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Similar to the California gold rush of the 1980s, only a handful of companies are controlling some of the biggest consumer products and brands in the world.

Sounds absurd right, that’s what I thought too. But ever wondered why only a few big names dominate search results on search engines?

Whether it’s the tech industry, food or lifestyle, the seemingly diverse search results aren’t as diverse as they might seem. In reality, there are large corporations behind the scene.

So are powerful syndicates behind the 23.6 billion dollar VPN industry? Are the best VPN providers suggested by the industry’s leading tech companies really the best? Are you putting your blind faith in companies that are just out there to earn millions?

Since it’s a rather controversial and quite frankly an interesting topic, lets dive in together and find out how media groups are affecting your online buying decisions.

And at the very end, based on my research and 9 step testing criteria, I’ll suggest 5 of the best VPN provider for 2019.

Sounds good? Let’s dive right into the top VPNs review…

SERP Monopoly – How Giants Are Hogging All the Space

As I said earlier, search results on Google are mostly dominated by few Companies. No matter whether its tech, lifestyle, health, food or the fashion industry, Google search results are controlled by a few gigantic companies that own hundreds of powerful brands.

16-companiesLet’s hold on for a second, let me explain what I mean by that. No matter what you search for on Google, search results are bound to be dominated by a few of the above-mentioned media groups.

Don’t believe me? Let’s see what search results we get for “best Antivirus”.

Search-result-for-best-antivirusWhat do we have here? ItProPortal & TechRadar are owned by Future PLC.

Let’s scroll down a bit more, shall we…

Search-result-for-best-antivirus-22PCmag is owned by Ziff Davis, Cnet is owned by CBS, and again TomsGuide and Itproportal are owned by Future PLC.

Still not convinced? Let’s scroll even more…

Search-result-for-best-antivirus-33Take a look at the last search result. Toptenreviews.com is also owned by Future PLC. The rest of the competition has no chance of ranking.

As I said earlier, the search results we get on Google are not choices and are sterically put there by big media groups.

Even though other websites might offer better and more informative content, Google still seems to rank the more authoritative website.

Take a second and think, how many new websites have come out of nowhere and are ranking despite not having any content that would satisfy the user’s intent.

Popular Brands You Trust Are All Owned By the Same Media Group

If it’s not blatantly obvious by now, huge media corporations own a lot of influential brands. Take for example the Hearst Media group.

If you head over to their brand’s page, you’ll see a bunch of renowned brands. More specifically, around 23 powerful brands like Cosmopolitan, ELLE, and Digital Spy among others all fall under the umbrella of Hearst.

hearst.com-brands

That’s not even the best part. Their network of iconic brands covers pretty much every niche of the consumer market.

hearst.com-all-categories

Automotive, fashion, health and fitness, they cover it all. No wonder how they manage to hog multiple SERPs on Google.

For instance, searching for “date ideas” on Google and we can see that at least two search results are from the Hearst group.

search-result-for-date-ideas-hearst-group-1

Similarly, if you Google for something like “amazon best sellers”, you can see that two of the search results are from Hearst again.

search-result-for-amazon-best-sellers-hearst-group-1

Okay, so what if a lot of the brands are owned by a single corporation? What does it have to do with SERP Monopoly?

Allow me to explain…

Well by sharing links among various sister sites, powerful media groups like Hearst can get multiple websites ranked for the same search keyword.

For instance, I bet all of the different brands owned by Hearst media share links with one another. To prove my point, let’s look at some statistics from Ahref.

cosmopolitan.com-referring-domains-bestproducts.com

If you look at the referring domains (think of this as a shout out), you can see that cosmopolitan.com is linking back to bestproducts.com.

Let’s look at another example.

If we check out the referring domains of cosmopolitan.com, we can see that it’s being linked by womenshealthmag.com.

womenshealth.com-referring-domains-cosmopolitan.com

By linking multiple brands together, Hearst and other such media groups can get ranked for pretty much anything and everything.

**I’m saying it again, your search results aren’t choices**

From Zero to Hero – Thanks Authoritative Links

So how do new websites come out of nowhere and suddenly rank on Google’s top three results? Well, it all comes down to powerful backlinks.

Still with me? Good!

Let’s talk about BestProducts.com. If you’ve never heard of this website before, it is also owned by the Hearst media group.

But why am I even talking about this website? Well, it is the perfect example of what powerful backlinks can do for a new website.

Back in October 2015, Hearst introduced a new website by the name of BestProducts.com to tap the e-commerce sector.

So what did Hearst do to boost the ranking of BestProducts.com? As you’ve guessed it, they linked back the BestProducts.com from all of their other authoritative brands.

