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The 5 Fastest VPNs Ranked by Speed (Features & Performance Compared)

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WRITTEN BY
UPDATED
November 25, 2021

 

fastest VPN services

The fastest VPNs pair lightning-fast speeds with top-notch security. This article reveals the 5 best fast VPNs and explains all you need to know about VPN speed.

 

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NordVPN gets the top spot as the fastest VPN this time around, but it isn’t the only champion! WireGuard has been a game-changer, and my tests have revealed massive improvements across the board.

 

Virtual Private Network (VPN) speed has always been my pet peeve for so many reasons. Finally, after many years, many top brands perform so well that they can match actual Internet line speeds. After extended speed testing for the best part of a year, I’m happy to reveal the 5 fastest VPNs currently available:

 

Top 5 Fastest VPN Services

 

  1. NordVPN – Best overall fast VPN service
  2. Surfshark – Best value fast VPN service
  3. ExpressVPN – Fast VPN with most consistent speeds
  4. CyberGhost – Fast VPN with largest server network
  5. IPVanish – Best no-frills fast VPN

 

The core purpose of using a VPN is online privacy & security. These elements often come at the expense of other areas such as performance. Thanks to new technologies and service improvements, these five brands have shown remarkable VPN speed improvements.
 

Note

  1. All speed test results are based on a 530 Mbps line connection.
  2. Price shown is lowest based on plans available from each VPN service provider.

 

Download Speed

503 Mbps

Upload Speed

483 Mbps

Price (USD)

$3.49/mo

Key Features

  • 5,600+ servers
  • Connect 6 devices
  • No logging
  • Double VPN
  • Split tunneling

“NordVPN offers impressive VPN connection speeds, and they did so innovatively, thanks to NordLynx.”

 

NordVPN’s headquarters is in Panama, a good location for a VPN service provider. It’s been in the business for almost a decade now. While that doesn’t make it the most established, it certainly has proved itself over this period.

 

NordVPN speed and advantages

 

Speed test result using NordVPN

NordVPN speed test result with NordLynx protocol. See original result.

 

NordVPN is one of the most impressive service providers around. Not only does it offer impressive VPN speeds, but it did so innovatively, thanks to NordLynx. This proprietary adaptation of the WireGuard protocol has displayed stunning characteristics.

 

Not only does NordLynx push NordVPN speeds to the limit, but it introduces additional elements to improve privacy and security. The result is greater confidence in a new protocol that’s still somewhat untested.

 

Looking beyond speed, NordVPN has managed to keep prices pretty reasonable despite service enhancements. Their server count has grown over the years, offering even better accessibility to a worldwide audience.

 

Another advantage of choosing NordVPN is its general innovation in the area of cybersecurity. Aside from the VPN service, they also offer a password manager called NordPass and secure cloud storage. It’s a good sign for a business in the VPN field.

 

Why we love NordVPN

 

NordVPN and its NordLynx protocol bring together the best parts of a VPN experience. It keeps your data private and secure while pushing performance to the edge of the envelope. Combined with well-managed prices, it’s simply the best combination around.

 

The downside: Increasing prices

 

NordVPN used to be very cheap, but over the past two years, prices have hiked considerably.

 

Read our in-depth NordVPN review to find out why it’s an excellent VPN.

 

 

2. Surfshark

https://surfshark.com/
surfshark

Download Speed

504 Mbps

Upload Speed

484 Mbps

Price (USD)

$2.49 /mo

Key Features

  • 3,200+ servers
  • Unlimited devices
  • Ad & Track Blocker
  • Whitelister
  • Multi-hop connection

“Surfshark connection speeds easily match the big guns of more established players, and it shows long-term potential.”

 

Surfshark is the youngest VPN service provider on this list. It first emerged at the tail-end of 2018 and has been blazing a trail forward since. Expansion so far has been quick, with awe-inspiring results for a new entrant.
 

Surfshark speed and advantages

 

Speed test result using Surfshark

Surfshark speed test result with WireGuard protocol. See original result.

 

Surfshark hasn’t gone for anything unique and simply dropped WireGuard into place. The rest is a nice speed increase which stretched my test line to its limits. They’ve gone for practicality over being unique, and the fantastic price point proves this.

 

While it doesn’t offer the largest server count, Surfshark has expanded rapidly in the past two years. That, combined with excellent speeds, makes it a strong contender in the race for the fastest VPN services available.

 

This brand is a personal favorite since I pay for all the VPNs I’m using. It’s simply worked, and I’ve experienced first-hand how they’ve improved in quality in such a short period. In a short span of two years, their server count more than tripled.

 

Surfshark is one brand I’ve kept a close eye on since they first came under my radar in 2018. They haven’t put a foot wrong so far and have remained focused on catching up with the best VPNs in the business – and are nearly there.

