VPN Speed Tests: Which One Comes Out On Top?

What's the best way to find the fastest VPN? Check the speeds for yourself. Here's how. 

Clipart of speed gauge.

Our VPN speed tests put leading VPN providers through their paces. 

Is there anything more frustrating than a slow VPN connection? After protecting your privacy, the next most important feature of a VPN is its speed.

VPN speeds can vary by location, time of day, the server you connect to, whether you are on Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection and many other reasons. In fact, you can test the same VPN connected to the same server just minutes apart and sometimes get surprisingly different results. 

The best way to find a VPN with fast speeds is to test them under your own conditions. We'll show you how as well as the results we got. 

Overall, ExpressVPN had the most impressive speed tests. But when you consider ExpressVPN's relatively high cost ($6.67/mo), the VPN service Private Internet Access ($3.33/mo) represents better value, providing good VPN speeds for much lower cost. 

VPN Tested

Ping

Download Speeds

Upload Speeds

No VPN (baseline)

21 ms

20.6 Mbps

4.5 Mbps

NordVPN

2.6x slower

32% slower

13% slower

PIA #2

2.2x slower

17% slower

10% slower

VyprVPN

2.3x slower

30% slower

23% slower

ExpressVPN #1

1.3x slower

17% slower

14% slower

PureVPN

2.3x slower

18% slower

12% slower

CyberGhost

2.2x slower

34% slower

14% slower

* The lower the deprecation figures above (versus the baseline), the better the VPN performed.

We cover a lot in this post. 

Rather than fill up this post with speed test screenshots, we include only 1 per VPN. But rest assured we did multiple tests for each one, especially when results seemed atypical. Our screenshots also include the Result ID assigned by speedtest.net.

Connection speed is just part of the story. For each VPN, we also looked at the following:

  • start-up speed: how fast the VPN app opens after double-clicking on its desktop icon? It sucks to launch the VPN app and for it to take ages to open
     
  • time to connect: how much time does it take for the VPN to connect to servers after you select 'Connect'? The faster you connect, the less time you have to wait
     
  • app display: what does the app show once connected? Some VPN's show next to nothing while others show lots of rich information 
     
  • tray functions: what can you do from the small icon in your system tray? what does it display when you hover over it? Some VPNs let you do a lot right from the tray while others do almost nothing 

OK, let's get at it! 


Establishing a Baseline: 'No VPN' Speed Tests

In-between each VPN speed test below, we did a speed test on our connection without a VPN. This establishes a baseline and a control against which to compare other results. 

The average results of our 'no VPN' speed tests were as follows:

  • Average ping: 21 ms
  • Average download speed: 20.61 Mbps
  • Average upload speed: 4.51 Mbps 

It is against these figures that we compare each VPN speed test below. In case you are wondering, we conducted our tests near Tucson, Arizona using a residential Wi-Fi connection, Chrome web browser and utilizing speedtest.net's "single connection mode" (which they recommend for VPN tests). When testing VPNs, we allowed each one to auto-connect to its best server.

Screenshot of speedtest.net results.

No VPN speed test #1.

Screenshot of speedtest.net results.

Second 'no VPN' speed test.

Screenshot of VPN speedtest.net results.

No VPN speed test #3.

Screenshot of speedtest.net results.

Fourth 'no VPN' speed test.

Screenshot of speedtest.net results.

#5 speed test with no VPN.

Screenshot of speedtest.net results.

No VPN speed test #6.


VPN Speed Test for NordVPN

  • Ping 2.6 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 32% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 13% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for NordVPN (auto select server).

NordVPN speed test results via Quick Connect (auto) mode.

At the time of writing, NordVPN was Speedtest.net's recommended VPN and a PCMag Editor's Choice. NordVPN was found to be the second-fastest VPN by BestVPNGuru (only behind ExpressVPN) and was also in the top 5 fastest VPNs according to Comparitech and vpnMentor.  

Here are our other speed-related observations about NordVPN:

  • start-up speed: after clicking the NordVPN icon, start-up took 4.5 seconds. 
     
  • time to connect: after clicking Connect in the NordVPN app, it took 8.5 seconds to connect to VPN servers. NordVPN disconnects nearly instantly.
Screenshot of Speedtest.net endorsement of NordVPN.

Speedtest.net recommends NordVPN.

 

  • app display: the NordVPN app displays the connected location but not in a clear way (example, "United States #2487"). Even in the app, only the IP address is shown; no protocol or encryption is displayed.
     
  • tray functions: you can connect to NordVPN from the system tray (you can access recent servers). The icon changes in the tray to show you are connected, but the small green dot is not easy to see. You can also disconnect from the tray. Hovering atop the tray icon shows nothing: no IP, no protocol and no encryption is shown.

Comes with a 30-day full money-back guarantee. 


VPN Speed Test for Private Internet Access (PIA)

  • Ping 2.2 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 17% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 10% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for PIA.

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN speed test results using auto-connect.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is PCMag's Editor's Choice for Power Users. In other speed tests, PIA is a top 5 fastest VPN according to TechRadar and TheBestVPN and a top 10 fastest VPN as rated by BestVPN.com and VPNRanks. 

Here are our other speed-related observations about PIA:

  • start-up speed: after clicking the Private Internet Access icon, it was very quick start-up (less than 3 seconds).
     
  • time to connect: after clicking PIA's Connect button, connecting took only 4 to 5 seconds. PIA disconnects instantly.
     
  • app display: PIA’s app shows usage (download/upload) and speeds (up/down). In the app there is a place for the IPs to show (old vs VPN assigned) but they are often blank!  In the app, you can also see a graph displaying in/out Mbps.
     
