For those serious about Internet safety and security, setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is practically a necessity. A VPN works, first and foremost, by replacing a user’s IP address with one provided by the VPN service; this serves to protect your data once it leaves your computer by rerouting it to a different location and disassociating it with your individual IP address.
VPNs are used by businesses and individuals alike for a variety of different needs and purposes. Some have higher levels of encryption and security for very sensitive information, others are best for streaming and torrenting needs, and others still are designed to help users access parts of the Internet that may be blocked by the end-user’s region.
For gamers, there are important considerations to be made, since use of a VPN will add latency and reduce speed, and various security features must be weighed with performance considerations in mind. First, we will take a look at some of these performance and security issues, and then provide a summary of some of the best VPNs on the market for gaming purposes.
Since any use of a VPN will have a negative impact on connection speed and latency, it is important to evaluate what factors play into this and what services will minimize this impact. Different tests with different services have found a reduction in speed from 5% and 20%, which means that the effects on online gaming can range from barely noticeable to barely tolerable.
The first factor that the savvy VPN shopper should look at is server proximity. The same level of security can be provided – as long as you are not trying to drastically obscure your geographical location – whether the VPN server being used is 50 miles away, or 5,000 miles away. The former will yield much better performance, however.
On that note, it is also useful to decide whether you will be using the VPN from one location only, or will need these same security services while traveling as well. There are great VPN services that only have servers in 20 countries, which means performance will drop considerably outside of these areas. Conversely, there are some that have servers in nearly 200 countries, making them better choices for the vagabond gamer.
In addition, the overall speed of a VPN provider is based on their own technology and implementation – in layman’s terms, what this means is that not all VPN services are created equal. Some have a better reputation for speed and performance, so even if two have the same server proximity, one may provide a considerably better experience than another.
Ideally, shopping for a VPN with performance in mind consists of looking at the providers with the fastest connectivity, and finding the ones that also have servers local to where you are, or where you plan to be.
All VPNs will provide security above and beyond a simple firewall or antivirus software. Some security is stronger than others however, and this comes down to two main factors: the encryption methods used, and the country of origin.
For the user who is not well-versed in encryption technology, it can be hard to digest and decipher paragraphs of acronyms and jargon. To simplify things, there are two key things to keep in mind.
- Some VPNs use older or traditional encryption, which is theoretically weaker than newer methods
- A few VPNs actually have proprietary encryption technology, which makes data that much more secure
On top of all of this, it’s important to note that different countries have different privacy laws. VPN providers often have to log user activity for 1-3 months based on local government requirements, which creates the potential for loss of security. For this reason, many VPN providers are based overseas, which is effective to varying degrees. It is vital to know where a VPN service provider is based and what the local laws might mean for your privacy.
More Factors for Gaming VPNs
Ease of implementation and use, customer support, and cost. For a home gamer who doesn’t need many of the extra features geared towards businesses and organizations, a lot of time and effort can be saved by choosing a user friendly VPN that’s easy set up. Depending on the user’s comfort with technology and overall patience, this factor can be weighed accordingly.
Ideally, customer service should never have to enter into the equation, but as is standard with most technology services, this is rarely the case. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, and know what you have in store should you need service issues resolved. Many VPNs have live chat support 24/7, but are difficult to reach by phone outside of the business hours of their country of origin. Others have phone customer service reps available around the clock. Some of the newer VPNs have robust tutorial videos and guides for users that are technologically proficient and just need a leg up in resolving any issues that arise.
Cost will vary from one VPN to the next, and can make the decision more complex based on subscription period. For example, some will charge around $12/month billed monthly, but only $6.50/month if billed annually. Others will have the same monthly subscription cost, but will not discount their annual rate as steeply. And finally, many of the newer VPN providers – realizing that this type of service is here to stay – provide excellent price options for customers who sign up for a 2+ year subscription.
With an eye towards performance, security, ease of use, and cost – let’s take a look at some of the best gaming VPNs on the market today.
IPVanish is a robust VPN service that is well-received and well-reviewed year after year. The service is US-based, but with a network that reaches over 60 countries. As far as gaming needs are concerned, IPVanish boasts top tier speed and excellent encryption. Additionally, their basic service plan (the only plan they offer) allows 5 simultaneous connections on different devices, making the service easier to manage and ideal for small networks. If your priority is performance without the need for constant support, and you want an reputable provider at a great price, then IPVanish is certainly a strong contender for your gaming VPN of choice.