 

Why we love Surfshark

 

If the value of a service is your chief concern, then Surfshark is likely the cheapest you can get that shows this level of performance. Its speeds easily match the big guns of more established players, and it shows long-term potential.

 

The downside: Relatively unproven

 

Despite a sterling track record, time isn’t a friend to Surfshark. There’s simply no denying that the service is still new. Gaining a cybersecurity reputation can take years, and Surfshark hasn’t been around long enough to get that badge.

 

Read our full review on Surfshark to find out more about why it’s a highly recommended VPN.

 

 

3. ExpressVPN

https://expressvpn.com/
ExpressVPN

Download Speed

493 Mbps

Upload Speed

469 Mbps

Price (USD)

$8.32 /mo

Key Features

  • 3,000+ servers
  • Connect 5 devices
  • Offshore privacy
  • Private DNS
  • 256-bit encryption

“ExpressVPN may not be the fastest, but they are consistent. They can maintain rock-solid speed stability no matter what.”

 

ExpressVPN is a true industry veteran that’s been around for over a decade. Throughout that time, it’s kept a spotless reputation and is today admired by many. The service started from the British Virgin Islands, where it remains to this day.

 

ExpressVPN speed and advantages

 

Speed test result using ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN speed test result with Lightway (UDP) procotol. See original result.

 

ExpressVPN may not offer speeds as stunning as most on this list, but there is a significant difference. The watchword here is consistency, and it’s one of the VPN service providers that can maintain rock-solid speed stability no matter what.

 

Unlike those who’ve gone for WireGuard or some adaptation of it, ExpressVPN offers a proprietary protocol called Lightway. While few details are available, Lightway has so far proven to be extremely fast and stable.

 

It’s impressive that an entirely home-grown protocol manages to match WireGuard speeds neck to neck. So far, websites have loaded fine, and most services, including Netflix, have played well with Lightway active.

 

ExpressVPN has a slightly more complex way of handling user accounts. Instead of generic usernames and passwords, users need account codes and such to connect. That seems unusual but is an excellent way of increasing security.

 

Why we love ExpressVPN

 

Although ExpressVPN may cost more than most fast VPNs on this list, its claim to fame is stability. You won’t find many others that can maintain such consistent speeds, regardless of the time or to which server you connect.

 

The downside: Price

 

Sadly, there’s no way even to fluff this up since ExpressVPN is genuinely one of the most expensive VPN service providers in the market. On average, the cost is double over the competition, and in worst cases, more than triple.

 

Read our full review on ExpressVPN to find out more about the pros and cons.

 

 

Download Speed

500 Mbps

Upload Speed

477 Mbps

Price (USD)

$2.75 /mo

Key Features

  • 7,100+ servers
  • Connect 7 devices
  • No logging
  • Data compression
  • Ad blocking

“CyberGhost is finally performing to its true potential, and its massive server network becomes a much more significant advantage.”

 

CyberGhost interestingly comes from Bucharest, Romania, and has been in the market since 2011. Its small but dedicated team manages one of the largest collections of servers seen in the industry to date.
 

CyberGhost speed and advantages

 

Speed test result using cyberghost

CyberGhost speed test result with WireGuard protocol. See original result.

 

CyberGhost is in a unique spot as far as I’m concerned. It hasn’t been a past favorite, but in assessments this year, it has demonstrated clear improvements in speed. Part of this is due to the adoption of WireGuard, but the network has also extended significantly.

 

Thanks to the new protocol inclusion, CyberGhost can meet speeds that were once the domain of the cream of the crop. This brand is finally performing to its true potential, and its massive server network becomes a much more significant advantage.

 

If you also consider that CyberGhost prices have dropped, it’s an excellent time to give them a spin. You can also include antivirus, privacy guard, and an app updater as part of a package deal for a small price bump.

 

WireGuard has completely changed the landscape for CyberGhost. Its once somewhat mediocre speeds have improved by leaps and bounds. The low prices are a tremendous boosting factor, making them well worth a try.

 

Why we love CyberGhost

 

The colossal reach of CyberGhost’s 7,100+ servers makes it an ideal match for those primarily seeking to overcome geo-blocks. You can connect to almost any location, and thanks to WireGuard, the former speed handicap is gone.

 

The downside: Somewhat spotty performance

 

Although CyberGhost adoption of WireGuard has improved speed, the issue of maintaining such a large number of servers remains. At times you’ll find some servers unavailable or simply under maintenance.

 

Read our full CyberGhost review to find out more about the pros and cons.

 

 

Download Speed

504 Mbps

Upload Speed

481 Mbps

Price (USD)

$3.33 /mo

Key Features

  • 1,500+ servers
  • Connect 10 devices
  • No logging
  • Unlimited P2P
  • 256-bit encryption

“IPVanish network isn’t the largest around. However, its balancing act between price, performance, and stability is pretty good.”