As a result, they managed to rank BestProducts.com quickly, telling Google that BestProducts.com is a credible website and should be in top search results.

hearst-media-group-back-linking-bestproducts.com

To prove my point, here’s a screenshot from Ahref (an SEO tool) of how the BestProducts.com domain started to skyrocket in Google’s search results.

bestproducts.com-ahref-referring-domains-stats

That’s one more website to hog up Google’s search results. No matter which website you purchase the product from, the revenue stream stays the same.

VPN Industry Is Doing the Same

Stepping into the VPN industry and it’s the same story. Just a couple of big names taking over search results.

I don’t mind that these top websites are dominating the rankings on Google, but I do have a problem with the type of content they produce. Except for a very few exceptions, most of the content available online isn’t even backed by proper stats or research.

These websites use the same old numbers of servers and the same generic information about features to suggest the best service.

When you search “Best VPN” on Google, you’ll get seemingly different search results. But as I mentioned earlier, these search results are by a powerful network of websites, backed by large media corporations.

For those of you wondering what I mean by that, check out the screenshot below.

Google-search-results-for-best-vpn-techradar

Google-search-results-for-best-vpn-tomsguide

Why am I pointing out TechRadar and Tomsguide? Well for those of you who don’t know, both of these websites are owned by a single media group, FuturePLC.

For an average user considering which VPN best to use, there isn’t much choice but to trust these authority websites.

Sounds relatable right?

But when you go through their content, it’s stuffed with generic and even outdated information in some cases.

Let’s take a look at Tomsguide’s Best VPN article. Even if you’re skimming, you’ll notice that there’s pretty much no valuable information that would contribute to it ranking on the first page of Google.

Funny enough, their content seems to be outdated for years. If you scroll down to where they list NordVPN, they mention that NordVPN doesn’t have an “instant customer service”.

toms-guide-out-dated-content

However, as far as I know, NordVPN has been offering live chat support for years now. More specifically, according to NordVPN’s support representative, it’s been around for almost three years now.

nordvpn-live-chat-support

And while we’re talking about NordVPN, consider its Trustpilot rating.

Even though NordVPN is rated terribly on Trustpilot, almost every authority site in top ten has failed to cover that NordVPN published fake reviews and is removed from the review site.

Even worse, Trustpilot itself has published a disclaimer warning to Trustpilot readers of a “large number of fake reviews”.

trustpilot-nordvpn-fake-reviews-1

Now don’t get me wrong, NordVPN is an excellent product, but the fact that no one is covering the cons of the services, makes me question the credibility of their reviews.

What’s their secret?

As I mentioned earlier, it all comes down to links. It’s like getting a shout out from a hot shot celebrity. People would be compelled to trust you.

Similarly, when a big domain refers to other domains or pages, that’s an indication for Google to trust it and ultimately rank it.

For instance, if we talk about the tech sites owned by FuturePLC, what names come to mind? TechRadar, Tomsguide, and ItProPortal.

Out of these three websites, TechRadar is the most trustworthy. It makes perfect sense because the website has done a commendable job in cementing itself as an authority tech website.

This is exactly why the other two domains are back linked through TechRadar to increase their trustworthiness.

Take a look at the screenshot below.

Ahref-techradar-back-linking-itproportal-1

Ahref-techradar-back-linking-tomsguide-1

This is how big groups can take up the majority of the search results on Google.

And on that note, I come to my main point; how did I test VPNs to uncover the best service.

How Did I Test Best VPNs – Rating Criteria

Unlike other generic reviews, I’ve conducted thorough researches to back all of my suggestions. Instead of cramming basic and pretty much useless information, I’m going to take a slightly different approach towards suggesting the Best VPN.


Finally, after filtering out the VPNs that meet my review criteria, I’ll suggest you the 5 top VPN services of 2019.

Sounds good? Let’s dive into the Best VPN review.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction can either be a deal maker or a breaker. When it comes to choosing a truly secure anonymous VPN, experts would suggest that you skip VPNs based in 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes countries.

Since countries with strict data retention laws are obligated by law to comply with law enforcement agencies, any personally identifiable information is at risk of being investigated indiscriminately.

VPN providers operating under the nose of the surveillance alliances don’t have any choice but to comply quietly.

We have seen one too many providers being forced by law enforcement agencies to give up confidential and personally identifiable information of its users.

For instance back in 2011, a member of a hacker group LulzSec was sentenced to 15 years in prison after HideMyAss handed over the logs of the alleged hacked to the law enforcement agency following court orders.

Similarly, PureVPN also had to cooperate with the FBI in the infamous cyberstalking case which led to the arrest of a 24-year-old sick individual by the name of Ryan Lin.

Based on such past cases, I spent 96 hours digging into the jurisdictions of around 123 VPN providers to see which VPNs are safe.

If you don’t want to go through the entire list, you can use the handy tool below to quickly find out if your VPN falls under a safe jurisdiction.

