ExpressVPN

5 Best VPNs for streaming

When analysing our Big VPN Survey results, we concluded that accessing geo-restricted media streaming content was one of the primary reasons many people use a VPN service. This is hardly surprising, as by connecting to a VPN server in the country whose media content is geo-restricted, you not only gain access to that content, but to all the other security and privacy advantages that VPN brings.

huluAs long as a VPN provider maintains servers in the country you want to access content from, then pretty near any provider will get the job done. By far the most popular countries for media streaming are the US (Hulu and Pandora are theoretically exclusive to US residents, and US residents get the latest and most up-to-date Netflix library) and the UK (BBC iPlayer and 4oD are theoretically exclusive to UK residents, and UK residents get the latest and most up-to-date LoveFilm and Spotify libraries).

bbc iplayer

Network speed is also an important factor however, as few things are more annoying than constant random pauses thanks to buffering issues. Using VPN does slow down your internet connection, although with a good VPN service this performance hit is often negligible, with other factors such as overall network speed having a greater effect.

The most important of these ‘other factors’ is distance. It takes time for electrons to pass a signal half way across the world and back again, and the further away you are from the destination VPN server, the more lag (and therefore buffering) you will suffer. Accessing BBC iPlayer from a slow internet connection in China (for example) is always going to prove tricky, which is why it is important to choose a VPN provider who is fast.

pandora 3

To give you an idea of how fast an internet (i.e. how much bandwidth) you need, iPlayer recommends 1.5-1.8 Mb/s for its standard (SD) service, and 3.5 Mb/s for HD (720p) content. Recommendations for Hulu and Netflix etc. are similar. Audio-only streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify need only 150-320 kb/s.

Few streaming services offer it at the minute, but full HD (1080p) video content will require 4.5- 9 Mb/s, 3D HD  over 9 MB/s, and the new 4K resolution standard will need at least 15 Mb/s.

Remember also that streaming content counts against any data limits your internet plan might have, but how much depends a lot on how it is encoded. For example, a one-hour 720p video in the MPEG-2 standard might be 2.7 GB, while the same video in one of the newest video standards (e.g. H.264/Advanced Video Coding (AVC)), could be almost 13 GB. An hour of Downtown Abbey (SD) on iPlayer uses up about 300MB, while an hour listening to Spotify uses up to 72MB.


Summary

Rank Provider Starting
Price
Review Link

1

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

2

logo $6.95/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

3

logo $9.00/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

4

$10.50/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

5

logo $4.99/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

Take a look below to see slightly more detailed views about each provider.

Winner

VyprVPN

4,9/5

  • PROS
  • Fast
  • 160-bit and 256-bit OpenVPN encryption (Pro only),
  • Android app
  • IOS app
  • 7 day money back guarantee
  • Up to 3 simultaneous connections
  • CONS
  • Keeps logs for 90 days

Run by international consortium Golden Frog, VyprVPN is one of the few VPN providers to operate its own private server clusters, and without the need to deal with third party infrastructure providers it can concentrate on providing top notch performance. In addition to this, with servers in 36 countries all over the world, it is well positioned for those wanting to stream content from more unusual locations, and users in China will love VyprVPN’s new firewall busting technology, ‘Chamelion’.

If all you want to do is stream media content, then the basic PPTP service will suffice, although we much more strongly recommend the Pro-package with its 160-bit or 256-bit OpenVPN or 256-bit L2TP/IPsec encryption, and nifty Android and iOS apps. There is a 7 day money back guarantee and a 3 day free trial on offer, and up to 2 devices (or 3 for the premier package) can be connected at once. You should be aware however that VyprVPN keeps logs for 90 days.

Try Out the Best VPN for the Streaming Today!

