- Table of Contents
- Quick Guide to the Best VPN for Streaming
- What Makes an Ideal VPN for Streaming Services?
- 5 Best VPNs for Streaming
- 1. ExpressVPN -- My Top Choice for Streaming
- 2. NordVPN -- Fast Streaming VPN
- 3. Surfshark -- Best Streaming VPN With Unlimited Devices
- 4. Proton VPN -- Most Secure VPN for Streaming
- 5. Private Internet Access -- Affordable Backup VPN With Many Locations
- Other VPNs Tested for Streaming
- Methodology: Testing Streaming VPNs
- Are Free VPNs Safe for Streaming?
- FAQ: Best VPN for Streaming
Quick Summary: Best Streaming VPN
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming, thanks to its combination of an airtight infrastructure and a massive server network. It’s pricey, but you can see how well it works for you by taking advantage of its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Picking the best VPN for streaming means getting several factors to align. The VPN needs to be fast enough to stream video at your desired quality, and user-friendly enough that you can fire it up and connect on short notice. If you plan to change your IP address and check out a streaming service in another country, your VPN needs to have servers in your location of choice.
You may be in despair at this point, but I have good news: Checking all these boxes isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, I managed to find five VPNs that make streaming easy, affordable and even fun (which should be the whole point of watching TV). ExpressVPN tops the list, but the others will get the job done. See for yourself below.
Quick Guide to the Best VPN for Streaming
This list is subjective, but I’ve put it together after years spent testing dozens of VPN services. I stand by any VPN provider on the list below for quick, user-friendly streaming.
Best VPNs for Streaming:
- ExpressVPN: Best overall VPN for streaming
- NordVPN: Fast streaming VPN
- Surfshark: Best streaming VPN with unlimited connections
- Proton VPN: Most secure VPN for streaming
- Private Internet Access: Affordable backup VPN with many locations
What Makes an Ideal VPN for Streaming Services?
I’ve already touched on what makes a certain virtual private network (VPN) a good option for streaming, but I’d like to go into more detail so you have the tools you need to run your own search. Many of these important streaming capabilities are also exemplified on our best Netflix VPN list.
Fast Download Speeds
Streaming movies and shows is data-intensive, so a reliable VPN has to be fast — or more accurately, it should add as little drag to your network speed as possible. The most important stat for streaming is the VPN’s download speed. If it’s too low, you’ll notice lags and stutters as your internet connection fails to stream chunks of your video quickly enough.
Large Server Network
A large server network gives you IP addresses in more countries, but it’s also important for video quality. VPN servers perform better the closer you are to their physical locations. A good streaming VPN needs plenty of servers spread over all six continents, making top speeds accessible no matter where you are.
This is a tricky one. Streaming websites really don’t want you using VPNs to watch copyrighted content, so they’ll rush to block any and all proxy servers. No VPN can unblock streaming services every time, but some do it better than others because the VPNs focus on maintaining their infrastructure. I’ve tested each VPN service on this list to make sure it can unblock every platform.
Nobody wants to mess around with menus and switches when they just want to stream Netflix or watch Slovenian football highlights after a hard day’s work. The best streaming VPNs load quickly, connect swiftly and do most of the work for you. Most VPNs are easy to use, but there’s still a marked difference from one to the next.
5 Best VPNs for Streaming
I’ve found that the five VPNs below offer the fastest, most trustworthy and convenient streaming experiences. In addition to getting you into all the major streaming services, they’ll also keep internet service providers from seeing what you do online.
1. ExpressVPN — My Top Choice for Streaming
- Maintains great download speeds
- Unblocks all streaming services
- Servers in 105 countries
- No dedicated streaming servers
- Expensive plans
- Streaming Access
Have you ever heard that when you have high-quality ingredients, you shouldn’t smother them with sauce? ExpressVPN took that advice to heart. It isn’t the richest in features, but it connects fast, it’s easy to operate and it hardly nudges my download speeds in every test. And if you’ve seen our guide on how to get Netflix unblocked, you already know it’s great for streaming.
I picked ExpressVPN as the best streaming VPN because of three main points in its favor. First, as I mentioned earlier, it’s fast. As long as you start with enough speed, you’ll still be able to stream in HD after connecting to ExpressVPN. Second, it has a huge server network; you can watch Netflix with ExpressVPNin 105 countries.
Third, it gets around blocks reliably. Streaming is a big part of ExpressVPN’s value proposition, so the team pays attention to it — and it shows. I’ve never seen a proxy error on any website while connected to ExpressVPN. It may not have dedicated streaming servers like CyberGhost, but that hardly matters when every server works. See my full ExpressVPN review for the rest of the details, or try ExpressVPN with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. NordVPN — Fast Streaming VPN
- Excellent speeds
- Unblocked all streaming sites tested
- Specialized servers
- Some interface mistakes
- Relatively limited server network
- Streaming Access
NordVPN is constantly tangling with ExpressVPN for the top spot on my lists. But after using both of them extensively, I’ve got a handle on what each does best.
