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Article updated on February 26, 2024 at 8:45 AM PST

Best VPN for Streaming in 2024

You can bypass geographic restrictions and give yourself access to an entire world of entertainment with one of CNET’s top picks for the best streaming VPNs.

Our Experts

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Written by 
Attila Tomaschek,
Moe Long
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
Expertise Attila has nearly a decade's worth of experience with VPNs and has been covering them for CNET since 2021. As CNET's VPN expert, Attila rigorously tests VPNs and offers readers advice on how they can use the technology to protect their privacy online and
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Moe Long Senior Editor
Moe enjoys making technical content digestible and fun. As a writer and editor for over a decade, he has bylines at MakeUseOf, WhistleOut, TechBeacon, DZone, Tech Up Your Life, and Electromaker. When he's not hammering away at the keyboard, Moe enjoys spending time with his partner and dog, listening to vinyl, and watching film.
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Editors' choice 2024
See Price at ExpressVPN

Best Overall VPN

ExpressVPN

Privacy protection and transparency

Savings 49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)
Pros
  • Strong commitment to privacy and transparency
  • Forward-thinking security enhancements
  • Excellent for streaming
  • Streamlined, easy-to-use app across platforms
  • Privacy-friendly jurisdiction (British Virgin Islands)
Cons
  • DNS leaks detected (but immediately addressed)
  • Expensive
  • Only eight simultaneous connections
  • Apple TV app needs work
Price $13 a month, $60 for six months or $100 for a year
Latest tests DNS leaks detected, 25% speed loss in 2024 tests
Network 3,000 plus servers in 105 countries
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands

ExpressVPN is currently CNET’s pick for the best VPN overall, scoring an 8.8/10 on our VPN rating scale. The veteran VPN provider is excellent for streaming. In our testing, it effortlessly unblocked all sorts of streaming content, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. You can easily install ExpressVPN’s app on streaming gadgets including Android TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV devices and the Apple TV. Additionally, Express offers user-friendly apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS/iPadOS, Android, Linux and web browsers.  

In our 2024 testing, we measured a modest 24.8% average speed loss with ExpressVPN. With a high-speed connection, this is still more than fast enough for even 4K video streaming. For reference, many VPNs can slash your internet speeds by 50% or more. However, we nevertheless saw substantially better speeds from rivals NordVPN (11% speed loss) and Surfshark (17% speed loss). ExpressVPN’s speeds were still plenty fast enough for general browsing as well as for more data-intensive activities like streaming, gaming and videoconferencing -- especially if you use Lightway.

When we most recently evaluated ExpressVPN for privacy and security, we uncovered an alarming bug in its Windows app that sent our DNS requests to our ISP instead of to ExpressVPN’s dedicated DNS servers when we had the split tunneling feature enabled, meaning that our true IP address, general location and the websites we visited were exposed. ExpressVPN impressed us with its swift, transparent action by disabling split tunneling from its Windows app as a temporary solution while engineers got to work on a permanent fix and promptly publishing a blog post. Shortly thereafter, ExpressVPN was able to roll out a fix to its Windows app that resolved the DNS issue and reinstated the split tunneling feature. During our tests with the updated app, we detected no leaks with or without split tunneling enabled. The DNS leaks were concerning, but the decisive response from ExpressVPN was illustrative of the company’s commitment to transparency and user privacy.

Aside from its superb streaming performance, ExpressVPN remains one of the most transparent VPN providers. Its strict no logs policy was bolstered by a 2022 no-logs audit by KPMG. In addition to its transparency efforts, ExpressVPN’s privacy protections are like its open-source Lightway VPN protocol and TrustedServer RAM-only server technology is top-notch and forward-thinking. ExpressVPN recently increased its simultaneous connection allowance up to eight, which is slightly more generous than NordVPN’s six, but considerably less than the unlimited simultaneous connections allowed by others like Surfshark, PIA and IPVanish. While ExpressVPN is the best VPN of the bunch, you’ll need to pay a premium -- it’s one of the most expensive VPN providers currently on the market. The service costs $13 per month, $60 every six months or $100 per year, which is considerably more expensive than the $11 per month or $60 per year that Surfshark charges. NordVPN is more in line with ExpressVPN on price at $13 per month or $100 annually (after a promotional $60 price for the first year). If you’re not satisfied with the service, you can request your money back within 30 days of your purchase.     

