VPNs offer a great way to bypass geo-blocked content and let you browse an internet without borders. Here we round-up the best VPNs of 2018.
Why do I need a VPN?
Most of the Western world’s internet is relatively free and unrestricted. You can visit the vast majority of websites without fear of prosecution, and be served the same content as users in other countries – for no extra cost. See also: Best Kodi Boxes 2018.
Unfortunately, your internet freedom does not travel with your passport (and laptop). Travel to South Korea for example, and you’re subject to South Korean internet laws meaning will only have access to restricted content.
Also, some services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video will be geo-blocked, meaning you’ll be served smaller libraries than you’re used to at home. The flipside is that if you travel to the US and connect to the web, your Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video libraries will swell.
A VPN offers you a way around location-based internet.
Best VPNs 2018
ExpressVPN is the best VPN you can buy. It’s the best option for unblocking US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, BT Sport, HBO Go. Literally any online streaming service. It’s also one of the more expensive VPNs. But you’re paying for a quality service. Using ExpressVPN guarantees you’ll always have a working connection with military-grade encryption… and servers that work with American Netflix (and BBC iPlayer in the UK).
Finding a server that is open to US Netflix is easy. Most of the time, all you need to do is navigate your way to the Recommended servers list in the ExpressVPN app and you’ll be able to watch Netflix without any issues. If this doesn’t work, for whatever reason, users are encouraged to speak to a support agent via the ExpressVPN website’s 24/7 Live Chat. Here users can speak to an ExpressVPN representative and literally ask which servers are currently working with Netflix.
ExpressVPN has a dedicated app for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone, iPad, Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, PS4 and Xbox. There are also browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
PureVPN is another good option. It has a user-friendly app (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Amazon Firestick) that lets you select your “Purpose” for using a VPN. It will then automatically connect you to its best Server for the job. To watch US Netflix for example, you would go to Purpose and then Netflix US. PureVPN’s excellent app will do the rest – automatically connecting you to a server that works with US Netflix.
Like the examples above, PureVPN also offers fantastic Live Chat support via its website. If you ever have difficulty connecting to US Netflix, or any streaming service, or doing anything with a VPN, you’re encouraged to speak to a support agent. The other service PureVPN offers is a dedicated IP ($1.99 extra per month). A dedicated IP, in theory, means you’re the only customer who has access to the server’s IP. We have tried this service out with mixed success. It works well with BBC iPlayer, however, our dedicated IP was detected when trying to watch UK Netflix (from New Zealand).
PureVPN has dedicated apps available to download on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux (plus a Chrome extension).
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs money can buy. It’s excellent for unblocking US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, BT Sport, Amazon Instant Video…basically any video streaming service in the world. It has 1883+ servers and a dedicated technical team that monitors each connection (with US Netflix).
In the unlikely scenario where you’re unable to find a server that works with US Netflix, don’t panic. Just head to the Netflix Support page to find a list of servers that are “open” and verified by Nord’s dedicated tech team.
The NordVPN app is available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux (plus a Chrome extension).
If you’re looking for an excellent VPN, with an even better price tag, Ivacy ($2.25/month) is a great option.
This VPN has all the features you need to browse, the internet privately (due to its military-grade encryption), stream US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, in HD, from any country in the world.
I’ve been testing the app recently on Mac, PC, Android, iOS and FireStick and the results have been impressive – unlocking US Netflix with ease.
For an extra $1.99/month you can add-on a dedicated IP. This will buy you sole access to an IP address in a country of your choice, meaning you won’t have to share your IP (and speeds) with any other use.
Best VPN 2018: How do VPNs work?
VPNs rely on multiple server locations and encryption to spoof your location. They’re as simple as that.
When you sign up to a VPN you’ll usually download a piece of software that encrypts your data and sends it to a server location of your choice. See also: Best Mac Antivirus 2018.
Here the server will decrypt your data and then forward it to the local ISP. The returned data is then encrypted again and sent back to your computer.
The end result is your computer accessing the same internet as the server location you choose.
Best VPN 2018: 4 buying tips
Choosing the right VPN can be confusing. Here are the four main features you need to look out for.
1. Server location
VPNs rely on their own network of servers. If you want to watch US Netflix for example, pick a VPN that has multiple servers in the US. Likewise, if you based in the UK and want to watch BBC iPlayer when you’re abroad, pick a VPN that has several servers based in the UK.
2. Is it in a ‘Five Eyes’ country?
If you’re employing a VPN for privacy reasons, this should be near the top of your priorities list.
The Five Eyes agreement is between the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and is designed for the free sharing of intelligence between these nations.
What this means is if your VPN provider is based in a Five Eyes nation, a government within could, in theory, demand to access data from your VPN provider. If this is something that concerns you, choose a VPN that’s not based in one of these countries. Better yet, choose a VPN that doesn’t keep logs of your activity as well.
3. How fast is the VPN
The performance of your VPN is also a huge factor as you will only be able to browse the web at the speed your VPN server allows – regardless of what connection speed you have at home. Of course, the speed of VPNs will vary from minute to minute, but the reputation of the VPN’s speed is definitely something you want to pay attention to.
4. Multiple OS support?
It’s hard to believe, but some of the major VPNs still don’t offer multi-platform support. Buffered, for example, doesn’t have an iOS app, instead, you have to download OpenVPN and battle through pages of settings to get started.
The best VPNs will have dedicated apps that run on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and some even support Linux. Check the table above for more details.