We’re in the middle of a streaming revolution: TV is no more and cable cutters reign supreme thanks to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or their extralegal counterparts (one of which you can read all about in our Kodi guide). To make the most of any and all of these, though, you may want to use a virtual private network, which is why we put together this list of the best VPN for streaming.
The reason to use a VPN while streaming is twofold: on the one hand you get to secure your connection, never a bad thing, as you never know what kind of travelers come with your latest episode of Game of Thrones (especially important if you’re using not-so-legal sites). On the other, you get to watch more shows and movies, as a good VPN will allow you to circumvent geoblocks.
Below we’ll go into a bit more detail on our picks, but first let’s talk a little about georestrictions as well as take a look at what a service has to be able to do before landing a spot in this list.
The Best VPN for Streaming 2018
What Makes a VPN the Best for Streaming?
All streaming services have some kind of regional restriction in place, often due to copyright issues. Netflix, for example, doesn’t have the rights to Marvel movies in the U.S., while most European viewers can watch Ant Man and the latest Thor movie without a problem.
These restrictions extend to other services as well: Amazon Prime users in the U.S. have a very different experience than those in Japan, for example, and Hulu isn’t available at all outside of the 50 states.
In all cases it should be a simple matter of connecting a VPN to a server in the country you want to watch from and go from there, but all the popular streaming services have some kind of block in place, with the Netflix VPN ban being without a doubt the toughest of these.
The top priority for a good VPN is then to make sure that it can circumvent these blocks, and all the services below have been proven to do so. The services we tested from among our existing VPN reviews could all get into Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and BBC iPlayer, as well as being compatible with most of the best Kodi builds.
Besides needing to be able to punch through VPN blocks, a good service for streaming also needs to have the speeds to let you watch your favorite show without watching the buffering circle show up every two minutes, or you may end up punching through your screen instead. Though not all the services below are the fastest VPN providers around, all will allow you to get a decent enough connection to watch Netflix.
Last of all, security is important, especially if you’re going the illegal route. Streaming over pirate sites isn’t the best idea unless your connection is secure, or you’ll find yourself part of a botnet before you know it. Note that streaming this way shouldn’t be confused with torrenting; if you want to go that way, we recommend our picks for the best VPN for torrenting or the best cloud torrenting services.
Now, enough with the prologue, let’s get to the good stuff.
The Best VPN for Streaming: ExpressVPN
If you’re a regular reader of Cloudwards.net you probably already guessed that ExpressVPN would be number one here when we discussed the combination of speed, security and the ability to defeat Netflix proxy errors. The service does all that, and then some.
ExpressVPN leads the pack in both our best VPN for Netflix as well as our best VPN for BBC iPlayer articles, and during tests for our latest ExpressVPN review we were able to add Hulu and Amazon Prime Video to the list. Though you may occasionally need to switch servers as Netflix actively hunts for servers skirting its ban, you will always get through eventually.
It’s also ridiculously fast: during our testing even a transatlantic connection from the Netherlands hit great speeds, as well as a connection the other way to Japan. This means you can watch whatever you want at whatever resolution you want, so you didn’t buy that OLED screen for nothing.
Last of all, ExpressVPN has excellent security, meaning you don’t need to worry for a second about whether or not someone is watching you while watching a film. As a testament to its security, ExpressVPN is the winner of our best VPN for China article, too.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
Besides being fast and secure, ExpressVPN is also pretty easy to use and tinkerers will be happy to have a new plaything, too. However, the biggest downside to ExpressVPN is its steep price: it costs $100 per year and the monthly is the highest on the market at $13.
However, you can’t put a price on quality and ExpressVPN is simply the best VPN out there. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you don’t like the experience or feel other deals like the ones below are better, so you have nothing to lose when taking it for a test drive.
- Gets into everything
- Only 3 simultaneous connections
- Slow server switch speed
Another Cloudwards.net stalwart, NordVPN is second on our list simply because long-range connections, over large bodies of water, for example, take quite the hit in terms of speed. Besides that, however, the service is the equal of ExpressVPN and even beats it when it comes to price, as you can read in our NordVPN review.
When it comes to breaking through VPN blocks, NordVPN is simply fantastic: most of its servers will get you where you need to be and when we tested it got through to all major streaming services. It also did well with Kodi, which is why it ranked well in our best VPN for Kodi piece. You will, of course, occasionally have to switch servers, but with NordVPN that takes just a few seconds.
On top of all that, NordVPN is also highly secure, meaning you won’t have to worry about any malware coming your way. It keeps no logs and offers you a range of security options to choose from, including double-hop encryption which may come in handy when streaming from dodgy sites. That all this security slows you down a bit is just the price you pay.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN is extremely easy to use: the interface is almost completely foolproof and finding and selecting servers is easy. All the options you may want, including a handy killswitch as well as special servers, are right where you’d expect them to be and can be toggled on or off with the click of a button (you want them on, though, trust us).
The biggest draw of NordVPN is, however, it’s extremely friendly pricing. Right now Cloudwards.net readers can get three years for just $99, making it one of the best deals on the market right now (together with CyberGhost, right below). If a three-year plunge seems like a bit too much right now, the service offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’re not running much of a chance.
