The best VPN services in 2024: optimize your streaming and gaming

Best VPN - quick menu

Whether you're an avid gamer, a huge Netflix fan, or (like me) both, a VPN is a vital bit of kit. Virtual private networks work by routing your traffic through a secure tunnel. Your data gets encrypted, made unreadable to any nosy third parties trying to keep tabs on your browsing habits, and you'll have massively improved digital privacy. Oh, and because a VPN assigns you a new IP address in a location of your choice, you'll be able to bypass geo-restrictions and check out streaming content from around the world.

Having your choice of fast international servers can help stabilize your internet connection, too, and avoid ISP throttling—which is good news for anyone who takes their gaming online. However, with so many VPNs on the market, which services are worth your hard-earned cash?

I've compared the speeds, server locations, unblocking power, price, and apps of today's top providers to curate this list of the 5 best VPNs in the biz.

The three best VPNs in 2024

Need a quick answer? Here are my top 3 VPNs in 2024:

1. ExpressVPN: the best gaming VPN overall

1. ExpressVPN: the best gaming VPN overall
ExpressVPN leads the pack when it comes to gaming VPNs thanks to its outrageous speeds and stylish apps (available for pretty much all devices). You'll be able to take your pick of servers in 94 countries, and in-depth guides are readily available if you need help getting set up on your console.

ExpressVPN is pretty pricey, however, but sign up for a 12-month plan and you'll get an extra 3 months of coverage, and 1-year of cloud storage, for free. See for yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. NordVPN: an awesome blend of speed and security

2. NordVPN: an awesome blend of speed and security
NordVPN is everywhere on YouTube, these days, and for good reason. It lives up to the hype with blistering speeds—so, whether you're gaming, streaming in HD, or torrenting, NordVPN has no trouble keeping up.

NordVPN also has its very own built-in ad-blocker and malware protection. Take it for a test drive, and see how it compares to ExpressVPN, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. Surfshark: the best budget option

3. Surfshark: the best budget option
We're all feeling the squeeze of the cost-of-living crisis, but Surfshark proves that rock-solid security doesn't have to cost a fortune. You'll get tons of privacy-enhancing features, clutter-free apps, and wickedly fast speeds for miniscule prices.

Oh, and Surfshark gives its users unlimited simultaneous connections to use however they want, too, which is handy if you have a small army of gadgets. Put Surfshark's 30-day money-back guarantee to good use today.

What are the best VPN services in 2024

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I've compared the standout features and recent test results of my top VPN picks, and discussed everything I liked and didn't like about each provider. Let's get into the details.

The best VPN overall

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Best overall VPN for gamers, streamers and everyone else

Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160 | Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: 8 | Streaming services unblocked : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, Sling TV, HBO, DAZN, Kayo, Peacock

Works on lots of devices
Quality mobile apps
Fast connection speed
Amazing 24/7 live chat customer service
Limited to eight devices at once
Above average prices

Express VPN is the best VPN service out there right now with a great combination of fast servers dotted across the world, enterprise-level encryption, lots of device compatibility, and one of the best live chat customer service offerings we've seen.

ExpressVPN's 3,000+ servers are spread across 160 locations in 105 countries, meaning you can get online virtually anywhere. Boasting excellent speeds, Express promises reliable and stable connections all over the world, with averages of 420-630Mbps in our latest round of testing. By no means the fastest (the other entries in this list overtake Express in that regard), ExpressVPN sits comfortably above average. This means that you shouldn't need to worry about ISP throttling or ping rates skyrocketing whilst gaming. 

ExpressVPN is no slouch when it comes to unblocking content, either. In our testing we were able to bypass the geo-restrictions of a number of major streaming platforms including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime. 

If you're a streamer, its very own DNS service MediaStreamer is a handy addition for any streamers too, as it allows you unblock services and utilize ExpressVPN on devices that don't otherwise offer compatibility. 

The customer support is superb and can be accessed 24/7 via live chat, able to quickly sort any issues in no time.

The only real downside is its limit on simultaneous connections, with a maximum of eight connections allowed. This being said, for most, a single ExpressVPN plan will be more than enough. What's more, you can stretch your plan further by creating a router VPN. If you're still unsure, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee so if you don't enjoy the service you can always change, without losing your money. 

