Best VPN Service 2024: VPNs Tested by Our Experts


The best VPNs for private streaming, gaming and torrenting, as rated by our expert staff.

Best Overall VPN ExpressVPN

Currently, ExpressVPN is CNET’s top pick for the best overall VPN, with an 8.8 / 10 on our overall VPN rating scale. As a veteran VPN provider, ExpressVPN has consistently shown itself to be one of the most privacy-conscious and transparent VPN providers on the market. It’s also great for streaming and the simplest VPN app to run on any platform. The downside is that you’ll have to pay a premium for it. ExpressVPN is also one of the priciest VPN providers out there. It costs $13/month, $60/every six months, or $100/year, which is significantly more than Surfshark’s $11/month or $60/year. NordVPN is similar to ExpressVPN’s price at $13/month and $100/year (after a $60 promotional offer for the first year).

While ExpressVPN is fast enough for most online activities, it’s not as fast as many of its competitors. Our latest speed tests in 2024 showed that ExpressVPN had an average speed loss of 24.875%, which isn’t too bad considering that most VPNs can cut your internet speed by as much as 50%. NordVPN had a much better average speed loss of 11%, while Surfshark had a much worse average loss of 17%. Still, ExpressVPN’s speeds were generally consistent and in line with what we’d expect from a VPN, regardless of protocol and server location. We found that the fastest speeds were with ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway on Mac OS (7%) and the slowest were with OpenVPN (48%) on Windows. Generally, speeds were faster with relatively nearby server locations (New York, UK, etc.) and slower to remote locations (Australia, Singapore, etc.). All in all, though, ExpressVPN was fast enough for most general browsing and heavy-duty activities such as streaming, gaming, and video conferencing (especially if you’re using Lightway).

Last time we did an ExpressVPN privacy and security review, we discovered an annoying bug in the Windows app that was sending our DNS requests to the ISP instead of to the dedicated DNS servers of ExpressVPN when we had split tunneling turned on. This meant that our real IP address, our general location and our visited websites were exposed. We reported the issue to ExpressVPN and they immediately disabled the split tunneling from their Windows app as a “temporary” fix while their engineers worked on a more permanent fix. We were really impressed with how open and honest they were about this issue. They published a blog post with a detailed troubleshooting guide right after we reported the issue. They were able to quickly release a fix to their Windows app that fixed the DNS issue and allowed them to reinstate split tunneling. When we tested the app with and without split tunneling, we didn’t see any leaks.

Best Cheap VPN Surfshark

Extensive features at a great price

Surfshark is one of the most affordable VPN services on the market, with prices ranging from $2.29/month +2 months free for 85% off to $59.54. It offers lots of unique security features, unlimited concurrent connections, an easy to use interface, and a global network of over 3,200 servers across 100 countries. The only downside is inconsistent speed performance and no transparency reports. The price is $11/month for the first year, $48/month for the second year, and $59.54/year for the third year. The latest tests have shown no leaks detected, but there was a 17% speed loss during the 2023 tests. The network has 3,200+ servers in 100 countries, and Surfshark is based in the Netherlands. Check out the full review for more information.

Best VPN for Speed NordVPN

NordVPN has become one of the top-rated VPNs in the market, partly due to its extensive marketing campaigns. But it is also one of the best VPNs because of its high-speed connection, privacy-friendly features, consistent geo-blocking for streaming, etc. In our 2024 speed testing, NordVPN beat Surfshark, and even ExpressVPN, to become the fastest VPN. The average speed loss was only 11.1% using NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol. On Windows, the average speed loss was 3.2%, and on MacOS, the average loss was 12.6%. The average speed loss on OpenVPN was 10.1%, on MacOS, and 18.8%, on Windows. NordVPN has apps for Windows and MacOS, as well as Android, Android TV, iOS, iPadOS, browsers, and Apple TV.

Open-Source VPN ProtonVPN

Proton VPN offers fast, easy-to-use, and easy-to-unblock streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Max, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and more. It also has a Linux graphical UI app, making it a great choice for Linux VPN users. Although Proton VPN hasn’t been around as long as its competitors like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, it’s gained a solid reputation for its security and transparency in just a few years. While Proton Mail was already well-known as a strong email solution, Proton VPN stands out on its own since its launch in 2017. It’s a great choice for power users and critical security needs alike, but it’s also a great choice for the casual VPN user who just wants to improve their online privacy or access geo-restrictive content.

Best Cheap Alternative PIA

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the most affordable VPNs out there. It costs just $12 a month, $40 a year, or $79 a year for three years. That’s a lot of money when you consider that most VPNs (NordVPN, ExpressVPN, etc.) charge $100 a year. Surfshark, for example, charges $48 a month for the first year, but then jumps to $60 a month after its sweet introductory pricing. PIA, on the other hand, skips price hikes for more transparent pricing. PIA isn’t the cheapest VPN out there, but it’s certainly one of the best. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles, but it does offer a decent privacy suite: kill switch, split tunneling, which allows you to use a VPN for certain apps but not others, 256-bit encryption, multi-hop (routing your connection through a different server for added privacy), obfuscated servers, and unlimited simultaneous connections (the pricier ExpressVPN only allows eight connections).

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