VPN Reviews – Unbiased, Uninfluenced & Authentic
Selecting the right VPN is not easy, that’s why we at VPNRanks have used an exclusive rating criteria that helps you decide a truly anonymous VPN for you. All these VPN providers are tested through IP, DNS, WebRTC leaks, viruses, and speed testing.
Good, honest, and unbiased VPN reviews are super difficult to come across. Pretty much most of the reviews online are fabricated to deceive you into buying a VPN that’s just not worth getting.
But we here at VPNRanks work differently. Instead of just listing down the features like a generic brochure, we do our own testing and share with you our personal experience.
But why should you trust our reviews?
Well, right from the start, we purchase our own VPNs or use trial accounts for our testing to make sure what we say remains uninfluenced and unbiased.
We also use rigorous rating criteria based on nine (9) factors to ensure that every VPN we review gets evaluated and rated on the same matrices. Only then do we assign a fair rating between 1 to 5 stars.
Here’s what our review criteria look like:
Example of how we conduct VPN reviews?
Now before we discuss what we talk about in each review factor, we think you guys might be interested in a little practical example of our reviews. So without further ado, let’s dive straight into it.
#1 – PureVPN
When we reviewed PureVPN a little while ago, we wanted to steer clear of all the negative comments online and test out the service for ourselves using our 9 step rating criteria.
PureVPN is headquartered in the data retention free jurisdiction of Hong Kong. This puts PureVPN out of the surveillance jurisdiction of the 5-Eyes.
When we looked over PureVPN’s security features, we found out that it offers powerful 256-bit encryption, no logs and mainstream protocols like OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, PPTP, IKEv2, and even a Kill Switch.
When we ran PureVPN through our series of leak tests, we found no IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks whatsoever. Overall PureVPN proved to be a leakproof service.
When we reviewed PureVPN, we found out that it offers 2000+ servers in 180+ locations. PureVPN even offers 12 physical servers in China and works exceptionally well with Netflix and torrenting.
Speed-wise PureVPN performed quite well. We barely noticed any drop in speed. On our 15 Mbps test connection, PureVPN managed to output 14 Mbps download speeds.
When performing our streaming tests, we found PureVPN to work quite well. Although we did come across the Netflix proxy error, however, we got it to work eventually.
Compatibility wise, we really couldn’t find any device that was not compatible with PureVPN. We also liked the fact that it supports 10 multi logins, which is quite nice.
Even after offering tons of features, PureVPN only costs $2.91/mo (Save 73%). Not only that, but we also liked that PureVPN offers a 31-day refund policy.
As for trustworthiness, we found out that PureVPN has a 5-star rating on Trustpilot and overall positive reviews on Reddit. As for their customer support, we found it to be quite slow.
In our review, we gave it a 4.5-star rating for its features, price, speed, and for other reasons. This was just a teaser of how we reviewed PureVPN. For complete information, check out our detailed PureVPN review.
#2 – Surfshark
When reviewing Surfshark, we neglected the fact that it was cheap. We still went ahead and used our same 9 step rating criteria to test it out.
When looking for Surfshark’s jurisdiction, we found out that it was headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. If you don’t know, BVI is a privacy-friendly region with no mandatory data retention laws.
As for security features, Surfshark offers AES-256-CBC/AES-256-GCM encryption, IKEv2, and OpenVPN protocols, CleanWeb among other features.
Surfshark offers around 1700+ servers in 63+ countries. The service also works in China and supports both streaming and torrenting.
In the speed department, Surfshark managed to achieve a 9.77 Mbps download speed on our 10 Mbps test connection.
During our testing, Surfshark worked great with Netflix. We managed to stream Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu in HD quality.
As for compatibility, Surfshark supports Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and a bunch of other devices. In addition, it offers unlimited simultaneous connections as well.
Surfshark is super affordable. Its cheapest plan costs $1.99/mo only and comes with an 83% discount. It also comes with a 7-day trial and a 30-day refund policy.
