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The best VPN for streaming: Expert tested

We tested the best VPNs for streaming can unblock popular services like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu, from anywhere in the world with ease.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Why you can trust ZDNET

ZDNET's reviewers perform extensive testing on the VPNs on this list. We test out connections through different countries, and run speed tests using speedtest.net to measure and compare results. We also test whether the VPN has any DNS leaks while connecting, which would potentially provide information to your ISP or other services about what sites you visit or your originating location or IP address. We evaluate how easy each service is to navigate via website and app, how well it works for streaming content, and its customer service offerings. All of these factors give us a view into how well the VPN works, and how secure it is.

What to Consider

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Performance

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Simultaneous connections

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Security

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Kill switch

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Geoblocks and streaming

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Platforms

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Countries and servers

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Trial length and price

ExpressVPN | Best VPN for streaming
ExpressVPN mobile
ExpressVPN
Best VPN for streaming
View now View at ExpressVPN
NordVPN | Best streaming VPN for unblocking Netflix
Nord VPN Mobile
NordVPN
Best streaming VPN for unblocking Netflix
View now View at NordVPN
Surfshark | Best streaming VPN for affordability
Surfshark VPN Web
Surfshark
Best streaming VPN for affordability
View now View at Surfshark
IPVanish | Best VPN for Kodi
IPVanish Web
IPVanish
Best VPN for Kodi
View now View at IPVanish
CyberGhost | Best VPN for money-back guarantee
Cyberghost VPN Mobile
CyberGhost
Best VPN for money-back guarantee
View now View at CyberGhost

There are times when you might want to use a virtual private network (VPN) to watch a movie or video. If you're traveling, or looking to avoid location-based blackouts for sports, you can often connect to a VPN server and use your streaming account to watch. 

That said, it is a legal gray area when you aren't in your typical location. This can be controversial, as owners of entertainment content and intellectual property go to great lengths to control their products' distribution, especially in international markets.

Even if you have a legal right to content at home, there might be issues regarding a streaming service's terms and conditions when you are elsewhere or masking your original IP address. Controls tighten even further for sporting events, like highly-anticipated matches or games. In return, VPN vendors often say their services can be used to bypass restrictions, including content blocks based on location.

Also: The best live TV streaming services

What is the best VPN for streaming right now?

Based on ZDNET's hands-on testing and research, ExpressVPN is our pick for the best VPN for streaming TV and music overall. It offers top-tier speed and a massive global network of servers while supporting numerous devices. Regardless of what you're streaming on and where you want to stream, ExpressVPN will likely have you covered. If you want to ensure you're finding the right VPN for your streaming needs, read on for the rest of our top picks. 

The best VPNs for streaming in 2024

ExpressVPN

Best VPN for streaming

ExpressVPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV | Simultaneous Connections: 8 | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: A whole lot (see the full list here) | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 105 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

ExpressVPN supports many platforms and devices and has an exceptionally large network of servers, making it an ideal VPN for streaming. With ExpressVPN, you can access a host of streaming services, including Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, and more, as well as sports events, although you may have to install the VPN directly on your router, such as in the case of Apple TV.

During testing, I found ExpressVPN to be fast enough, with a download speed reduction that is unlikely to impact streaming. You should not experience buffering issues while watching your favorite shows with this VPN. It is also quick to connect and has recently expanded its server network to 105 countries.

The company has also recently introduced a number of security improvements, including an ad blocker and the option to block explicit content by default. Customers say that while expensive, this VPN provides bang for your buck, bolstered by solid customer support.

Review: ExpressVPN

A paid subscription is generally a better choice when using a VPN for streaming. Oftentimes, free or basic options will either prevent streaming from popular services entirely or restrict speeds to the point where streaming becomes a frustrating experience reminiscent of the days of dial-up.

At the time of writing, a subscription to ExpressVPN costs $9.99 per month for six months or $12.95 for one month of access. When you take advantage of ExpressVPN's deal for a yearly subscription you will pay for the service for $6.67 a month and get three additional months free.  

ExpressVPN mobile
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NordVPN

Best streaming VPN for unblocking Netflix

NordVPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 60 | Servers: 5,000+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

NordVPN has the performance you need to stream your favorite content. During testing, I found that NordVPN consistently performs well in terms of speed and stability. The VPN also has exceptionally fast connection times and works well on mobile.

NordVPN works with most major streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and the DAZN channel for live and on-demand sports streaming. If you have trouble accessing content, try another server. 

FAQ articles detail how to securely stream with most of these services and how to use the VPN provider's native apps. If you run into problems or are unsure which is the best server to connect to for unlocking a specific service, live chat and email support are available.

