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8 best VPN services for browsing securely in 2022

·20 min read
8 best VPN services for browsing securely in 2022

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that masks your internet identity inside a virtual tunnel, hiding your IP address from your internet service provider, websites and other prying eyes. When you use one, an encrypted connection is established between your device and a server at an undisclosed location, leading everyone to think you’re browsing from somewhere else.

The use of VPNs has grown astronomically in recent years. People in China and Russia have been relying on them to help skirt state censorship, while the rise of home working has seen a surge in usage among employees.

VPNs are a pretty big deal for organisations needing to protect their sensitive information. “Businesses use VPNs to grant access to networks remotely, as well as to protect their data traversing across multiple networks and boundaries across the internet,” explains Rick McElroy, a principal cybersecurity specialist at cloud computing company VMware. “For people who are concerned about governments around the world infringing on their privacy and security, VPNs create a great way to prevent this behaviour.”

The world of VPNs can be a confusing, messy place, and because of the continuing consolidation happening in the industry, it’s getting even more complicated. Kape Technologies – which already owned CyberGhost and Private Internet Access – took control of ExpressVPN in September 2022. Earlier, in February 2022, Nord Security, which owns NordVPN, merged with Surfshark. This means your data is now in the hands of fewer companies, and while that doesn’t inherently make these businesses the bad guys, who owns our data is something we should all be aware of.

There are hundreds of free and paid-for VPNs out there, but they’re not all made equal. Lots of free VPNs are ad-supported, while others claim to protect your privacy while selling off any data gleaned from your browsing history. Most of the best VPNs charge for their services, but they also have free trials. To help you sort through the glut of virtual private networks, we’ve rounded up all the best VPNs for Android, iPhone, PC and more.

Read more:

How we tested

We tested these VPNs on an iPhone 12 pro, a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and a MacBook pro laptop. In each case, we trialled how speedy the VPN was when pitted against its competitors, looked at their level of security and whether they kept logs of our browsing data. We also investigated what features they had, such as support for split tunnelling or the inclusion of a kill switch.

The best VPNs in the UK for 2022 are:

  • Best overall VPN – ExpressVPN: From £6.03 per month, Expressvpn.com

  • Best VPN for PC and Mac – NordVPN: From £2.49 per month, Nordvpn.com

  • Best free VPN – Proton VPN: Free, Protonvpn.com

  • Best VPN for iPhone – IPVanish: From £3 per month, Ipvanish.com

  • Best VPN for Android – Surfshark: From £2.09 per month, Surfshark.com

  • Best VPN for Fire stick – CyberGhost: From £1.79 per month, Cyberghostvpn.com

  • Best VPN for server hunters – Private Internet Access: From £1.67 per month, Privateinternetaccess.com

  • Best VPN for multiple platforms – PureVPN: From £1.75 per month, Purevpn.com

ExpressVPN: From £6.03 per month, Expressvpn.com

 (ExpressVPN)
(ExpressVPN)

Best: Overall VPN

Rating: 5/5

  • Number of servers: 3,000

  • Number of server locations: 160 in 94 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to five

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Android TV, Chrome and Firefox

ExpressVPN is the best all-round VPN for any consumer user. It’s flaming fast, simple to use and runs on a laundry list of operating systems and devices – whether that be Mac, Windows PC, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire stick, or even your PlayStation console or home router.

It has an incredibly simple user interface, emabling you to connect to the most recently used server as soon as you open up the application. You can also quickly connect to the “smart location” server – which is basically the nearest server to you, ensuring you get the fastest speeds. There’s also a list of recommended servers, easily accessible on the home screen, as well as options to switch between Lightway UDP, Lightway TCP and IKEv2 protocols.

All the main requirements of a good VPN are checked off. It’s speedy, thanks to its “lightway” protocol; masks your IP address, and has a nifty kill switch (preventing network data from leaking out if the VPN fails). It also has features such as split tunnelling, which lets you route a portion of your traffic through the VPN, while other devices use the internet directly from your service provider.

ExpressVPN encrypts your data using AES-256, the military-grade encryption standard for complete protection, but also supports “perfect forward secrecy”, automatically assigning you a new secret key every 60 minutes. Plus, if you’re ever confused about anything, ExpressVPN has a 24-hour live support team. It uses purely RAM-based servers, instead of storing your data on a hard drive, meaning that all data is wiped whenever ExpressVPN’s servers are powered off.

ExpressVPN prioritises security and privacy, with the company claiming it keeps no logs of any of your internet activity, your IP address, how long you’ve connected to the server for, or even what time you’ve connected. And the claims have actually been proven true – a Turkish server was seized in 2017 and no logs of any user activity were found.

The only downside is that ExpressVPN is pricier than most of its competition, probably because of how feature-packed it is. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are unhappy, however.

