activated
  • Up to 5 device connections at the same time

Cons:

  • Unable to access some popular streaming sites
  • Doesn’t work reliably in China

Our score:

4 out of 5

SECURE AND FAST:Private Internet Access is a veteran VPN provider that offers secure streaming and high-speed connections. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PIA review.

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9. StrongVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.StrongVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

StrongVPN actually surprised us when conducting our speed tests and scored above average overall: 71 Mbps. Just as it was starting to show its age, an app redesign and fast servers have brought it back into the limelight. It’s not the best for streaming content, but it will keep you safe and your online activity private.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

StrongVPN speed test data

No valueStrongVPN
Websitewww.StrongVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)101 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)53 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)59 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.66
Save 63% on an annual plan

strongvpn speed test ss

Pros:

  • Easy to use apps
  • Above-average speed
  • Works in China
  • Global server location network
  • No logs

Cons:

  • Lacks manual setup support
  • Relatively few server locations

Our score:

4 out of 5

FAST AND EASY:StrongVPN is super simple to use and faster than the average VPN. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of StrongVPN.

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10. PrivateVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PrivateVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

PrivateVPN punches above its weight class and earns its place among the best high speed VPN providers around with an average global download speed of 71 Mbps, just a hair slower than StrongVPN. Despite its newcomer status, PrivateVPN handles everything from 4K UHD video streams to large file downloads with ease. It’s also competitive when it comes to online security, design, and ability to securely access worldwide online content from abroad like Netflix and Hulu.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Up to six device connections at a time.

PrivateVPN speed test data

No valuePrivateVPN
Websitewww.PrivateVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)94 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)57 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)62 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.00
SAVE 82% on the three year plan

Speed test.

Pros:

  • Very fast
  • Great for streaming sites like Netflix
  • Good personal security and no logs
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Smaller server network than others

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

STREAM SAFELY:PrivateVPN lets you watch high-quality video from abroad and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of PrivateVPN.

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11. ProtonVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.protonvpn.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN is a provider mainly known for its high standards of privacy and security, but the service is fast, too. It averaged 66 Mbps globally in our speed tests. Several tiers of service are on offer. Security is airtight thanks to leak protection, a kill switch, and military-grade encryption.

ProtonVPN works with US Netflix but isn’t great at securely accessing other region-locked streaming services. It allows peer-to-peer filesharing and never logs any of your online activity.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

ProtonVPN speed test data

No valueProtonVPN
Websitewww.protonvpn.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)60 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)70 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)67 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$5.28
SAVE 50% on a two-year plan

ProtonVPN speed test.

Pros:

  • Good speeds
  • Strong security
  • No logs
  • Works with Netflix

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t work in China
  • Struggles with some popular streaming services
  • No live chat support

FAST AND PRIVATE:ProtonVPN is a solid option for users who want speed without sacrificing privacy or security. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full ProtonVPN review.

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12. Hotspot Shield

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Hotspotshield.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.

Hotspot Shield is not a VPN we would have recommended five years ago, but it’s since been acquired by new parent company Pango and has made vast improvements to both privacy and performance. It uses a proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra, which it claims offers better speeds and comparable security to OpenVPN and IKEv2. According to our latest tests, Hotspot Shield’s average download speed was 63 Mbps.

HSS works in China, has no issue with most streaming services, has plenty of physical location options, and uses strong encryption.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Fire TV, and Linux.

Hotspot Shield speed test data

No valueHotspot Shield
Websitewww.Hotspotshield.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)207 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)195 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)189 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Hotspot Shield speed test.

Pros:

  • Fast speeds
  • Big server network
  • Good for streaming TV
  • Works in China

Cons:

  • Kill switch only on Windows app
  • Some IPv6 and WebRTC leaks
  • On the pricier side

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

NEW AND IMPROVED:Hotspot Shield offers a competitive service that anyone can set up and use in just a few minutes. Comes with a hefty 45-day money-back guarantee.

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13. TunnelBear

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android

Website:  www.Tunnelbear.com

Money-back guarantee: 7 DAYS

TunnelBear has risen in the ranks of the fastest VPNs with an average download speed of 61 Mbps. It’s the only VPN on this list with a free version, though it’s capped at 500 MB per month. This is a novice-friendly VPN with easy-to-use apps for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, plus a handy Chrome extension.

TunnelBear employs strong encryption and sticks to a strict no-logs privacy policy. It doesn’t reliably work with streaming services like Netflix, but it’s a solid option for torrenting, private browsing, and bypassing censorship in places like China. You can connect up to a maximum of five devices at once.