See Price at NordVPN

Best VPN for Speed

NordVPN

Perfect for power users

Pros
  • The fastest VPN we tested
  • Tons of features
  • Diskless RAM-only server infrastructure
Cons
  • Not as transparent as VPN rivals
  • Complicated pricing structure
  • Only six simultaneous connections allowed
Price $13 monthly, $60 for the first year or $96 for the first two years (then $100 per year afterwards for the one- and two-year plans)
Latest tests No leaks detected, 11% speed loss in 2024 tests
Network 6,000-plus servers in over 60 countries
Jurisdiction Panama

NordVPN is so popular because of its fast connections, privacy-focused features and excellent geo-unblocking for streaming services. In our testing, Nord let us stream US and UK Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus libraries on most devices. Whether you want to watch international Netflix libraries or watch content from your home country while abroad, NordVPN has you covered. Additionally, you can install Nord on nearly any streaming device available, including Android TV, Fire TV and Apple TV. You can also run NordVPN on Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS/iPadOS and browsers.   

A fast, reliable internet connection is critical when streaming 4K or even 1080p videos. NordVPN solidified itself as the fastest VPN in our 2024 speed tests, sporting an overall average internet download speed loss of merely 11.1%. All VPNs slow down your internet connection somewhat, but Nord’s minimal impact makes it an exceptional VPN for streaming videos. Our CNET Labs team clocked an average speed loss on its NordLynx VPN protocol of just 3.2% with Windows and 12.6% on MacOS. With OpenVPN, its speed loss was a blazing-fast 10.1% average on MacOS and 18.6% using Windows. 

NordVPN’s global server network comprises more than 6,000 servers spanning over 60 countries. That’s short of the international reach of competitors like Surfshark and ExpressVPN, but a planned expansion in Q1 of 2024 should increase Nord's server count to 100 countries. Many people will find servers in preferred locations for streaming service unblocking, but its lower overall global reach at the time of writing means that Nord won’t work for everyone. 

We appreciate NordVPN's commitment to privacy and security. In addition to features like Onion over VPN (Tor) and a Double VPN, which deliver additional encryption, a 2023 audit by Deloitte backed up its no-log claims for improved transparency. Folks with serious privacy needs can even buy a Nord subscription with cryptocurrencies for pseudo-anonymity. While zero-logging policies are challenging to verify with absolute certainty, third-party audits provide peace of mind. At $13 per month, $60 per year or $96 total for two years, NordVPN sets you back less initially than premium VPN rivals like ExpressVPN, but more than budget-oriented companies like Surfshark and PIA. However, subsequent price hikes drive the price to $100 per year, which aligns with many other VPN providers, including Express. With its best-in-class connectivity, solid device support and great geographically restricted content unblocking, Nord is an exceptional VPN for streaming.

See Price at Surfshark

Best Cheap VPN

Surfshark

Extensive features at a great price

Savings $2.69/mo with 24-mo plan (+4 free months)
Pros
  • Lots of unique security features
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • RAM-only server network
Cons
  • Inconsistent speed performance
  • 14 Eyes jurisdiction (Netherlands)
  • No transparency reports
Price $11 per month, $48 for the first year (or $59.54 for 2yrs)
Latest Tests No leaks detected, 17% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 3,200-plus servers in 100 countries
Jurisdiction Netherlands

If you’re on a budget or you’re a Netflix user and want to get the most out of your Netflix subscription, Surfshark is the way to go. We found that Surfshark is more than capable of streaming content on various streaming services like Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video. We ran into a few issues when attempting to stream content on Hulu. It worked on the Fire TV Stick app but not on the iOS app. While we were able to stream Hulu content through Surfshark’s MacOS app, the titles weren’t loading and we weren’t able to access the entire library -- making for a sub-par streaming experience. 