In head-to-head speed tests, NordVPN isn’t that much faster than ExpressVPN on average. But those few megabits per second (Mbps) could make all the difference when you’re streaming that season finale. It’s also less prone to slowdowns on certain servers; ExpressVPN’s speed dips more often. You can find a more detailed speed test in my NordVPN review.
The tradeoff is that you get fewer server locations. NordVPN does hit all the popular spots, though, including plenty of U.S. servers. It also has specialty servers optimized for various tasks. There aren’t any for streaming, but some are built for P2P file sharing, which also makes NordVPN one of the best VPNs for torrenting. You can also try NordVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. Surfshark — Best Streaming VPN With Unlimited Devices
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Fast download speeds
- Servers in 100 countries
- Some interface problems
- Streaming Access
What’s better than a great streaming VPN? A great streaming VPN that your entire family can use to watch different shows. It’s nice to spend time together, but there is so much content right now, and some evenings you don’t feel like fighting between “Blue Eye Samurai” and “Love Is Blind.”Surfshark lets you use a single subscription on unlimited devices to make those fights moot.
Surfshark’s all about quality, too, not just quantity. Each of its 143 server locations (spanning 100 countries, the second largest on this list) unblocked every streaming platform I tested. Its download speeds are on par with NordVPN and ExpressVPN. It’s even testing Nexus, an advanced technology that rotates your IP regularly — get the story from my Surfshark review.
So, why is it in third place? Its VPN apps misbehave more often than those of the two leaders, with connections sometimes lagging and the service quitting unexpectedly at least once during my tests. You can try Surfshark with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. Proton VPN — Most Secure VPN for Streaming
- Universal streaming unblocker
- Strong download speeds
- Unlimited free plan
- Can’t choose servers on free plan
- Poor customer service
- Streaming Access
Proton VPN is one of the best free VPNs, but more for its privacy protections than its streaming ability. As the only reputable free VPN with no data caps, Proton VPN provides a vital service, protecting the internet connections of those who can’t afford new software. It’s also fully employee-owned and supported by nonprofits — learn more in my Proton VPN review.
Its lack of monthly caps makes Proton VPN the only free VPN you can reasonably use for streaming, as all the others hit their limits after an hour or two. Sadly, recent changes mean that you can no longer choose a specific server on the free plan, so you can’t count on Proton to unblock Hulu outside the United States for free anymore.
However, all this is sleeping on Proton VPN’s paid plan, which is cheap, fast and just as good at unblocking streaming sites as ExpressVPN, NordVPN and Surfshark. Paid users get servers in 71 countries.
The “profiles” feature lets you set connection parameters to reuse the same servers. For example, it can automatically connect you to a certain country as you watch a drama over several nights. You can try Proton VPN for free to get a feel for it.
5. Private Internet Access — Affordable Backup VPN With Many Locations
- Unblocks several streaming sites
- Extremely cheap plans
- Servers in 91 countries
- Inconsistent download speeds
- Can’t unblock Max or Disney+
- Lots of virtual servers
- Streaming Access
Private Internet Access (PIA) is the only VPN on the list that isn’t a universal unblocker. As of writing time, it wasn’t able to crack Max or Disney Plus — if you’re after some Disney magic, try our best Disney Plus VPN rundown instead. A VPN’s unblocking ability is in constant flux, but as it stands, I can only recommend PIA as a backup option.
That’s a shame, because it really is a solid service, as my Private Internet Access review found. One big draw is its long-term paid plans, which are the cheapest on this list. One year goes for $3.22 per month ($40 total).
For this price, you get servers in 91 countries, enough to explore a whole world of content. Be aware that PIA uses more virtual servers than many of its competitors, so you can’t always determine a server’s performance by your proximity to it. At least the server location list clearly marks which locations are virtual; honesty always earns a VPN points with me. You can try PIA with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Other VPNs Tested for Streaming
Here at PrivacyJournal, we have about 30 VPNs in our regular testing rotation. I try to look beyond the usual suspects and let you know when another service has something important to contribute. With that in mind, here are a few honorable mentions (and one dishonorable mention) for a streaming VPN.
CyberGhost — Fast and Cheap, but Misses Hulu and Amazon
CyberGhost is a service I quite like for general use. It’s well designed and comes with “smart rules,” the deepest VPN automation system of any top-tier service. It also does well in speed testing, with download speeds (most important for streaming) holding up over long distances. Even its pricing is good, with 26 months going for $2.19 per month ($56.94 total).
