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The best VPNs in July 2023

We've lined up the best VPNs for every task, including popular services like ExpressVPN, PureVPN, CyberGhost VPN, and NordVPN.
The best VPNs in July 2023 Credit: Pexels

Best premium VPN for iPhone
Pros & Cons
The Good
Solid privacy practices, including bug bounty program Long-term plans are a decent value 30-day money-back guarantee 24/7 support via email and live chat Huge, widespread server network Unblocked regional content in testing Pause option Auto-connect feature Kill switch enabled automatically Includes specialty servers (multi-hop, Tor, P2P) Supports Meshnet Comes with a Dark Web Monitor
The Bad
Expensive monthly plan Can be very slow to make initial connection No split tunneling on iOS Some lingering transparency concerns
The Bottomline
Best VPN free trial
Pros & Cons
The Good
Issues quarterly transparency reports Split tunneling on Android 24/7 support via email and live chat Clean app design Kill switch Massive, globally diverse server network Kill switch enabled automatically No credit card required for desktop trial Paid plans come with a long money-back guarantee (up to 45 days)
The Bad
Credit card required for mobile trial Only just started conducting regular audits No multi-hop connections No split tunneling on Mac, Windows, or iOS Switching servers prompted reCAPTCHA in testing Parent company has a shady past
The Bottomline
Best For Server Network
Hunting around for a secure server is never fun, so Private Internet Access's massive network really simplifies things.
Pros & Cons
The Good
Large and geographically diverse server network 10 simultaneous connections Improved interface
The Bad
No free version
The Bottomline
A robust VPN with advanced network and privacy tools for porn.
Best For Beginners
PureVPN is a solid service that gives users both advanced and easy-to-use features.
Pros & Cons
The Good
Ad blocking Easy-to-use interface Seven-day free trial
The Bad
Cannot purchase additional simultaneous connections
The Bottomline
PureVPN is a solid VPN that offers users both advanced and easy-to-use features.
Best For Unlimited Connections
Surfshark is a beginner-friendly VPN that offers a slick interface and an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Pros & Cons
The Good
Strict no-logging policy Unlimited number of connections Slick interface
The Bad
Best rates are only available if you're willing to commit
The Bottomline
Beginner-friendly VPN with an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Best For Free
ProtonVPN protect your privacy with a strict no-logging policy and a reliable kill switch.
Pros & Cons
The Good
Protected by Swiss privacy laws Impressive free version Kill-switch
The Bad
Free version lacks the most advanced features Not the best option for streaming
The Bottomline
Impressive Swiss VPN that protects your privacy and doesn't log any of your details.
Best For Torrenting
Ivacy VPN lets you connect to P2P optimised servers for high speeds and a impressive torrenting experience.
Pros & Cons
The Good
Cheap if you're willing to commit 10 multi-logins Over 3,000 servers located all around the world
The Bad
Monthly plan is expensive
The Bottomline
An impressive VPN that makes streaming and torrenting quick and easy.
Best free VPN
Pros & Cons
The Good
Transparent, easily understandable privacy policy Annual security audits Simple, adorable interface is very beginner-friendly Kill switch ("VigilantBear") Split tunneling ("SplitBear") No credit card required
The Bad
No on-demand support No multi-hop connections Kill switch needs to be manually enabled Small server network compared to its competition Couldn't unblock regional content in testing
The Bottomline

VPNs are powerful security tools that can protect your identity and data, bypass online restrictions to access content, and much more. If this is all very new to you, you've probably got a lot of questions. Don't worry, because we can help.

We've done all the hard work for you and thoroughly researched these services to provide the information that matters to you. Here's everything you need to know about VPNs.

What is a VPN?

VPNs (or Virtual Private Networks) provide important protection for your data and identity when you're online. They offer this online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network that hides your real IP address. This means that all of your activity is untraceable and secure.

Basically, you can think about VPNs as encrypted tunnels through which all of your online traffic passes through. Nobody can see into the tunnel, and everything inside the tunnel is protected against online threats like viruses, hackers, and malware.

Do you need a VPN?

Any sort of activity on an unsecured WiFi network leaves your private information and browsing habits exposed to the world, unless you're using a VPN. There's no need to panic, because whether you're sending important emails, doing some online shopping, or paying essential bills, VPNs make sure that everything remains private and anonymous.

First and foremost, VPNs are designed to provide online security, but there is another reason that millions of people use these services: streaming more content from around the world. By hiding your real IP address and connecting you to a server in another location, you can trick your favourite streaming services into thinking that you are based in a different country. This means that you can watch all of the shows and films from global libraries, like all the extra content on U.S. Netflix. This is the quickest and easiest way of boosting your content options, without the need to rely on a dodgy stream.

What should you consider before subscribing to a VPN?

