The Best VPN – 2020 Edition


I do not profess to be an expert on the subject of VPNs and rely mostly on editorial reviews and user comments. However, I have spent many hours researching VPN services and content in this article is largely based on that research. In other words, I’ve already done a lot of the leg work for you.

Almost three years ago to the day I wrote an article on VPNs — What Is The Best VPN — which, rather than discussing various VPNs and their respective features concentrated more on the essential elements that a user should look for in a VPN. A lot has changed in the VPN market place in the past three years, although, those basic essential ingredients remain the same. If you are new to VPNs, I strongly suggest reading through that earlier article.

Here are those essential features in summary:

  • Zero logging: It’s extremely important that the VPN guarantees a zero-logging policy. If a VPN service is logging data, it pretty much defeats the whole purpose of using a VPN… namely for anonymity, privacy, and obfuscation
  • Kill Switch: If your VPN connection drops out for any reason the connection will revert to your ISP’s server and your identity and activity are immediately exposed. A Kill Switch will instantly disconnect completely from the internet to prevent this from happening
  • DNS Leak Protection: These days, all reputable VPNs support DNS leak protection
  • Encryption: All reputable VPNs utilize strong encryption

VPNs – Other Features

Unblocking Netflix: There is an ongoing game of cat and mouse between Netflix and VPNs whereby Netflix is continually updating its VPN recognition mechanism and VPNs are constantly trying to find new ways to circumvent same. This process can be quite costly for the VPN and many have given up on unblocking Netflix for this very reason. The two VPNs which are consistently reported by testers to support unblocking Netflix are ExpressVPN and NordVPN. There are quite a few other VPNs that claim to unblock Netflix, however, this situation is entirely fluid and it’s important to note that what is true today might not be true tomorrow.


P2P – Torrents: Some VPNs support torrents without limitations, others support torrents with limitations, and others do not support torrents at all. So, if downloading torrents is a primary consideration, you’ll need to make sure that your chosen VPN unequivocally supports same.

VPN Speeds: Connecting through a VPN will generally have a detrimental effect on speeds. This is partially down to the strong 2-way encryption but also due to server location. Connections via a VPN server in a different country will always be quite a bit slower than connections via a VPN server in your country of residence. For maximum speed, you should always select a server location that is nearest to your physical location.

All VPNs claim to be super fast but, obviously, some will be faster than others. Whether those differences are significant enough to warrant choosing one VPN over another is open to debate. Again, the two VPNs which are consistently reported by testers to maintain very fast speeds are ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Number of Devices: Most VPNs support multiple devices– generally from 3 to 10. SurfShark (mentioned below) currently supports an unlimited number of devices.


Customer Support: This is an often overlooked yet important consideration. Some VPNs include live chat support plus email support, others only include email support. Suggestion: prior to finalizing that all-important decision, contact the support team for any VPN service you are considering purchasing and you’ll be able to gauge the speed of response, quality of response, and clarity of response (in regards to VPNs based in non-English speaking countries).

Country of Origin (jurisdiction): Personally, provided a VPN guarantees zero-logging, I don’t believe it matters all that much where the company is based. That said, most of the top-rated VPNs are located in countries outside of the 5-eyes and 14-eyes jurisdictions anyway. Also, it is certainly something to take into consideration.

ExpressVPN & NordVPN – 2 of the Best

These are the two VPN services that consistently top the editorial ”best of” lists. Both tick all the right boxes and enjoy a stellar reputation. ExpressVPN, in particular, appears to be an extremely professional outfit and an excellent choice. However, ExpressVPN is also a tad on the expensive side. NordVPN is right up there too and, with a 3-year plan at just $3.49 US per month, quite a bit less expensive than ExpressVPN. That said, NordVPN does not accept payments through PayPal so it is a non-starter for me, personally.

NOTES:


  • ExpressVPN is one of very few VPNs to undergo a third-party audit to verify its no-logs policy and privacy protection measures
  • NordVPN suffered a minor data breach through one of its servers in 2018. However, in response, NordVPN has since initiated an ongoing 3rd-party audit which also includes regular penetration testing

PIA, CyberGhost, & Zenmate – A No Go?

At the time of my original article from 2017, I had just started using PIA (Private Internet Access) and reported that I was quite happy with the service. However, a lot has changed since then. PIA, CyberGhost, and Zenmate have all since been acquired by a company called Kape, formerly known as Crossrider. Now, Kape/Crossrider has a particularly shady history, having been responsible for producing and distributing advertising modules, adware, and even malware: Strange Ties: Private Internet Access, Kape, and Crossrider

As a result of the acquisition, and Kape’s nefarious history, significant numbers of PIA subscribers have now abandoned the service. I must emphasize here that I am not making any accusations in regards to Kape’s handling of PIA customers, and PIA representatives have gone out of their way to assure subscribers that PIA’s previous high ethical standards will still be strictly adhered to. However, personally, just based on Kape’s past history alone, I would not recommend going with PIA, CyberGhost, or Zenmate

SurfShark – Interesting Newcomer

Having been around for less than a year, SurfShark is the new kid on the block. Consequently, SurfShark might not offer quite the same extensive coverage and speeds of the more established VPNs but, on the other hand, in order to quickly expand its subscriber base, SurfShark is offering extremely competitive pricing (a 2-year plan at just $1.99 US per month). SurfShark is also reported to be rapidly increasing its coverage and improving its service and is quickly finding its way into many of the ”best of” lists. Definitely one to consider.

Whichever VPN you end up choosing I would suggest considering initially paying for a one-month subscription. This is by far the most expensive subscription model but a lot more economical than paying in advance for a two or three-year plan only to discover during the early stages that it is missing a feature you particularly wanted, is too slow, or any other issues. That said, I don’t believe you can go wrong with either ExpressVPN or NordVPN.