That said, Surfshark really excelled when we tested the provider’s ability to stream Netflix. Surfshark says it can unblock 22 different countries’ Netflix libraries, but it unblocked even more during our testing -- including libraries from countries like Denmark, Bulgaria, Belgium and Hungary. Other VPNs can also unblock multiple Netflix libraries, but it’s rare that a VPN can do it to the degree that Surfshark can. That’s impressive, considering how Netflix has been actively cracking down on VPN use for years. Even so, Netflix doesn’t expressly mention VPN unblocking in its Terms of Use -- just that you should “access Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer your subscription plan and have licensed such content.” 

Surfshark’s speeds are generally fast enough for streaming (even in 4K) but were inconsistent in our testing -- sometimes frustratingly so. This means that, under rare circumstances, you may need to play around with your connection settings to achieve optimal streaming performance, especially for higher-quality streams or from distant regions. As well as being an excellent VPN for streaming, Surfshark packs a ton of useful privacy features into a budget-friendly package. You can boost your privacy by routing your connection through two servers of your choice using Surfshark’s Dynamic Multihop feature, or shuffling your IP address using the VPN’s IP Randomizer or IP Rotator features. Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous connections, beyond what most others allow for. Surfshark's monthly plan stays constant at $13 a month. Its yearly plan starts at $48 for the first year, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you'll pay $53 upfront for the initial two years combined, then $60 per year for any additional years. We don’t recommend committing to a single VPN provider for more than a year at a time, considering how quickly the landscape tends to shift in the VPN industry.

See Price at IPVanish

Best Beginner VPN

IPVanish

Simple, newbie-friendly interface

Savings 66% off with 12-mo plan
Pros
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • 24/7 customer support with live chat and phone support
Cons
  • IPVanish identified during DNS leak tests
  • US jurisdiction
  • Buggy features with platform limitations
Price $12 a month or $54 for the first year (then $90 annually)
Latest tests No leaks detected, 26% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 2,000-plus servers in 75-plus locations across 52 countries
Jurisdiction United States

IPVanish is a solid VPN for streaming if you’re new to VPNs and want a solution that’s simple to use and can help you watch content on various streaming platforms. During our testing, we were able to access Netflix libraries from a handful of regions, along with content on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. Although some VPNs may struggle to deliver across platforms, we were able to access each of the streaming services we tested on each of the devices we tested them on with IPVanish. The only area where IPVanish sometimes struggles is its speed. The inconsistency of IPVanish’s speeds may put a damper on your streaming experience, depending on which servers you’re using and if you connect via the VPN’s Quick Connect feature. Using Quick Connect is the easiest way to connect to an IPVanish server, but the feature didn’t always connect us to the most optimal server available. We were able to achieve considerably faster speeds by manually choosing a server indicating a lighter server load. You may have to do the same if you’re experiencing a low-quality stream.

With IPVanish, you’ll have access to servers in 52 countries, which is quite a bit less than other options like ExpressVPN (105 countries) and Surfshark (100 countries), so if you’re looking to stream content from a particular region, you’ll want to check IPVanish’s server page to ensure the provider has servers in those locations before purchasing a subscription. IPVanish isn’t overloaded with tons of bells and whistles, but it includes all the basic features you need in a VPN -- and maybe that’s what makes it such a great option for VPN newbies. Its apps feature a slick interface that requires zero learning curve, so you can get connected and stream immediately even if you’ve never used a VPN before. A monthly subscription to IPVanish costs $13 per month, which is on par with most of the other top VPNs, but its annual plan starts cheaper than both NordVPN and ExpressVPN at $42 for the first year (then jumps to $90 annually for any additional year). IPVanish offers a two-year plan that costs $72 for the first two years combined, then $90 per year afterward. 

About VPNs for streaming

Using a virtual private network will improve your online experience due to the slate of privacy features that are provided. Privacy and security are the common reasons for using a VPN, but you can also use a virtual private network to view TV shows and movies that are inaccessible because of geographic restrictions. How does this work? When using a VPN, the service hides your physical address by using encryption -- directing your internet activity to a remote server that makes it look like you're located in a different city or country -- which keeps your online behavior and personal information hidden. In turn, it unlocks streaming content that would've been blocked due to your location. For instance, if you want to watch BBC iPlayer while in the US, you can simply use a UK server to make apps and websites think you're in another country by tunneling your web traffic through a VPN's servers.