There are plenty of things that you should consider when it comes to VPNs, but we don't have all day. Instead of listing off every feature offered by the best VPNs, we have highlighted a selection of the most important things to think about.

Before you make any sort of decision, you should look out for connection speed, server network, number of logins, and more important features:

  • Connection speed — Using a VPN is going to produce a drop in your connection speed, but you shouldn't accept a significant drop that is going to result in buffering. Be sure to select a VPN that doesn't negatively impact your connection speed to the point that you can't watch a film or download a file without frustration.
  • Number of connections Some VPNs let you connect an unlimited number of devices with the same account. Others limit you to just a single device. You should look out for a service that offers multiple simultaneous connections, so you can stay protected on all your devices at the same time.
  • Server network — The very best VPNs provide access to literally thousands of geographically diverse servers. It's useful if a VPN has a lot of servers in key locations, because you should always be able to find a stable and speedy connection for streaming, shopping, or browsing anonymously. It's not a straightforward case of more is better, but it's always good to have options.
  • Privacy policy — It's worth paying special attention to the data-handling, storage, and usage practices of the VPN you are planning on using. These practices should be laid out in a privacy policy, and if they aren't clear, it's best to avoid. Most VPNs require access to your IP address, online transactions, and browsing history, plus your personal details when you sign up. If privacy is the objective, it's absolutely essential that your VPN is not going to store these details. If it does, the whole thing is kind of pointless.
  • Encryption — There are different levels of encryption, and whilst it's important to take note of the grade provided by your VPN, the best options will all offer powerful protection for your data. You are likely to come across terms like "military-grade" and "enterprise-grade," which just means that you can rely on it to do its job.
  • Bandwidth — There are some VPNs out there that place monthly caps on network bandwidth, meaning you can only download a certain amount of data. You should avoid these services, unless you're on a free trial. If you're paying for a VPN, you should be able to download and upload as much as you want.

There are other things to consider, like price and subscription plans, but these features are a good place to start.

Should you use free VPNs?

There are plenty of free versions of popular VPNs, plus free trials of VPNs with full access to everything you get with a premium plan. So why would you ever pay for a VPN?

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for with VPNs. There tends to always be a catch with free versions, and it's normally in the form of limited data usage. If you're just an occasional user, these plans will work fine. But if you're going to be streaming or downloading, this isn't going to work. Free trials are a little bit different: they come with everything you get in a paid plan, but obviously they don't tend to last very long. Trials are great for testing out a service before committing, but this isn't a long-term solution.

What we're saying is that the best option for streaming securely and accessing the online world without restrictions is with a paid subscription to a VPN. To gain access to advanced security features without limitations on usage, you need to pay up. The best VPNs are generally the most expensive, but there are plenty of cheap plans out there, especially if you're willing to commit to a lengthy contract.

What is the best VPN?

There are a lot of VPN providers out there all offering different sets of features, with different pricing structures. We recommend taking some time to carefully access your options, and decide on what you really need from a VPN. Once you have established your priorities, you can check out this definitive list of the best VPNs this month.

We have tracked down everything on offer and lined up a selection of the very best VPNs for streaming, shopping, and everything else. We have tried to find something for everyone and every budget, and you can find popular services like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost VPN in this list. All you need to do is weigh up these options against your own set of priorities, and then pick a favourite from the bunch.

These are the best VPNs in 2024.

NordVPN

Best premium VPN for iPhone

The good
Solid privacy practices, including bug bounty program Long-term plans are a decent value 30-day money-back guarantee 24/7 support via email and live chat Huge, widespread server network Unblocked regional content in testing Pause option Auto-connect feature Kill switch enabled automatically Includes specialty servers (multi-hop, Tor, P2P) Supports Meshnet Comes with a Dark Web Monitor
The Bad
Expensive monthly plan Can be very slow to make initial connection No split tunneling on iOS Some lingering transparency concerns
The Bottomline
Specs
  • NordVPN Plus: $13.99/month, $82.35/year, or $107.73/2 years
  • NordVPN Standard: $12.99/month, $68.85/year, or $83.43/2 years
  • NordVPN Ultimate: $15.99/month, $112.35/year, or $161.73/2 years

Read Mashable's full review of NordVPN.

Who it's for:

NordVPN is for power users who want a customizable iPhone VPN with advanced security settings, especially those in it for the long haul: It's pricey month-to-month, but its yearly plans come in under $5 per month. It also now has the biggest, most globally diverse server network out of all the VPN's we've tried, making it handy for bypassing geo-restrictions on regional content and for traveling. It requires iOS 14.2 or later.

