Best Fast VPN

With the exception of security, speed is the most important aspect of a virtual private network. No matter which VPN you’re using, it will affect your speed. In some cases, it’s a positive, such as when the VPN gets past internet service provider throttling, while in others, it’s a negative, eating away what little bandwidth you have.

In this guide to the fastest VPN, we’re going to compare the results after taking 16 of our top providers and running them through a gantlet of speed tests. Though no test is perfect, we took as scientific an approach as possible, accounting for every variable we could.

The providers we chose were based on a few factors. First, those in our best VPN guide were automatic inclusions. The rest were chosen either based on our testing when we reviewed them or by speed claims made by the provider.

Fastest VPNs of 2019

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What Makes a VPN Fast?

Like many aspects of VPNs, speed has a lot of variables. If you’re unfamiliar with how a VPN works, we recommend reading our what is a VPN guide. It’ll give you a baseline understanding of how speed factors into the whole scheme. Our speed vs. latency explainer is nice additional reading, too.

The most direct factors are protocol and encryption level.

Generally, ciphers that use larger key sizes are more secure, providing that the cipher isn’t cracked, of course. The encryption and key size dictate how communication with the remote server is established and how complex the algorithm that will be transferring your plaintext data to ciphertext is. For more about the process, read our description of encryption.

In short, there’s a balance between speed and security. The protocol you use plays into that, too. Some protocols only allow certain ciphers to be used, while others encrypt at different points in the network chain. That can also affect speed.

When talking about how “fast” a VPN is, we’re talking about how much bandwidth it takes from your normal internet connection. For example, if we start with a 200 megabits per second download rate and measure a 140 Mbps download rate after connecting to the VPN, the VPN is taking 60 Mbps of bandwidth from our unprotected speed.

That’s not the same as throughput, though. Throughput is how much data is making its way through the connection, while bandwidth is how much that connection is capable of. For VPNs, the factors that affect throughput could be the number of users on a particular server or the maximum possible bandwidth of the hardware it’s using.

For the majority of tasks, download rate is the most direct metric for “speed.” Streaming and browsing are concerned more with it than anything else, so it’s the metric you should concentrate on for basic VPN use.

Latency, or ping, isn’t as important for those tasks. Ping is the measure of how long it takes for a message to travel to a server and back. For streaming, it doesn’t matter. Even if the server is 500 milliseconds behind, it is that far behind consistently.

On the other hand, tasks such as gaming rely on latency.

Gaming, particularly when it’s multiplayer, doesn’t require much data to be transfered. Both machines have the textures and models stored and rendered locally, so only a small amount of data needs to be transfered, such as impact points and triggered events. To make those events occur as close together as possible, the latency of each player needs to be low.

We won’t be covering gaming in this guide, so if it’s your main concern, we recommend reading our best VPN for gaming piece.

How Distance Affects VPN Speed

The distance you’re tunneling mainly affects the latency of the connection. There’s more physical distance for the message to travel, so it takes longer for the message to go round-trip.

That’s where it gets messy, though. Theoretically, the bandwidth shouldn’t change, so long as the server you’re connecting to has the same bandwidth as a server close to you. Even so, it takes packets longer to travel that distance, which has an impact on download and upload rates.

The time it takes for a packet to travel can affect throughput rates, which we discussed above. Even though the connection can support the same amount of bandwidth in theory, the real-world scenario means you’ll have a slower connection. Because of that, it’s generally a better idea to connect to a VPN server close to home unless you’re trying to bypass strict censorship.

Fastest VPN Speed Test Results

We tested three locations — New York, Amsterdam and Tokyo — across 16 VPN providers. We chose those locations because most services have servers in or near them. The tests were ran three times and we averaged the results. In the table below, you’ll find the weighted average of the three locations. If you want the full data set, you can look at our testing spreadsheet.

Testing took place over multiple days on a wired connection. To keep everything as fair as possible, we verified our unprotected speed before each round of testing. On days where the results were 10 percent above or below normal, we didn’t test. Thankfully, that situation never came up.