Anyways, after filtering out 123 VPNs, here are few of my recommended VPNs that don’t operate under the jurisdiction of the FVEY:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. CyberGhost
  4. Surfshark
  5. Astrill
  6. Avast Secure line
  7. PureVPN

Another reason for choosing these VPNs is because they are fully GDPR compliant.

NordVPN

NordVPN operates from the jurisdiction of Panama. Therefore, they legally don’t have to abide by any data retention laws. NordVPN also follows current GDPR laws.

nordvpn-jurisdiction

PureVPN

PureVPN is also a safe choice for a VPN since it operates from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong. PureVPN is fully compliant with current GDPR laws.

purevpn-jurisdiction

Surfshark

Surfshark is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is free from data retention laws. Surfshark is also GDPR compliant.

surfshark-jurisdiction

ExpressVPN

Same as Surfshark, ExpressVPN is also headquartered in the British Virgin Islands and fully GDPR compliant.

expressvpn-jurisdiction

Astrill

astrill-jurisdiction

As far as jurisdiction is concerned, Astrill operates from Seychelles and doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of surveillance alliances. Astrill is also fully GDPR compliant and inspires trust in their service.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is based in Romania and doesn’t abide by mandatory data retention laws. It also fully operates in compliance with the EU’s GDPR guidelines.

cyberghost-jurisdiction

Logging Policy

“No logs”- sounds great right? But I’m willing to bet you’ve never even gone through your VPN provider’s privacy policy.

Don’t feel bad though, you’re not the only one. Most VPN consumers fall for swift marketing gimmicks. Twist of words is what lures people in.

The truth of the matter is, there’s no such thing as a completely log-less VPN. I know this for a fact as I deconstructed the logging policies of over 100 VPN providers and found that most VPNs do keep some sort of logs.

Whether it’s just usage logs or connection logs, VPN providers can’t operate without them. However, you as a VPN consumer should only worry about usage logs. As long as your VPN provider doesn’t keep records of your online activities, you have nothing to worry about.

Since I don’t feel like cramming this article with too many VPNs, I’ve comprised a short list of VPNs that either does or doesn’t keep logs.

VPN providerConnection logsUsage Logs
NordVPNNoNo
SurfsharkNoNo
ExpressVPNNoNo
IPVanishNoNo
ZoogVPNNoNo
AceVPNNoNo
Betternet VPNNoNo
IvacyNoNo
IBVPNNoNo
IVPNNoNo
Cactus VPNNoNo
TunnelBearNoNo
Flow VPNYesYes
FlyVPNYesYes
HolaVPNYesYes
TigerVPNYesYes
UnlocatorYesYes

Leak test

DNS and IP address is what uniquely identifies a web user. Think of it like your home address. In the world of VPNs, It’s the fine line between you and your privacy.

Sadly, a lot of the VPNs currently available on the market are plagued with DNS, IP and WebRTC leaks. In fact, according to one study, out of 150 VPNs tested on the Google Play Store, 25% were found leaking DNS.

On that note, I pain strikingly tested 52 VPNs for leaks and found that 10 out of 52 VPNs failed my leak test.

Here are the 10 top VPN services that passed my leak test.

VPN ProviderDNS, IP & WebRTC leaks
ExpressVPNPassed
NordPassed
SurfsharkPassed
PureVPNPassed
IPVanishPassed
IvacyPassed
VyprVPNPassed
CactusVPNPassed
TunnelBearPassed
MullvadPassed
Betternet VPNPassed
HolaFailed
BTGaurdFailed
Hoxx VPNFailed
Touch VPNFailed
DotVPNFailed

Obfuscation – Special Feature for Bypassing Impenetrable Firewalls

While you might have seen advertisements claiming to “unblock everything and anything” on the web, in most cases, it is not true.

You see, some countries use powerful firewalls to block certain content. For instance, China enforces the Great Firewall to restrict all foreign content and actively block VPN services.

Other countries also either block VPNs or have deemed them illegal to use in their respective countries. Breaking the rule can not only get you fined but in some countries, you might even face jail time and legal prosecution.

Under such situations, the obfuscation technology comes in handy. Unlike traditional VPN servers, obfuscated servers are capable of unblocking powerful firewalls by masking encrypted VPN traffic to appear as ordinary internet traffic.

VPN-obfuscation-diagram-explaination

This technology is super effective in countries like China and in many parts of the Middle East where access to foreign content is heavily sanctioned. For instance, if you want to watch Netflix in China, using an obfuscated server can help you bypass the Great Firewall of China (GFW).

But before you get too excited about using obfuscated servers, not many VPN providers support this technology. In fact, after conducting in-depth research of the VPN industry, I’ve managed to find only four VPNs that offer obfuscated servers:

  1. VyprVPN
  2. IPVanish
  3. ExpressVPN
  4. NordVPN

Server Coverage & Types of Servers

Servers are the heart and soul of any best VPN service. Choosing the best VPN server can make a night and day difference in performance. In addition to that, the more servers a VPN provider offers, the better it is in terms of overall performance.