Surfshark has an overall 4.3-star rating on Trustpilot and plenty of positive reviews on Reddit making it quite trustworthy.
Overall, based on Surfshark’s features, price, and trustworthiness, we gave it a 4.4-star rating. For complete detail regarding everything we like and dislike about this VPN, check out our detailed Surfshark review.
#3 – NordVPN
When revisiting NordVPN for the review, we sidelined everything that we had heard about it getting hacked. To ensure that nothing influenced our opinions about NordVPN, we used our 9 step testing criteria again.
When figuring out where NordVPN is headquartered, we found out that it operates from Panama, which is a country with no data retention laws.
As for security features, NordVPN offers AES-256-CBC with a 2048-bit DH key encryption, Double VPN, no logs, WireGuard technology, Onion over VPN, and much more.
We were unable to find any sort of leaks with NordVPN. Even after conducting multiple tests, NordVPN didn’t leak out DNS, IP, and WebRTC.
NordVPN offers some 5000+ servers in 59 countries with proper support for P2P and streaming. Their obfuscated servers are capable of unblocking Chinese content as well.
Speed-wise NordVPN is plenty fast. On our 30 Mbps connection, we managed to achieve around 27.11 Mbps download speed with NordVPN.
NordVPN easily managed to unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer in our testing. However, we did have issues unblocking Netflix with NordVPN on Android-based boxes.
As for compatibility, NordVPN supports Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and a bunch of other devices. The best thing about it is that it supports 6 simultaneous connections.
NordVPN only costs $3.49/mo (Save 70% Off). As for refunds, all subscription plans of NordVPN are covered by a 30-day refund policy.
NordVPN also has a 4.4-star rating on Trustpilot which makes it quite Trustworthy. Additionally, NordVPN has been independently audited twice by PricewaterhouseCoopers and VerSprite.
Based on NordVPN’s excellent performance and overall transparency, we gave NordVPN a 4.3-stars rating. If you’re interested in reading the full review of NordVPN, here’s a link to that.
Find the Perfect VPN
Our review criteria at VPNRanks.com?
Reviewing 160+ VPNs is not easy. A lot of time, testing, and efforts go into writing reviews that actually help our readers pick the right VPN service.
Whenever we plan to cover any particular review, we always make sure to purchase premium VPN accounts with our own finances. For instance, here’s a screenshot of our ExpressVPN’s active subscription:
Owing our personal VPN subscriptions allows us to perform strenuous testing to find out if a VPN we’re suggesting is even worth getting.
Anyways, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we’ll now go over the review factors in detail that we mentioned at the beginning of this article. Let’s get started, shall we?
Undoubtedly, jurisdiction basically gives us an idea of whether a VPN service keeps logs or not. For instance, VPNs that fall under the 5, 9, or 14 eyes territories like the US, are legally obligated to retain user logs and share intelligence information.
Therefore, the first thing we do is analyze where a certain VPN provider is headquartered. If it is based in a country with no mandatory data retention laws, that means it is safe to use and trustworthy. We compile all of our data in a separate spreadsheet so it’s easier to manage and update periodically.
VPNs are used for a variety of purposes. However, their main purpose is to offer extra privacy and security online. Even if a VPN is fast or offers cool features, it is essentially useless if it lacks powerful encryption or if it logs user information.
When we review VPNs, we lookout for military-grade AES-256 bit encryption. If a VPN also offers perfect forward secrecy, that’s even better. For protocols, we keep an eye out for OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols.
But we don’t just religiously look for encryption and protocols. We also look for other security features like double VPN, kill switch, split tunneling, and more. Essentially, we stress test to see how secure a VPN is.
Most importantly, we dig deep into VPN logging policies. We sift through hundreds of words to figure out whether a VPN keeps any kind of connection or activity logs.
Since a lot of low-end or free VPNs tend to suffer from leakage, we are bound to provide realistic information about any form of leaks we find to our audience. Our guide on VPN leaks should give an idea of some mainstream VPNs that are prone to leaking.