CNET has performed hands-on testing of nearly a dozen of the best VPNs available to figure out the best services for various use cases and platforms, which includes streaming. When talking about streaming features, some virtual private networks deliver the goods better than others -- and that's why we put each VPN through rigorous testing to bring you the below guide of the best streaming VPNs. Any of the VPNs listed here can be used to access your home Netflix library while traveling abroad or unblock content on all kinds of other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Max, Disney Plus and Hulu. You can even use a VPN to cut through sports broadcast blackouts and watch your favorite teams without any restrictions. Just make sure to check your streaming service’s Terms of Service to see if it says anything about prohibiting VPN use because you don’t want to be mistakenly in violation of the service’s terms.        

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What is the best VPN for streaming right now?

ExpressVPN is the best streaming VPN on the market. It successfully unblocks Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video in the US and UK. The ExpressVPN app boasts great customization features but remains user-friendly for VPN beginners.

NordVPN is the fastest VPN we tested, boasting minimal speed loss, superb reliability and broad device compatibility, including an elusive Apple TV app. With its solid connectivity, Nord is great for buffer-free 4K video streaming.

Surfshark offers the best price-to-performance ratio, with excellent speeds and streaming service support.

For VPN newcomers, we recommend IPVanish, which keeps its app uncomplicated and easy to navigate despite its uneven speeds.

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Other VPNs we tested

Proton VPN

If you want a VPN that’s free and still able to stream the US Netflix library, then Proton VPN is the ideal choice. Proton VPN is currently the only free VPN the CNET recommends, because it’s secure, safe to use and doesn’t put any limits on speed or usage. Technically, Proton VPN’s free servers aren’t optimized for streaming, but we still achieved sufficient speeds and were able to smoothly stream Netflix content through the VPN’s free US servers.

With Proton VPN’s premium service, which includes servers in 69 countries (as opposed to three with the free plan), we were able to access content from several Netflix regional libraries as well as content on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. The only hiccup we ran into was that we were unable to stream Disney Plus on MacOS through Proton’s US servers, although it worked fine on other platforms. Proton's paid tier sets you back $10 monthly, $72 annually or $120 total for two years' worth of service.

Read our Proton VPN review.

Private Internet Access

The wallet-friendly Private Internet Access, or PIA, is an open-source VPN provider focused on security. PIA costs just $12 per month, $40 per year or $79 total for a three-year subscription. Unlike most other VPN providers, PIA doesn't have price hikes, so your plan should renew at the same rate. PIA worked well for Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video US and UK libraries, making it a good wallet-friendly VPN for streaming.

Despite its affordability compared with many VPN rivals, it’s tough to recommend for streaming because of its high average internet download speed loss of 49%. Generally, we find a 20% or less internet speed loss perfectly acceptable, with some VPN providers like NordVPN delivering as low as 11%. Of course, even at an average of 49%, if you’ve got a 30Mbps internet connection, you can probably still manage a single 4K video stream (Netflix recommends a minimum of 15Mbps for 4K). Ultimately, PIA is a great VPN with strong privacy features, but its connectivity shortcomings make it suitable only for casual entertainment needs. 

Read our PIA review.

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How we test VPNs for streaming

We know choosing a VPN for streaming can be a tall task, so we thoroughly tested different providers using different streaming services on several platforms. For each VPN, we evaluated each provider’s streaming performance on mobile, desktop and dedicated streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. We connected to dozens of server locations with each VPN to determine if the service was able to unblock geo-restricted content from different regions around the world on streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. We noted whenever a VPN was blocked from accessing certain geo-restricted content, and we checked to make sure the streaming experience was smooth and free of buffering when a VPN was able to successfully stream content. To assess connectivity, we performed over 250 internet speed tests across multiple servers per VPN provider. Each VPN we’ve listed here is a capable VPN for streaming, but one may work better for you than another, based on your particular needs or budget. Each VPN here also offers a money-back guarantee, so you can try them out to confirm a provider works for your needs before you fully commit to one.  