Visit VyprVPN »

7 day money back guarantee

2nd place

PIA

4,9/5

  • PROS
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • No logs
  • Fast
  • Up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption
  • Uses shared IPs, client features port forwarding
  • VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • P2P: yes
  • 3 Simultaneous connection
  • CONS
  • No free trial
  • Based in US so is likely infiltrated by the NSA

In addition to having one of the best privacy policies of any VPN provider (no logs at all, accepts anonymous payment via Bitcoins), PIA is one of the most fully featured services available. The Windows and OSX clients feature DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, port forwarding and an internet kill switch; there is an Android app, and preconfigured DD-WRT and Tomato routers are available. In addition to this, PIA has recently upped its technical security (which already uses shared IPs to make individual identification of users very hard), to allow to up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption, with SHA-256 hash authentication and 4096-bit RSA handshake encryption.

PIA is also very fast, making it an excellent streaming choice, although the fact that it is US based may worry the more NSA-paranoid out there. Also, perhaps as a price for being so feature-filled, some users find the service complex and difficult to use.

» Visit PIA


3rd place

AirVPN

4,9/5

  • PROS
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • No logs
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Dynamic port forwarding
  • Uses shared IPs
  • Real-time user and server statistics
  • Support for Tor over VPN and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels
  • Good speeds
  • 3 day free trial
  • P2P: yes
  • Based in Italy (where DRD does not apply to VPNs)
  • CONS
  • 0 simultaneous connections by default (but more can be purchased)

Founded by Italian internet privacy activists and hactivists, AirVPN lacks some of the flashy features of PIA, instead focusing on high-level security tech, such as support for VPN over Tor, and VPN through SSH and SSL tunnels.  It keeps no logs, uses shared IPs, accepts Bitcoin payments, and lets you monitor its servers in detail and in real time in order to provide ‘network transparency’. Most importantly for streaming, it turned in excellent speedtest.net results during our review. The main downside of AirVPN is that only one simultaneous connection is allowed by default, but more can be added for under $2 per month.

» Visit AirVPN


4th place

BolehVPN

4,9/5

BolehVPN

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Fast
  • Great OSX and Windows software
  • 2 simultaneous connections
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • 128-bit Blowfish OpenVPN encryption could be stronger

If you live in the Far East then this Malaysian based provider is an excellent choice. It keeps no logs and has an excellent OSX and Windows VPN client, which while having a bit of a steep learning curve, has a wealth of connection options available, including to ‘cloaked routers’ in Hong Kong and the US East Coast (excellent for users in mainland China). Super-fast (so it is ideal for streaming), BolehVPN is also happy to allow P2P downloading.
» Visit BolehVPN


5th place

CactusVPN

4,9/5

  • PROS
  • No usage logs
  • 256-bit AES OpenVPN and SSTP encryption
  • Blazing fast
  • AutoProxy, neat client with Application Killer
  • P2P: yes
  • Based in Moldova
  • CONS
  • Does not accept Bitcoins
  • Restrictive policy on multiple connections (better than none though!)

Given that we have never heard of this small Moldova based VPN provider before, it left us very impressed with its policy of no usage logs (although some connection logs are kept for 3 days), strong 256-bit AES encryption, that it allows P2P downloading, and is very speedy. The Windows and OSX software is also very smart, and it is one of the few services we know of to feature a per-application kill switch in the event of disconnecting from a VPN server. The main downsides are a slightly restrictive policy on the number of simultaneous connections allowed, no Bitcoin payment option, and the fact that it only runs three servers, one each in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, so if you need to stream content from elsewhere then you are out of luck.

» Visit CactusVPN


Summary

Rank Provider Starting
Price
Review Link

1

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

2

logo $6.95/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

3

logo $9.00/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

4

$10.50/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

5

logo $4.99/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

Related Coverage


3 responses to “5 Best VPNs for streaming

  1. I use showbox and I keep getting calls from my ISP provider saying I copyright infringement. What do I need to do and how do I do it to stop this from happening without having to stop streaming?

  2. Thanks for the article Douglas. VPN is good if you want to hide your real location. However, about content streaming, I prefer the DNS option. Currently, I am using UnoTelly and have no speed loss which allows me HD streaming with my 10mbps connection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *