It’s an always-on, always-connected internet world, and fast connection speeds are more important than ever. Whether you enjoy streaming video or music, playing online games or downloading files, speed is king.
If you look at the ads for many popular Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, you’ll notice that many of them claim to provide the fastest connection speeds around. But only one VPN provider can actually be the fastest VPN.
All VPNs will slow down your internet connection, but some will slow it down more than others. The reduction in speed is the sacrifice you make for more private and secure online activities.
The trick is to find a VPN that slows your connection speeds as minimally as possible, while still providing the maximum amount of protection.
In this article, I’ll share information about the 5 fastest VPN services available today. I’ll explain how we tested the speeds of each VPN, the features that each provider offers and the merits of each VPN.
The 5 VPNs With the Fastest Download Speeds
We run each VPN through rounds of rigorous testing (more about that later) and then rank the providers according to the test results.
After examining the test results, we found that the following 5 VPN providers deliver the fastest average connection speeds:
- ExpressVPN: The fastest VPN on the list, ExpressVPN not only provides blazingly fast VPN connections, but also optimal protection for your internet activities.
- Private Internet Access (PIA): This fast VPN delivers excellent download speeds and provides top-notch protection for all of your online travels. The provider’s global server network is a bit limited, though.
- StrongVPN: This VPN delivers optimal connection protections, such as IPv6 leak protection and an OpenVPN “scramble” feature that helps hide your VPN usage, all via easy-to-use apps.
- Hide My Ass! (HMA): HMA provides fast access to VPN servers in over 190 countries around the globe. However, their user log policies may be concerning to many readers.
- PrivateVPN: While this provider offers a smaller server network than most providers do, it has an excellent track record when it comes to unblocking streaming services.
While the fastest VPN services are ranked according to their raw download speeds only, I’ll also share with you the following information about their services:
- Reliability of connections
- Privacy and security protections
- Level of global server coverage
- Multi-platform app support
- Customer support
While fast connection speeds are always an important factor when considering VPN providers, arguably a more important factor to consider is the stability of the provider’s connections. The fastest connection speeds are worthless if you can’t stay connected. (I make a note of the reliability of each provider’s connections in the reviews.)
Pro tip: Consider other things as well, like the provider’s ability to unblock streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer from outside of their authorized areas. If you’re a P2P file sharing user, make sure your provider of choice supports P2P. You can find more information about all of these subjects here on Pixel Privacy.
Here’s my list of the 5 fastest VPNs on the market.
ExpressVPN delivers the fastest speeds in this lineup.
Providing an average download speed of 106.78 Mbps, the provider’s speeds are easily up to any of your favorite internet activities, including streaming 4K HDR video, gaming in your favorite online arena or sharing files.
During testing, and in my day-to-day usage, I have found ExpressVPN to deliver reliable connections, with no issues in staying connected or in keeping my internet connections undercover.
ExpressVPN’s speedy connections are well protected thanks to the provider’s use of military-level encryption and a kill switch. The provider doesn’t keep activity logs of any kind and also accepts Bitcoin as payment.
The provider has 3,000+ servers, stationed in 160 locations in 94 countries, offering comprehensive access to content around the world.
ExressVPN’s native app support is some of the best in the VPN industry, with apps for the Linux, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Amazon Fire TV platforms. They also offer browser extensions for the Firefox and Chrome platforms.
For devices not covered in the list above, or for when you need more than 5 simultaneous connections, you can make use of the provider’s wide router compatibility.
While I’ve found ExpressVPN to be extremely reliable, it’s the nature of the beast for issues to arise from time to time. If that happens, the provider offers 24/7 live support chat, a trouble ticket tracking system, email support and a support library.
- Fastest connection speeds on this list
- Reliable, well-protected connections
- Wide-ranging global server network
- Excellent multi-platform support
- 24/7 customer support
- Subscriptions are more expensive than many other options
BEST VPN FOR SPEED:ExpressVPN offers the fastest connection speeds of the 5 VPNs on this list. The provider delivers reliable access to content housed around the globe, as well as great customer support and comprehensive app support. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Private Internet Access (PIA) snagged 2nd place this time around thanks to its connection speeds, which measure in at an average of 78.89 Mbps. Those speeds can handle anything you throw at them, enhancing all of your online activities.