A tip is to use the "quick connect" function when streaming, provided the country you're streaming from has geographical access to the content you want to watch. This function will select the fastest server available.

Customers like how easy the VPN app is to use and offers good speeds, although inconsistent pricing has been noticed. 

Review: NordVPN

Prices start at $3.99 per month on a Standard two-year plan. One-year plans start at $4.99. If you need additional cybersecurity protection, opt for Ultimate (starting at $6.99/month) for identity theft and cyber extortion coverage. At the time of writing, NordVPN is running a promotion for new subscribers, giving away three months of additional access for free (via a shareable coupon) when you sign up for a one or two-year agreement. 

Nord VPN Mobile
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Surfshark

Best streaming VPN for affordability

Surfshark VPN features: Native streaming apps: Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV | Simultaneous connections: unlimited | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome | Locations: 100 | Servers: 3,200+ | Logging: No activity logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPNs on our list, offering a solid product at an excellent price.

In our Surfshark VPN review, we found no DNS leaks, and the service has a strong security focus -- although, sometimes, speeds can be marginally lower than other VPNs. 

If you're looking for a VPN suitable for Amazon's Fire TV stick or Android TV, this VPN is for you.

Also: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN: Which is best?

Surfshark should work with the most popular streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, DAZN, and Disney+. The company attempts to disguise your VPN traffic as regular traffic to circumvent geolocation blockers. 

Remember that if you're having trouble streaming, you may need to try a different server or country location. Sometimes, streaming services will block IPs specifically connected to a VPN, so switching locations can remove these barriers.

Surfshark is also one of our top choices for affordability. Customers applaud Surfshark customer service but some note billing issues.

Surfshark's VPN costs start at $2.29/month for a two-year subscription plan (two months free) and $3.99/month for a one-year subscription. Alternatively, you can sign up for one month with plans starting at $10.99. 

Surfshark VPN Web
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IPVanish

Best VPN for Kodi

IPVanish VPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV | Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, plus routers, Fire Stick, and Kodi | Logging: No activity logs | Servers: 2,200+ | Locations: 75+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

For those who love the Kodi media player, IPVanish is the VPN for you. IPVanish has detailed setup guides for using Kodi with many popular streaming devices. IPVanish works well while accessing streaming services such as Netflix, too. 

Based on customer feedback, it appears the company has recently improved its streaming capabilities for users in the US. However, IPVanish can still be more limited in terms of streaming capabilities than other top VPNs. For example, you might need to configure split tunneling to view Hulu (if and when possible).

IPVanish is a highly configurable product. Its native apps are intuitive, and the user interface has excellent performance graphics. It's easy to see the current status of servers, so you can connect to locations where the server load is less likely to impact your streaming experience.

Review: IPVanish

Regarding performance, IPVanish had fast connection speeds in recent tests. However, download speeds sometimes lag behind other VPNs, and so you may struggle with high-resolution streaming.

At the time of writing, IPVanish's plans start at $2.75/month on a two-year plan, rising to $3.33 per month for a year of access. A one-month subscription will cost you $12.99/month. Keep in mind that, as with all VPN services, you might have to pay tax on top.

IPVanish Web
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CyberGhost

Best VPN for money-back guarantee

CyberGhost VPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV | Simultaneous Connections: 7 | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Linux | Logging: No activity logs | Servers: 10,000+ | Locations: 100+ | Money-back guarantee: 45 days

CyberGhost is another excellent option if you need a VPN for streaming -- especially if you want one that has great multi-platform compatibility. 

CyberGhost provides strong streaming capabilities and reliable speeds across services including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Max. During testing, I did have some trouble with the anime streaming service Crunchyroll, but going Incognito fixed the problem.

Another benefit is CyberGhost's 45-day money-back guarantee, the longest our recommended VPNs offer by 15 days. So, if you need to try out a streaming VPN for more than a month to make a decision, this VPN is for you. Customers like how easy the VPN is to use, although they would like to see improved obfuscation.

CyberGhost's two-year plan will cost you $2.19/month, including two months of free access. A six-month plan is priced at $6.99/month, whereas a month of access will cost you $12.99/month.

Cyberghost VPN Mobile
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What is the best VPN for streaming?

The best VPN for streaming is ExpressVPN. It has top-tier speed and a massive global network of servers while supporting numerous devices. Regardless of what you're streaming on and where you want to stream, it's likely that ExpressVPN will have you covered. However, if you are looking for something else, these are the key features of our full list of recommendations.