TunnelBear speed test data

No valueTunnelBear
Websitewww.Tunnelbear.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)93 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)61 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Japan)30 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.33
SAVE 67% on a 3-year plan

A TunnelBear speed test.

Pros:

  • Good speeds
  • Limited free version
  • Works in China
  • Strong privacy and security

Cons:

  • Doesn’t reliably work with Netflix and other streaming services
  • Money-back guarantee is shorter than others

Our score:

3.5 out of 5

FAST BEAR:Fast and easy to use, TunnelBear comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full TunnelBear review.

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VPN speed test results 2022

You can see the average global download speed for every VPN we’ve tested in the past year below (click to enlarge):

vpn speed test results May 2022
Click to enlarge

VPN speed test methodology

Each VPN’s speed test result is an average of nine tests: three times of day spread at least four hours apart, and across three different locations: North America (nearest), Europe, and Asia. Exact locations depend on each VPN’s available servers. We also measure the speed at each time without a VPN connection as a control.

The results of these nine tests are averaged to get the average figures in the graph above.

All tests are performed using the provider’s Windows app from the USA on a minimum 1 Gbps connection. Speeds are measured using the Speedtest.net desktop app. Outliers are thrown out and retested if they are more than three standard deviations away from the mean result.

We only report download speed. We do not test latency, as this is more an indicator of our proximity to the server than the VPN’s available bandwidth. We also do not test upload speed.

We always advise readers to take VPN speed tests with a big grain of salt. Too many variables are at play. And we’ve also stated as clearly as possible, there is no such thing as the “fastest VPN,” no matter how many companies make such a claim.

VPN speed is one of the most difficult factors to accurately quantify because we can’t test every server in every location every hour. We always run speed tests as empirically as possible when we review a VPN provider, but the fact of the matter is that the fastest VPN for where you live is not necessarily the fastest VPN for where I live. The fastest VPN for streaming video might not be the speediest for online gaming. Even the fastest VPN service at noon probably isn’t the quickest at midnight.

Note that some providers, including Mullvad, iVPN, and OVPN, could not be tested alongside the other VPNs due to technical limitations, but scored well in separate speed tests.

Fastest VPN FAQs

Are there any fast free VPNs?

We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.

How do I get the fastest server for gaming?

If you're an online gamer who uses a VPN to access another region's servers (or because you got IP banned), the most important factor in choosing a VPN is latency, also called ping. The ping time between the game servers and your computer or console is mostly what determines how much lag you'll experience. If you want to stay competitive, figure out where the game's regional servers are hosted and choose the VPN's closest server. Download rate is also important, but gaming requires less bandwidth than you might think. The first priority should always be reducing latency.

How do I run ping tests for gaming through a VPN?

If you want to know how much lag to expect when gaming through a particular VPN server, you can run a simple ping test. To do this, you will need to know the domain or IP address of the game server that you'll be playing on. This might require some digging---most games do not publicize their server IP addresses. Many online games display your ping in real time, so this might not be necessary.

Once you've found an IP address or domain for the server region you want to connect to, just open up Command Prompt (Windows) or Terminal (Mac) and enter the following command:

ping 104.160.131.3

Then connect to your VPN and run the same command again. Note the difference in time.

This example uses a League of Legends server in North America. You'll need to replace it with the server IP or domain for the game and region you want to play.

The results will show the roundtrip time in milliseconds that it takes for the ping to reach the server and return to your computer. For most competitive online games, you'll want a ping time of less than 100ms as a good rule of thumb.

See also: Best VPNs for gaming

Should I avoid "speed boosters"?

Some Android apps, iOS apps, and desktop browser extensions claim they can speed up your VPN connection times. These are almost undoubtedly scams.

There is simply no way for a third-party app to increase the internet speed of your VPN connection beyond what we've outlined above, especially not for free. More likely, these apps are used to mine your data or serve ads.

The closest you might get to a real speed booster is to subscribe to an optimized gaming network, which ensures that your internet traffic is taking the shortest and least-congested route available to give you a better ping time. But these are paid subscription services, not free apps, and even then their effectiveness is questionable.

Does a VPN help with buffering?

A VPN can help prevent video streams from buffering in a few specific cases, but generally a VPN will not help with buffering. Buffering means either your internet connection is too slow or your device isn’t powerful enough to decrypt and decompress video as quickly as it’s played back. A VPN can only be as fast as your base internet connection, and it requires even more system resources for encryption and decryption, so it typically won’t help.

