The Top10 VPN Speed Trial: Finding the Fastest VPN

By Top10 StaffTop10 Staff

So you’re overseas and you want to watch US Netflix. Maybe you’re traveling through a country that’s….a bit behind when it comes to internet freedom and you have some hot takes you need to post. Maybe you’re just a bit concerned about security, especially when you’re using online banking.

Whatever your reason for buying a VPN (virtual private network), one thing you’ve probably heard by now is that running a VPN will seriously slow down your computer.

When you use a VPN, your data is protected in an encrypted tunnel and sent to a server—in many cases one that may be in a far-off corner of the globe, which can slow down your internet connection considerably. If you’re just catching up on emails or reading your favorite news sites, this probably won’t make much of a difference, but if you’re streaming shows or uploading heavy image files, it can really downgrade your online experience.

This is why speed is one of the main comparison factors for VPN customers, and why many of the faster VPNs put their speed front and center as a major selling point.

The Top10.com Time Trial

Ok, it’s not exactly the time trials before the Tour de France, but we decided to sign up for trial memberships for some of the top VPNs on the market, and see how fast they run.

How’d we do it? We worked with 2 main websites—speedtest.net and Fast.com—and ran tests with the VPN off and with it on—and set to various servers, including in the US and Europe.

In every case we found that the overall speed rating changed—including for the better in at least one case.

1. Norton

Norton, the antivirus gurus, have also entered the VPN game with a product that performed better than anybody else on our list when it comes to speed. It actually showed an increase in download speed from 42.29 megabits per second with the VPN off, to 82.77 Mbps when it was set to a server in the US. That said, the upload speed dropped from 73.21 Mbps to a barely-there .61 Mbps.

Norton VPN, set to a server in the US:

2. Panda

We were also pleasantly surprised when we ran Panda VPN through the trial at speedtest.net. While with the VPN shut off the download speed was 58.23 megabits per second, when we set the VPN to a server in the US our download speed jumped to 80.80 Mbps. That said, the upload speed dropped from 90.48 Mbps to 9.05 Mbps.

Panda VPN, by way of US server:

3. Private VPN

When it comes to the rest of the VPNs we tested, the results were mixed, but there were some other big names that posted high octane results. For instance Private VPN, which when set to a server in Germany posted the following results, wasn’t that far behind our fastest VPNs.

Private VPN, set to Germany:

4. Avast

Avast was very close behind, when set to a server in Germany:

5. Hotspot VPN

Though Hotspot wasn’t at the top of our leaderboard, it did have a download speed of 49.20 Mbps when set to a server in the US. This is a solid speed, but it may actually be slower than usual for Hotspot, which was voted the fastest VPN service by PC world. Put it simply, clocking in at 49.20 is nothing to sneeze at, but we have a feeling Hotspot can do better than that—and often.

6. SurfShark

SurfShark VPN touts its “ultra-fast speed,” and while that might be an exaggeration for our test, it still repeatedly posted speeds of over 45 Mbps when set to servers in Europe, though it dropped to around 20 to 25 Mbps when set to US servers though. This might be a bit deceptive though, as the test was performed from a European country a few time zones from the east coast.

7. ExpressVPN

With Express, the speed claims are right there in the name. The company boasts an average speed of 77.14 Mbps, which is definitely impressive. That said, in our test we received speeds of around 30 Mbps when set to a Euroepan server. This puts the company pretty low in our test, but it may have been a bit of an exception for Express.

8. Cyberghost

CyberGhost uses a network of more than 3,500 servers in 50+ countries, which has helped it earn a reputation for fast speeds. In our test it did perform rather well—28.19 Mbps download and 44.63 Mbps upload speeds, though a good bit slower than the companies at the top of our list.

9. NordVPN

With a jaw-dropping 5,300+ servers in more than 60 countries, NordVPN has built up a reputation for speed. That said, in our test it scored quite low—only 2.26 Mbps download when set to a server in New York, and 22.31 Mbps when set to a server in Germany. That said, it was also a day when our connection was working slower than usual, so maybe this isn’t the final word for NordVPN.

Helpful Tips to Run the VPN Faster

While our speed test results can provide you with some guidance, they’re by no means set in stone. Speeds for a specific VPN can vary significantly, even on the same day, depending on a number of factors.

Here are some tips for how you can improve your VPN speed.

First off, many VPNs will allow you to select not only a country, but also a specific server within that country. The VPN may give you the option to go with the fastest one, or you can manually select one that appears to be fastest. If the server is performing faster, this should have a positive effect on your speed.

Also, it’s a good idea to select a VPN that’s closer to your actual location. For instance, if you’re in Paris and you want to hide your location, you’ll find that your connection speed will most likely be faster if you move to a VPN based out of Germany or Switzerland than say, one based in Australia or the United States. The closer the server, the shorter the distance that your data has to travel during your connection.

If you’re using a WiFi connection, try switching to a wired connection with a cable. This is less of an option if you’re working outside of the house—in a cafe for instance, but if you’re at home and have access to a cable, it should help improve your speed.

Now, we don’t want to suggest that you let your guard down, but you may find that firewalls and other security protocols can slow you down. If you can do without them while using your VPN, this can speed things up.

Finally, and this may sound old school—but unplug the router and plug it back in. It worked when your Nintendo or Atari was on the fritz, and pulling a reset can help with your VPN speed as well.

Conclusion

A VPN can mask your activity online and allow you to access content that’s blocked in your location, making the [online] world your oyster. It can also protect your privacy and keep you safe online, as well as far from the prying eyes of the authorities. It can take your speed down a notch or 2 though, and if this is a central consideration when shopping for a VPN, take a look at our speed test results when making your purchase. You can also sign up for some free trials,with a number of the top VPN companies, and see for yourself which perform best, before deciding to sign up for long term commitment.

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