Our results are displayed in megabits per second, so if you’re expecting lower rates, that’s why. There are eight bits to a byte, so a download rate of 200 Mbps would be the same as 25 megabytes per second.

Results that were 10 percent or less of our unprotected speed were thrown out and retested 10 times. If they didn’t get above the 10 percent threshold, we kept the latest test result for the particular round we were testing. The rule applied to single rounds. For example, if a provider scored well in one round but consistently scored poorly in another, it was still factored into the average.

In addition to calculating the averages for download, upload and ping for each location, we calculated an overall weighted average. The weighted average factored in the averages from all locations, with a 40 percent weight towards our testing location in the U.S. and 30 percent for the two locations abroad.

Though our hope was to account for every variable, that simply wasn’t possible.

Some providers don’t have data centers in the locations we tested and, at times, a particular server performed much worse than others in the same location. To address that, we used the recommended server for the location when possible and verified that multiple servers in that location had similar speed.

We also accounted for encryption level. Our tests were done using OpenVPN with AES 256-bit, because that setup is standard for VPN security. Thankfully, all the providers we tested allow for it, though some default to using IKEv2. Below, you can see our results.

VPN Speed Table

Provider:Weighted UpWeighted Down
6.24
130.55
7.68
134.55
6.9
40.57
7.62
125.99
7.78
120.25
6.04
124.29
6.68
44.22
5.52
71.82
8.06
104.73
7.68
115.01
6.68
56.46
6.26
67.26
6.94
114.19
7.56
63.95
5.84
88.14
6.11
100.62

Looking over the data, providers fall into one of two camps: “excellent” or “decent.” There are exceptions, though. For instance, the fastest provider based on our average is NordVPN, but we’re hesitant to call it the fastest VPN around.

NordVPN is the reason we had to implement an outlier rule. The results from some servers in a particular location were excellent, while others in the same location were terrible, like less than 10 percent of our unprotected speed terrible.

CyberGhost returned strange results, too. We gave it a 90 percent rating in speed in our CyberGhost review, but in this batch of testing, it was the worst performing provider. It defaults to using IKEv2, and it’s much faster when using that VPN protocol. It doesn’t do well with OpenVPN, as per our testing, but it’s still usable with IKEv2.

Suffice it to say that, though the weighted average adds a good point of comparison, you’ll want to look over our full spreadsheet for the details. For example, IPVanish had excellent U.S. scores, but terrible scores abroad, so the weighted average favored it. Similarly, PureVPN didn’t do so hot in the U.S. test, but performed better in Amsterdam and Tokyo.

The Fastest VPN Providers

With all of the data and criteria out of the way, it’s time to name the fastest VPN providers we found. As mentioned in the section above, there were anomalies during testing, so we had to make a judgement call on a few providers and how they’ll be ordered in the chain.

ExpressVPN

Though NordVPN had a higher weighted average, it was inconsistent. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, was able to achieve a high average consistently. It was resilient from our first batch of testing and, based on the results recorded in our ExpressVPN review, it can put up similar numbers around the globe.

It has the rare ability to stay fast over long distances, which is why we ranked it first in our best VPN for Netflix guide. No matter what content you’re trying to unlock, ExpressVPN can handle it, and do so with quick speeds, to boot.

Plus, it can do so securely. With its default combination of AES 256-bit and the OpenVPN protocol, ExpressVPN will keep you safe while browsing. It’s also good at bypassing censorship, which is why it took the cake in our best VPN services for China guide.

That said, it does all of that for a hefty price. Though ExpressVPN isn’t as expensive as, say, Hide.me (read our Hide.me review), it isn’t cheap. That’s somewhat offset by the 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try the service risk-free.

Private Internet Access

We always knew Private Internet Access was fast, but we attributed its impressive rates to the lower level of encryption it uses by default. After this batch of testing, though, it’s clear: PIA is one of the fastest VPNs around.

