No matter what you plan on using a VPN for, one thing it must be is fast.
You can often get around other shortcomings. But if a VPN slows down your internet connection to dial-up modem speeds, how useful will it really be for anything?
Not only will you be much less likely to use it, but you will probably also curse it every time you do. It’s money well wasted.
The bottom line is, whether you want to stream your favorite show from anywhere, keep your online activities private, or secure your internet connection, only one the fastest VPN providers will do.
Overview of the Fastest VPNs
Based on my speed tests, below is a quick summary of the fastest VPN services currently available.
I will, of course, go into much greater detail on each provider further down. I’ll also touch on exactly how the tests are done and why certain parts of the results may be more relevant to you than others.
But, in case all you care about is a high-level overview…
NordVPN’s newly released NordLynx protocol makes it the fastest VPN there is – period. Its privacy and security features, as well as uncanny ability to access major streaming services are also second to none.
Surfshark committed to speed, privacy, and ease of use when it entered the market a few years ago and more than delivers on all counts. A great choice for streaming, it’s also the most inexpensive top-tier VPN there is.
Recent hardware upgrades to PureVPN’s massive network massively improved their speed, making it perfect for high-def video watching and large file downloads.
A well-established and trusted service, ExpressVPN has a large, mature server network that scores big performance numbers. It delivers very stable speeds too, no matter where you connect.
Consistently one of the fastest VPNs, CyberGhost posts excellent up and down performance numbers. Besides top marks for privacy, the VPN also does a great job unblocking popular streaming services.
One of the very few providers that owns its entire network. Not only does that keep VyprVPN’s servers secure, but also allows it to optimize for speed – something it does very well.
Besides posting top-notch speed test results, ProtonVPN’s server network is also one of the most secure around.
Why VPN Speed Matters
There is one common characteristic needed for any of those activities, and that’s good network speed.
Why good performance is a must for streaming video is probably obvious. Without it, you’ll either end up watching a pixelated mess or worse, will have to take a few deep breaths every 30 seconds or so while waiting for the video to buffer.
When you use BitTorrent or another P2P network over a VPN to download files, speed clearly matters too. Few of us want to wait hours for a download to complete when it should only take minutes.
And even when you’re just browsing the web, using a VPN to secure your connection on a public Wi-Fi network or to stop your ISP from tracking your every move online. With little doubt, fast is better. I’m only willing to wait so long for a simple website to load.
VPN speed matters because, without it, your internet experience will be far less enjoyable.
What Affects VPN Performance
There are a handful of factors that can significantly affect the speed of your VPN connection. While others exist, here are the big ones to which we should pay attention.
VPN Server Location
Top of the list of things impacting VPN speeds is the physical location of the server you choose to connect to.
When we use a VPN, our data needs to pass through the VPN server before reaching its ultimate destination. The more out of the way that server is, the further our data needs to travel.
In computer networking, distance is not a friend of speed, and chances are any increase in it will slow down your connection.
Closer servers are, therefore, typically better.
This is the reason why the fastest VPN services tend to have large networks. They can offer you a nearby server choice regardless of your location.
VPN Server Load
Another thing that may affect your VPN’s performance is server load.
Server resources like the CPU, memory, and bandwidth are shared among everyone currently using it. The more people are connected to a server, the smaller the slice of those resources assigned to you.
So generally, the lower the server load, the quicker your VPN connection.
Here too faster VPNs will run more servers than slower services. Doing so allows them to properly balance users across their network, giving a better experience at each location.
One of the best features of a VPN is that it encrypts the connection between your device and the VPN server.
Unfortunately, encryption is not free.
It costs computing power on both ends – one side encrypting, the other decrypting. And the stronger the encryption standard, the more computationally expensive it is.
But, strong encryption is not always necessary.
Take streaming geo-blocked video, for example. There, security is usually not that important. Opting for 128-bit encryption over 256-bit encryption should increase your VPN’s speed, especially on lower-end devices.
All VPN providers that truly care about performance should let you adjust encryption levels.
Much like encryption, the choice of VPN protocol will affect connection speeds.
Some protocols are quicker than others. The still seldomly used WireGuard (currently implemented only by NordVPN under the name NordLynx) is, hands down, fastes. OpenVPN is, for example, faster than L2TP. And even within the OpenVPN protocol, you usually have a choice of TCP and UDP, the latter typically performing better.
As with encryption, a speed-minded VPN should let you pick from multiple protocols, making it possible to improve your connection speeds beyond what the default offers.
Ultimately, any fast VPN should let you adjust the above factors, enabling you to get out of it the best performance possible. And indeed, all providers mentioned in this article do.
How the Speed Tests Are Run
Every VPN service I look at is tested using a Windows 10 laptop hardwired into my internet modem using a Cat6 ethernet cable. I use a fiber optic 500 Mbps down and 150 Mbps up internet connection.
Those download and upload numbers are higher than what any VPN provider can currently match. This means the speed test results are not capped by my own internet – they reveal the actual performance of each VPN server.
Imagine, for example, that I used a 50 Mbps down connection instead. 50 Mbps would be the absolute maximum download speed any VPN provider could give me. We would never know whether 80 Mbps downloads are possible.
But, by testing with a faster internet connection, we can find that out.
Each test consists of two speed tests. One runs over a VPN connection, the other without one.
The former shows the performance of the VPN. The latter confirms the results were not capped by my internet connection which, in theory, could be possible at more distant server locations.
I run multiple speed test pairs at various times during the day and using different servers. Doing so accounts for possible periods of heavy network and VPN server load.
WireGuard is my protocol of choice if it’s available. Because it rarely is, more often than not, I end up using OpenVPN over UDP.
The quickest results of the runs are what I use.
Which Servers Are Tested
The first server I test should theoretically be the fastest VPN connection I can get. It should be an optimal combination of proximity and load.
Just about every VPN client has an option to select these servers for you automatically.
I also run speed tests on US, UK, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, German, and French servers – assuming, of course, the VPN provider supports that country. These are the seven most popular locations among VPN users.
For the sake of brevity, you’ll only find a sampling of the results on this page. Every provider does, however, have a dedicated page where I show and discuss all eight runs.
The Time of Day Factor
One caveat to remember is that regardless of what any VPN speed comparison results say, actual performance will always differ depending on the time of day.
There is, unfortunately, no way around this.
The more people connect to a VPN at the same time, the slower it will be. Though, with a good service, the slowdown should be minimal.
You can typically expect a less than optimal connection around dinner time or early in the evening than you would at 4 AM.
Similarly, if any big event is happening – one that a lot of people may be streaming (a big World Cup game or the Super Bowl, for example) – you also shouldn’t expect top VPN speeds.
The Fastest VPN Providers
Below is the list of the top-performing VPN providers as determined by my speed tests. All VPNs are re-tested periodically to make sure the results are up to date.
Thanks to their WreGuard based NordLynx protocol, NordVPN is king of the kill when it comes to speed. They post 219.7 Mbps best server download speeds and a tested location average of 193.3 Mbps – both are numbers no other VPN service can currently touch.
Please see my NordVPN speed test page for all the numbers.
Running nearly 5400 servers in 59 countries makes NordVPN’s server list one of the largest around.
Privacy has always been a priority for Panama based NordVPN too.
Not only do they have an air-tight no-logging policy, but they also give you plenty of tools to help you stay anonymous online. The list even includes things few other providers implement, like a double VPN, Tor over VPN, and obfuscated servers.
And, despite being packed with features, the client app is still incredibly intuitive to use.
NordVPN allows torrenting on all their servers. They also do an excellent job of unblocking Netflix – and indeed just about every other popular streaming service there is.
- Excellent download and upload speeds
- Large ever-expanding server network
- Great privacy with independently verified no logging policy
- Specialty servers (including double VPN, obfuscated, and Tor over VPN)
- Clean, easy to use client
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- Allows torrenting and P2P
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- No split tunneling feature
- A bit pricey on shorter-term plans
FASTEST VPN: NordVPN’s performance is as good as it gets – period. Add to that a large server network, a strong focus on privacy and security, and a near-perfect success rate unblocking streaming services, and you have a VPN that does it all.
Since Surfshark entered the VPN market just over two years ago, they have done just about everything right – as evidenced by their excellent review. This, of course, includes performance.
In my latest tests, Surfshark posted results of 169.5 Mbps for best server downloads and a tested location average of 146.0 Mbps.
The full Surfshark speed test results page has all eight tested locations.
Despite being relatively new, Surfshark’s network impresses. It currently includes over 3200 VPN servers in 65 countries.
Surfshark has decided from the get-go they were going to be a no-logging provider and are doing a great job of it. Operating out of privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands also helps.
The client software is easy to use, with plenty of security and privacy features included.
Recently, Surfshark has even implemented something called Camouflage Mode. It makes sure no one – not even your ISP – can tell you’re using a VPN.
Did I also mention that Sufshark is the only provider on this list that lets you connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously? And they’re oh so inexpensive too.
- Excellent privacy and security with no logging
- Great server performance
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC, and many others
- Easy to use client
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Torrenting support network-wide
- Very inexpensive
- Inconsistent speeds at a few locations
- Fairly slow customer support
FAST AND AFFORDABLE: Simple to use, secure, and much quicker than your average VPN, Surfshark is also very easy on the wallet. No other top-tier provider gives you this much for so little.
Recent massive upgrades to their server network shot PureVPN up close to the top of the fastest VPN rankings with a best download speed of 112.6 Mbps and an excellent tested location average of 91.0 Mbps.
The PureVPN speed test page shows the results for all tested locations.
Their newly found speed aside, PureVPN also does rather well when it comes to server locations, featuring hardware in a respectable 74 countries and 102 cities.
There have been some privacy concerns around PureVPN in the past, but there too they have stepped it up. As of September 2019, they’re an independently verified zero-logging provider.
PureVPN is also very consistent in its ability to unlock geo-blocked content. Starting with US Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, they support close to 70 channels and services around the world.
And with a price that undercuts a lot of competitors – especially if you take advantage of a PureVPN coupon – as well as a 31-day money-back guarantee, there’s little reason to not give this provider some serious consideration.
- Fast speeds
- Big server network (74 countries)
- Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, and over 70 other streaming services
- Compatible with over 50 devices and platforms
- Independently verified zero log VPN provider
- Dedicated IP option
- Great value
- Apps could use a bit more polish
- Some intermittent connection problems
STREAMING WITH NO BUFFERING: PureVPN’s excellent speeds mean you’ll never have to worry about pixelation or buffering when streaming your favorite shows. They’re quite affordable too.
For more performance numbers, please take a look at the full ExpressVPN speed test results.
Having been around since 2009, ExpressVPN has a very mature network of 3000+ servers in 95 countries.
They’re a strictly no-logging VPN and call the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands home.
Having had years to perfect it, ExpressVPN’s client is clean and easy to use like no other. Even though it’s packed with features, they’re all neatly tucked – if you don’t care about them, they’ll never get in your way.
ExpressVPN allows P2P traffic and, as I pointed out in my review, does very well when it comes to unblocking Netflix and other popular streaming services.
And if you ever run into any issues, ExpressVPN offers what is arguably the best customer support in the business. They have a 30-day no strings attached money-back guarantee too.
- A feature-rich and intuitive client
- Strong back-end technology
- Plenty of servers and server locations
- Fast and consistent connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix
- Top-notch customer support
- Some aggregated logging
- Not the cheapest
GREAT ALL-ROUNDER: ExpressVPN does just about everything and does it all very well: speed, big server network, great client, and excellent customer support.
For all the numbers, please see my full CyberGhost speed test results.
Speed isn’t the only CyberGhost strong point though. They deliver just about everywhere else too.
Thanks to a recent and rather significant expansion of their network, CyberGhost now offers a ton of connection options – 7332 servers in 91 countries.
They’re a privacy friendly provider, thanks to a base of operations in Romania and a strict zero-logging policy.
The software is easy to use and implements every security feature you could expect. From a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection to top-notch encryption algorithms and protocols – it’s all there.
CyberGhost is also an excellent service for unblocking most streaming services, including US Netflix and the BBC iPlayer. P2P is, of course, supported as well.
Not satisfied with being one of the fastest VPNs on the list, CyberGhost is also one of the least expensive.
And with an industry-best 45-day money-back guarantee – the length of which speaks to the company’s belief in the quality of their service – you have plenty of time to try them out.
- Zero logging for maximum privacy
- Excellent server distribution with over 7300 servers in 91 countries
- Very fast connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Allows P2P torrenting
- Long 45-day money-back guarantee
- Parent company with a questionable reputation
- Convoluted manual OpenVPN setup
- Doesn't work from China
A GREAT ALL-ROUNDER: CyberGhost is a very fast VPN that works as expected right out of the box. With a ton of features, an excellent price, and a long money-back guarantee, this is a provider can’t go wrong with.
Just because they’re near the bottom of my list of the fastest VPNs shouldn’t take anything away from VyprVPN. Their performance of 98.3 Mbps downloads on the best server and a test location average of 75.5 Mbps puts plenty of other VPNs to shame.
For results from the other locations, please see the VyprVPN speed test page.
What is especially impressive about VyprVPN’s network is that they own every single one of their servers. That’s 64 countries and 73 locations worth of hardware.
That’s great for both security and privacy.
But, VyprVPN doesn’t just stop there. They’re also a no-logging VPN and make use of the latest and most secure protocol and encryption standards.
VyprVPN has even implemented their own protocol, called Chameleon, which is excellent at getting around any VPN throttling or blocking attempts – including the great firewall of China.
Beyond privacy and security, VyprVPN does plenty of other things well too. They allow torrenting and do a good job of letting you watch geo-blocked content like Netflix and the BBC.