This provider provides reliable connections, with no disconnections during my testing. Once upon a time, PIA was my daily driver VPN before switching to ExpressVPN, and I never experienced any issues with the provider’s service.
Government-grade encryption, along with automatic kill switch protection and PIA’s MACE protection (which blocks advertising and malware servers) do an excellent job of providing comprehensive connection protection.
The provider also does an optimal job of protecting your privacy, with a strict no-logs policy and an acceptance of Bitcoin in return for their services.
PIA’s global server network consists of 3,300+ servers spread out in 32 countries. You’ll likely want to ensure they have servers located where you need them, so check their server coverage before clicking the subscribe button.
The service’s native app support covers the most popular device platforms, including macOS, iOS, Windows, Android and Linux. Also available are extensions for the Chrome, Firefox and Opera browser platforms.
The provider recently redesigned their apps, making them easier to use (one-click protection), with a user interface design that’s more logical and pleasing to the eye.
You can use PIA’s above-average router support to protect other devices or cover more than 10 simultaneous connections.
PIA offers live support chat, a “contact us” trouble ticket form, a searchable knowledge base and searchable guides.
- 2nd-fastest connection speeds in this lineup
- Top-notch security and privacy
- Allows up to 10 devices to connect at once
- Number of countries covered is a bit lacking
- Short 7-day money-back guarantee
BEST FAST VPN FOR FIRST-TIMERS:Private Internet Access deserves a close look from first-time VPN users because of the app’s ease of use and excellent connection speeds. The provider’s global server coverage could stand some improvement, though. A 7-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of Private Internet Access.
StrongVPN hasn’t been around for long, but it’s rapidly gaining a reputation for fast connections and excellent protections.
The provider’s average connection speed measures in at 74.44 Mbps, making it a great candidate for streaming, gaming and torrenting.
The provider’s VPN connections are solid, and I’ve never experienced a dropped connection while connected to their VPN servers.
Those connections are well protected thanks to military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, IPv6 leak protection and an auto-reconnect option. An OpenVPN connection obfuscation feature helps hide your VPN usage. (For more information about these features, check out our VPN Security Features article.)
The U.S.-based provider keeps no logs of any type connected to their customers’ online travels. Unfortunately, no cryptocurrency payment options are available.
The provider’s server network consists of 650 servers located in 26 countries. This doesn’t exactly offer a world of unblocked content, but their locations do offer access to most free parts of the globe.
StrongVPN’s app menu consists of native offerings for the Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire TV platforms. You can use the VPN with Linux, Amazon Kindle, Google Chrome OS and other devices with a bit of manual setup. No browser extensions are available.
If you’d like to protect all of your devices at once without using more than one of the provider’s generous 12 concurrent connections, you can take advantage of the provider’s compatibility with various routers.
24/7 customer support is available thanks to live support chat, email support and an FAQ, as well as setup and troubleshooting guides.
- OpenVPN connection obfuscation feature
- Optimal connection and privacy protections
- Easy-to-use apps for all popular device platforms
- No cryptocurrency payment option
- Global server network could stand some expansion
GREAT FOR ANONYMITY:StrongVPN is a late entrant in the VPN arena, but they are becoming known for their well-protected and fast connections. Their server network is small, but growing. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Hide My Ass! (HMA) offers fast, well-protected connections, with average download speeds of 61.44 Mbps. However, the provider doesn’t offer the level of privacy that we usually like to see from a VPN provider. (More about that later.)
During my testing and general use of HMA, the provider delivered reliably fast and secure connections.
The provider’s fast connections are well protected, using military-level encryption, kill switch protection and the ability to have your device’s IP changed at random intervals. HMA places no data caps or bandwidth limitations on your activities.
Unlike the other VPN providers on this list, HMA does save some information about your VPN sessions. Although they don’t record info about your online activities, they do log your actual IP address, the time you connected and how much data you used.
In at least one case, HMA shared info about one of their clients’ online activities with law enforcement.
Hide My Ass! has the best global server coverage in this roundup, with over 950 servers located in 190+ countries around the globe. This delivers excellent content-unblocking power via its streaming-specific servers, located in the U.K. and U.S.