PIA defaults to AES 128-bit, which it says should be enough to protect you while not adding unnecessary overhead. Though we agree in many cases, AES 256-bit is the standard that other providers set. PIA managed to play ball in that court, too, falling just short of ExpressVPN in its weighted average.

Though more sporadic in certain locations, PIA kept a relatively level rate across the three servers we tested. As is to be expected, the New York City test had the best average download rate, but the Amsterdam and Tokyo servers weren’t far behind.

If you’re only care about speed and security, PIA is an excellent choice, especially considering it’s around half the price of ExpressVPN. It has more than one issue in usability, though, which you can learn about in our PIA review. If you’d rather try it yourself, you can sign up risk-free with its seven-day money-back guarantee.

Astrill

We have a love-hate relationship with Astrill. Its features are great, but its interface sucks. Its security is top-notch, but its price tag is too high. Despite those highs and lows, it remains one of the fastest VPNs available.

Though it ranks third for this test, Astrill is capable of producing faster results. In addition to supporting OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, SSTP and PPTP, it comes with a couple of proprietary protocols. OpenWeb, for example, is a TCP-based protocol that uses AES 256-bit and, based on our testing, it’s faster than OpenVPN.

This round of testing brought up concerns, though. When trying to download a trial of Astrill with a different email address, the client was able to detect that our test machine had already used a trial. We’re not in a position to make accusations, but that may be something you want to consider.

Regardless, what’s important here is that Astrill is fast and feature-rich. It comes with the price tag to match, though. It’s not as expensive as Hide.me, but it is a few dollars more per month than ExpressVPN. That said, it offers a free trial, so you can download and try it out or read our Astrill review for more details.

TorGuard

TorGuard doesn’t have the most attractive interface, but it is one of the most customizable VPNs on the market. It puts security first and manages to be quick while doing so.

Though the weighted average was lower than PIA’s and Astrill’s, TorGuard managed a higher average speed in the U.S. As you can see from our speed results in our TorGuard review, some servers perform better than others. If we optimized and picked the best servers in TorGuard’s network, it would probably take down the whole guide.

Even with some subpar servers, though, the bar TorGuard sets is high. During our testing, we noticed negligible drops in download rates, while latency stayed low. As far as bringing the weighted average down, the Amsterdam server was responsible, but it still kept our download rate around 100 Mbps.

TorGuard is fast, but it’s feature-rich, as well. You’ll get a customizable killswitch, settings for custom scripts before and after connection and a free encrypted webmail account. The price for all of that is low, too. You can read our review to learn more or try it yourself with a week-long free trial.

AirVPN

As with Astrill, we have a love-hate relationship with AirVPN. It’s a secure VPN with a slew of features, but it appeals more to technophiles than anyone else. As long as you can deal with its dated interface, it’s one of the faster VPNs you can use.

Though it worked out that the weighted averaged placed AirVPN fifth, we would’ve placed it here either way. When it’s fast, it’s fast, but not all servers will give you that experience. In our AirVPN review, we noted some locations, such as the data center in Toronto, have abysmal speeds.

It’s fast, there’s no doubt about that, but it isn’t consistent. For example, our three rounds of testing at the Amsterdam data center showed wildly different download rates. One round gave us 109.63 Mbps, while another was only 52.3 Mbps. The resiliency of the data center in New York City raised the average, though.  

You’ll have to make some concessions with AirVPN, but it’s one of the more configurable VPNs on the market. It has a ton of features and, if you fancy yourself a tinkerer, it may be the perfect option for you. There isn’t a free trial, but you can sign up for a three-day pass for $1.

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Honorable Mentions

Not every provider can be the best, but that doesn’t make those that aren’t bad. Below, you’ll find the runners-up.

Mullvad

Mullvad could’ve been our fifth pick and, if we were choosing six providers, it would be on the list. Its weighted average fell just short of AirVPN’s and, though that’s the best way to see how well each VPN performed, Mullvad was more consistent across rounds and locations.