Finally, here are links to a couple of excellent resources for checking out VPNs:

Disclaimer: All prices quoted in this article were accurate and correct at the time of writing.

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

16 Comments

  1. talking about the breach you mentioned, probably you’ve read the tc article. They’ve not really to be trusted as they are known for this kind of “articles” as the NordVPN breach as completely isolated and minor, no-one got hurt or even in danger after/during it. Not to mention they have started the bug-bounty program which reaaaaaly is great, don’t think any other vpns have it

    • Hey bobby,

      I read quite a few articles re the NordVPN breach and, as I said in the article, it was a minor breach and NordVPN have since initiated ongoing audits including regular penetration testing. My mention of the breach wasn’t meant as any sort of criticism, merely in the interests of full disclosure.

      I take it you are a NordVPN customer?

      • Sorry if I came off as rude in my previous comment Jim. Yes, I’m a customer of NordVPN for 3 years now and a happy one at that! I’ve seen a LOT of comments/articles that are making it seem that this issue was really serious and it is almost every time I see these, they are referring to the TC article which on its own is bias and misleading. Yet I perfectly understand the need for clicks but it’s just becoming infuriating and annoying. I was wondering, what do you think of their bug bounty program? the link for it https://nordvpn.com/blog/bug-bounty-program-launch/

        • No, no, Bobby, you didn’t come across as rude at all. Sorry if I gave that impression.

          I was actually agreeing with you and emphasizing that I don’t believe the past NordVPN breach is of any concern. Yes, I knew about the bug program, great idea and, along with the ongoing audit, should prove once and for all that NordVPN is very serious about security.

  2. Surfshark user here. I was a bit surprised at how low their price as compared to their competitors, but I read some positive reviews from their users, so I decided to give them a try. I wasn’t disappointed.

  3. Thanks for this update Jim. Still a current CyberGhost user with no problems to report. Features like no logging, kill switch (really works), great bandwidth (over 40Mbps) and monthly cost of $3.00 CDN (purchased when on sale) works for me. Waiting for a new contender, from the makers of AdGuard, Mindblower!

      • Thank you Jim for the concern. Did read the article and reviews from many sites. Should things change, DCT readers can look forward to my rants, Mindblower!

        • LOL. I have no doubt about that MB. I must admit, the association with Kape/Crossrider and that company’s shady history does concern me. Particularly with regards to the client software, which could potentially be manipulated without the end user ever knowing.

  4. Hi Jim,

    For a few years I have been using Express VPN, I have tried others and now I stick with Express.
    Based in the British Virgin Islands the VPN bypasses geo blocking by the BBC and ITV which many VPN’s cannot achieve.
    There is no Netflix blocking, the BBC and ITV have an almost endless choice of excellent programmes of all descriptions which allows my wife and I to steer clear of most local, unwanted TV programmes.
    You may be interested to look at the site at the link below:-
    https://www.vpnmentor.com/reviews/expressvpn/

    Regards,

    Jonno.

    • Hey Jon,

      Thanks for confirming firsthand that EpressVPN is as good as it says, appreciated. I only use a VPN very occasionally myself so I just wish ExpressVPN was a little less expensive.

  5. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the reply.
    After spending a good deal of time trying and testing the ‘top ten’ VPN programmes none of them performed performed with the UK connection anywhere near as well as Express VPN.
    One of the benefits I should have mentioned was that as Express are in British territory, therefore with BBC and ITV requiring a TV licence Express have that covered.
    As with Netflix, Amazon etc; BBC & ITV require an email address, but with Google and Microsoft being ‘universal’ there isn’t a problem.
    Cost-wise we opted for an annual payment of $99.00 Aussie dollars, $8.25 per month does not bust the pension budget.
    Enjoy the Corona which you are allowed to have …. ūüėČ

    Regards,

    Jonno, on the Gold Coast where the tourists are frantic with no way out and the usual attractions are closed.

  6. I don’t miss the olden days where VPNs were cursed with deplorable security and speeds. Then, we all lucked when (~2010) fierce competition started improving the VPN (collected) lot; for security/speed as well as novel features.
    Around mid-2010s, University of Tsukuba introduced their open-source ‘SoftEther’ project; which required a bit of patience and nerdiness to set-up, configure, and find fast enough servers to make this (otherwise great FREEware) offering a delight to use.
    In the last decade, I have tried a variety of these available (free/pay) VPN services/software, and I find pureVPN to be the one that agrees best with my surfing habits.
    *I have been paying around $2/month for the last five years of pureVPN service
    *My cable ISP provides me w/a 300Mbps connection ($34/month)
    *I have an average monthly network activity of around 70GB for the last 24 months [ty DUmeter]
    *Depending on pureVPN country/server I am connected to, the type of my network activity, and the response of the server that I am connected to; I have reached VPN speeds in excess of 200Mbps
    *pureVPN never even gets an honorable mention in ’10 best VPN’ ratings and I actually prefer it that way!
    On November 2019, FireFox Private Networking [FPN?] was released as a beta and on the FREE.
    {}

    • PureVPN’s reputation was damaged a couple of years ago when they handed over logs which enabled the FBI to track down one of their users. This despite claiming a NO logs policy. I’m not naive enough to suggest that this type of misleading privacy policy is restricted to PureVPN only but they broke the eleventh commandment… thou shall not get caught. I also believe PureVPN has since amended its logging policy and undergone a 3rd-party audit which verified zero identifiable data retention. Still, unfortunately, this type of stigma tends to stick. Perhaps the reason PureVPN is not often among the top recommendations.

      https://betanews.com/2017/10/09/purevpn-logs-fbi/

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