However, one thing almost no VPN consumer pays attention to is the type of servers being offered by a VPN provider. I’m talking about virtual and physical servers.

Even though you’d see thousands of servers being advertised by VPN providers, in reality, most of them use a combination of both virtual and physical servers.

Sadly though, very few VPN providers like ExpressVPN and PureVPN openly admit to using a combination of virtual and physical servers.

Even VPN providers that claim only to use physical servers aren’t always true to their words. I found out about this when I tested Surfshark’s Indian and Vietnamese servers.

surfshark-virtual-indian-server

surfshark-virtual-vietnam-server

So which VPNs truly offer bare metal, AKA physical servers?

Well except for NordVPN, CyberGhost, and IPVanish, I haven’t come across a VPN that offers physical servers only.

If you’re curious as to how I tested virtual and physical VPN server, you can check out my virtual servers guide.

Transparency

When it comes to VPN transparency, not knowing who’s behind the company can be quite detrimental to your privacy.

Simple Linkedin profiles can tell a lot about a company you’re dealing with. For instance, VPN providers like CyberGhost and NordVPN among others have completely transparent company Linkedin profiles.

Company address, names of employees and even the names of CEOs and Co-founders is out in the public for everyone to see.

Cyber-ghost-CEO-linkedin-profile

PureVPN-CEO-linkedin-profile

TunnelBear-CEO-linkedin-profile

In addition to that, transparency reports are crucial to know what sort of data has been shared with law enforcement agencies – if any.

Things like company address, real names of employees and owners, do make any business a lot more trustworthy.

Despite obvious perks, most VPN providers don’t choose to disclose a lot of information. For instance, when I asked IbVPN about their company owners, they simply answered my question by saying this:

“SC Amplusnet SRL is the company that holds full ownership of ibVPN. The company owners are private persons that are involved in developing and maintaining the ibVPN service”.

They obviously didn’t want to disclose who’s running the company. This is exactly why I decided to reach out to more VPN providers.

To learn more about VPN transparency, I reached out to over 180+ VPN providers to see who’d open up

Surprisingly, only a handful of VPN providers bothered to disclose their company information and that too only a limited basis.

However, here are a few VPN providers that answered all of my questions.

  1. Surfshark
  2. PureVPN
  3. ProtonVPN
  4. ibVPN
  5. me
  6. NVPN
  7. Mullvad
  8. SigaVPN
  9. OVPN
  10. CyberGhost
  11. KeepSolid

Out of the 180 providers, here are some services who are yet to respond to our questions:

  1. Astrill
  2. ExpressVPN
  3. FrootVPN
  4. IPVanish
  5. IVPN
  6. LeVPN
  7. Ironsocket
  8. PrivateTunnel
  9. Private Internet Access
  10. SurfEasy
  11. TotalVPN

Here are a few VPNs that offer updated transparency reports:

  1. CyberGhost
  2. Private Internet Access
  3. AceVPN
  4. Avast Secure line
  5. AzireVPN
  6. Betternet
  7. HideMyAss
  8. Hotspot Shield
  9. IVPN
  10. OVPN
  11. TunnelBear

Best VPN to Unblock Streaming Services (Netflix, Hulu, Kodi…)

If I say Netflix is the world’s most popular streaming platform, I wouldn’t be wrong, would I? In all honesty, Netflix is no short of a holy grail for streaming fanatics.

Despite being super popular, it is not available in some countries. And even in countries where Netflix is available, there is always the issue of the limited content library due to regional licensing.

In order to bypass geo-restrictions or to access a much broader content library, Netflix subscribers use VPNs.

However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Netflix is using powerful algorithms to block VPN services. While it was possible to unblock Netflix with any old VPN, now all you get is a proxy error message.

That said, after testing multiple VPNs services, I’ve managed to filter out only 9 VPNs that in fact do work with Netflix. These include:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark
  4. PureVPN
  5. CyberGhost
  6. IPVanish
  7. VyprVPN
  8. Ivacy
  9. StrongVPN

In addition to Netflix, there are other streaming platforms that these VPN providers unblock. Most notable services include BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon. The wide server network offered by each of the above-listed movies can help you access any geo-blocked streaming platform.

These providers make a good VPN for Kodi. Security features like AES-256 bit encryption and IP masking ability provide help secure your privacy against the greatest of foes.

Torrenting

Torrenting and streaming are the number one reasons why people even choose VPNs. However, many VPN providers don’t allow torrenting. Even those that do, only allow torrenting on limited servers.

But limited P2P servers isn’t the only implication you might face when torrenting with a VPN. You might face other issues such as leaks, which VPNRanks has covered in great detail.