- One of the fastest VPNs
- Ability to use 5 devices simultaneously
- User friendly apps on almost any device
- One of the most affordable services
- Lots of bells and whistles, such as a kill switch and DNS leak protection
- A reputable, trustworthy company with years of success
- Customer service mostly responds during US business hours
- US based means possible surveillance or privacy issues
ExpressVPN is a VPN provider based in the Virgin Islands with servers in over 87 countries. The product is a simple one that has some of the best encryption on the market, as well as excellent customer support and a 30-day money back guarantee. While it may not have the deep pool of features that larger services offer, it’s ease of use and the quality of its basic features presents an appealing package as a gaming VPN.
- Easy to set up and use
- 24/7 customer support with fast response time
- Servers in 87 countries
- Top tier encryption
- Not as fast as other VPNs
- A more expensive option ($8.32/month for an annual plan)
- Minimal logs kept, which could compromise security
VyprVPN provides a proven VPN service that checks off many of the key features that gamers are looking for. It is one of the fastest services, with great proprietary encryption technology, and has a very highly touted customer service team. Additionally, the company is based in Switzerland, and as such, provides great user privacy. While it only supports 3 simultaneous devices and does not have some of the more advanced features of other VPNs, Vypr achieves its goal very well: great speed and encryption at an affordable annual price. This is appealing to gamers who are mainly after the basic features of a VPN, but want those basic features to be flawlessly executed.
- One of the fastest VPN services
- Great encryption and privacy
- 24/7 live support
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Premium plan includes CloudVPN
- Month-to-month plans are substantially more expensive ($9.95/month v. $5/month billed annually)
- Less advanced features than other services
A more recent service with a memorable name, HideMyAss has carved out its niche as a VPN provider that has a great user interface and ease of use. It’s modern encryption methods do a good job of sec It also has performed well on speed tests, and its performance is assisted further by having servers in a staggering 190 countries. While it is not as robust a service as some of the other top contenders, Hide My Ass manages to achieve its goal of being a sleek and simple VPN services, with excellent speed around the world.
- Great speed and consistency, doing well on performance tests
- Servers in 190 countries allow global access and performance
- Highly acclaimed interface and user experience
- 24/7 live chat support
- Not as many features for the price
- Keeps user logs for 2 to 3 months
NordVPN is making waves in the VPN world as a sleek and high-performing service with the latest in encryption technology. It seeks to combine the best elements of previous VPN providers: great ease of use, fast and intuitive implementation, minimal loss of speed, and high security. This makes it a great package as a gaming-oriented VPN. While it has a deep list of features, the essentials are easy to use and consistently deliver results with minimal management or fiddling around.
It doesn’t have as many servers, currently only maintaining 730 servers in 58 countries, and comes in at a slightly higher price point than some of the competition. If these don’t sound like severe drawbacks, then NordVPN is poised to stay at near the top of the list for gamers who are seeking the privacy of security of a VPN, with minimal loss in speed or performance.
- Great client with an intuitive interface
- Provides an excellent balance of speed and security
- Up to 6 devices can be used simultaneously with the basic plan
- State of the art encryption, with cutting edge privacy features
- Variety of servers, some geared more towards security and other towards performance
- Does not keep logs, and based in Panama for great privacy
- No ad block feature
- A more expensive option (although the 2-year plan is much more affordable)
- Below average customer support
- Only offers a 3-day trial that can be difficult to set up
Buffered is a newer addition to the lineup of VPN services, and so far has delivered on its promise of top-of-the-line technology with an accessible platform and interface. Based in Gibraltar, Buffered is able to offer greater privacy than other providers due to local laws. And while it only has servers in 40 countries as of now, it is continually expanding into more. While it doesn’t have the years-long track record that some of the other providers do, so far Buffered has done very well on speed tests, which is sure to please gamers shopping for a VPN service. If you are located near one of its server locations and don’t mind paying a slightly higher price, Buffered can be a great gaming VPN with top tier speed and security.
- A very fast VPN with minimal impact to performance
- User friendly, with built in tutorials for troubleshooting
- Connect up to 5 devices simultaneously
- High security due to modern encryption and overseas location
- Less servers globally means not all connections will be equally fast
- Least expensive plan is $8.25/month billed annually
SaferVPN offers gamers a package that has excellent speed, highly regarded customer support, and an economic price structure. While it isn’t at the front end of Internet privacy and security, many VPN shoppers don’t need extreme privacy – it still has solid encryption and protects your IP address and so on. Not everyone is worried about concentrated attacks from hackers or shady government agencies, but would still like to have the heightened sense of security that a VPN brings while maintaining low latency for gaming purposes. If these same people are looking to spend only $5.99 per month and have a responsive customer support team to spend less time being frustrated and more time on their hobbies, then they should shortlist SaferVPN as a candidate for their VPN needs.
- Excellent speed and reliable connectivity
- Great customer service support
- Very affordable plans, especially for the high level of performance
- Connect up to 5 devices simultaneously
- Less robust features package for the sophisticated user
- Does not boast the proprietary security features of other VPNs