If you’re interested in fully optimizing your free or low-cost streaming experience, you’ll most definitely want to purchase a VPN subscription to keep yourself safe. Read on for our full overview and buying guide to THE essential service for anyone looking to stream content safely, securely, and privately.
What is VPN?
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. It is a way of creating a secure channel of communication between your server and the server you are connecting to using encryption technology. These services can also conceal or change the IP addresses of users as well. All this makes it difficult, if not impossible, for third parties to see what you are doing online.
What VPN essentially does is create a private “tunnel” through the public network that keeps prying eyes from knowing what’s being transmitted, or even who is transmitting it.
As a consumer, you can purchase a VPN subscription from one of the many VPN services online. There is no hardware required, although you will need to download their program.
Why Do I Need VPN?
The truth is, information moving through a public network or ISP is very susceptible to being intercepted. Anybody (hackers, governments, corporations) could very likely gain access to your information if you do not take steps to secure it. No matter who you are, you should be concerned about your online privacy, especially these days.
If you using a program like Kodi to stream, it is vital to use a good VPN service to ensure your safety. While we absolutely do not condone streaming protected content, you may not always be able certify the legality of everything offered by some third-party addons. This means you, the end user, may be responsible for whatever legal repercussions occur. The last thing you want is to receive a nasty letter merely for trying to enjoy your favorite show.
Additionally, some content is region-specific, meaning that you cannot access it if you live in a different part of the world. VPN can help you get around this issue by moving your IP address to a server in a country where it is available.
Bottom line, if you want to use Kodi on your Firestick, you absolutely need to invest in a reputable VPN service. Luckily, we are here to guide you!
Top 10 VPN Services
We’ve tested the most popular VPN programs currently available and compiled a list of the ten best ones. While compiling the rankings, we considered several major factors:
Speed (By their nature, VPNs will always slow down your connection a little bit. The best ones will keep latency to a minimum)
Number Of Servers (More servers mean more options if one goes down, and better coverage worldwide)
Keep in mind that even though our focus is on Kodi, we will also be exploring their other benefits these VPN services. We feel that online privacy and security is crucial even outside of streaming media, and if you are going to be paying for the service anyways, you might as well consider all of its functions. So, without further ado, here are our picks!
US-based IPVanish boasts many excellent qualities that we look for in a VPN: it’s fast, has about 1,000 server locations spread across the globe, and they claim to follow a strict no-log company policy (ideal for customer privacy).
The interface has recently been updated, and although IPVanish still isn’t the most user-friendly for newbies, it’s a step in the right direction.
IPVanish does not support OpenVPN, which may be an issue for some customers. It does however give you several advanced search options, such as sorting servers by country, latency, and security protocol.
You can also set it to switch from server to server at certain intervals, for those looking for an added layer of anonymity. We also liked the “killswitch” function, and the fact that it allows you to connect to a server immediately from the main screen (something that should be standard, in our opinion)
Overall, this is a solid, affordable choice for VPN that covers all the bases.
There may be better choices for consumers looking for more specialized services, but it is an excellent over-all choice for the Average Joe.
We consider ExpressVPN to be the “caviar” of VPN services. Pricey, but it outperforms its competitors on virtually every single benchmark.
It is the fastest of all the ones we tested (occasionally even lowering download speeds), and it uses some serious military intelligence-grade encryption technology.
It operates 1,500+ servers in almost 100 countries, covering users pretty much anywhere on the globe, with headquarters in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands.
On top of that, ExpressVPN is easy to use, with a clean, efficient layout that is very intuitive and transparent. They offer a 24/7 live customer support chat feature, which is a rarity in this business. We also found this service to be extremely good for torrenting, which is a plus, as many services do not allow that.
The only real con with this service is it’s price. But, nothing that is truly premium ever comes without a cost, so that is to be expected. If you have the money, ExpressVPN is worth it.
NordVPN is an extremely attractive option at a fantastic price for longer subscriptions.
NordVPN offers some of the fastest streaming speeds of any VPN we tested, 3,500+ servers to choose from in almost 70 countries, and some of the most advanced encryption technology available. They also follow a strict no-logging policy, and are based in Panama, where data storage and reporting are not required.
On top of all this, NordVPN maintains one of the slickest and most user friendly interface in the business. If you are new to VPN, this is definitely a factor worth considering.
On the other hand, more experienced users will enjoy advanced features, such as double encryption, dedicated servers for p2p torrenting, and a customizable killswitch.
Overall, NordVPN is an excellent, extremely robust and user-friendly program that we highly recommend. The month-to-month subscription is high (and not recommended), but the rate drops quickly if you purchase the yearly plans.
The dirt-cheap two- and three-year options make NordVPN a truly killer bargain.
Private Internet Access is a great VPN service for someone looking for something a bit more affordable. It’s just about the cheapest option out there, but still has a respectable amount of functionality.
This service uses the industry-standard OpenVPN encryption protocol to route your data through 3,275 servers in almost 30 countries, giving the you an impressive amount of security and flexibility. They also offer relatively fast connection speeds.
The fact that they offer this for half the price of some other popular services, makes PIA one of the best bang-for-buck deals out there.
PIA does have some drawbacks. Although it maintains a strict no-logging policy, it is an American-based company. As you are probably aware, it is an open question as to how much access US authorities may have to private data, even with supposed privacy policies. How comfortable you are with this is for you to decide.
The interface for PIA is also extremely simple and stripped down. New users may appreciate this fact, but PIA may prove too bare-bones for someone who would like more features and options for their VPN connection.
Also, according to many customers, tech support can supposedly be difficult to reach and unresponsive.