Anyways, the 5 best VPN for torrenting in terms of speeds and servers are listed below:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark
  4. PureVPN
  5. CyberGhost

Overall Features to Look Out For

Other than what I’ve already discussed above, there are few features you should look at any best VPN for security. Price, refund policies and app compatibility are to name a few.

Price

No matter what is a good VPN service might be, if it’s not affordably priced, it wouldn’t appeal to an average consumer. Price affects buying behaviors. VPN providers that usually offer special pricing or discounts are the ones to get.

Refund policy

Refund policies are like the “Get out of jail free cards” of the VPN industry. You get the freedom to walk away from a lengthy subscription plan without risking anything. It makes sense right? Why would you want to continue using a service if you’re not satisfied with it?

Generally, VPN providers offer at least a 30- day refund guarantee.

Simultaneous connection

Being able to secure multiple devices with just one subscription plan is absolute bliss. You get the freedom to either have all the privacy to yourself or split the bill with a friend or two.

Generally speaking, VPN providers either tend to offer 2 to 3 simultaneous connections or none at all.

Apps compatibility

A VPN app must be compatible with multiple platforms and operating systems. Since everything is shifting to mobile, you need a VPN that’s compatible with mainstream mobile devices.

If a VPN provider offers support beyond traditional desktops and mobile devices, like for say browsers, routers, casting devices, and gaming consoles, that’s an added bonus.

Typically, you must make sure your VPN provider at least offers apps for Mac, Windows, iPhone and Android.

Verdict – what are my recommended best VPN services?

So, what is the best VPN?

Well after shortlisting multiple best VPN providers in multiple categories, it’s obvious that no single VPN can be deemed the best.

While some providers don’t leak, others don’t fall under the surveillance alliances. I’m sure you’re getting my point.

So after painstakingly filtering out VPNs from every category covered in this article, I’ve rounded up a list of 5 top VPN services for 2019.

But for a more in depth knowledge about all of the VPNs discussed below, you might want to read our VPN reviews.

And before you ask, there are no free VPN in this list. However, if you’re looking for some reliable free VPN, I’d suggest that you check out our other blog.

So without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at my recommended best VPN service 2019 in detail. For a more comparative analysis, I highly suggest you check out our informative VPN Comparison guide and tools.

1. ExpressVPN – Pricy, But Worth Every Penny ($6.67/mo)

expressvpn-1

Pricing:

To start, ExpressVPN is not cheap (well, Kind of…)

They offer 3 plans. 1-month, 6-months, and 15-months. Their monthly plan is ridiculously priced. It costs a whopping $12.95 a month.

I get that their service is great and all but $12.95 is still just not justifiable in my opinion.

Their 6-months plan is also quite expansive. It too costs a staggering $9.99 a month. It also doesn’t come with discounts either.

Their 15-months plan is however reasonably priced.  Although not cheap, it does comes with a 49% discount.

After the discount, their 15-months plan will end up costing you $6.67 a month. Technically speaking, you’re only paying $6.67 for 12 months, the rest of the 3-months are free.

Privacy policy & jurisdiction:

looking at ExpressVPN’s privacy policy and it is quite thorough.

That said since I don’t want to bore you with too much information, let me make it utterly concise for you.

ExpressVPN is a genuine no log VPN service. They don’t keep usage logs nor do they store connection logs. The only things they do collect are cookies and diagnostic information, which is used for marketing and maintenance.

If you’re wondering how is this possible, that’s because The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has no formal legislation for data protection. It will in the future, however as of now, BVI is not mandated to retain any online data.

Oh! Before I forget, they are headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which isn’t located under any heavy surveillance jurisdiction. In fact, they are out of the reach of the so-called five eyes.

With a data retention free jurisdiction and a solid no logs policy, ExpressVPN is among the best VPN for China and other such harsh countries.

Speeds:

ExpressVPN performed exceptionally well in my speed test.

After connecting to the U.S server, I managed to achieve speeds of about 80.2 download and 84.11 Mbps on my 100 Mbps internet connection.

The ping was also substantially lower than both Surfshark and NordVPN, maxing in at about 36 Ms.

Fast speeds not only makes ExpressVPN the perfect companion for torrenting but with also the best VPN for streaming Netflix and other popular VOD services. Overall, highly satisfied with the speeds of ExpressVPN.

DNS / IP address leaks:

When it comes to leaks, you can rest assured that ExpressVPN isn’t going t leak no matter what. I’ve thoroughly tested ExpressVPN for DNS, IP and WebRTC leaks and it passed without any issues.

User experience:

The ExpressVPN app looks quite minimalistic on the outside but is highly customizable on the inside.

Launching up their mobile app and you’re only greeted with a rather bland looking home screen. However, the settings option is where all the action should be.

You get an option to choose different protocols and even an option to enable the auto-reconnect feature of ExpressVPN.

