Our 13-Step Review Process

Unlike many other VPN review sites, we take things seriously.

When we review the VPN product, we actually buy and use it for a period of 1 week. We do a lot of speed test, leak tests as well as penetrate their customer support.

Here’s how we evaluate and stress-test every element of a VPN Service to keep things honest.

1. Used Same Computer & Network for Each VPN

What’s in the box?

Our testing PC

Meet our battle-tested Lenovo IdeaPad 120S-141AP, or “Lenny” for short!

vpn testing laptop

We run every single VPN we test on Lenny to keep the tech consistent. In fact, we bought Lenny just for that purpose!

It wouldn’t make any sense to test these VPNs on a bunch of different networks, so we use a wired cable connection on the same network in our HQ in Estonia. We speed tested our network multiple times across multiple weeks to measure out our average: 98 Mbps Upload, 53 Mbps Download:

vpn speed test benchmark

 

2. Bought and Installed 74 VPN Apps

Here’s a look at Lenny’s desktop as of a few weeks ago for perspective:

Lenovo Desktop

This is the part where we pause and use bold type to make sure this is unmissable:

 We do not accept any money, bribes, favors, in-kind donations, exotic pets, crypto currencies, homecooked meals, or ANY compensation in exchange for writing or editing a review. EVER.

In fact, we pay for every VPN service we try out of our own pockets to allow for complete honesty as an actual consumer.

payment for vpn

All of our data is collected first-hand: unlike other reviewers, we don’t rip off numbers from other sites or just make it up. (Which is sadly too common.)

 

3. Read Through Countless Logging Policies

Have you EVER read a logging or privacy policy in detail? We have. Over 40 times. Until our eyes watered and our heads hurt.

sketchy logging policies

This is the least fun part of our reviews, but the most important: shady companies use tricky language to disguise the fact that they’re tracking and sharing your activity.

We read the fine print to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.

 

4. Checked VPN History, Jurisdiction, and Company Name

Background and company name: Who runs the company? Where are they from? Do they have a history of violating user privacy, or leaks? We collect as much info as possible and bring it to you.

Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction a VPN is based in may play a major role in whether or not a VPN could be compelled to hand over your data to authorities if pushed. More on that here.

Jurisdiction

 

5. Run Multiple Speed Tests

It doesn’t matter how secure your VPN is if it takes three hours to download an episode of “Stranger Things.” We use speedtest.net to test Upload and Download speeds multiple times to account for fluctuations in service.

We also revisit these speed tests about once a year to see if anything has changed.

Unfortunately, some VPNs were VERY slow…

slow VPN

 

6. Tested Netflix Streaming Across 4 to 5 Servers

Netflix n’ chill? Only if it works. That’s why we don’t do a one-and-done test: we find out which servers (if any) actually work with Netflix and let you know, saving you time and headaches.

Netflix VPN streaming error
Netflix VPN streaming error

 

7. Read Through Their Torrenting/P2P Policy

Some VPNs crack down on P2P and torrenting. Some advocate for it directly. Others are sneaky about it. We get to the truth of the matter to make sure you can do what you like with the VPN you choose.

torrenting policies

 

8. Tested For DNS, IPv4, IPv6, and WebRTC Leaks

TL; DR: IP leaks happen when your VPN fails to hide your actual IP as you browse. For example: if you went to load a geo-restricted show on Netflix, and the content was still blocked, your real IP might just have leaked.

We strategically test common points of failure to see how the VPN stands up.

PersonalVPN leaks your DNS

 

9. We Graded Their Usability and User-Friendliness

The most secure VPN in the world won’t be much help if it takes a degree in Computer Sciences to use properly. We look for things like setup time, user-friendly interfaces, and ease of configuration to get a sense for how accessible the VPN will be to the average user.

 

10. Evaluated Each Software Security and Privacy Features

Different VPN services are more ideal for different use cases (e.g. business vs. personal), while some “premium” features really ought to be standard on every VPN. We evaluate…

  • Security protocols available
  • Encryption type
  • Kill-switch (instant disconnect if security is lost)
  • # of max connections (How many devices at once)
  • Browser extensions
  • Number and locations of servers

And any unique features the VPN Service brings to the table, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly.

protocols and encryption

 

11. Gave Their Customer Support a (real!) Test Run

NEVER trust a company who promises “best in class” customer service. We submit support tickets, make phone calls, get on chat and more to test response speed and the competence of the support team on the other end when dealing with common VPN issues.

Celo VPN Customer Support

 

12. Tested Compatibility With Routers, TVs, TOR, and Consoles

If your VPN Service isn’t compatible with your gadgets, what’s the point? We test multiple different setups for compatibility to help you avoid buying a solution that won’t work on your devices.

We also test whether or not TOR can be used in conjunction with the VPN Service for an added layer of security – important to several power users and those in contentious environments/locations.

available VPN devices

 

13. We Compared The Cost vs Value

Yep, pricing is important. So why evaluate it last? Because there’s no sense in a free product that compromises your privacy, or an expensive product that offers nothing superior to a cheaper one.

vpn ac pricing

 

You Can Take It From Here…

Quite the process, right? Between reviewing those 13 points for 70+ VPN providers and revisiting past reviews to keep them current, it’s easy to see why we take a little while to put out new reviews!

We hope you appreciate the depth and transparency that goes into the work we do here – and that the information will be helpful to your decision.

Want to help us? Leave your own review here.

Or go back reading TOP 10 VPN list