VPN for streaming

Price

Native streaming apps

Simultaneous connections

Logging

Countries / Locations

Money-back guarantee

ExpressVPN

$6.67+ per month

Android derivatives, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast with Google TV, Nvidia Shield TV

8

No browsing logs, some connection logs

105

30 days

NordVPN

$3.99+ per month

Android derivatives, Fire TV, Android TV, Kodi, Chromecast

6

None, except billing data

59

30 days

Surfshark

$2.29+ per month

Android derivatives, Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV, Chromecast

Unlimited

No activity logs

100

30 days

IPVanish

$2.75+ per month

Android derivatives, Fire TV, Nvidia Shield TV, Kodi

Unlimited

No activity logs

75+

30 days

CyberGhost

$2.19+ per monthAndroid derivatives, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV7No activity logs10045 days

Which is the right streaming VPN for you?

To find the right VPN to meet your streaming needs, you'll need to do some hands-on testing. Sometimes, only specific servers can unlock certain services. You want to be sure you can stream where you want to stream and through a VPN server that has the performance to support video.

Below, you will find the best use cases for each of our recommended streaming VPN services. 

Choose this VPN for streaming...

If you want...

NordVPN

To unlock Netflix. It consistently works with the streaming platform and is one of the few VPNs that can bypass its strict geo-restrictions, and as of December, it still works. NordVPN has a massive server network and fast connection speeds, making it an ideal choice for streaming high-quality video.

ExpressVPN

Native device support and a huge server network. It offers a wide range of native apps for streaming devices, including Fire TV, Android TV, and Nvidia Shield TV. Additionally, it has a massive server network with locations in over 105 countries, making it easy to find a server that can unblock your preferred streaming services.

Surfshark

The most affordable option. Despite its low price, Surfshark offers a range of features such as unlimited simultaneous connections, fast connection speeds, and support for a wide range of streaming services. Surfshark is also one of the few VPNs that offer native apps for Fire TV and Android TV, making it easy to stream on your preferred device.

IPVanish

Unlimited connections and Kodi compatibility. IPVanish is compatible with Kodi, making it an excellent option for those who use the popular media player to stream content. IPVanish is also a great VPN if you are looking for unlimited connections. It allows you to connect as many devices as you want simultaneously, making it an ideal choice for larger households.

CyberGhost

A long money-back guarantee. CyberGhost will give you 45 days to decide whether or not you want to continue with a paid plan -- and unlike most VPNs, the options are a two-year subscription, six months, or one month. While the latter two options are somewhat expensive, CyberGhost could also suit you more if you want a short-term VPN solution.

Factors to consider when choosing a streaming VPN

When you are deciding on the most suitable streaming VPN for you, you should consider the following factors:

  • Price: VPN prices vary, and although the most expensive services can cost you upwards of $10-$20 per month, you can also find solid, reliable VPNs for as little as a few dollars. However, keep an eye on renewal rates as some VPN providers hike the price after introductory periods.
  • Trial length: You need to consider your preferred price point in relation to how long you think you will need a VPN. If you're in it for the long haul, consider a two-year subscription -- as you also tend to earn the best prices with the longest terms. Some VPNs will offer longer options. 
  • Streaming availability: Many VPN providers will transparently publish what streaming services work through their connections. Some of the most popular streaming services -- such as Netflix and Disney+ -- will typically work on most, although you may not have access to all geolocked content libraries.
  • Security: Consider the VPN's security track record. Preferably, the VPN will be open to external audits and they won't have suffered any major, recent data breaches. You will also want a VPN provider that constantly improves its security posture in a transparent way. 

How we test VPNs

expressvpn screenshot
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Many providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews by members of our ZDNET team. We've been reviewing VPNs for years, and have spoken with their management and their users, and developed a generally favorable impression if we've included them on this list.

ZDNET does test VPN services from multiple locations, but we can't test from all locations. Every home, every community, every local ISP, and every nation has a different infrastructure. It's essential that once you choose, you test for all your likely usage profiles and only then make the decision to keep the service or request a money-back guaranteed refund.

These VPNs also have solid money-back guarantees, and we would not have recommended them otherwise. 

We analyzed the best VPNs for streaming TV and movies below using the following criteria that were most important in helping you make an informed decision:

  • Performance: Our top VPNs must have a minimum level of performance, especially while streaming. After all, there's no point in using a VPN while streaming if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable.
  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to a service at the same time. If you have a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and possibly even a smart TV you want to connect to a VPN, you'd need a service that allows at least 5 simultaneous connections.
  • Security: There's no point using a VPN unless their security protocols and encryption levels are up to scratch. We also ensured that the development team behind each recommended VPN cares about making security improvements over time and patching reported bugs.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection and is an important feature for a VPN to have, as it protects by preventing a return to a default Wi-Fi connection should your internet connection unexpectedly drop.
  • Geoblocks and streaming: We know that VPNs can be key to accessing local content and services while you're away from home. We ensured that our top recommendations perform well when it comes to these factors and are unlikely to slow down your connection while you are streaming. 
  • Countries & servers: In how many different countries does the VPN have servers? This can include physical and virtual servers, and whether or not there are enough -- at least 50 or so -- to provide variety for customers.
  • Trial length & price: Each VPN we recommend has a solid money-back guarantee. 