I particularly like the help & support section of their app. Aside from the contact support option you get in the settings menu, there’s an option to test your IP, DNS leak and even WebRTC leak from within the app itself.

Overall ExpressVPN offers a very refined and polished VPN experience.

Features:

ExpressVPN offers some very awesome features. Best in class 256-bit AES encryption, OpenVPN among other powerful protocols, Zero-knowledge DNS, Kill switch and VPN split tunneling are all present in ExpressVPN.

Built-in speed test feature is also a very handy feature and makes it super convenient to test internet speeds without having to leave the VPN app.

ExpressVPN also offers a pretty hefty server park. At the moment they offer about 2000+ servers in 94 countries.

One thing that didn’t wow was their simultaneous connections. They only offer 3 simultaneous connections at max. That’s half of what NordVPN offers. Overall they can definitely need to allow more simultaneous connections.

Customer support & Money back guarantee:

ExpressVPN’s customer support is one of the very best in the industry. Their response time also one of the quickest I’ve personally ever come across. I literally got an email response within minutes.

As far as live chat is concerned, the only gripe I have with it is the lack of availability from time to time. I don’t know why, but the live chat feature is not always available on ExpressVPN’s website.

Lastly, ExpressVPN offers a risk-free no questions asked 30-day money back guarantee as well.

Based on its features and overall performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that Express is probably the best VPN for you.

Interested to know more about this VPN provider, check out our exclusive ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN – Easy on the Pocket but Heavy on Features ($2.99/mo)

nordvpn

Pricing:

Despite its massive stature, NordVPN’s subscription plans are very reasonably priced. As of January 2019, NordVPN offers 4 subscription plans, monthly, 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plans.

Their monthly plan costs around $11.95 and doesn’t come with any discounts. However, the rest of the three plans actually come with 41%, 66%, and 75% discounts respectively.

After the discount, their 1-year plan costs $6.99, the 2-year plan costs $3.99 and their 3-year plan costs $2.99 a month.

Privacy policy & jurisdiction:

NordVPN is all about user privacy. They mention no data logging many times on their website.

Taking a closer look at their privacy policy and it’s true. Since NordVPN operates from the jurisdiction of Panama, they legally don’t have to abide by any data retention laws. Not only that, but they’re also located away from the grasp of the infamous five eyes.

Now as far as their privacy policy is concerned, the only information they do log is your email address, payment information and cookies to personalize their site experience for you. However, since they don’t collect any usage or connection logs, you have nothing to worry about.

Speeds:

Speeds wise NordVPN is beyond decent. Using my 100 Mbps connection, I only managed to get about 55.3 download and 60.5 Mbps upload speeds. However, I did notice a slightly higher Pings when compared to ExpressVPN.

DNS / IP address leaks:

To test whether NordVPN suffered from the dreaded IP / DNS leak, I connected to a U.S server first and then visited the IPleak.org website.

IPleak.org accurately showed my country and the city I was connected to. It also verified that NordVPN didn’t leak my IP or DNS. Overall it passed the leak test without any issues.

User experience:

The user experience of NordVPN is rather minimalistic. The application is super clean and lightweight on both mobile and desktop.

I particularly like their mobile version better, but I guess it’s just personal preference. In the middle of the app you have your server map and down at the bottom is where you can select a specific country.

I also really like the quick connect option located at the bottom of the app.

Aside from that, the settings option is fairly simple with an option to enable Kill switch, contact support, upgrade plan and log out. Overall the app is super fluid and dead simple to use.

Features:

Feature-wise NordVPN is very well equipped. I mean seriously well equipped.

All of their subscription plans come standard with 2048-bit encryption, simultaneous connections up to 6 devices foolproof DNS leak protection and two separate sets of Kill switches.

And yes, I did say two Kill switches, one that works on system level and the other that works with specified applications.

Pretty nifty right?

Oh yeah! They also offer Double-Hop (Double VPN) and an ad-blocker feature called CyberSec.

Aside from that, I like their SmartPlay feature. Basically, this feature unblocks a whole bunch of streaming and geo-restricted sites.

SmartPlay feature works as advertised. For instance, I tried unblocking the U.S library of Netflix, and it worked perfectly.

Customer support & Money back guarantee:

NordVPN offers one of the most extensive customer support systems in the industry.

With NordVPN, there are three ways you can get your issues resolved. You can either check out their comprehensive documentation or contact them through email or live chat support.

Their pre-written documentation is very well defined and neatly segregated into different categories.  Personally speaking, I found their answers to be very well written and easy to understand.

Their email support is also super responsive and fast too. The representative got back to me within minutes. Same with their live chat support, quick and informative; however, the answers can get a bit robotic at times.

In addition to offering pretty affordable subscription plans, NordVPN also offers very lengthy money back guarantee. At the moment, all of their plans are covered by a full 30-refund.

