We are pleased to announce the winners of our first ever industry-leading BestVPN.com Awards. Our aim with these awards is not just to recognize the many outstanding VPN services on the market, but to increase transparency and improve standards across the whole industry.
We have worked very hard to design robust criteria with which to measure, in as objective and scientific a way as possible, the various key aspects that make up a good VPN service.
In addition to our own team of experts carefully assessing VPNs and scrutinising how they measure up in the various key metrics we have devised, we invited respected members of the security industry into the process in order to ensure objectivity and transparency.
The BIG one! All VPN services have their strengths and weaknesses, but the best providers offer outstanding privacy, great customer support, a seamless registration process, easy to use tech and the ability to unlock websites from around the world. In this category we take all factors into account to find the best overall VPN service out there!
The shortlisted nominees for this category, based on our rigorous criteria scoring system, were: ibVPN, NordVPN, PrivateVPN, ExpressVPN and VPNArea. These VPNs displayed excellence in all areas we examined, and fully deserve to be proud that they were shortlisted for this prestigious award.
ExpressVPN scored consistently well in all the metrics we used to assess the overall performance of each VPN. With no IP or time stamp logging, and some great anti-censorship tech, ExpressVPN did very well in our Privacy Award category.
Our new scientific speed tests clearly show that ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN on the market, which among other things, makes it great for watching Netflix. ExpressVPN also came a very close second in our Customer Service Award.
It pioneered what is now becoming a common feature elsewhere in the industry – the 30-day no quibble money back guarantee, and its 24/7 live chat support is courteous and highly knowledgeable.
We recognize that ExpressVPN is not the cheapest VPN in a highly competitive market, but with a fully-featured smart DNS service thrown in for free, servers in almost 100 countries worldwide, a .onion dark web address, and much more, we feel that it offers terrific value for money.
NordVpn, PrivateVPN, VPN Area, ibVPN
Many people use VPNs simply in order to access geo-restricted content such as Netflix US when away from home, or to access content that is blocked in their current location. However, for many users, VPNs are also a means of achieving privacy – from their ISP, from their government, from the NSA, and from every website they visit. In this category we have broken down the core components of what makes a VPN service great for privacy.
The shortlisted nominees for this category were: AirVPN, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, VPNArea and ExpressVPN. Again, simply being nominated for this category deserves great praise.
AirVPN has built a fearsome and well-deserved reputation for its dedication to privacy. There are many privacy-friendly no-logs VPNs out there, but AirVPN backs this up with the some of the most robust privacy and security technology currently available.
AirVPN’s software is open source and fully Linux compatible. It uses extremely strong OpenVPN encryption, which can be routed over any port to evade censorship. The ability to hide VPN connections inside SSL and SSH tunnels is also one of the most effective and mature anti-censorship technologies around.
AirVPN was among the first VPNs to block the WebRTC leak issue at both the client and server end and its “network lock” IP leak protection and killswich feature works flawlessly. It also performs zero tracking of visitors to its website.
Of particular note is the ability to first route connections to AirVPN’s servers through the Tor anonymity network. It makes AirVPN the only VPN we know of that can be accessed truly anonymously. For this reason alone, it deserves a great deal of credit.
We feel that when it comes to total dedication to privacy, backed up with a wealth of superb privacy-enhancing technologies, AirVPN is the clear winner in this category.
NordVPN, ProtonVPN, VPNArea and ExpressVPN
When it comes to internet speeds, faster is always better! Using a VPN will impact users’ internet speeds, but with a good provider this impact can be minimal. Our new suite of speed tests definitively and scientifically measure VPNs to find out which is the fastest VPN on the market.
The shortlisted nominees for this category were: IPVanish, TunnelBear, ExpressVPN, VyprVPN and Hade My Ass. Nominations were based purely on the results from our new speed test system (which we very proud of).
ExpressVPN scored the best Average speedtest result and second best max speed/burst result of all VPNs we have tested. Connection time server is also above average. DNS Lookup Time result does not break any records, but is fine.
We were always going to pick the winner of Best Speed Award based on our new speed test results, and ExpressVPN is the clear overall winner despite Hide My Ass also putting in a very strong performance.
IPVanish, TunnelBear, VyprVPN and Hade My Ass
Something everyone wants from a VPN service is friendly, responsive, and knowledgeable customer service. For this award we put providers on the spot with practical questions to see how they fared in terms of speed, ease of use, support availability and the accuracy of their responses.
The shortlisted nominees for this category were: ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, SaferVPN, NordVPN and VPNArea.
We fired a mixture of simple and highly technical questions at VPNs to see how well they answered them, and how fast. NordVPN overall performed very well here, with the occasional wobble when it came to very technical questions.