While we test for any leaks, we also make sure to run a malware test through VirusTotal. This gives us an idea of any malicious files that might be hidden in a VPN app. Here’s what our typical test looks like:
A massive server park is what makes any VPN fast and reliable. The broader the VPN server network, the better the VPN service will be at unblocking harshly geo-restricted websites and services. A massive server park is what makes any VPN fast and reliable. The broader the VPN server network, the better the VPN service will be at unblocking harshly geo-restricted websites and services.
For instance, if you’re outside Australia and want to access channels like Stan, Kayo Sports, Foxtel Now, etc, then you will need access to a fast Australian server. Speaking of Australian, HowToWatchinAustralia is a great source that covers all the latest VPN related hacks to unblock any geo-restricted streaming service in Australia.
When checking VPN servers, we make sure that it offers a good mix of both physical and virtual server networks in a variety of locations around the world.
In addition to servers, we also look for obfuscation features. The main reason why we recommend VPNs with obfuscation technology is that they are ideal to use in oppressive countries like China, Iran, Oman, and others alike that suppress their users’ online freedom.
Last but not least, we also look for torrenting support. Only P2P compatible VPNs support torrenting by offering a comprehensive list of dedicated servers. Again, we save everything in a spreadsheet for easier access.
No matter which VPN you use, if it is not fast, it is of no use. We take speed very seriously. While conducting a VPN speed test, we connect to different servers available at different locations to figure out an average speed that a VPN is capable of offering.
Although we mainly tell you the speeds a VPN managed to achieve on different servers in Mbps, however, for our spreadsheet, we usually just assign an overall rating of Fast, Average, and Slow as shown below:
We also look out for any fluctuations in speeds to determine any signs of throttling. This way, we are able to see if the VPN we’re reviewing is smart enough to bypass ISP throttling. This is crucial to ensuring a stable connection for streaming, torrenting and online gaming.
Streaming content is probably the number one reason why people buy VPNs in the first place. According to stats, more than 29% of all VPN users access Netflix every month. Now considering that the VPN industry is worth $23.6 billion, 29% is a substantial number.
From the streaming point of view, we mainly look for a VPNs ability to unblock famous online media services like Netflix US, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Kodi. We conduct our testing by using servers in the United States, Japan, and the U.K. The reason why we do all this testing is because there are only a few VPNs that can still unblock US Netflix in 2020.
Likewise, we also look for streaming speeds and any form of buffering issues that we may encounter. We aim to suggest to you only the best VPNs for streaming. Again, we note down everything in our spreadsheet and we also embed gifs or images as proof.
For accessing streaming services restricted to New Zealand, there are several helpful guides at howtowatch that explain the unblocking process for expatriates and travelers.
A VPN should be easy to download and use. That’s what we believe. We assign a bad rating to VPNs that offer manual configuration rather than easy to use apps.
We believe that what makes any VPN good is the number of apps it offers for different operating systems. We usually test to see whether or not the VPN service is compatible with famous platforms like Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, and routers.
We also grade a VPN app on its usability. We pay close attention to glitches, crashes, and overall ease of use. In addition, we also painstakingly evaluate the compatibility of a VPN provider with Kodi, FireStick, Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, and Nvidia Shield. This process takes a lot of time and effort.
Without a doubt, the price can be a major deciding factor when choosing any VPN. When we compare VPN pricings, we classify VPNs into particular categories like cheap, affordable, and expensive.
In the same way, we also segregate VPNs into different categories based on money-back guarantee, free trials, freemium version, and payment methods to recommend the right VPN service as per your budget. Here’s what we add in our spreadsheet in the pricing section of our review process:
But again, if you don’t want to go through our spreadsheet, you can use our custom tool mentioned above to find a VPN according to your budget. You can also enter specific features and our tool will intelligently pick the best VPN as per your requirements.
In terms of trustworthiness, we highlight each VPN’s rating and reviews on Trustpilot. Moreover, we go through the reviews on Reddit to understand the real-life experiences of different users about a particular VPN.