Why we picked this:

NordVPN was often slow to make an initial connection on iOS in my testing — slightly ironic, considering the app opens with a boastful message about it being "the fastest VPN on the planet." But once the VPN is running, it rewards your patience with a suite of useful security tools and a robust network. (Fortunately, its efficiency improves, too.) From the jump, NordVPN is also admirably transparent about the data it does and doesn't collect (just login and usage info). You'll encounter a link to its full privacy policy and a digestible summary of it before you even sign in.

The NordVPN dashboard on iOS revolves around its server network in two forms: There's a sleek, minimalist map with dots representing different server locations (just tap on one to connect), plus a regular country-by-country list. Not only is said network massive, spanning over 6,200 servers across 111 countries as of May 2024, but it also includes specialty servers for multi-hop connections ("Double VPN"), Tor connections ("Onion Over VPN"), and P2P connections. While NordVPN was pokey at the start of my sessions, it didn't slow me down once I was finally connected. I was also able to successfully skirt ITVX's geo-restrictions by hopping on one of its UK servers.

There are a few other tabs on NordVPN's iPhone app. One of them is dedicated to Meshnet, a feature that lets you route your traffic through your other devices running its app. It's like having your own little private network. (This isn't part of the VPN itself, but it's neat — and newly free.) The others are hubs for your VPN usage statistics and your account profile. That last one is where you'll find the NordVPN app's built

CyberGhost VPN

Best VPN free trial

The good
Issues quarterly transparency reports Split tunneling on Android 24/7 support via email and live chat Clean app design Kill switch Massive, globally diverse server network Kill switch enabled automatically No credit card required for desktop trial Paid plans come with a long money-back guarantee (up to 45 days)
The Bad
Credit card required for mobile trial Only just started conducting regular audits No multi-hop connections No split tunneling on Mac, Windows, or iOS Switching servers prompted reCAPTCHA in testing Parent company has a shady past
The Bottomline
Specs
  • Free trial on Android: Three days
  • Free trial on iOS: Seven days
  • Free trial on Mac: 24 hours
  • Free trial on Windows: 24 hours

Read Mashable's full review of CyberGhost VPN.

Who it's for:

CyberGhost VPN offers unrestricted trials of varying lengths on both desktop and mobile. It's a solid pick for users who want to try a premium VPN service with a massive server network, and it's especially great for streaming. It won't wow transparency sticklers, though.

Why we picked this:

CyberGhost VPN's key appeal is its large and globally diverse network of servers across 100 countries, which includes dozens of locations that are optimized for downloading and streaming. These servers only allow traffic for their respective activities to prevent slowdowns. CyberGhost has issued transparency reports that anyone can peruse since 2011 — and they went quarterly in 2019, which is commendable —?but it only recently started commissioning third-party audits. It's also owned by Kape Technologies, which has a sketchy history. (CyberGhost and other VPNs under the Kape umbrella operate separately from it, but it's worth noting if you're extra concerned about privacy.)

CyberGhost offers a free trial for 24 hours on Windows and Mac, three days on Android, and a full week on iOS, allowing one simultaneous connection per account. (You can't have concurrent trials going on multiple devices, so pick your platform wisely.) Trial users have unrestricted city-level access to its server network, which is presented in list form on its sleek, uncluttered app. There's no multi-hop, and split tunneling is only available on Android, but at least there's a kill switch that's enabled automatically.

I do want to mention that Google made me complete a reCAPTCHA every time I switched CyberGhost servers on both desktop and mobile. This suggests that the servers I was using were pretty full at the time, but since I didn't have any connection or speed issues, I didn't consider it a major issue (just a minor nuisance).

CyberGhost's desktop trials don't require a credit card to activate, so you're not at risk of paying for a plan you don't necessarily want if you go that route. That's not the case for CyberGhost's mobile trials, though: You have to "subscribe" to a $49.99 per year annual plan before you start using it on Android or iOS, and if you forget to cancel the plan before the trial ends, you'll get charged. On th

Private Internet Access

Best For Server Network

The good
Large and geographically diverse server network 10 simultaneous connections Improved interface
The Bad
No free version
The Bottomline
A robust VPN with advanced network and privacy tools for porn.
Specs
  • Monthly: ?10.99/month
  • Six-month plan: ?5.39/month
  • Two-year plan: ?1.69/month

Private Internet Access is an impressive service that offers powerful levels of encryption and a massive server network. Both of these things are pretty crucial when navigating popular porn sites.

Users can connect 10 devices simultaneous with the same account, meaning it's a great option for large households or anyone who streams porn on multiple devices. Users also get a dedicated IP address feature and plenty of customisation options, making Private Internet Access one of the most versatile options for secure streaming of porn.

All of the above is packaged in an easy-to-use and intuitive interface, which will be appealing to complete VPN beginners.