 

IPVanish is one of the few top VPN brands that remain headquartered in the USA. This location raises some questions on data integrity, but since moving under new ownership, the company has been relatively consistent.

 

IPVanish speed and advantages

 

Speed test result using IPVanish

IPVanish speed test result with WireGuard protocol. See original result.

 

IPVanish had a minor blot on its record in the past, but they’ve cleaned house since then. Today, it has become an early adopter of WireGuard, further improving its overall profile.

 

As an established brand, its network isn’t the largest around. However, its balancing act between price, performance, and stability is pretty good.

 

One central point in IPVanish’s favor is that it owns all the equipment it operates. That’s one solid sign that they’re turning things around. Nobody touches IPVanish equipment except their staff, significantly bumping up privacy and security.

 

Aside from WireGuard, IPVanish also supports most other mainstream options, giving you the flexibility to handle anything. I recommend you simply keep it on WireGuard, though, since that’s where the best performance is for now.

 

Incidentally, IPVanish built a neat speed tracker into their app so you can easily keep an eye on performance. It’s simple but effective and stands out among the brands by doing something differently.

 

Why we love IPVanish

 

For the paranoid among us, the fact that IPVanish is so uptight about its operating equipment gives me a ton of confidence. While they aren’t the fastest around, the shortcoming is a matter of megabits – hardly consequential.

 

The downside: That black mark

 

There’s no greater sin a VPN can commit than releasing user connection logs. Even if IPVanish is now under new management, they bought in knowing the blemish would be hard to overcome. May remain wary to this day.

 

See our IPVanish review for more information.

 

 

How I Tested VPN Speed For This Article

 

Speed test without a VPN connection active

Speed test without a VPN connection active.

 

VPN speeds can vary depending on many factors (I’ll explain this further down). However, to ensure complete fairness in my testing process, I provided an environment as consistent as possible. For the brands above, the specifications maintained were;

 

  • Device: AMD Ryzen 5800X PC, Windows 10
  • Router: Asus AX86U
  • Test line: 500 Mbps Fiber Optic
  • Test server location: Singapore
  • Benchmark speed (Mbps): 530 down / 506 up (see original results)
  • Test latency: 9 ms

 

Based on this test platform, I connected each VPN to a Singapore-based server. I then used the OOKLA Speedtest service. This service enabled me to select the specific location and remote server to maintain consistency further.

 

All speed tests were duly recorded, with links to actual test results as proof of performance.

 

When testing a VPN service for speed, I always try to choose the best possible server location. It needs to be in relative proximity and in a place that has solid infrastructure. These contributing factors help reduce “noise” that may distort test results.

 

Factors that Can Affect Your VPN Speed

 

types of devices affect VPN connection speeds

Many things incluence VPN speed, including the devices used to run them.

 

One of the biggest problems users tend to encounter with a VPN is performance. Typically, this makes sense since if you grab a new service and your speed goes down, that new service will be the first in line to blame.

 

Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as simple. VPN speed depends on many things, not all of them under the purview of the VPN service provider. Here are some of the major contributing factors;

 

1. Local device performance

 

Who’s responsible for this: You.

 

VPNs encrypt data on local devices before it’s transmitted. The process of encryption makes use of processing power. This additional overhead is why low-powered devices like routers and weaker laptops or mobile phones will encounter slower VPN speeds.

 

To see if your device is slowing down the VPN, run a speed test with the VPN connected. Launch your resource manager and observe if your CPU load is high. If it is, chances are your device is affecting the overall VPN speed.

 

2. Protocol selection

 

Who’s responsible for this: You and the VPN service provider.

 

VPNs generally support a range of protocols for connections. The most common of these are currently IKEv2 and OpenVPN. WireGuard is relatively new, and not all VPN providers have adopted this technology.

 

The protocols a VPN provider supports and which you ultimately select will affect the potential speed of the service. WireGuard, for example, is known to offer far superior speed performance over the current OpenVPN standard.

 

3. Server connection latency

 

Who’s responsible for this: Physics.

 

Latency is the time taken for data to travel physical distance. The further away a VPN server is from you, the higher latency will be. For example, if you’re in Texas and connect to a VPN server in Australia, latency will be higher than connecting to one in Oklahoma or Arkansas.

 

The only way to lower latency is by choosing a VPN server closer to your physical location. You don’t need to connect to one halfway around the world to be safe with a VPN. Latency is simply unavoidable.

 

4. VPN server load

 

Who’s responsible for this: The VPN service provider.

 

VPN servers are like any other computing device. The more people connecting to a particular server, the higher the chance is that overall speeds for those users will drop. Think of it as a truck – as the payload increases, the truck can’t move as quickly.

 

Some VPN service providers have a status indicator that shows how “crowded” specific servers are, and you can use that to avoid congestion. In most cases, if you suspect a server is overcrowded, simply swap servers.