- Verified no logging for complete privacy
- Excellent selection of protocols and encryption settings
- Hundreds of servers with great location diversity
- Intuitive, easy to use multi-platform client
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and others
- Allows P2P and torrent traffic
- Hosts own servers (no 3rd parties)
- No way to pay anonymously
- VPN obfuscation not available on the Basic plan
FAST AND SECURE: With fast servers that let you do anything you want online, VyprVPN delivers the internet privacy and freedom we should all have.
For a VPN that mainly focuses on privacy and security, ProtonVPN posts some impressive speed tests results. Their numbers – 86.1 Mbps downloads on the best server and a 67.2 Mbps tested average – are neck and neck with CyberGhost.
The ProtonVPN speed test page has the numbers for all other locations.
The results are consistent across ProtonVPN’s server network, which spans a very respectable 82 locations in 55 countries.
What makes ProtonVPN’s special too is that every country includes a double VPN connection option. They’re the only VPN to do that.
If online privacy is of serious concern to you, this could be the speedy provider for you.
Based in privacy-friendly Switzerland, ProtonVPN is also, of course, a no-logging VPN.
The client software – which is quite easy to use – includes every security feature imaginable. It even has a few handy niceties which other providers don’t bother putting in – like connection profiles.
And, to top it all off, ProtonVPN will even unblock US Netflix and Hulu.
- Excellent privacy and security features
- Double VPN offered in every supported country
- No logs
- Easy to use client
- Good server performance
- Torrenting and P2P friendly
- Offers a free version
- No live chat support
- P2P servers in four countries only
SPEED AND SECURITY: ProtonVPN is an excellent example of how top-notch privacy and security don’t necessarily mean poor performance – they deliver beautifully on both counts.
Which VPN Speeds Matter When
A VPN speed test will yield three sets of numbers: download and upload speeds, and ping time.
Depending on what you want to use your VPN for, only a subset of these metrics may be important.
Download speed tells you how quickly your device receives data.
If you intend on pulling large or many files (or both), you should make a good download speed your priority. The higher it is, the better.
Prime examples of when good VPN download speeds are critical include:
- Using file-sharing applications like BitTorrent or other peer-to-peer networks
- Streaming video – especially in high definition
- Accessing file hosting services like Usenet
The opposite of download speed, upload speed lets you know how quickly you can send data to a remote destination.
It should matter if you either often send large files or a considerable number of them. The higher this metric, the better.
Examples of where upload speeds matter include:
- Backing up data – like your family pictures – to the cloud
- Using file-sharing services
Ping time, sometimes also called latency, measures how long it takes for one packet of data to make the trip from your device, through the VPN server, to its destination and then back again.
This metric is specified in milliseconds.
The lower the ping time is, the faster and better the connection.
Latency is crucial if:
- You’re using real-time applications like Skype or other VoIP solutions
- Play online games
How to Pick a Fast VPN Server
After you have decided on your fast VPN, you still need to choose a fast server. Even with the quickest providers you can get a connection which will never give you optimal speeds.
When picking a server, keep the following criteria in mind.
The closer the server is located physically to your location, typically, the faster the VPN connection will be.
For example, if you’re trying to access the US Netflix library from the UK, pick a server on the US east coast. If you’re trying to do the same from Japan, pick one on the west coast.
If you know the exact location of the content you’re trying to access you can also pick a VPN server close to it instead of one near you.
Basically, to get the best performance out of a VPN, try to, as much as possible, reduce the extra distance data needs to travel to pass through the server.
The more of us are using a specific VPN server, the slower it will be. Picking a server with lower load may trump the importance of how close it is to you.
You’ll likely have a faster connection using a server with a 10% load that’s on the opposite end of the country than one with a 95% load located in your city.
Sometimes, despite picking a lightly loaded nearby server, you may still see slower than desirable speeds. In those cases, latency could very well be the culprit.
VPN server latency, or ping time, measures how long it takes for a packet of data to travel from your device to the server and back. Heavy network traffic along the way can send it through the roof.
Lean towards servers with low latency. As with server load, most VPN clients will show you the current numbers.
Note that every VPN app gives you the option of automatically picking what should be your fastest server – it’s typically called something like “Best Server Location,” “Fastest Server,” or “Quick Connect.”
Some providers, like PureVPN, will even pick a server for you based on a specific purpose, like torrenting, or streaming video from a specific source.
In my experience those results, while not always the absolute best, will get you speeds you should be more than happy with.
Is the Fastest VPN Always Best
Speed is undoubtedly a critical factor when choosing a VPN provider regardless of why you’re using one.
But, it does not have to be the be-all and end-all.
You can put up with slightly lower VPN performance in favor of other features you need.
Some of those features may include a better worldwide distribution of servers, a high number of devices you can use simultaneously, robust security, or a minimal logging policy.
So, even though it may sometimes seem like it, the truth is speed is not something you ever need to compromise on.
Fastest VPNs Quick Comparison Table