Read the full ExpressVPN review

Buy now

NordVPN: From £2.49 per month, Nordvpn.com

 (NordVPN)
(NordVPN)

Best: VPN for PC and Mac

Rating: 5/5

  • Number of servers: More than 5,400

  • Number of server locations: More than 80 in 59 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to six

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and Android TV

NordVPN is the service provider you’re most likely to have heard of. It’s one of the most reliable VPNs on the market and works especially well on desktop. NordVPN works with six devices at a time.

It uses a map-based interface, which we found a little bit cumbersome to navigate, but thankfully there’s also a server list on the left side of the screen. It’s a little more complicated to use, compared with other VPN apps, with lots of different server options on the main screen.

As well as being able to quickly connect to your nearest, fastest server, you can set up preset servers for your specific requirements, connect to specialty servers, such as double VPN (which tunnels traffic through two servers at once, encrypting your traffic twice) and P2P sharing servers. NordVPN can also monitor leaks on the dark web and alert you if you’ve been impacted.

As with most VPNs, Nord offers a kill-switch feature, your choice of protocol and that same military-grade encryption as ExpressVPN, keeping your internet data safe and secure. NordVPN’s killer feature, however, is its offer of a dedicated IP address, just for you. It costs $70 (£50) a year, but if you need one, it’s well worth the money.

The VPN provider has a great reputation for its focus on security and, strangely enough, that’s because it was the victim of a data breach in 2018. One of the company’s servers was accessed without permission, leading to the company launching an independent audit, reinforcing server security and creating a bug bounty programme. Like ExpressVPN, no user logs had been stolen because it hadn’t kept any. On top of the beefed-up security, NordVPN is also pretty darn fast, working on a multitude of platforms, including Android, iOS and fire stick.

Read the full NordVPN review 

Buy now

Proton VPN: Free, Protonvpn.com

 (ProtonVPN)
(ProtonVPN)

Best: Free VPN

Rating: 4/5

  • Number of servers: More than 800

  • Number of server locations: More than 50 in 50 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to five

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux

As mentioned above, free VPN service providers can always be a bit hit and miss, especially in terms of your privacy and security. Not Proton VPN, however, which you might recognise from the secure email client Proton Mail.

Proton VPN comes with uncapped data usage, meaning the VPN won’t stop working when you hit a limit. There aren’t any ads involved and you still get that same AES-256 military-grade encryption. Sounds great, right? Well, as with most free products, there’s a catch – but the catch isn’t your data being sold.

With the free version of Proton VPN, you only get access to three servers, despite Proton having 800. These are in the US, Japan and the Netherlands. That means speeds aren’t the fastest.

It’s simpler than some other offerings, lacking more-advanced functionality, but Proton VPN is good for browsing the web securely and privately, especially when using public networks on the tube or in a coffee shop. It’s not packed full of features, but it gets the job done and the iOS and Android apps work really well.

Get now

IPVanish: From £3 per month, Ipvanish.com

 (IPVanish)
(IPVanish)

Best: VPN for iPhone

Rating: 4/5

  • Number of servers: 1,600

  • Number of server locations: More than 75 in 50 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Unlimited

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Fire TV, Android, iOS, Chrome OS and Linux

IPVanish isn’t the best-looking VPN in the world, feeling a little outdated and far more complicated than NordVPN’s mpa-based interface. When you open it up, you’ll be faced with a graph and a series of settings you can tinker with. If you have a large family or you live in a big house-share, and you’re all wanting to hop on to one single VPN at the same time, then IPVanish is a solid choice. The US-based service used to give its users a great deal with its generous 10-device plan, but in 2021 things got even better and the company got rid of its device cap altogether.

A big draw of IPVanish’s uncapped device limit is its extensive range of apps. You can download it on Kody, iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, a Fire TV Stick and Linux, meaning you’ll always be able to make use of its limitless access.

In the locations tab, you can filter by ping and see every server in each of the 50 countries that IPVanish supports, as well as favourite specific servers. IPVanish also has a pretty neat on-demand feature, which secures your connection whenever an untrusted network is detected. It’s fully customisable in the app, so you can specify when ‘on demand’ activates. There is support for split-tunnelling, and it works well on iPhone.

On top of that, it delivers everything you’d expect from a virtual private network, making it a solid VPN in its own right. Your speeds aren’t throttled, it has AES-256 encryption, you get a 24/7 live chat support service and it doesn’t store any traffic logs.

Read the full IPVanish review

Buy now

Surfshark: From £2.09 per month, Surfshark.com

 (Surfshark)
(Surfshark)

Best: VPN for Android

Rating: 4/5

  • Number of servers: More than 3,200

  • Number of server locations: More than 100 in 65 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Unlimited

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Android TV, Chrome and Firefox

For such a low price and the perk of unlimited simultaneous devices, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs around. The user interface is nice and approachable, and Surfshark has great security, thanks to its RAM-only servers.