This was more than made up for, however, by the fact that most questions were answered within seconds by NordVPN’s friendly and helpful 24/7 live chat team. Indeed, we are pleased to see NordVPN has made dramatic improvements on this front over the last few months. It also almost goes without saying that NordVPN offers a genuinely no-quibble 30-day money-back guarantee.
It must be said that this was the closest-run of all our awards. Our panel was very impressed by the customer service provided by all nominees for this category. In fact, we think it fair to say that, with some notable exceptions, VPNs across the entire industry are waking up to the importance good customer care and generous money-back policies.
ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, SaferVPN and VPNArea
When it comes to deciding on the best value for a product, it doesn’t always mean the lowest cost provider. Quite often, more expensive options provide better quality and additional features that are attractive to users. Here, we take a rounded view of their customer support, privacy and technical capabilities against the monthly fee the provider charges to get you the best bang for your buck.
The shortlisted nominees for this category were: VPNArea, NordVPN, PrivateVPN, ExpressVPN and ibVPN.
What constitutes value for money in a VPN depends very much on what you want out of a VPN. Bells and whistles might add value to a service if you use, them, but are a waste of money if you don’t.
In order to be scientific about what is a very subjective assessment, we simply divided each VPN provider’s Best Overall Award score by its price. And ta-da! We got a winner.
PrivateVPN is a privacy-focused no logs VPN which features strong OpenVPN encryption and servers in 52 countries. Knowledgeable 24/7 customer support is also great, as is its 30-dasy no quibble guarantee.
At just $4.46 per month (paid annually), this makes PrivateVPN a fantastic value proposition. Again, the public vote went to ExpressVPN.
VPNArea, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and ibVPN
Privacy and online security issues make the headlines every day. This has led to rising public awareness about VPNs, which has in turn led to a boom in new VPN providers hitting the market. This award aims to recognise the best breakthrough providers hitting the scene in the past 12 months.
This award was not open to public vote, as we felt that there is only one real contender. ProtonVPN is a new VPN from the people behind ProtonMail, a privacy-focused webmail service that revolutionised its market space.
ProtonVPN protects its users’ data with rock-solid encryption and is as technically competent as you would expect a company under the Proton banner to be.
Its Secure Core double-VPN network is not quite as innovative as ProtonVPN would have us believe, but is nevertheless very well executed. We were also impressed by how little impact jumping though an extra VPN server had on speed performance.
ProtonVPN is currently not as fully featured as some more mature VPNs, but is already a very polished product offered at highly competitive pricing. Indeed, ProtonVPN’s free tier is so good that many users may not even feel a need to upgrade.
The free VPN market is a wild and woolly one – as the saying goes “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product!”. It is therefore particularly important for consumers to understand which free VPNs can be trusted, why they can be trusted, and what inevitable compromises they are going to have to make when using a free service compared to using a paid-for VPN.
Winner: The shortlisted nominees for this category were: HotSpot Shield, TunnelBear, ZoogVPN, ProtonVPN and Hide.Me.
ProtonVPN’s free tier has zero data or time limits, which on its own makes it the most useful free VPN service out there. Although described by ProtonVPN as “slow”, our speed testes found its free servers to be faster than those from many paid-for VPN-services!
And unlike many free VPNs, this service by the developers of highly respected privacy webmail provider ProtonMail can be trusted to protect your privacy. You are limited to just three server locations, but ProtonMail Free truly is an exception to the golden rule that all free VPNs are basically rubbish.
HotSpot Shield, TunnelBear, ZoogVPN and Hide.Me
Our judges this year are drawn from some of the most respected sites and organisations in web privacy. Meet our panel:
Pete is the founder of BestVPN.com. He believes strongly in helping people to achieve freedom of access online and works tirelessly to make BestVPN.com the highest quality comparison site in the industry.
Scott is the managing director of BestVPN.com. He comes from an experienced background in running comparison websites and works alongside the world's best VPNs on a daily basis.
Douglas Crawford is a freelance technology journalist and cybersecurity researcher. Writer, reviewer, editor, and general dogsbody at BestVPN.com for almost five years, Douglas is a recognized authority on VPNs and the VPN industry.
Ray Walsh is a freelance journalist who specializes in digital privacy, cybersecurity, and technology. He is a VPN reviewer with a keen knowledge of the industry and is currently rated top 6 VPN authority on agilience.com.
Louise Taylor is staff editor at BestVPN.com. She comes from a background in writing and journalism and is highly informed on digital privacy, technology, cybersecurity, and VPNs.
Dinesh Kumar Aggarwal
Dinesh Kumar Aggarwal is CISO at The Missing Link Network Integration & Security. He has 14 years’ experience in network security design and operations at various leading international firms.