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Factors to consider in a VPN for streaming

Based on our years of experience using and testing VPNs, we’ve established the following list of factors you should consider when choosing a VPN for streaming.

Streaming capabilities

Your VPN’s capacity to access streaming content is the top factor to consider in a VPN for streaming. If your VPN can’t access streaming content, then it isn’t fit for this purpose. It’s not just access to streaming content that’s important to consider; it’s also important to make sure that the VPN you choose works well for the streaming service you want to access. This is where free trials and money-back guarantees really come in handy because not all VPNs work well for all streaming services. Think about the streaming services you want to watch -- like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Max, Hulu, Peacock, Crunchyroll, YouTube TV, Sling and others.

Speed

Your VPN’s speed performance plays a major role in the overall quality of your streaming experience. You’ll need a VPN that’s fast, especially if you’re streaming in 4K or if you’re accessing geo-blocked content from a region that’s a considerable distance from your physical location. If your VPN is slowing your connection too much, you may end up experiencing a lot of buffering or lower-quality video playback. Generally, we recommend an average internet speed loss of 20% or less.

Privacy

Regardless of what you’re using your VPN for, privacy is a key consideration for any VPN service. Your VPN should have privacy measures in place like DNS leak protection, a kill switch and a no-logs policy (bonus points for one that’s been audited or tested in the wild). A VPN that provides the necessary privacy protections will ensure that your internet traffic is never leaked unencrypted, including what sites you’re visiting and what content you’re streaming.  

Network

A good VPN for streaming should have a network of servers in locations across the globe. If you’re looking to fully optimize your streaming and get access to the largest selection of streaming content, then you’ll probably want to choose a VPN with servers located in the largest number of countries. If you’re looking to access content from a specific region, you should check to ensure the VPN you want to use has servers in the region(s) you need. You can check the VPN’s server page on its website to see what countries it has servers in prior to purchasing a subscription. 

Device compatibility

You’ll also want to make sure that the VPN you choose is compatible with the device on which you want to stream content, whether that’s a mobile device, laptop, smart TV or streaming device. Many VPN providers offer Android TV and Amazon Fire TV apps, but only a handful of companies, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN and IPVanish feature Apple TV apps. Most VPNs are compatible with a wide range of devices, but it’s always a good idea to confirm that the service you’re considering will work with the device you want to use. 

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Streaming VPN FAQs

Will I get in trouble for using a VPN for streaming?

No, you probably won't get in trouble for streaming with a VPN, and in most cases, it's legal to use a VPN for streaming. Unless you’re in a region where VPN use is illegal or restricted, there’s nothing illegal about using a VPN for streaming. It’s a good idea to check the Terms of Service (ToS) page of the streaming service you’re using to ensure that it doesn’t include language that would render your VPN use in violation of its Terms. If you violate a streaming service’s ToS by using a VPN, you may find yourself suspended or even banned from the service. It’s more likely that you’ll just get a pop-up dialogue that says that a VPN/proxy has been detected and the content is not accessible. We haven’t heard of anyone getting in trouble for using a VPN with a streaming service, but ultimately it’s on you to weigh the associated risks.

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How do I use a VPN for streaming?

Using a VPN for streaming is simple. All you need to do is download your preferred VPN service and connect to a server located in the country from where you want access to streaming content. Then just navigate to the streaming service’s app or website and start streaming as you normally would.

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Will a VPN slow down my internet speeds?

Yes, a VPN will generally slow down your internet speeds, sometimes by 50% or more (due to factors like encryption, server load and the distance between you and the server you’re connecting to). If you have a high-quality VPN for streaming that’s fast, you may lose only 10% or less of your regular internet speeds. In that case, you’ll hardly even notice the speed dip. If you’re having trouble with your VPN speeds, there are ways you can speed up your VPN.

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Can I stream sports with a VPN?

Yes, a VPN is an excellent tool to stream sports online and avoid regional blackouts. To do so, just connect to a VPN server in a location where the sporting event is accessible online -- whether it’s a specific US city, or a different country -- and you should be able to stream all the sports you want.

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