  • tray functions: you can auto-connect from the Tray as well as choose any server location from the Tray. The Tray icon changes color, so you see when the VPN is active (grey) vs inactive (green) but frankly it’s a little hard to see the green. Hovering over PIA’s system tray icon displays the Location connected to (example, “Connected to USA California”). You can access Settings from the Tray too. The ‘Connect to’ option stays available in the Tray even when connected, so it is a great way to “switch” servers. Most other VPN apps don’t allow that from the Tray. One annoyance: it is a little too easy to Quit the app in the Tray by accident (an extra prompt like, “Sure you want to quit” might be good).

VPN Speed Test for VyprVPN

  • Ping 2.3 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 30% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 23% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for VyprVPN.

Speed test results for VyprVPN's "Fastest Server" (auto) settings.

In other VPN speed tests, TechRadar rates VyprVPN among the top 3 fastest VPNs

Here are our other speed-related observations about VyprVPN:

  • start-up speed: after clicking the VyprVPN icon, start-up took 2 seconds.
     
  • time to connect: after clicking Connect in the VyprVPN app, it took a full 12 seconds to connect (once it took 29 seconds!). VyprVPN's disconnect is instant.
     
  • app display: what we really like about VyprVPN’s app is how you can see the location, IP address, protocol, encryption and up/down speeds right in the app. It has probably the best app display of all VPN services. 
     
  • tray functions: VyprVPN's Icon in the Tray changes letting you know you are connected. You can easily connect/disconnect right from the Tray. Even better, it also displays your current IP, location and protocol right in the Tray too. Hovering over VyprVPN's icon will display your connect time.

VPN Speed Test for ExpressVPN

  • Ping 1.3 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 17% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 14% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN speed test results using its auto-connect.

At the time of writing, ExpressVPN was named the fastest VPN by vpnMentor, TechRadar and BestVPNGuru as well as the second-fastest VPN by BestVPN.com. Comparitech also lists ExpressVPN among the top 5 fastest VPNs. 

Here are our other speed-related observations about ExpressVPN:

  • start-up speed: ExpressVPN took about 5 seconds to start-up after clicking on its icon.
     
  • time to connect: once started, ExpressVPN took 5.5 seconds to connect to a server after we clicked Connect in the app. Disconnecting takes less than 1 second.
     
  • app display: ExpressVPN’s app displays the location you are connected to, but not the IP, protocol or encryption used.
     
  • tray functions: from ExpressVPN's System Tray icon, you can connect to servers but not via auto (instead it shows the 3 most recent servers) and disconnect. Hovering over ExpressVPN's System Tray icon shows nothing which seems a missed opportunity!

30-day money-back guarantee for peace of mind. 


VPN Speed Test for PureVPN

  • Ping 2.3 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 18% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 12% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for PureVPN.

PureVPN speed test results for ‘Internet Freedom’ mode.

Other speed tests conducted by VPNRanks found PureVPN to be the fastest VPN. This just goes to show you how different speed tests can be and why you should also do your own testing. 

Here are our other speed-related observations about PureVPN:

  • start-up speed: after clicking on PureVPN's desktop icon, start-up took 5 seconds (but once it took 15 seconds to start up).
Screenshot of VPNranks VPN speed tests.

VPNRanks' speed tests found PureVPN to be the fastest VPN.

 

  • time to connect: clicking Connect in PureVPN's app, saw us connect to a VPN server in 7-8 seconds. PureVPN disconnects virtually instantly.
     
  • app display: the NordVPN app displays location and time connected, but not IP address, protocol or encryption used.
     
  • tray functions: you can do very little from the Tray icon displayed for PureVPN (can’t do much other than Open/Hide the main app). Hovering over the Tray icon just shows a generic ‘PureVPN - Secured Network’ message and nothing else.

VPN Speed Test for CyberGhost

  • Ping 2.2 times slower than baseline
  • Download speed 34% slower than baseline
  • Upload speed 14% slower than baseline
Screenshot of speedtest.net results for CyberGhost VPN.

CyberGhost VPN speed test results using “Connect to best location” mode.

Screenshot of CyberGhost error message.

We had some issues. 

Screenshot of kill switch error message.

... and we tried but couldn't implement the app's suggestion to disable the kill switch. 

Here are our other speed-related observations about CyberGhost:

  • start-up speed: starting up the app took 7 seconds (but once it took over 60 seconds!). Disconnecting takes a few seconds.
     
  • time to connect: we had a lot of problems connecting and gave up twice after 40 seconds. The app suggested we disable the Kill switch but we not able to do so despite trying a number of times (see screenshots above). We finally made a connection after 12 seconds. 
     
  • app display: CyberGhost's app shows location, connect time and IP address but not the protocol or encryption being used.
     
  • tray functions: you can auto connect from the Tray (“Connect to best location”). Also, all locations and specialized servers, including for torrenting, streaming and your saved favourite server locations, are available from the Tray. You can also change servers on fly via the Tray (nice!) Hovering over the Tray icon just displays ‘CyberGhost 7’. The Tray icon changes color when active (bright yellow icon) versus not (grey icon).

You are protected by a full 45-day money-back guarantee. 


Final Thoughts

This post presents our own detailed VPN speed tests and provided screenshots to back them up. We also indicated how these VPN services fared in other third-party VPN speed tests. In some cases, the results lead to similar rankings as our tests but in others the results are quite different.

The speed of a VPN depends on so many things - including the country where you live, the devices you will use the VPN for, your specific set-up, etc. This is why we highly recommend that, after doing some initial research, you should take advantage of the free trials offered by all good VPN services and perform similar VPN speed tests yourself. 

If you intend to use a VPN mostly for torrenting, keep in mind that all the speed tests above used a web browser. Torrent VPN tests might give you very different speed results. 

Happy hunting! 

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