Though its interface is annoying to use — it’s locked to the tray — Mullvad has a more inviting user experience than AirVPN. The application is about the size of a smartphone app, and the homepage makes it clear that it’s only concerned with getting you connected. Despite that streamlined approach, Mullvad is still a great choice for techies.

The software is open source, so you can download the source code on GitHub and play around in the guts. Though we imagine only a small percentage of people will do so, the option is there. You can learn more about the service in our Mullvad review or download a limited three-hour trial to see how you like it.

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN might be the best free VPN available. It’s easy to use, comes with a decent number of features and is fast, to boot. Though you can only access three server locations with the free plan, and ProtonVPN advertises the speed as “low,” you can use it as much as you want.

The paid service isn’t bad, but, as we noted in our ProtonVPN review, it feels like the same amount of money can buy you more elsewhere. Even so, it’s a solid middle-of-the-round option that gets into Netflix. You can sign up for a free account to try it yourself.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost has the worst speed results out of the providers we tested. Though it had a bad showing here, it is much better with IKEv2. If you’re concerned with low-risk protection, such as streaming Netflix without your ISP snooping, CyberGhost is a great option.

IKEv2 is more easily blocked than OpenVPN, though, so it’s not a great choice if you’re trying to bypass censorship with quick speeds.That said, it’s great for streaming. CyberGhost comes with a range of specialized streaming servers for over 50 platforms, and every one we tested worked on the first try.

You can learn more in our CyberGhost review or try it yourself with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

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Dishonorable Mentions

The last group is the services that gave us bad, or questionable, results.

NordVPN

We like NordVPN a lot — it’s rated second in our VPN reviews — but we felt the need to put it in the dishonorable mentions section for this guide. For all of its features, NordVPN was inconsistent during our speed tests. Some locations almost matched ExpressVPN, while others couldn’t give us back even 10 percent of our unprotected speed.

In this guide, NordVPN gets a dishonorable mention, but it’s still one of the best VPNs on the market. Our NordVPN review does a better job of explaining the specifics, but, for a broad explanation, it’s lightweight, easy to use and comes with a slew of great features.

VyprVPN

VyprVPN surprised us during this batch of testing. Though it was never the fastest VPN around, it still maintained useable speeds. That said, in this testing session, is was annihilated by every other provider when using OpenVPN, and using VyprVPN’s proprietary protocol, Chameleon, didn’t help the matter.


It’s particularly disappointing because VyprVPN claims to have “blazing speeds” on its homepage. Though consistent, it was never able to return half of our unprotected speed, which is poor performance. Even so, as long as you have a fast unprotected connection, it’s usable. You can learn more in our VyprVPN review or sign up for a three-day free trial.

IPVanish

IPVanish’s score is as middle-of-the-road as it gets, a trend that carries through other aspects of the service. Though its weighted average is, well, average, its individual scores leave a lot to be desired. The New York City and Amsterdam servers were blazing fast, rivaling the likes of ExpressVPN, but Tokyo returned an average download speed of only 8.28 Mbps.

Plus, IPVanish has been caught handing logs over to government entities. You can read the details in our IPVanish review, but the short of it is that, despite claiming “no logging” in its privacy policy, when a court order asked for the logs of a particular user, IPVanish handed them over.

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Final Thoughts

After multiple days of testing and analyzing the data, we’re happy to claim ExpressVPN as the fastest VPN on the market. NordVPN, technically, had a higher weighted average, but, as explained above, its consistency was nowhere near ExpressVPN’s.

While ExpressVPN is the champion, other providers come close. PIA and TorGuard, in particular, offer excellent service for a low price and, based on our testing, they’re fast, too. AirVPN and Astrill are quick, but their usability issues keep us from making a full recommendation.

Did you have a chance to look over the data we gathered? Have you ran tests of your own? Let us know how it went in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.

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One thought on “Fastest VPN Services of 2019: Festina Lente”

  1. This article confirms that choosing ExpressVPN is among the best decisions I made so far. I used to be with Astrill until I realized their service sucks big time!

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