We also go through the customer support section of each provider that we review to see if it’s helpful enough. In the help section, we generally look for options like live chat, email ticket, FAQ section, social media pages, and other relevant subsections such as blogs, knowledgebase, and about us.
When we engage with customer support representatives, we straight up ask hard transparency questions. Our team inquires each review provider about its owners, investors, management, the board of directors, etc.
Moving from customers, we also look for the level of transparency that a VPN offers. We judge transparency by evaluating a VPN’s transparency report (also known as Warrant Canaries).
Additionally, we keep an eye out for Audit reports, GDPR, and CDT compliance during our review process. By putting each service through these steps enable us to shortlist only the most transparent VPNs.
How many VPNs have we reviewed so far?
At VPNRanks, we have conducted 160+ reviews so far. And this number keeps on growing day by day. But we don’t just write reviews and leave them to catch dust. Instead, we regularly update each of our reviews to keep everything up-to-date.
Each VPN provider goes through our rigorous 9 step testing criteria. Whenever we conduct speed tests, IP leak tests, or evaluate a VPN’s performance for any platform, our team revisits the results after a few weeks to keep them updated for you guys.
So by now, I think you have a clear picture of how we review VPNs here at VPNRanks.com. To give you a clear picture of what a VPN is, here are a few frequently asked question and their answers.
Is it worth having a VPN?
Yes, it is totally worth having a VPN because of the security and freedom it offers. If you do not know, the purpose of a Virtual Private Network is to secure your connection and shield it from different threats lurking over the internet.
A VPN allows you to hide your true location, encrypt all your Internet traffic and route it through secure tunnels while making you anonymous in the process and protecting all your confidential data.
Is it legal to use a VPN?
Yes, it is legal to use a VPN as long as you do not opt for this amazing online privacy tool for the wrong reasons. Besides, few countries have banned the usage of VPNs in their territories. These countries are Russia, Turkey, China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Iran.
Should I use a VPN all the time?
Yes, due to the deteriorating state of online censorship and internet freedom, you should use VPNs all the time. When you do not use a VPN, anybody can harm your privacy. However, by using a VPN, you can encrypt your online activities and prevent anyone from spying on you.
What are the advantages of using a VPN?
There are numerous advantages to using a VPN. For instance, you can change your IP address to access any blocked or geo-restricted content in the world. In addition to that, a VPN can also help you save money by beating price discrimination. By simply swapping your geolocation, you can purchase stuff like flight tickets and hotel rooms for cheap.
Can a VPN decrease my internet connection speed?
Honestly speaking, it depends quite largely on the circumstances. You can connect to a VPN and stream your preferred media content at appreciable speeds.
On the other hand, as soon as you connect to a VPN, you might anticipate a huge downward spike in terms of download or upload speeds. There are different factors that affect internet speed once you start using a VPN. These factors are the location of servers, encryption levels, and server bandwidth restrictions.
Free vs Paid VPN: which VPN works better?
As compared to premium VPNs, free VPNs do not offer the required level of anonymity to its users. If you rate VPNs in terms of encryption, protocols, servers spread, customer support, and other factors, you would give more points to paid VPNs instead of freemium ones.
However, there are handfuls of free VPNs like Windscribe, Urban VPN, Tunnelbear, and others you can use to protect your digital whereabouts.
What is the best and safest VPN?
The best VPN in terms of safety has to be PureVPN. For a budget price, PureVPN delivers excellent security features, thousands of servers, and amazing VPN apps for all major operating systems.
So, there you have it. This was our VPN review process. Since it can be quite stressful for VPN users to end up with terrible VPN apps due to misleading reviews, we here at VPNRanks strive to provide our readers with the most authentic, transparent, and unbiased VPN reviews.
We regularly check our testing parameters and update them as per requirement. We make sure that the VPNs we recommend offer the best performance in terms of streaming, speed, security, and usability.
Based on this goal, our team works tirelessly to review any VPN that is in the market. Be it a newcomer or an established brand, we evaluate its performance and test its features to the maximum.