There are a number of reasons why you might want to start using a virtual private network or VPN. VPNs offer many benefits, like getting around geographic restrictions for streaming content.
They can also help protect your privacy and make browsing more secure (though it’s always a good idea to vet your VPN provider’s claims carefully — some do a better a job than others).
But choosing the right VPN for you can be a daunting task. With so many options, you’ll want to think carefully about which features are most important to you and how much you’re willing to pay.
Nord VPN offers a good balance between features and ease of use. Setup is relatively easy and Nord’s interface is much more intuitive than some VPNs. The service has more than 3,000 servers in 60 countries, so you can find coverage just about anywhere. Switching between countries is as easy choosing from a dropdown menu in your Mac’s menu bar.
The privacy-conscious will appreciate Nord’s built in “kill switch,” which lets you automatically stop specified applications should your connection drop. The Mac app was also recently updated to ensure that your VPN connection won’t be interrupted when your computer goes to sleep.
If speed is one of your main concerns, Nord offers an at-a-glance look the current load for each of its servers so you can optimize your connection even further.
Price: $11.95/month, $69/year, or $79 for two years
Opera’s browser-based VPN service is one of the easiest VPNs to use. Since the VPN is built directly into Opera’s browser, it requires almost no setup — all you have to do is enable it from the “privacy and security” menu in settings. Once enabled, you can toggle it on or off right from the URL bar. Better still, it’s completely free with no caps on data.
It does have limitations, though. Because it’s built into the browser it can only protect web traffic routed through the browser, so it won’t do anything for any other application you use. It also lacks a kill switch and only provides a couple of options for switching up your location.
But it’s difficult to argue with free. If you’re looking for a basic VPN for web-browsing, Opera will more than do the trick.
PIA, which stands for Private Internet Access, is one of the simplest VPN services you can use. Once you’ve installed PIA, you control everything from a dropdown menu in the Mac menu bar.
With more than 3,000 servers in 28 countries, PIA offers a sizable number of countries and regions to set as your location of choice, making it ideal for streamers trying to get around geographic restrictions. It’s also one of the easiest VPNs to use: once you’ve connected to the VPN, there are no other settings or menus to muck around with unless you feel like diving into the service’s advanced security features.
If you do, you’ll find controls that will help you lock down PIA’s already good security settings even further.
Price: $6.95/month, $39.95/year, or $69.95 for two years
Pure VPN is unique in comparison to other services, in that it optimizes your connection based on what “mode” you want to use. It offers modes for streaming, “internet freedom,” privacy, file-sharing, and dedicated IP.
Some might find this too limiting — why should you have to choose between a fast streaming connection and privacy — but all your activity is kept private no matter what mode you’re in. And the dedicated IP mode helps deal with some of the speed issues VPNs frequently face.
In addition, the service has other features most people expect from VPN and the ability to easily change your location from a list of dozens of countries. It also has built-in protections against pesky malware, viruses, and ads.
Pure also offers extensions for Chrome and other browsers, which let you control your connection directly from your browser.
Price: $9.95/month (month-to-month), $2.45/month (for two years), or $7.95/month (for six months)
As its name suggests, TorGuard is really targeted toward those who frequent torrent sites. It offers a “stealth” service that it claims can get around even the most advanced firewalls designed to root out VPN users and the company says it doesn’t keep any logs of users’ activity.
Its download speeds are also optimized for torrents and the the service doesn’t place any data caps on users. And, with more than a thousand servers in dozens of countries, TorGuard offers a lot of flexibility in choosing a location.
Finally, a single subscription buys you access for up to five different devices, all of which can be connected to the VPN simultaneously.
Price: $9.99/month, $59.99/year, $99.99 for two years (TorGuard also offers quarterly and semi-annual rates)
TunnelBear is the kind of service you’d recommend to your mom, or someone who needs a VPN but isn’t very tech-savvy. While the user interfaces of many other VPN services can easily be overwhelming to the uninitiated, TunnelBear makes it super easy to understand what you’re doing at any given moment.
That’s because TunnelBear uses animations depicting — what else — tunnels and bears to illustrate your current connection status. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s also kind of cute.
More importantly, it was one of the faster VPNs we tested (when set to auto-connect) and TunnelBear doesn’t skimp on privacy protection or encryption. Besides the standard security features, it also offers a VigilantBear feature (the services version of a kill switch) and GhostBear (a feature that helps you circumvent VPN blockers).
Price: Free (500MB of data/month), $9.99/month, $49.88/year
VPN Unlimited offers a little bit of everything. The service operates more than 400 servers in more than 70 locations and supports multiple encryption standards, including AES 128-bit and AES 256-bit. It has a kill switch feature and an extra stealth setting, called “KeepSolid Wise,” which is optimized for use in countries that tend to block VPNs.
Novices will also appreciate the relatively straightforward setup process and easy-to-understand interface, which makes getting started a snap.
Power users will appreciate VPN Unlimited’s additional services, like the ability to get your own dedicated VPN server, set your own static IP, or the ability to set up your VPN directly on your router (which lets you use your VPN with any device that connects to it). These features will add an additional cost on top of your normal subscription, but it’s nice to have the option for those who want to get a little more from their VPN.
Price: $9.99/month, $49.99/year, and $119.99 for a lifetime plan (normally $499.99)