P2P file sharing is allowed on 8 server farms, located in the U.S., U.K., Czech Republic, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
HMA offers native app support for the Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux platforms. There’s router support for various router makes and models. Up to 5 devices can connect to the service at once.
HMA customer support offers 24/7 support chat, searchable support knowledge base, an informative “getting started” section and a customer forum.
- Unblocks streaming providers
- Up to 5 concurrent connections
- Allows P2P activity on some servers
- Keeps logs of your IP address, timestamp and more
- Shares those logs with outside parties
FAST, BUT NOT VERY PRIVATE:While Hide My Ass! certainly competes well with other VPNs in the download speed department, their user logging policy and sharing of those logs should certainly concern any users who are very protective of their privacy. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Hide My Ass!
PrivateVPN is the 5th and final member of our fastest VPN list. They offer an average protected connection speed of 58.56 Mbps, providing enough horsepower for all but the most demanding of users.
While testing the provider, I found it to be a reliable way of protecting my internet connection, with no disconnection issues of any kind.
I also appreciated the provider’s low annual subscription pricing. Many providers require you to subscribe for 2 or 3 years to get a price as low as PrivateVPN’s 1-year fee.
PrivateVPN’s speedy connections are protected with military-class encryption. There are no data caps or bandwidth limitations.
Privacy is important, and PrivateVPN does an excellent job of protecting yours, with a no-logs policy and Bitcoin subscription payment option.
With 150+ servers in 60 countries, the provider’s server coverage is spread a bit thin. However, its servers are strategically located, and the service does a great job of unblocking geo-blocked content.
PrivateVPN’s app support is limited to the macOS, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS platforms. Comprehensive router support is available to help protect your other connected devices. They allow up to 6 concurrent connections.
Customer support consists of live support chat (not 24/7). A “Contact Us” form is also available, as is an FAQ section.
- Connections can handle both HD and 4K content
- Up to 6 concurrent connections
- Excellent security and privacy protections
- Server coverage is a bit thin
- Customer support isn’t 24/7
BEST BUDGET-PRICED OPTION:PrivateVPN is a great high-speed option for VPN users who are looking for a low-priced alternative that doesn’t require a lengthy commitment. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN.
How We Test VPN Speeds
Pixel Privacy measures the download speeds of VPN providers using a gigabit Ethernet connection on a Windows virtual server located in North America.
A team of 3 users run the VPN speed tests a few times a year. This allows us to keep up on any improvements in a VPN provider’s network.
We test the VPNs by connecting to VPN servers in 3 different locations – the United States, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. We test them for 3 days, 3 times per day, with at least 4 hours between each testing session.
Tests are run through the Windows version of each VPN’s app, configured to use the OpenVPN over UDP protocol. The average download speed is calculated by averaging the results from the total of the 9 tests we ran.
As you may have noticed, we don’t test latency (ping), as that number is basically an indicator of the testing device’s proximity to the VPN server rather than the VPN’s bandwidth – in other words, how close you are to the VPN server, rather than the server’s performance. We also don’t test upload speeds.
As with internet tests of any type, take VPN speed results with a grain of salt. There are a number of variables that can affect speed tests results, such as your location, the time of day, the location of the VPN server and more.
Choosing the Fastest VPN Server
When selecting a VPN server for general protection of your online activities, such as when you’re sitting in a Starbucks using their unprotected Wi-Fi, consider the following:
The closer the VPN server is to your current location, the faster the connection speeds will be.
While this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, it’s a good rule of thumb. If you’re located in Indiana, selecting a VPN server in Chicago will usually provide faster download speeds than if you were to connect to a VPN server in Los Angeles.
If you know exactly where your desired content is located, select a VPN server near there.
Latency (also known as “ping”) is the time it takes to send and receive a reply to a request from a server. Ping is tied to proximity, but it can also be affected by the amount of traffic on the information superhighway between you and the VPN server.
Some VPN providers display in their apps the latency readings between you and their servers (usually listed as “ping”). A lower number is always better, especially if you’re considering a server for online gaming.
The number of users connecting to a VPN server, also known as the server load, affect the performance of the server. Just like any highway, the more traffic it has to handle, the slower things move.
Some VPN apps allow you to see the current user load of their VPN servers, usually displayed as a percentage of their total capacity.
Which VPN protocol you use also affects your connection speeds.