Interested to know more about this VPN provider, check out our exclusive NordVPN review.

3. Surfshark – Cheapest VPN In The Industry ($1.99/mo)

surfshark

Pricing:

If you’re running on a strict budget, Surfshark is probably the best cheap VPN to get in 2019. They offer 3 plans. 1-month, 12-months, and 24-months. Their monthly plan is by far the least attractive and unjustifiable if you ask me.

Their 12-months plan, on the other hand, is fairly priced. It comes with a 50% discount and only costs $5.99 a month. It is still no match for their 24-months plan.

Why…?

Well, because it’s the cheapest among all 4 providers and comes with a huge 83% discount. After the discount, their 24-months plan only costs $1.99/mo.

Privacy policy & jurisdiction:

Surfshark also has a pretty strict “no data logging” policy. However, it is to be expected from the best VPN services.

According to their privacy policy, they only log user’s e-mail address, encrypted passwords, Basic billing information and order history. No usage or connection logs are stored what so ever.

As far as their jurisdiction is concerned, they’re headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. Which as I mentioned earlier, BVI is not only free from mandatory data retention but isn’t also under the surveillance of the five eyes.

Speeds:

Surfshark managed to offer just as good speeds as some of the other VPNs over covered so far in this list. After connecting to their U.S server, I managed to achieve about 64.4 download and 71.6 Mbps upload speeds on my 100Mbps test connection. Ping was also decent, peaking at 78 Ms max.

DNS / IP address leaks:

Being a new provider and you might expect Surfshark to leak. However, you’d be wrong.

To test the IP / DNS leak with Surfshark, I connected to a German server. As you’ve guessed it, Surfshark too passed the IP / DNS leak test like a champ.

User experience:

The user interface of Surfshark is also quite minimalistic. Although it lacks the flair of Nord, it is still a very well designed app. The UI goes for both mobile and desktop apps of Surfshark.

Similar to NordVPN, you can select various servers from the bottom of the app. At the bottom is where you’ll also find the optimal location button. This works exactly like the quick connect option of NordVPN.

That said, their settings section is significantly more comprehensive than NordVPN.

Unlike NordVPN where you only get a couple of basic options, Surfshark gives you the option to enable or disable the Kill switch, CleanWeb, and NoBorders.

There is also a dedicated section for support. I like that I can check out different FAQs, contact support and even check the status of my tickets right from within the app.

Features:

Being much smaller and newer than its competitors, I didn’t expect Surfshark to offer similar features as its rivals.

For instance, Surfshark offers a very efficient Kill switch, MultiHop future that’s similar to NordVPN’s Double Hop feature and even a CleanWeb feature that you’d expect from more premium VPNs.

Aside from that, Surfshark offers all the usual industry standard encryption and protocols.

That said, Surfshark still needs to add a lot more attractive features if it wants to compete with the top dogs. But from a price and unlimited simultaneous connections standpoint, you just can’t beat Surfshark.

Customer support & Money back guarantee:

Surfshark offers both written documentation and email/ live chat support. However, since they are new and all, I found their documentation section to be empty. They definitely need to add more content.

Aside from that, I’m not satisfied with their email support. Unlike Nord or ExpressVPN that got back to me almost instantaneously, Surfshark took days to get back to me.

That said, what did impress me was their live chat support. Surfshark’s support team was not only polite but also very informative.

Lastly, Keeping itself aligned with the competition, Surfshark also offers a full 30-day money back guarantee.

Interested to know more about this VPN provider, check out our exclusive Surfshark review.

4. CyebrGhost – Powerful Features For Super Affordable Price ($2.95/mo)

cyber

Pricing:

CyberGhost is known for its super affordable plans. Speaking of which, you can choose between 4 subscription plans. 1-month, 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plan.

Here’s a quick rundown of their pricing plans:

1-month – $12.99

1-year – $5.99

2-year – $3.69

3-year – $2.75

I can’t really recommend their 1-month plan. However, the 3-year plan ($2.75) is quite affordable.

Privacy policy & jurisdiction:

Coming down to CyberGhost’s privacy policy and things are almost flawless. I say this because although they don’t store usage logs, they do still store connection logs. But to be honest, connections logs don’t matter when it comes to privacy.

As far as their jurisdiction is concerned, you’d be glad to hear that they’re based in Romania and away from the clutches of the five eyes alliances. Romania also doesn’t have any mandatory data retentions laws which are even great.

Speeds:

As far as speeds are concerned, CyberGhost’s performance is just about decent. Although not as great as ExpressVPN, it is still a lot better than a lot of VPNs I’ve tested.

But if you’re still curious about numbers, I managed to get about 25.4Mbps download and 32.2Mbps upload speed on my 100Mbps connection.

DNS / IP address leaks:

Although speeds might be a minor set back, one place where CyberGhost absolutely shines is leak protection. I ran it through multiple tests and it managed to not leak, not even once.