The exception is if your internet service provider or local network administrator is throttling bandwidth from the video source. Comcast, for example, has throttled mobile video and Netflix streams in the past. A VPN can hide the contents and source of your internet traffic so that your ISP cannot discriminate based on what type of data is being streamed or where it comes from.

Will a VPN browser security extension slow down my surfing?

Yes. All VPNs slow down your internet speed to some degree, and a VPN browser extension is no different. Data must still be encrypted, routed through the VPN server, and decrypted. All of that adds extra time it takes to send data between your device and its destination.

That being said, some VPNs are much faster than others. Be sure to stick to our recommendations if you want a fast VPN.

Can a VPN reduce lag?

Generally, no. Because a VPN routes your data through an extra server before sending it to its final destination, the time it takes data to travel is increased. That means higher latency, also known as ping time or lag. In a few rare cases, your VPN might provide a more direct route than your ISP connection, but it would be an exception to the rule.

How do I maximize torrenting speed on a VPN?

Many VPNs come with NAT firewalls built into their service. A NAT firewall is what allows multiple users connected to the same VPN server to share a single public IP address. This adds a significant layer of anonymity and security because internet traffic going to and from the VPN server can't be traced back to a single user. They also prevent unsolicited requests from reaching individual users.

Most VPN's NAT firewalls allow torrenting to some extent and many users will not notice a difference when connected. In fact, a VPN can allow you to bypass a NAT firewall on your local network that might be more strict, improving torrenting speeds.

When it comes to privacy, security, and anonymity, NAT firewalls have a positive impact. In some cases, however, they can impede torrenting.

BitTorrent relies on users being able to freely connect to each other to share files. NAT firewalls often reject BitTorrent requests from fellow torrenters uploading or downloading the same file.

That means you might not be able to seed (read: upload) files through BitTorrent, because peers who want to download the file must make unsolicited requests that get blocked by the NAT firewall. Conversely, you might not be able to connect to as many peers when downloading a file, slowing download speeds considerably.

If you're struggling to connect to peers in a torrent swarm, some VPNs allow users to disable their NAT firewall in the settings. Others allow port forwarding, wherein the VPN provider designates a specific port to be used for P2P traffic. Users can configure their BitTorrent clients to use this port. You might have to check your provider's website or ask customer support what port number should be used for P2P filesharing.

Disabling the NAT firewall or setting up port forwarding means compromising on security, so do so with caution and only if necessary. On top of that, because you're using a special port, your internet traffic is more easily distinguished from other users, making you easier to track.

See also: Best VPNs for torrenting

Is FastestVPN legit and really fast?

As we stated in our FastestVPN review, FastestVPN offers respectable speeds but it’s by no means the fastest VPN we’ve tested. Across all locations and times tested, we had average speeds of 32 Mbps. This is fast enough for streaming and torrenting although when you consider that the fastest VPNs we’ve tested reach speeds of 548 Mbps (CyberGhost) and 488 Mbps (IPVanish), then it’s clear that FastestVPN doesn’t even come close.

Despite this, FastestVPN is a legitimate VPN service in that it was established in 2016 and does offer some benefits. In particular, we were able to use it to access Netflix US. It also allows up to ten simultaneous connections (most VPNs only allow a handful) while there’s even 24/7 live chat and email support. However, there are better VPNs on the market, particularly when it comes to speed and security which are two of the most important factors.

How can I increase my VPN speed?

There are a number of things you can do to increase your VPN speed. A good start is signing up with one of the fastest VPNs as listed in this post! Otherwise, you should try connecting to a server close to your physical location. Another thing you can do is to change your VPN protocol. Many major VPN providers now offer WireGuard which is the fastest VPN protocol around. Last but not least, you can always try a wired ethernet connection.

Can I use these fast VPNs for torrenting?

You can use any of these fast VPNs for torrenting safely. All providers on this list employ a zero-logs policy, meaning your p2p activities and anything else you do online are never recorded. Additionally, these fast VPNs use military-grade encryption to keep your connection watertight from the likes of ISPs that usually monitor and report torrenters.

Peak versus average speed

In the 2017 State of the Internet report from Akamai, the average peak connection speed across both North and South America is 44.6 Mbps, but the global average internet connection speed–not peak–is a mere 7.2 Mbps. That’s just one-sixth of the peak average. So what does this mean for VPN providers?

We all share the internet, and we can’t all get the maximum speed advertised by our Internet Service Providers every second of every day. Network congestion plays a huge role in your download speed both on and off the VPN, but it’s twice as likely to take a toll when connected to a VPN.