The best VPN security suite

NordVPN app working on mobile, PC, tablet, and other devices

2. NordVPN

A safe choice for boosting your overall online experience

Number of servers: 5,500+ | Server locations: 59 countries | Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: 6 | Streaming services unblocked : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, Sling TV, HBO, DAZN

Double encryption security
Impressive performance
Huge number of servers
Great for Netflix unblocking
Some UI issues on browser extensions and mobile

Perhaps the biggest name out there, NordVPN has earnt its reputation as a reliable service thanks to its impressive performances. Double encryption, multiple kill switches, strong DNS leak protection and tight encryption protocols make the Panama-based provider one of the most secure services on the market, too.

NordVPN is great from gamers and streamers as the provider seems to be aware of the risks DDoS attacks pose. A such, it has made sure that its wealth of international servers - more than 5,500 of them located across 50+ countries globally - are optimized to handle heavy traffic.

It also has a secure streaming-focused proxy service called SmartPlay. This feature allows you to easily get around geo-restrictions, making it a great Netflix VPN. Nord also brilliantly unlocks foreign libraries on the likes of BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and Hulu.  

However, if you're after a powerful smartphone VPN, we still prefer Express as NordVPN apps are a bit clunky on mobile.

By all means, there's a lot to like about this long-loved VPN provider, and it comes with the same 30-day money-back guarantee if you need that added security net before trying it out.

The best cheap VPN service

Surfshark VPN app running on several devices

3. Surfshark

Affordability and high quality combined in this powerful VPN

Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 100+ | Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Playstation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, HBO, DAZN

Unlimited device connections
Fast speeds
Some of the best pricing around
Speedy and helpful live chat support
A bit slower on OpenVPN
Some kill switch issues in extreme situations

You may be drawn to Surfshark for its affordable price, but its powerful features will definitely convince you to commit. You can even connect to an unlimited number of devices with just one subscription, making this a top option for families and households that want to share the cost of the account. 

In fact of speed, you won't be disappointed either. On its WireGuard protocol the fastest peak reached a fantastic 790Mbps during our last testing - superior some of its competitors claiming the top spots (NordVPN peaked at 760Mbps, while ExpressVPN peaked at 630Mbps). It is worth noting that on the OpenVPN protocol the average was slower, though.    

Streamers will love Surfshark too, as it comfortably unlocks all the major Netflix libraries, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer. Plus, its easy-to-use apps make this VPN a dream to navigate even for beginners. 

We noticed some kill switch issues when we tested it last but only under extreme situations. Despite this, data privacy was always protected. 

Also this provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can effectively try it out before subscribing. 

The best of the rest

CyberGhost VPN app running on multiple devices and operating systems

4. CyberGhost

A ultra fast VPN for gaming consoles

Number of servers: 8,000+ | Server locations: 110+ | Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: 7 | Streaming services unblocked: US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, YouTube, HBO

Console specific options
Some of the fastest connection speeds
Lots of servers and locations
WireGuard now available on all apps
Only US Netflix unlocked
Support site lacks depth in guides

If gaming is what you are after, CyberGhost might become your favorite thanks to its handy Xbox and PS4 dedicated options. You will simply need to activate the Smart DNS option on your app and write down the series of digits on your gaming console connection settings. You can find further details on its support page.

An impressive array of international servers - more than 8,000 across 110+ countries - CyberGhost reached the fastest connection speeds among our top five during our last testing, ranging from 830-850Mbps on average. We also like the fact that it auto-connects to your favorite server at launch for an almost-instantaneous better security.

CyberGhost is a good choice as a streaming VPN, too. You will be able to unlock foreign catalogs on all the major platforms without too much hassle. From Disney+ and Amazon Prime to BBC iPlayer. With Netflix, though, we found some issues as we managed to access only the US Netflix libraries last time we checked. 

As a minor downside, the support on site isn't the best. This may be a problem for beginners, although its speedy live chat support will probably do the job. 

Despite this, CyberGhost is still an attractive option thanks to its 45-day money-back guarantee, making this VPN stand out from the rest of the crowd. You can also enjoy a 24-hour CyberGhost free trial on desktop and mobile.

Private Internet Access VPN apps running on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and other platforms.

5. Private Internet Access (PIA)

Great value VPN for gamers

Number of servers: 10,000+ | Server locations: 100+ | Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, PlayStation | Maximum devices supported: 10 | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+

Open source apps
Fantastic pricing
Excellent kill switch
Lots of features
WireGuard speeds way lower the rest
Couldn't unblock BBC iPlayer

Last but by no means least, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a provider that keeps improving every time we test it. It has recently lowered its price, even beating Surfshark's bargain price for the time being. And it has extra options available that will make every serious gamer out there happy.