While speeds are a little slower than we’d like, with pages sometimes taking a long time to load, our experience when streaming content wasn’t hindered at all, and we didn’t experience any buffering issues. IPVanish also gives you access to a list of multi-hop servers, tunnelling your traffic through two servers, a kill switch at hand and rotating IP addresses, which help to stop you from being tracked online.

If you’re a Surfshark One subscriber (the company’s internet security suite product), you’ll also be able to access the Surfshark search engine, giving you access to organic search results that aren’t affected by your GPS location. There’s also Surfshark alert, which constantly monitors your email addresses and private information to see if it leaks – this is something you get free with a NordVPN or an ExpressVPN subscription, however.

Android and Windows users are definitely getting the better deal in terms of Surfshark’s feature set, gaining access to the Whitelister and things such as GPS spoofing and small packets, but it works reliably no matter what operating system you’re accessing the VPN from, including the iPhone app. With such an affordable price tag, we’d recommend Surfshark to anyone looking for a feature-rich VPN.

Read the full Surfshark VPN review

Buy now

CyberGhost: From £1.79 per month, Cyberghostvpn.com

 (CyberGhost)
(CyberGhost)

Best: VPN for Fire stick

Rating: 4/5

  • Number of servers: More than 7,600

  • Number of server locations: 105 in 89 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to seven

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, Mac, Linux, Fire TV, Fire stick, Android, iOS and Routers

Founded in 2011, CyberGhost is a zero-logs VPN headquartered in Romania. It’s simple to use, feeling very similar to ExpressVPN in terms of design, and it’s also incredibly affordable.

You can optionally add on access to its NoSpy servers, for an added subscription fee, which are essentially servers protected by body guards in a high-security facility in Romania. CyberGhost says it doesn’t store any user logs, but it has yet to undergo a third-party audit, so we can’t verify the company’s claims just yet.

That said, CyberGhost was fast at all times of the day. It was clean and easy to use, and it worked well when we tested it on our desktop, mobile device and Fire stick device.

CyberGhost also has optimised servers for gaming, P2P torrenting, specific streaming platforms and security. It’s pretty secure overall, using RAM-based servers that aren’t able to store any data if those servers are disconnected from power, and there’s a kill switch, plus split tunnelling. Best of all, it’s super cheap.

Read the full CyberGhost review

Buy now

Private Internet Access: From £1.67 per month, Privateinternetaccess.com

 (Private Internet Access)
(Private Internet Access)

Best: VPN for server hunters

Rating: 3.5/5

  • Number of servers: More than 32,000

  • Number of server locations: More than 98 in 78 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to 10

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, Fire TV, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox and Opera

Private Internet Access has been around for a long time. If you frequented internet message boards in the late 2000s, you’ll have heard the term PIA being bandied around a lot when it came to talk of VPNs. Since 2009, Private Internet Access has been superseded by services such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer good.

In fact, PIA has an enormous number of servers for you to choose from. There are 32,000 in its arsenal – that’s the most of any commercial VPN we’ve seen. A large majority of them are in the US.

As its name suggests, PIA puts a huge emphasis on privacy. The Windows application has the kill switch turned on by default, so your internet traffic is automatically blocked if you are disconnected. It also supports split tunnelling, and the Android app is able to route specific apps through PIA, so you don’t have to keep turning the VPN on and off when you want to use a specific application.

The company doesn’t keep logs of your data or activity – something evidenced in several court cases when authorities have demanded such information. For security and the sheer number of servers it has, it’s a worthy choice.

Read the full Private Internet Access review

Buy now

PureVPN: From £1.74 per month, Purevpn.com

 (PureVPN)
(PureVPN)

Best: VPN for multiple platforms

Rating: 3/5

  • Number of servers: More than 6,500

  • Number of server locations: More than 96 in more than 78 countries

  • Number of devices supported: Up to 10

  • Operating systems supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Google Chrome, Firefox, Routers, Kodi, Android TV and Amazon's Fire TV stick

PureVPN isn’t one of the best-known VPN providers around, but it’s actually pretty old, having launched in 2007, and is slowly rising in popularity. It’s one of the cheaper VPNs we’ve tested, and it works on a mind-boggling series of different devices, browsers and platforms.

You can get it on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Windows, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire stick, Kodi and Linux. A real highlight is the fact you can use it on 10 devices simultaneously, with PureVPN even recommending you share the login credentials with the family.