So, why didn’t CyberGhost make the list? Mainly because unblocking ability is critical for a streaming VPN, and that’s where CyberGhost falls short. In my tests, it couldn’t get into Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. PIA didn’t do much better, but it’s a lot cheaper, so it got the nod. CyberGhost is a strong Netflix VPN, but not an overall solution. See my CyberGhost review for more information.
Windscribe — Free Streaming VPN With Monthly Data Caps
Windscribe is the second-best free VPN for streaming. The two contenders are closer now that Proton VPN’s free users can’t choose server locations, but Windscribe still has a monthly data cap of 10GB (15GB if you tweet about the VPN), which isn’t practical for high video qualities. It’s also an ugly app, with visual choices that seem designed to drive off new users.
As Windscribe’s famously acerbic team would say, though, none of that matters if it works. And it does! If you need a free VPN for personal security online, Windscribe is a champion. It also unblocks most streaming platforms, but you can’t rely on its free service to meet your streaming needs indefinitely. My Windscribe review has more details on this fiercely independent VPN.
IPVanish — Good For Streaming, but Not Secure
IPVanish is quite good at streaming, unblocking all the platforms I tested and staying reasonably fast across the globe. However, it also fails to perform some basic VPN tasks, so I can’t recommend it without caveats. My latest DNS leak tests revealed that several IPVanish servers leaked my real location.
Methodology: Testing Streaming VPNs
At the start of this post, I named the four factors most important to me in a streaming VPN: unblocking ability, fast download speeds, a large server network and a user-friendly interface. Fortunately, all of these are relatively easy to test.
Testing the ability to get around streaming geoblocks is as simple as connecting to the VPN and then attempting to access streaming sites. I tried several server locations for each VPN app, since some IP addresses might be better at hiding their VPN associations. There are so many streaming platforms now that I couldn’t test them all, but I checked a representative sample.
To test download speeds, I used speedtest.net, a site that measures the download speed, upload speed and latency of your current server. I picked one server on each continent and checked it multiple times, eliminating any severe outliers. Then I calculated the worldwide average speed of each VPN through simple math.
Checking the size of a VPN server network is easy, as long as you don’t implicitly trust the list on its website. I’m not saying VPN services intentionally lie, but online server lists are often outdated. It’s best to trial the app itself (or just take it from me). The number of countries is the most important step here, as this determines how many different libraries you can access.
Finally, I test the user interface by performing all the most common tasks: connecting and disconnecting, changing protocols, activating the kill switch and checking on a troubleshooting matter. Ease of use is subjective — I’m mainly looking for unforced errors and unnecessary roadblocks to a clean experience.
Are Free VPNs Safe for Streaming?
Some security blogs issue blanket condemnations of free VPNs, claiming that they’re all incompetent, toxic and out to scam you. I don’t like to do that. Yes, plenty of free VPNs are weird and scammy, especially nightmares like Hola VPN. But there are also reliable alternatives like Proton VPN, Windscribe, TunnelBear and hide.me.
I do recommend paying for a VPN, since you’ll get more options and features. However, if you can’t afford it, use your best judgment. All trustworthy free VPNs offer paid plans — that’s how they make money without selling logs of user activities. A subscription-supported free service, like Proton VPN or TunnelBear, can generally be trusted for your streaming needs.
Finding virtual private networks for streaming is often easier than finding them for security, since streaming is a relatively low-stakes activity. For VPNs that guarantee things like LGBTQ online safety, my standards are a lot higher. If a VPN is fast, cheap and gets into all the platforms, I’ll give it a fair shake for streaming.
Having said that, there’s still no reason you don’t deserve the best. For streaming, that’s ExpressVPN, a service that won’t leave you wanting anything. If your viewing setup is ultra high-quality, NordVPN might serve you better. Surfshark is the ideal choice for big families, while Proton VPN and Private Internet Access make good backup choices.
What are you streaming from outside your country these days? Are you a fan of the streaming VPN services on my list, or have you got another you like better? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!
FAQ: Best VPN for Streaming
Which VPN Is Best for Streaming?ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming. It connects quickly, won’t drag on your download speeds and offers access to content libraries in over 100 countries.
What Is the Best Location to Stream From?For speeds, the best location is the closest, since distant servers tend to have worse speeds. For content, the United States is the best location for Netflix, having the most available titles.
What Is the Best VPN Protocol for Streaming?WireGuard is generally the fastest VPN protocol. It’s also stable and avoids VPN connection drops. However, ExpressVPN’s Lightway and NordVPN’s NordLynx both outdid vanilla WireGuard in my speed tests.
What Is the Best VPN for Twitch Streaming?For live streaming, the most important factor is low latency. Windscribe has the lowest average worldwide latency of any VPN, so it should work well for streaming.