BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
 
Menu
Blog
Beyond reviews, our team aims to provide you with useful, compelling, and fun how-to guides, gift ideas, and deep dives into trendy products consumers like you love. Here are our latest articles.
August 31, 2022  |  Electronics

Tech expert explains everything you need to know about VPNs

A virtual private network can be a powerful privacy tool that keeps your data safe from your internet service provider. Still, there are numerous options on the market, and finding the right one can be challenging. We sat down with our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez, to better understand what VPNs are, how they work and which ones are best.

What you should know about VPNs

What is a VPN?

Virtual private networks keep your internet traffic private by letting you maintain a local network with IP addresses different from your actual IP address. In most cases, VPNs are paid services. 

You can use these services to protect your internet-usage data. Typically, when you navigate a website, your internet service provider gets access to that information. Depending on your provider, they may sell that information to advertisers. When using a VPN, your internet-usage habits are hidden from your ISP. 

Do VPNs negatively impact your internet speeds?

Because VPNs spend time routing your traffic through external servers, they may slow your internet speeds. Still, these services have improved significantly over the years and don’t slow you down as much as you’d think.

According to Vazquez, “You can choose where you’re appearing to be from and run connectivity tests to see which location is the quickest. The options closest to you, or closest to their server farms, are likely the fastest, but that isn’t always the case. In some cases, choosing a country with better internet infrastructure results in faster speeds.”

Paid VPNs vs. free VPNs

Numerous free VPN services can save you money, but they may not be your best option. When using a VPN, you may give them access to your browsing data. “If a service is free, it means you’re the product. Free VPNs have access to your traffic and likely monetize it,” Vazquez said.

Using VPNs to watch region-locked content

Many people use these services to watch content unavailable in their region. For example, if your favorite show is removed from Netflix in the United States but is still available in the United Kingdom, you can use a VPN to watch it.

Watching region-locked content with a virtual private network isn’t technically illegal but is a terms-of-service violation on most streaming services. If the streaming service provider notices you’re watching region-locked content, they may suspend or cancel your account.

In some cases, using a foreign server too often can mess with your machine’s clock or language. For example, if you regularly use servers in the Netherlands, you may notice websites occasionally appearing in Dutch.

What to consider when choosing a VPN

When choosing a VPN, it’s essential to look into reviews from other customers. Take time to find out whether the service severely impacts internet speeds. 

Another important consideration is whether the service has ever had a data breach. For example, in May 2022, SuperVPN, GeckoVPN and ChatVPN were breached, leading to 21 million users having their full names, billing details and passwords sold on the dark web.

“The key things I would look into when making a comparison is how long they’ve been around and whether they keep logs,” Vazquez said. “If they keep logs, the privacy is questionable. Data breaches are where logs can be problematic for the average person. You’re essentially trusting the VPN with your data.”

Are there particular products that are ideal for VPNs?

You can run your VPN at the router level, although this may be tricky for entry-level users. Still, numerous router brands offer VPN services that make it significantly easier to use a VPN on your entire network. 

VPN FAQ

Can VPNs be harmful?

A. In most cases, VPNs are perfectly safe. It’s best to use a paid VPN service from a trusted brand to ensure you aren’t sharing data with malicious companies. VPNs that advertise using their service to download content illegally aren’t trustworthy. You mustn’t use your VPN for illegal activity.

Can you be tracked while using a VPN?

A. VPNs hide your location and IP address, meaning you can’t be tracked while using one. Still, if you choose to use an untrustworthy service, you may be able to be tracked. It’s important to read a service’s reviews before you commit to using it.

VPN products our expert recommends

Best Amazon Eero Pro 6E Mesh Wi-Fi Router

Amazon Eero Pro 6E Mesh Wi-Fi Router

This router features a VPN passthrough and a subscription service that encrypts your Wi-Fi. The optional subscription has an ad-blocker and parental control features. Many were impressed with how easy it was to set up with most able to get it running in less than 30 minutes.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Asus AC1900 Wi-Fi Router

Asus AC1900 Wi-Fi Router

It reaches speeds of up to 1900 Mbps, making it ideal for 4K streaming. You can run your VPN service through this router to protect all connected devices in your home. It’s relatively affordable compared to other routers with VPN capabilities.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best TP-Link AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

TP-Link AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

This router has a range of up to 2,500 square feet. It can be controlled with Alexa and is compatible with most VPN services. Most were impressed with TP-Link’s customer service.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Asus TUF Gaming Wi-Fi 6 Router

Asus TUF Gaming Wi-Fi 6 Router

This router is ideal for those who love playing video games online. It works with other AiMesh-compatible routers to extend your Wi-Fi through your home. The VPN-Fusion feature lets you run VPN and traditional internet simultaneously, meaning you can easily remove any device from your VPN.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best TP-Link ER605 Wired VPN Router

TP-Link ER605 Wired VPN Router

This device's Omada app lets you connect to the cloud remotely. It is compatible with OpenVPN. It features a sleek, compact design.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Amazon Eero Mesh WiFi router

Amazon Eero Mesh Wi-Fi router

This affordable router features a VPN passthrough and a compact design. It is compatible with Alexa. It has a range of up to 1,500 square feet.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews. 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals. 

Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.