When you download a file from a server without a VPN, there’s a chance you will encounter network congestion, most likely on your nearby ISP network or at the download server itself. When you use a VPN service, you add a third potential bottleneck to the route. Whether because of server load or congestion on the network surrounding the server, there’s a higher chance that your speed will be affected while connected to a VPN.

When choosing a VPN server, take these factors into consideration. VPNs are subject to the same peak-versus-average conundrum as everyone else. If possible, choose a VPN server in a time zone that’s in off-peak hours. Some VPN apps have built in speed tests or show the current server load in real time, which can give you an indication of whether you’ll be able to max out your allotted download speed.

Security versus speed

Adding security to a VPN connection inevitably results in a loss of speed. Using a stronger encryption algorithm, for example, means it takes longer to encrypt data traveling through the VPN and longer to decrypt it once it arrives at its destination. Similarly, more secure VPN protocols tend to be slower than less secure ones. PPTP, despite being the oldest protocol, it still offers significantly faster connections than OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec. However, it also has known security vulnerabilities.

You don’t necessarily need the strongest available security all the time when using a VPN, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed in order to increase speed. We recommend against using PPTP and advise readers to opt for a protocol that uses SSL (OpenVPN) or IPSec encryption (L2TP, IKEv2).

Most VPN providers don’t give you the option, anyway, but don’t disable encryption altogether. Additionally, 128-bit AES is the minimum strength encryption necessary for a VPN to do its job and keep your data safe. It’s effectively un-crackable and is slightly faster than 256-bit AES encryption, which is also common. A handful of VPNs use Blowfish encryption, which tends to be slower than its AES counterpart. We recommend at least 448-bit Blowfish encryption if you go that route.

How much of a speed boost you’ll get out of tweaking encryption and VPN protocols depends on your hardware. More powerful devices will be able to encrypt and decrypt data more quickly.

UDP versus TCP

When using the OpenVPN protocol, many VPN apps will give you the option of using either the TCP or UDP protocol. TCP is the protocol that you normally use to browse the web and download files. UDP is more common for streaming applications such as video, music, and gaming. The difference is in how computers and servers send network packets, the unit of data used to exchange information over the internet.

A common misconception is that UDP is always faster than TCP. While this is often the case, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.

TCP uses error protection and guaranteed delivery to ensure that every data packet is identical to the original and sent in the correct order. If there is an error, the flow of internet traffic is stopped until the previous packets are sent successfully. This is important if you’re downloading a file or loading a web page.

UDP doesn’t have these protections. Collisions, errors, and missing packets are all common, and sometimes packets arrive out of order. The emphasis is on speed, not being perfect. It is preferable to miss a packet than delay all of the other packets following it.

So, if you use your VPN primarily for online gaming, streaming video, or listening to music, then switch to UDP. Otherwise, stick to TCP.

Stability trumps speed

In our humble opinion, the primary performance factor when choosing a VPN service shouldn’t be speed. It should be stable. More often than not, it’s volatility that brings down test scores rather than a slower overall download rate.

Every VPN will occasionally have a bad day or just a few bad hours where service is slow on a particular server or set of servers. Some VPNs have more high traffic periods or downtime than others. These are the ones to be avoided. Unfortunately, the test period for our reviews rarely lasts more than two weeks, so it’s difficult to predict what VPNs will encounter more issues in the long term at the time of writing.

That being said, the boxplot below (from some older tests) can give some indication of how volatile a VPN’s performance is. A larger blue box means more volatility, even if the mean (red dot) and median (thick black line) download times are low, a lot of volatility will probably cause more frustration than a slightly slower connection.

vpn speed test nordvpn

Unless you’re on a fast (100+Mbps) internet connection, the chances of maxing out the bandwidth available is pretty slim. Almost all VPNs these days advertise unlimited bandwidth.

Speed shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a VPN. Depending on what you plan to use it for, you may want a VPN that’s best for torrenting or streaming Netflix or gaming. Those aren’t necessarily the fastest, and they don’t need to be. They just have to be fast enough.

VPN alternatives

VPNs secure your traffic and route it through an intermediary server so it can’t be traced. But if privacy is not of chief concern to you, then there are other alternative proxy methods that offer faster speed. A SOCKS proxy, for example, does pretty much the same thing as a VPN without encryption. Without having to encrypt and decrypt traffic, SOCKS proxy users can get faster connections and still mask their IP address.

Read more: SOCKS5 Proxy vs VPN – What’s the difference? Which should you use?

Then there are smart DNS proxies. These proxies only re-route your DNS requests to make it appear as though you are in a different physical location, rather than all of a device’s traffic. This means you still get the full benefit of a direct internet connection, but not the privacy or security of a VPN.