It supports the ultra-fast WireGuard protocol on all of its apps, as well as split-tunnelling. You can also pay extra for a dedicated IP address and port forwarding, and the really intriguing paid feature is DDoS cyber attack protection – you don’t see that one on many VPN providers,

While we did run into a few errors and connection problems swapping between servers – the pop-ups asking if PureVPN was “helping us out” every time we connected also got annoying fast – the number of platforms supported had us coming back for more.

Buy now

Virtual private network (VPN) FAQs

What is a VPN service?

In simple terms, a virtual private network is a bit of software that masks your identity, hiding your data in a virtual tunnel. A secure, encrypted connection is formed between your device and a server somewhere in the world. Doing this hides your public IP address and tricks websites into thinking that you’re actually browsing from a different location.

It works a bit like a filter, converting all your internet traffic and browsing data into nonsense. Third-party websites and even your internet service provider won’t be able to see what websites you’re visiting because everything is rerouted through a remote server that’s run by the VPN provider.

Why use a VPN?

When you connect to the internet, your internet service provider (ISP) will be able to monitor everything you do via your IP address. Although it might seem unlikely, your ISP could sell your data to advertisers or share it with the authorities.

How do I use a VPN when I’m abroad?

A VPN means you can access blocked websites. So, if you’re in a country where internet access is heavily censored, such as China, you’ll be able to access Facebook using a VPN. If this is what you’re planning to use the service for, it’s important to download it before you travel to the less internet-friendly nation.

What is Google One VPN?

In October 2020, Google launched a new VPN service called Google One VPN. It was made free of charge for any subscribers to the Google One cloud 2TB subscription plan in the US, using an Android device. On 10 August 2021, Google finally rolled out the VPN to the UK, Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and, in February 2022, Google One rolled out to iPhone users. But is it any good?

It’s not a comprehensive VPN like many of the ones above. You can only use it in one of the supported countries, for instance. Travelling abroad? You won’t be able to connect to the VPN. Secondly, it’s pretty much just an extra layer of security, instead of something to spoof your location.

When you connect to the VPN, you’ll be assigned an IP address in the country from which you’re using the Google One VPN. All online traffic from any application or browser will be encrypted on unprotected networks, with your IP being hidden from view. It has had a third-party audit of its systems. When the VPN rolled out to iOS users, Google wrote in a blog post that the Android version would also be getting new features, such as a “safe disconnect” feature, which automatically stops your connection if you lose internet access. You can also toggle off Google One VPN for certain apps in the latest update.

What are the benefits of a paid VPN vs a free VPN?

Free VPNs are often much more restrictive than paid VPNs, capping your data limits to try and make you unlock the paid subscription. You usually only get a few different servers to choose from, speeds are throttled and providers frequently use your data in order to make money off your browsing history. Paid subscriptions give you unfettered access to hundreds of servers, and they usually have no-log policies. Most free VPNs aren’t able to unblock Netflix and other streaming services.

We’d recommend giving a paid VPN a go if one has a free trial. You’ll get much more out of it than if you use and trust a free VPN, which could really run riot with your sensitive data.

Are VPNs legal in the UK?

Yes, using a VPN is legal in the UK, and it’s not illegal to access geo-restricted streaming services by using a VPN either. That said, it is against most VPN providers’ terms of service, so they can cut off access to their platform at any point if you are caught breaking the company’s rules.

Some people also use VPNs to hide their identity when torrenting (downloading files) and sharing copyrighted content or performing illegal activities online and when browsing the dark web. While using a VPN isn’t illegal in itself, criminals are known to use them to be anonymous online.

VPNs at a glance

VPN

Price

Number of servers

Number of server locations

Number of devices supported

ExpressVPN, Expressvpn.com

From £6.03 per month

3,000

160 in 94 countries

Up to five

NordVPN, Nordvpn.com

From £2.49 per month

More than 5,400

More than 80 in 59 countries

Up to six

Proton VPN, Protonvpn.com

Free

More than 800

More than 50 in 50 countries

Up to five

IPVanish, Ipvanish.com

From £3 per month

1,600

More than 75 in 50 countries

Unlimited

Surfshark, Surfshark.com

From £2.09 per month

More than 3,200

More than 100 in 65 countries

Unlimited

CyberGhost, Cyberghostvpn.com

From £1.79 per month

More than 7,000

105 in 89 countries

Up to seven

Private Internet Access, Privateinternetaccess.com

From £1.67 per month

More than 32,000

More than 98 in 78 countries

Up to 10

PureVPN, Purevpn.com

From £1.75 per month

More than 6,500

More than 96 in over 78 countries

Up to 10

The verdict: Best VPNs

ExpressVPN is our all-round favourite service provider, delivering reliable speeds, good apps and solid security. The only downside is that it’s on the expensive side. If you want a similar VPN, in terms of performance, that costs a little less, go for NordVPN.

Voucher codes

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For more, why not check out our round-up of the best VPN deals