Best VPN Services for 2021

Updated: Wednesday, Jun 17, 2020

VPNs are becoming more and more commonplace. Everyone from expats to students, to political activists, seem hip to the latest trends in VPN technology and are ready to reclaim their privacy online. The good news is that there is no shortage of services, with seemingly dozens of new ones popping up each month. The bad news — the space is rife with scams and low-quality providers with awful marketing practices. So how does one choose a great VPN in 2020? Read on, I’ll tell you.

Our Top Pick

NordVPN Service Review

Best in class speeds, policies, and apps make NordVPN our top pick for 2020.

See Full Review

Why you should trust us

I’ve been studying privacy, security, and technology for decades. It’s been my life’s work. About ten years ago, I kicked off a mission to reclaim my online privacy. As a result, I’ve used dozens and dozens of products and have tens of thousands of hours of real-world experience using these services.

SmartPrivacy is independently owned and operated. It’s just me. There’s no team of writers, researchers, business development people — and I think that that’s a good thing. You get one viewpoint and one agenda. My agenda is simply to try new products and tell you what I find. I’m not compensated for doing so, and I don’t represent any of the companies that make the products that I use.

What you should consider before buying

VPNs can be a complex topic. I’ll try to take this from the top, as simply as possible.

First, you need to establish your threat model. What’s your reason for using a VPN? If you’re looking to avoid government surveillance, you’ll have a very different set of technological requirements than someone who is looking to bypass geolocational content restrictions (i.e., unblock Netflix overseas).

Some of the primary criteria that I’ve considered for these reviews:

  • Where are the services based, and what laws apply there that may impact service users?
  • Who owns the company, and are there any allegations that conflict with public statements such as their privacy policy, terms of service, etc.?
  • What protocols are available?
  • How are the network speeds?
  • What is the company’s logging policy, and has it been validated with court findings?
  • How do the apps and features compare to other available competitors?

How we tested

I took every VPN here through the ringer for at least 2 weeks. I installed the desktop application on my macOS laptop and installed the iOS apps on both my iPad and iPhone, where possible. If there was a browser extension available, I tested that too.

In addition to my own primary research, I aggregated reviews and commentary from several Reddit subreddits, forums, and user review sites.

A core concern and utility of VPNs is their ability to effectively spoof, cloak. or conceal your IP address. All services were tested using for both IP leaks and DNS leaks.