This post was last Updated on June 5, 2023 by Himanshu Tyagi to reflect the accuracy and up-to-date information on the page.
If you’re an avid watcher of Youtuber, you’ll see endless VPN sponsorships and adverts daily. Surfshark, NordVPN, IPVanish, and a few other culprits. One can only imagine how few people watch the ads all through because they all say the same thing with the same promises. But are they all the same?
Are all VPNs Essentially the Same?
The selling points and pricing appear the same among the mainstream VPNs intended for individuals and small businesses. “Unblock Netflix worldwide” for “$3 to $4” per month… If you subscribe to a one or two-year plan, that is. Otherwise, you’ll pay over $10 if it’s a rolling monthly payment.
It’s worth pointing out that some, though not all, have a money-back guarantee or a free trial. ExpressVPN is an excellent example of this, with a 3-day money-back guarantee.
We can spot some differences when looking more deeply at the two most popular VPNs. The most significant difference between PIA and NordVPN is that the former has 12,945 servers in 80+ countries, while NordVPN has 5,500 servers in 59 countries.
Still, what are the chances you need to use those 16 countries unless you can play Nigerians at Counter-Strike or catch the latest Mongolian films? Unless you have specific needs, all VPNs will have the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and most of Western Europe.
Only some VPNs have China. Plus, more servers will generally help match you with a speedy one.
Speed, unfortunately, is something that does differ between servers and VPN providers. Generally, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark are some of the fastest, while free VPNs are the slowest.
However, there’s little data and hard evidence that you can use online to inform a reliable decision regarding speed. With the money-back guarantee and free trials, why not try a few services and test your speeds?
Software interface design is essential, but it can be similar to VPNs. Usually, you’ll find an iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows version of most VPNs.
However, some will have minor advantages, like how NordVPN can visualize servers worldwide on a map with clear toggle buttons. A frustration with Surfshark is that you often get signed out randomly, which can be time-consuming the next time you want to use it.
NordVPN also has a good feature of blocking some malicious ad domains. This could be more appropriately achieved through uBlock Origin or other malware-blocking DNS, but it’s still a nice bonus.
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Security and privacy
One of the biggest reasons to use a VPN is for security. Yet, using a free one that lacks credibility can become a security and privacy risk, doing more harm than good.
Every credible VPN has top-tier AES-256 encryption with a kill-switch feature. So when NordVPN claims they’re the safest, it’s primarily practical marketing. They do have a better kill switch than some of their competitors.
Again, many claim NordVPN to be the best for privacy as they have a no-log policy. But most VPNs have that same policy, and most use independent auditors. If privacy is a priority, you can still go to others besides NordVPN and be just as safe.
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So, all VPN ads claim they can let you watch content worldwide. Yet, in many of our experiences, these claims are false. Netflix, Amazon, and so on seem to know.
Sometimes it takes a few shuffles of trying different servers within the VPN provider until you get one that works (use incognito to better your chances of not being detected for suspicious activity). For BBC UK, Surfshark seems to work most of the time, anecdotally speaking.
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The point is that no reliable resource or data tells us which is best for unlocking geo-blocked content. Sites constantly alter their measures to fight it, adding more servers to the blocklist.
So in this sense, most VPNs are the same, and you’ll have to rely on trying different ones to see which works in your country on your specific site.