PIA is predicted to host more than 10,000 servers set across 100+ locations - coming in handy for everyone looking to get access to worldwide games as soon they get released. Paying a tiny additional charge, you can even get your own dedicated IP  - selecting from among five countries - that isn't shared by anybody else in the world. This should make you less vulnerable to IP block-listing and CAPTCHAs.

In terms of unblocking power, even though it's not as good as its competitors, it still manages to bypass access Netflix in the US, UK, and Canada, as well as Amazon Prime and Disney+. Unfortunately, though, this time around it was unable to unblock BBC iPlayer.

PIA's apps are one of the easiest and most intuitive that we have seen so far. That goes all the way from installation through to day-to-day use across different devices. Like CyberGhost, PIA has a handy Smart DNS feature that will make connecting the VPN on your gaming console a no-hassle task. In fact, if not for its slightly more disappointing unblocking performance and slower speeds, it would find itself ahead of CyberGhost on this list.

In terms of speeds, PIA is not yet among the fastest VPN services around right now. Although, it can still reach faster speeds than most of the average home connections, averaging 320Mbps in our last round of speed tests.

Recent updates

This update saw no significant differences between our top picks, and no new events in the industry for us to report on. As such, we double-checked the pricing, deals, server locations, and unblocking capabilities to make sure the information on this page was as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

The best VPN FAQs

What is a VPN?

A VPN (or virtual private network) is a piece of software that enables you to hide your internet traffic and protect your online privacy. 

It works by routing your activity through different servers, so that your identity, IP address, and online data is protected from third parties. It also secures all your data in transit inside an encrypted tunnel. In this way, hackers and other snoopers will be prevented from getting hold of your sensitive information.

Due to its powerful features, more and more people use a VPN nowadays for browsing anonymously and protecting themselves from intrusive data collection practices. VPN services also allow users to bypass geo-restrictions on streaming platforms, access censored sites and enjoy a more stable internet connection overall. 

Why do you need a VPN for gaming?

There are several advantages that you may want to consider when it comes to using a reliable gaming VPN.

Let's start with the obvious. Connecting via a VPN will instantly boost your online security. For gamers this means being less vulnerable to potential DDoS attacks. Short for 'Distributed Denial of Service', it's a tactic used to slow down other players by flooding their IP address with junk traffic  to overwhelm their network.

A VPN spoofs your location, which means you may be able to download any games you want from around the world as soon they are released. It's a handy tool to enjoy better online freedom at your fingertips.

Lastly, VPNs can help to stabilize your internet connection too while delivering more reliable speeds. This is an amazing feature! Forget ISP throttling, which happens when internet service providers artificially slow down their customers’ connections during peak times.

Back of person gaming on a PC, hands in the air in triumph

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

How do I get a VPN on gaming consoles?

No gaming consoles directly support VPN apps. However, every provider listed above offers workarounds so you can use a VPN via your console.

A few services, like CyberGhost and PIA, have a Smart DNS option that make the process very easy. You simply need to activate this feature on your app and then head on your console's settings to connect via your VPN.

Another possibility that's available for every service above mentioned is installing your VPN on your home router. It will take you a bit longer to set up, but it's definitely worth it. All devices connected to it will be protected, using up only one of your connection allowance.

In case your router doesn't support your VPN, do not worry. You can always create your own virtual router with your computer regardless of whether you use Windows or Mac.

Is a VPN worth it for streaming?

This entirely depends on what type of streamer you are. If you are a movie and TV series junky who wants to explore all the content that's out there, you definitely want to consider a good streaming VPN to help you access worldwide libraries from the comfort of your sofa.

The same applies if you're a massive sport fan who doesn't want to miss any match, even when you are traveling. Connecting to a VPN will give you instant access to full coverage from around the world in a couple of clicks. 

But if you're quite happy with watching your domestic TV networks and the streaming services you've paid for a VPN is still incredibly useful. Especially when you consider this will be inaccessible if you go abroad. As well as unblocking, much like for gaming, when streaming a VPN also provides a more reliable connection.

If you're looking to add some new kit to go with to your new protected home internet setup then be sure to take a look at our picks for the best gaming PC. And if you're in the UK, now's a great time to give your home internet a boost by checking out our guide to the best cheap broadband deals.

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to