A VPN protocol is the “set of instructions,” or method, that the VPN provider uses to encrypt your connection, and most providers offer a couple of choices (some better than others).
While I strongly recommend that you use OpenVPN whenever possible (since the small sacrifice in speed is well worth the added protection), other protocols do offer better performance numbers.
IKEv2 is a secure protocol that works well with most devices, especially mobile devices. PPTP is generally considered to be the fastest protocol, but it has many known security flaws, meaning you’re sacrificing security in favor of speed.
Contact your VPN’s customer support to find out how to choose or change protocols.
If you’re using a VPN to access another region’s servers, to download geo-controlled in-game downloads or to get around an IP ban, the most important factor to keep an eye on is latency (ping).
Ping time between your computer or other device and the game’s servers is what determines how long it will take for you to make a move and see it reflected in the game. If there’s too much lag, you’ll be on the losing end of someone else’s boomstick.
To stay competitive, select a VPN server as near as possible to the gaming servers. While download speed is important for gaming, it doesn’t require quite as much as you might think. Latency is usually the most important factor in most types of online gaming.
Some VPN providers display the ping time between you and their servers in their apps. For most online games, you’ll want to see a ping time of 100ms or less.
If you’re using a VPN to access streaming video or music content from another geographic region, the most important factor to keep in mind is connection speed. Download speeds can directly affect your viewing enjoyment.
Check in your VPN provider’s app to see if the provider offers streaming-specific servers in the area of the content you’re wanting to view. Those servers have been optimized for use with streaming services, offering both the fastest download speeds and the most reliable content-unblocking power.
Security Versus Speed
One of the basic truths of VPN protection is that the stronger the security of a VPN connection, the slower the connection speed will be.
Stronger encryption takes longer to encrypt data simply due to the additional math calculations involved. This means that a significantly stronger encryption protocol like OpenVPN is slower than a less-secure protocol like PPTP.
You don’t necessarily need to use the strongest available security all of the time. For instance, you can get away with a lesser protocol when gaming. However, if you’re doing your banking online while at Starbucks, use the strongest available.
VPN protocols include:
- OpenVPN – An open source VPN protocol, available on most device platforms. Arguably provides the best protection of any protocol on this list. Slight speed penalty.
- L2TP/IPSec – A good mixture of speed and security. While the protocol has no major vulnerabilities, some security pros have concerns that it may have been weakened or compromised by the NSA.
- SSTP – Reasonably fast. Developed by Microsoft for use in the Windows operating system. A solid option for Windows users, if you trust Microsoft.
- IKEv2 – A fast and secure alternative for the devices that support it, you’ll find this in use mostly with mobile devices, like the iPhone.
- PPTP – A fast protocol. However, it’s one of the oldest protocols around and has proven vulnerabilities. Don’t use it for banking or shopping.
With today’s fast hardware and broadband internet connections, you may not notice much of a speed penalty when using more secure protocols like OpenVPN.
What About Using a Free VPN?
If you’re looking for raw speed, a free VPN is not where you should be looking. Plus, there are plenty of privacy concerns with using a free VPN.
Many free VPN providers throttle the connection speeds of their users. This should automatically drop most free VPNs from any serious consideration. In addition, many freebie VPNs impose monthly or even daily data caps on their users.
It should also be mentioned that many free VPN providers force users to wait in a queue before connecting them to a server. Then, once a user is given the okay to connect, they’re given either a small number of servers to choose from, or no choice at all.
Your online security and privacy are also at risk if you opt for a free VPN. Many “free” VPN services keep their lights on and servers humming by logging the online activities of their users and then selling that information to advertisers and other third parties.
They have also been known to inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browsing sessions.
What all this means is that if you’re looking for super-fast connection speeds, or you want to keep your online activities undercover, a free VPN is not the way to go.
Readers looking for reliable connections that provide raw speeds would do well to consider any of the 5 Virtual Private Network providers on this list.
However, if you’re looking for the best speeds, as well as the best all-around service and support, I strongly advise that you give ExpressVPN a test drive.
ExpressVPN delivers the fastest average download speeds of any provider in this roundup. The service also provides optimal privacy and security protections, comprehensive global server coverage and excellent multi-platform app support.
For more information or to subscribe, visit the ExpressVPN website.