User experience:

The user experience is fairly intuitive. I personally really like the black and yellow UI. But aside from the UI, I love how fluid their apps are. The Windows app works flawlessly and so does their iOS app. However, their iOS seems to be much more snappy in my opinion.

Quick connect feature and easy server selection makes It dead simple to use their apps. Besides that, connection latency barely exists.

Features:

To start off, CyberGhost supports industry benchmark protocols and encryption. L2TP, IKEv2, OpenVPN among others are all offered by CyberGhost.

In addition to powerful encryption and protocols, CyberGhost offers a very handy kill switch feature, ability to hook up 7-devices simultaneously, a huge server park ( 3600+) and much, much more.

Customer support & Money back guarantee:

Lastly, let’s talk about customer support.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, but I don’t like their customer support. Since they’re obnoxiously slow, it takes quite a bit of patience to solve even the most minor of issues.

As far as their money back guarantee is concerned, they offer a full 45-day money back guarantee. Literally, no other VPN in the industry offers such a refund policy.

Interested to know more about this VPN provider, check out our exclusive CyberGhost review.

5. PureVPN – Best Budget-Friendly VPN ($2.95/mo)

purevpn

Pricing:

Now let’s checkout PureVPN. On the budget side of the VPN industry, PureVPN offers 3 super affordable subscription plans. Their monthly plan doesn’t come with any discounts and costs $10.95/mo.

However, their 1 year and 2 year plans both come with hefty discounts. After a 73% discount, their 1-year plan costs $2.95 and their 2-year plan costs $3.29 after a 70% discount.

Privacy policy & jurisdiction:

PureVPN has been highly criticized for its privacy policy in the past.

The fact that they helped law enforcement agency catch a creep is living proof of their checkered past. That said, they’ve certainly come a long way since then.

Taking a look at their privacy policy and it’s easy to see the staggering difference.

According to their updated privacy policy, they’re headquartered in Hong Kong and only keep records of your Name, Email Address, and Payment Methods.

They also explicitly list the information they don’t collect:

  • Your browsing activities
  • DNS requests
  • Origin IP address
  • Assigned VPN server IP address
  • VPN session timestamp

Speeds:

Speed wise PureVPN performed just about okay. I managed to get about 34.6 download and 28.5 Mbps upload speeds. Although not the fastest, but the overall performance of PureVPN is very consistent.

DNS / IP address leaks:

Another thing that PureVPN has majorly worked on is leaks. While PureVPN was prone to leaks a couple of years back, it no longer suffers from DNS, IP and WebRTC leaks. In fact, PureVPN passed my leak test without any issues.

User experience:

PureVPN certainly has the best mobile interface out of the bunch. They’ve certainly put quite a lot of work into it.

The app is super snappy and pretty much lag free. I also like the animations they’ve used throughout their mobile application, it really gives it a more modern look.

That said, same can’t be said for their desktop app, particularly their Windows app. I can’t bear to describe how terrible it is.

The app not only looks dated but is also terribly sluggish. Connecting to a server takes excruciatingly long, and when it does finally connect, it completely messes up the Wi-Fi settings.

Speaking of delayed server connections, their Android app is also plagued with the same issue. Sometimes it would take too long to connect, other times it would prompt you to an auto-reconnect popup.

Overall their Windows app is terrible, and their Android app could use a bit of tweaking.

Overall their Windows app is terrible, and their Android app could use a bit of tweaking. If you want something better for your Android device, I suggest you check out my best VPN for Android blog.

Features:

Right of the bat, I liked their built-in ad-blocker feature.

Normally the browser on my test laptop is filled with annoying ads, so it’s nice to see it included in the PureVPN app.

Security wise they support industry standard 256-bit encryption, OpenVPN among other protocols and a failsafe kill switch.

If you’re particularly concerned about IP leaks, don’t worry PureVPN offers IPV6 Leak Protection too.

One feature that I didn’t find in NordVPN is “Ozone”. This feature works as an Antivirus program. Ozone also warns you if you’re visiting a suspicious website. Pretty handy in my opinion.

But even handier is the fact that PureVPN offers five simultaneous connections. For a more in-depth look at PureVPN, I suggest you check out my super detailed  PureVPN review.

Customer support & Money back guarantee:

PureVPN also offers documentation, short guides, troubleshooting documentation, live chat, and email support.

Although I found their documents very helpful, the same can’t be said for their email and live chat support team.

While both Express and NordVPN got back to me almost immediately, I didn’t hear anything from PureVPN for a few hours. However, they did eventually got back to me.

Their live chat support was also not the best. It felt like I was chatting to a robot rather than an actual human. Their response time was fast though but mostly because they copy/ pasted their answers.

That said, other than their not so great customer service, I like their 31-day refund policy.