PureVPN

Best For Beginners

The good
Ad blocking Easy-to-use interface Seven-day free trial
The Bad
Cannot purchase additional simultaneous connections
The Bottomline
PureVPN is a solid VPN that offers users both advanced and easy-to-use features.
Specs
  • Monthly: ?8.37/month
  • One-year plan: ?2.86/month
  • Two-year plan: ?1.75/month

Read our full review of PureVPN.?

PureVPN users get apps for every operating system, enterprise-grade security, 10-multi logins, and access to over 6,000 secure servers in 140 countries. PureVPN also has a strong record for good customer support.

Surfshark

Best For Unlimited Connections

The good
Strict no-logging policy Unlimited number of connections Slick interface
The Bad
Best rates are only available if you're willing to commit
The Bottomline
Beginner-friendly VPN with an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Specs
  • Monthly: ?9.90/month
  • One-year plan: ?3.05/month
  • Two-year plan: ?1.76/month

Surfshark users get an unlimited number of connections, uncompromised security and privacy, around the clock customer service, and enterprise-grade infrastructure. Surfshark also has a strict no-logging policy, meaning all of your data is protected from prying eyes.

ProtonVPN

Best For Free

The good
Protected by Swiss privacy laws Impressive free version Kill-switch
The Bad
Free version lacks the most advanced features Not the best option for streaming
The Bottomline
Impressive Swiss VPN that protects your privacy and doesn't log any of your details.
Specs
  • Monthly: ?9.87/month
  • One-year plan: ?5.15/month
  • Two-year plan: ?4.29/month

ProtonVPN provides access to hundreds of servers located in 40 countries, with multiple simultaneous connections, P2P/BitTorrent support, and a strict no-logging policy. ProtonVPN also offers one of the best free trials.

Ivacy VPN

Best For Torrenting

The good
Cheap if you're willing to commit 10 multi-logins Over 3,000 servers located all around the world
The Bad
Monthly plan is expensive
The Bottomline
An impressive VPN that makes streaming and torrenting quick and easy.
Specs
  • Five-year plan: ?0.73/month
  • Monthly: ?8/month
  • One-year plan: ?2.75/month

There are a number of VPN providers that claim to be able to unlock streaming services, but few can unlock seven major Netflix regions like Ivacy VPN. All Ivacy VPN plans can also unblock BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Hulu.

Ivacy VPN is one of the best services for streaming and torrenting, with P2P optimised servers for high speeds and an intuitive experience. Plus, if you're willing to commit, you can subscribe for less than the other best service for streaming — ExpressVPN.?

Subscribers can also connect up to 10 devices simultaneously with Ivacy VPN, so you can securely stream and torrent with all of your devices at the same time.

TunnelBear

Best free VPN

The good
Transparent, easily understandable privacy policy Annual security audits Simple, adorable interface is very beginner-friendly Kill switch ("VigilantBear") Split tunneling ("SplitBear") No credit card required
The Bad
No on-demand support No multi-hop connections Kill switch needs to be manually enabled Small server network compared to its competition Couldn't unblock regional content in testing
The Bottomline
Specs
  • Data limit: Up to 2GB per month (does not roll over)

Read Mashable's full review of TunnelBear.

Who it's for:

TunnelBear is a charming and uncomplicated VPN with good privacy practices and a free tier geared at casual users who only need a VPN for occasional private browsing (i.e., you don't have it running 24/7). It's decidedly not for those who need a VPN to access geo-restricted content; it couldn't unblock regional streaming libraries in my testing.

Why we picked this:

TunnelBear eschews intricate settings and intimidating jargon for cute and simple apps. Its lack of multi-hop connections and small server network won't impress power users, but VPN newbies will find it refreshingly approachable. Tunnelbear conducts regular annual security audits and occasional transparency reports, and its privacy policy lays out the kind of data it does (and doesn't) collect in plain language.

I asked TunnelBear about their business model over email, and a company rep (under the alias "CubCake Bear") told me flat-out that the company doesn't make money off its free users, nor does it track or sell their data. "Our business is driven solely by our paid subscribers, who help off-set the cost to maintain our servers and operate our infrastructure," they explained, adding that TunnelBear's free tier "serves as a method to try before you buy, or if your need is minimal on a monthly basis." Good stuff.

The free version of TunnelBear caps you at 2GB of data per month, which does not roll over and resets on the monthly anniversary of when you created your account. It includes support for one simultaneous connection for use on Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS. Users can pick from servers in different countries in a list or on a cartoon-y map. (Unlimited simultaneous connections and city-level server options are reserved for paid subscribers.) There's a kill switch called "VigilantBear," which you'll have to enable automatically, and a split tunneling tool called "SplitBear," which varies from platform to platform: You can exempt websites and apps on Windows. but only apps on Android and websites on Mac and iOS.

Finally, and crucially, you don't have to enter any

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