Overall, PIA is a great value for novice users (it’s hard to argue with subscription under $3), although more particular VPN consumers may prefer to shell out a little more for something with more features and options.
StrongVPN is an American VPN service that operates 650 servers in about 25 countries.
It’s an middling choice, with some benefits and some drawbacks.
The number of servers it runs is adequate, but far from the top of the heap. It maintains a solid-looking no-log policy, but is based in the US, which is not known for it’s amazing privacy standards.
It’s privacy protocols are quite strong, and it’s reasonably quick, so it’s got that going for it.
Strong VPN does have an aggressively streamlined interface, we would even say over-simplified. This may be great for newbies, but more experienced users may be frustrated by the lack of basic functions.
You cannot search by server type, and it is difficult to automatically find the closest/fastest server nearby. These are standard issue for most VPN’s, so it’s a little disappointing to see these features overlooked.
Overall, StrongVPN offers some good qualities at a reasonable price, but is hardly exceptional. We would recommend it more strongly if there were not other services offering more for the same price.
VyprVPN is a solid VPN choice with few drawbacks. This Swiss service operates about 700 servers, which is a little on the low end compared to others, but they do offer a great spread of about 70 countries.
It gives customers a basic and premium package to choose from, with the premium offering more connections per account and the use of their proprietary “Chameleon Protocol”.
The Chameleon Protocol supposedly gets around any server using a VPN blocker (such as Netflix).
The main con with this service is the fact that you can only connect three users or devices simultaneously on it’s basic plan. Even for it’s relatively cheap price, that’s kind of a bummer, as most similar options provide five.
We also found that we could only choose the countries we wanted to route our connection through, not the specific server.
Still, that would be something that won’t bother most users.
TunnelBear is a quirky Canadian VPN service that may be a good choice if you are just looking for something reasonably priced and extremely user-friendly.
This company clearly prides itself on it’s colorful, intuitive layout that virtually anyone should be able to figure out right away. It makes good use of their cute bear mascot, which is clearly meant to make new users feel welcome and taken care of.
TunnelBear uses the industry standard OpenVPN protocol, which is more than adequate for most users.
TunnelBear does have a few downsides that may steer more particular customers away. It operates 1,000 servers in 22 countries, which is a bit lackluster, especially considering it ignores entire world regions (zero African servers, for example). It also lacks many advanced features that other VPNs provide, such as dedicated servers for specific uses.
TunnelBear did not perform particularly well in speed tests.
However, it is clear that the main focus of this service is end-user experience, and on that account it passes with flying colors. The majority of new VPN users will care more about this than the advanced bells and whistles at the end of the day, especially for such a reasonable price.
CyberGhost is a Romanian-based VPN company operating 90 servers in 60 countries. It’s a respectable amount of server options, but far from the largest.
It has an intuitive, clean interface that we liked a lot, featuring six main connection options: Surf Anonymously, Unblock Streaming, Protect Network, Torrent Anonymously, Unblock Basic Websites, and Choose My Server. This is a great layout for the new VPN user, letting them choose the features precisely suited the task at hand.
We also liked the fact that this service offers seven simultaneous connections, which is above the industry standard.
The main issues with CyberGhost are it’s unreliable connections, spotty speeds, and lackluster customer service.
For a service that is charging this much, connection speeds should be consistently faster, and it should be easier to get a hold of someone when problems arise.
Other than that, we found it to be a pretty powerful program, and enjoyed the extra devices the plan covers.
TorGuard is a US-based VPN provider with a lot going for it, despite it’s relatively high price. It operates over 3,000 physical server in 55 countries, making it one of the most widely accessible VPN services out there. Few other operations surpass it’s diversity of servers.
It is also notably one of the fastest services out there. We barely noticed any latency during our use of TorGuard, which may be attributed to this company’s friendliness to torrenting (just look at the name).
The security protocols and no-logging policies meet or exceed industry standards, so you can be pretty sure your personal info is going to be safe.
The 24/7 customer support was also on point, which is refreshing in the VPN world.
TorGuard could certainly overhaul their interface, however. The bare-bones client may be perplexing to users who are not already familiar with VPN programs.
While TorGuard is packed with tons of options and features that will surely satisfy power-users, the lack of such basic amenities like a button that automatically connects you to the nearest and fastest router seems like a major oversight. Also the fact that the company is based in the US, with it’s questionable legal policies around internet privacy, may give some pause.
Bottom line, if you want a fast, powerful VPN service and aren’t that concerned about a lackluster interface, TorGuard may be up your alley.
The irreverently-named Hide My Ass is a popular VPN service with what is probably the broadest range of servers of any company out there.
Based in England, it operates over 800 servers out of an impressive 220+ countries. This means that no matter where you are on earth, you probably aren’t that far from one of it server locations (although some may be virtual).
If you require a breadth of IP locations, or are in a remote corner of the globe that other VPNs don’t cover, Hide My Ass may be your best bet.
It also features fairly quick download/upload times compared to other services, provides solid encryption protocols, and allows torrenting.
Hide My Ass does have some notable downsides, however.
Chiefly, it’s logging policy has left some users concerned about how safe their privacy really is. This company has been accused of handing over user IP data in the past, and apparently keep logs of user activity for up to three months, which is much longer than most VPNs.
This has given them a bit of a shaky reputation among privacy watchdogs, so keep that in mind if you are searching for an iron-clad security guarantee.
Hide My Ass has a stripped down user interface that my turn off more seasoned users. Also, their customer service has received some complaints. It also does not offer cheaper 2- or 3-year plans, which is disappointing (although they do have a free trial).
All in all, if you are willing to overlook some questionable logging policies, Hide My Ass is a solid choice if you are looking for robust, wide-ranging service all over the globe.