 

5. Server quality

 

Who’s responsible for this: The VPN service provider.

 

The term “server” is pretty generic. There can be a massive difference between two servers depending on their configuration. It’s like someone who owns the most expensive AMD processor comparing it against one lowest-performing one in the same series.

 

Unfortunately, server quality can severely impact VPN speed, and most service providers won’t tell you what hardware their servers are using. If you notice consistently poor performance across a range of the VPN’s servers, chances are the hardware isn’t up to scratch.

 

6. Internet speed

 

Who’s responsible for this: Your Internet Service Provider.

 

Some articles claim VPNs can improve internet speed, but this is often taken somewhat out of context. The reality is that VPN speeds will never exceed your advertised line speed. If you’re encountering bandwidth throttling from your ISP, then a VPN can help you avoid that.

 

If your Internet speed is slow even without a VPN active, using one isn’t likely to help. To see how fast your actual Internet connection is, use a service like Speedtest. Run it a few times, and you’ll get an idea of your typical line performance.

 

How You Can Speed Up Your VPN Connection

 

Technically, there’s nothing much you can do if the quality of a VPN service is poor. If you’re getting poor speeds despite signing up with a reputable service provider, there are some things you can try to boost VPN speeds;

 

1. Try a wired connection

 

Wireless transmissions are generally slower than those via cable. This discrepancy is due to distance, interference, and other obstacles. Test your VPN speed on a wired device and see if there’s a notable difference in speed. If so, a better router might improve your VPN speed.

 

2. Swap VPN protocols

 

The VPN protocol you choose may not always be ideal for your device. Mobile devices, for example, often perform better with IKEv2. Try changing the protocol you’re using and see if your VPN speed improves.

 

If you’re using OpenVPN, make sure to select UDP instead of TCP since that prioritizes speed over data integrity. Where possible, use WireGuard or an equivalent new protocol depending on what the VPN service provider offers.

 

3. Stop some background apps

 

If you’re using a relatively weaker device like a laptop, stopping some background apps can free up resources and improve VPN performance. Close any apps you’re not actively using and run another speed test on the VPN – it’s a long shot but may squeeze some extra juice onto your VPN connection.

 

4. Jump servers

 

For erratic VPN speeds, the server may be the cause of concern. If you typically get good speeds and the occasional flop, try swapping VPN servers. The server to which you’re connected may be overcrowded, causing performance to suffer.

 

5. Contact customer service

 

I know this sounds trite, but speaking to customer service may yield some results if other options have been exhausted. In cases like this, signing up with a reputable service provider is key to success. NordVPN, for example, offers excellent customer service.

 

Final Thoughts On The Fastest VPNs

 

After going through exhaustive tests, these are the three fastest VPN services:

 

Download
(Mb/s)

Upload
(Mb/s)

Price
(USD/MO)

NordVPN

502.98

482.61

$3.49

Surfshark

503.85

484.44

$2.49

ExpressVPN

492.98

468.94

$8.32

 

VPN speed is one of the most important things to me, at times more so than privacy or security. I spent many frustrating years waiting for WireGuard to emerge, and this protocol has changed the VPN landscape significantly.

 

Our top pick for this article is NordVPN. Yet, even if you decide not to pick one of the service providers on this list, make sure the one you ultimately choose supports the WireGuard protocol. If not, it’s unlikely you’ll get to experience the fast VPN speeds that you deserve.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1. What is the best fast VPN?

 

NordVPN is, without a doubt, the best fast VPN. Speed is essential in a VPN, but you can’t wholly exclude other factors. Among the top brands I’ve reviewed, NordVPN offers excellent speed and complements it with a strong balance of features and an overall move towards better cybersecurity in general.

 

2. Why do I need a fast VPN?

 

A slow VPN can make your Internet experience utterly miserable. Even if the line is usable, you’re likely going to be upset at paying more to get slower speeds. With the list of best fastest VPNs here, you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it.

 

3. Why are some VPNs so slow?

 

Slow VPN speeds are not always the fault of the VPN service provider. You need to consider other factors such as the quality of your Internet connection, the device used, the protocol selected, and more. There’s enough potential blame to go around.

 

4. Is a fast VPN as safe?

 

Yes, it is. One way of getting better VPN speeds is by reducing encryption, which puts your data at greater risk. Because of this, many VPNs don’t allow users to drop encryption rates. The fast VPNs on this list are all extremely secure and use the highest levels of encryption possible.

 

5. Is NordVPN or ExpressVPN faster?

 

Our tests suggest that NordVPN is slightly faster than ExpressVPN, though the latter yields a stabler connection quality. It should also be noted that at a much higher price point, ExpressVPN doesn’t differ much from NordVPN in terms of security, features, and availability.