Every VPN on this list is tested rigorously by our team for their functionality, speed and security. Further down, you can get into our battle-tested methodology so you can replicate the tests at home or simply understand what goes into a VPN test. This will help you determine exactly why these VPNs are ranked where they are. It’s also important to note that we took into account how many VPN servers are located in Japan for this “best of”, which was a key deciding factor in our rankings.
After we determined that each VPN had a sizable number of servers and capabilities in Japan, we dove straight into their features. Our initial concentration is on privacy and security, the lynchpins of any good VPN. Specifically, we considered things like how well our IP addresses are masked by the VPN, if the VPN logs any personally identifying information, and if they meet our level of encryption standards to keep our data safe (256-bit AES is the ideal). If we feel that each VPN has these features, we jump into the tests.
A VPN can be as secure as the nuclear codes, but if it doesn’t get you online quickly, what’s the point? First, we test the speed of each VPN. All of the VPNs listed are tested on our private Optimum network at our office in Brooklyn. We establish a control by only connecting one device at a time and measuring our Internet speeds without any VPN live. Then, we test our VPNs on two different computers with two separate operating systems. For the tests referenced above, we used a Macbook Air and a Windows Vivobook on the website SpeedTest.net.
Through the Speedtest.net tool, we’re able to test each VPN’s upload speed, ping (latency) and download speed. All tests are performed within a one or two minute window to ensure accuracy, first with the VPN and then without. Download and upload speeds are measured in Mbps or megabits per second while latency is measured in milliseconds. We record each and then convert to a percentage; that’s easier to read, as Mac and Windows naturally have different connection speeds (Macs are usually much faster, in our experience).
It’s important to note that there are many things that can alter or impact a speed test that includes but is not limited to device type, operating system, distance to the server, etc. It’s safe to say that there can be quite a bit of variance. However, in order to consider a VPN up to our standards, we need to make sure that the speed tests have no more than a 40 percent difference in any of our categories.
Now that we know the VPN is fast, it’s time to make sure that all of our data and traffic is kept under virtual lock and key. The goal of using a VPN is to keep your online activity away from anyone who might be interested in its contents, so we have to make sure our search history and IP address is fully obscured. IP address leaks can usually be attributed to a feature of many popular browsers (Chrome, Edge, and Opera) called WebRTC, which allows direct communication between browsers.
First we test for WebRTC leaks by using a publicly available tool provided by ExpressVPN. For extra comfort, we use a pretty straightforward method where we look at the local and Public IPv4 IP addresses to discover any potential WebRTC leaks. Then we jump back to another tool on DNSLeakTest.com to see if there are any leaks that might compromise our DNS (Domain Name Server). A DNS is a translation of a web domain to an IP address, so it’s key that there are no leaks in a VPN.
That’s not all; we also scrutinize each VPN’s encryption methods. The goal is that they use a method as good or better than AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN; these are the most secure encryption methods available, so if they build something better, we’d all be impressed.
Our technical assessment ends by investigating which type of IP address connection they offer through their VPN. The gold standard checks two boxes: the IP addresses are unique and completely anonymized. Typically, the feature that achieves these goals are VPNs with a dynamic IP address offering. That means the VPN provider shuffles the IP address each time we log in, giving us a unique identifier. This method makes it quite difficult to track any traffic. Second best is a static IP address, which should suffice for larger VPNs with hundreds of thousands of users sharing the same addresses. It is much easier for streaming services to block shared addresses, making static IPs less than ideal. We also check for the standard VPN failsafe, a kill switch. A kill switch will close out Internet browsers if the VPN fails.
After some of the technical assessments are out of the way, we turn to the VPN provider itself. Mainly, we’re looking for their data logging policies and their privacy jurisdiction. When it comes to VPNs, location is everything. Ideally, the VPN is not based in any country where they are subject to the three major international surveillance alliances: Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes, which obligate companies to hand over customer data to the government when requested by law enforcement. We’re looking for companies based outside of the countries subjected to these rules and for those companies to only retain the basic information required to have an account. Anything beyond a name, email, and payment info is too much data stored in our opinion.
It’s all about the Benjamins, baby! Just kidding, VPNs are usually fairly cheap, so if you’re spending Benjamins, you should read a bit more about the best VPN Black Friday deals. Our aim here is to give readers a one stop-shop for cost information without the obscured fees you sometimes get on vendor’s sites. We look for discounts, for pricing, and especially for VPNs with free trials and money-back guarantees. We’re money-saving machines here at Security.org. A typical VPN costs between $5 to $10 per month so on top of the dollars and cents aspect, we also inspect what each subscription actually entails. Some additional perks could be number of device connections, number of server connections per day, and features like multi-hop. From the free option to the paid options, we have you covered.
Split Tunneling and Multi-Hop Encryption
Another key feature of the best VPNs is split tunneling, a capability that allows users to simultaneously use both the VPN and a public network. Similarly, we check to see if a VPN uses double or multi-hop server connections where the software encrypts data multiple times through multiple servers. Both of these features help VPNs stand out from the crowd.
Unless you’re a wiz at Google or super technically-capable, even the best products will require the occasional call to customer support. We stress test each VPN provider’s customer support to see if they can handle even the most high maintenance clients. If a VPN offers 24/7 online chat or a dedicated support line, usually they’re great, but anything that takes more time, like a ticketing system, usually scores a bit lower. We also appreciate over the phone support, a rarity among VPN providers. If there are any VPN companies reading this— don’t forget to write in an FAQ section! Those are super useful, as well.
Torrenting and Netflix
Torrenting and streaming are two of the biggest reasons to be online today! That’s why we stress the quality of streaming connections so heavily in our VPN reviews. Not to mention, streaming companies are always trying to block VPNs in order to comply with their licensing agreements, so we’re always looking to see which providers beat those restrictions.
Finally, we review each VPN provider’s mobile apps. We’re looking at both Android and iPhone capabilities, app store ratings and our user experience. If a VPN has an app store rating below three stars in the App or Google Play store, this disqualifies a VPN from being recommended.
If you’re curious, our VPN guide is a great tool to learn how to shop for a VPN.