What is a VPN?

VPN is an acronym for virtual private network. These services allow users to browse the internet privately and securely connect to open or public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs provide users with the ability to change their virtual location by redirecting their connection through one of the VPN servers located around the world. A VPN will encrypt all of your traffic, ensuring that you're hidden from hackers, your internet service provider, and governments.

If a government is monitoring your online activities at the ISP level, however, they may still recognize the signature of a VPN in use, even if what you're doing is entirely hidden.

VPNs are beneficial in unblocking geo-restricted content and can be a crucial tool for accessing information in countries with oppressive governments. Additionally, they are vital services for anyone seeking to maintain a high level of safety and privacy online. Keep in mind, though, that because VPNs are anonymous (or at least should be), they can also be used to hide illegal online activities, such as pirating content.

How do you use a VPN with streaming services?

Since many streaming services restrict access to content in different geographic regions, using a virtual private network can allow you to unblock streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu -- simply by changing your IP address and appearing as if you are in a different region. Change your location, and you can access the libraries tied to your chosen region.

In general, here are the steps for using most VPNs with your preferred streaming service:

  1. Choose a VPN provider. You must choose one with servers in the region where the streaming service you want to access is available. Our list above has some great options. 
  2. Download and install the VPN software. Follow the instructions provided by the VPN provider to get the VPN actually up and running on your device.
  3. Connect to a server. Once you have installed the VPN, open it and follow the on-screen instructions to choose a server. Pick one in the region where the streaming service you want to access is available.
  4. Log in to the streaming service. After connecting to a server, log in to the streaming service. It should now see you as located in the region of the VPN server you connected to -- thus allowing you to access any content in that region (which would normally be unavailable if you don't live there).
  5. Start streaming. Voila! Easy right?

Keep in mind using a VPN to unblock content restricted in your region may violate the terms of service of the streaming service. Also, some VPNs do not work with all streaming services, and access may change at any time.

How do VPNs work with cable and other streaming products?

VPNs, set-top boxes, and streaming sticks don't always work well together. You might have to set up your router to distribute a VPN to all your devices for blanket coverage or connect your TV as a client to your PC and use that machine's VPN-protected network. If you want to stream TV through a VPN, picking up a VPN-supportive device such as a Fire TV stick or a router with a VPN enabled is one of the easiest pathways. 

Do you need a VPN for streaming?

A VPN is not required for streaming movies, games, or TV shows. However, it can change your location to unlock certain services or products in other countries. The tradeoff is that a VPN will likely slow down your connection -- especially if you opt for a free plan -- because the distance to the server, encryption process, and protocol can cause internet speed lags.

If you find that streaming with a VPN is unbearably slow, try connecting to a different server, or you may need to try a different VPN service altogether. Lag can oftentimes be unnoticed with better VPN services.

It's important to note that many free VPNs will prevent you from streaming altogether or will have a strict data usage limit. 

What set-top devices have native VPN apps?

Basically, Android TV is a version of Android. That means most apps in the Google Play store will run reasonably well on Android TV -- including VPN clients. Most VPN vendors slightly recode their Android handheld apps to have a wide-screen UI for the TV and put those apps into the Play Store. 

Since Amazon's Fire TV is basically a skinned version of Android TV using Amazon's app store, VPN vendors didn't have to do too much technically to make it work -- and Amazon is, of course, a huge market. So you just go to the app store and install the app. 

Unfortunately, there aren't native VPN apps available for all streaming devices. You can still take advantage of a VPN, but you'll need to set it up on your router or PC network. The same process applies if you want to stream with Xbox, Playstation, or Switch.

Will a VPN slow down your streaming speed?

It's possible that using a VPN could slow down your streaming speed, but this depends on a variety of factors such as the quality of your VPN, the location of the server you're connected to, and your internet connection speed. 

If you experience traffic slowdowns, check not only your VPN but also your Wi-Fi connection between your device and your router or access point. Sometimes, connectivity issues begin at the source, and in other cases, switching your selected VPN server may be enough to resolve speed problems or connectivity drops.

Are there alternative VPNs for streaming worth considering in 2024?

If our best VPNs for streaming aren't the best choices for you, no problem. Here are a few other secure and reputable services that could meet your needs and budget in 2024:

View at PureVPNView at ProtonVPNView at PIAView at Atlasvpn
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