- Great deal
- User friendly
- 6 simultaneous connections
- A bit slow
- Fewer countries
Our third pick is based in Romania and offers a great network of servers in Europe, though less so outside of it, hence the number three spot. It does, however, get through VPN blocks most of the time, though the coverage is a bit patchy in places. However, it will get you where you need to be, and at a good price.
In our testing for our CyberGhost review we found its speeds to be decent and consistent, though the transatlantic drops may have been a bit more than we’d have liked. That said, if you’re looking to stream European content from elsewhere, it has a great network that should serve you well.
Its security is also good, with plenty of options to toggle off and on. It uses the OpenVPN protocol by default, which is good, though you can mess with it if you want to (disclaimer: don’t mess with it).
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
As befits a top-three pick, CyberGhost has a great interface, though its support can be sometimes lacking. Flitting around its menus is pretty easy and it’s rare that you will find yourself stuck, wondering where you can find a particular button.
Much like with NordVPN, though, what’s great about CyberGhost is its pricing: $99 buys you a full three years with the service. Again, a multi-year commitment might be more than you can handle, but it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can always change your mind.
- Great deal
- Easy to use
- Great in Europe
- Not that hot outside Europe
- Bit slow
VyprVPN is another great service, but it lands fourth place because the parts of its server network that can breach the Netflix VPN block are mostly in the U.S. and the UK. Though that should be enough for most, it is a little one-sided. It is, however, great for accessing BBC iPlayer and also gets you through to Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
Speeds are generally reliable, if a little slow, but this holds true for long-distance connections, too, so that is a plus when compared to some others on this list. People that will most likely benefit the greatest from using VyprVPN are those in Europe, as they can both stream UK and U.S. content without too many problems.
As for security, VyprVPN is one of the best providers out there. Although it doesn’t have the same range of toggles and switches like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, it is still one of the best out-of-the-box solutions out there and we recommend anyone give it a try, or at least give our VyprVPN review a close look.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
VyprVPN is fairly idiot proof and pretty nice to use, though it does feel less sleek than the others on this list (well, except for TorGuard, but that is a different beast entirely). It also has it’s proprietary Chameleon technology, which hides your digital footprint entirely, making it great for torrenters and those tunneling under the Great Firewall.
As for pricing, VyprVPN has two tiers of plans, though only the Premium version merits attention as it has Chameleon included. This will set you back $80 per year though you do get digital invisibility in return. Unlike our other entries, VyprVPN has no refund policy, offering a three-day trial, instead.
- Great for U.S. & UK servers
- Free trial
- Reliable speeds
- Server network is meh
- Bit pricey
Our last official entry on this list, TorGuard is an odd duck in that it can’t get into Netflix or iPlayer and getting into Amazon Prime or Hulu is a matter of luck. The reason it still gets a place on this list is that you can buy the use of a dedicated server in your country of choice and so get access to any and all sites there.
The TorGuard approach is special as you’re practically guaranteed it will work, without endless switching, but you have to pay extra and deal with a lack of flexibility: if you want to watch, say, a Thai sitcom via Netflix you’re going to have to buy a separate server token in Thailand. This may not work for everyone, a sentiment that extends to the rest of TorGuard, too, but more on that later.
Speeds are fine with TorGuard, the upside of their server model is that loads are kept low, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Add to that the most customizable security setup among all VPNs, and you’re in business when it comes to streaming.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
One word: tinkering. TorGuard is the DIY computing geek’s dream VPN and probably the reason it does so well with Linux geeks, too (read our best VPN for Linux article for more services that do well with Team Penguin). Read more about your many, many options in our TorGuard review).
That’s also the downside, of course: TorGuard is very far from idiot proof and seems to be proud of that fact. Then again, its pricing is reasonable at $60 per year, though you should also factor in the cost of dedicated servers with that. You get a seven-day refund period when you buy TorGuard, so you have plenty of time to decide if it’s the service for you.
- Always works
Next up, two good providers that didn’t quite make the cut when it came to either accessing certain streaming sites or general speed issues. This isn’t to say that they are bad services, they just could do better and so could you when it comes to streaming.
We’re big fans of Private Internet Access here at Cloudwards.net, even if only because of its activist stance in the battle for net neutrality. Thankfully, it has more going for it than just its politics: as you can read in our PIA review, the service will get you through most geoblocks, though it may occasionally have trouble with Netflix and see some speed drops, anchoring it sadly as an honorable mention.
Between it’s quirky trial conditions — you have to send an email and ask nicely — and decent speeds, AirVPN is a great service that doesn’t quite make the cut thanks to the issues it has with cracking geoblocks. As you can read in our AirVPN review, however, it’s cheap enough that you may want to take the risk.
The above five services, seven if you include our honorable mentions, are in our mind the very best VPNs for streaming, no matter if you’re going for Netflix, iPlayer or anything else. Though ExpressVPN is an almost natural winner, all the others have enough going for them that some users may prefer them, for whatever reason.
Do you have a preferred VPN for streaming? Or do you think going through all the trouble is just, well, too much trouble? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.