If you’re on the hunt for a VPN that works seamlessly with Google Chrome, you’re in luck. Chrome is by far the world’s most popular internet browser, which means nearly all the major VPNs ensure their services offer maximum compatibility with it. That’s why all the top picks on our main list of the best VPNs for 2021 also have been tested for use with Google Chrome. So if Chrome is your browser of choice, it’s relatively easy to find a virtual private network that will do the job.
We tested the three leading VPNs below for speed measurement and general browser compatibility, as well as any potential security issues that might arise. Not only did they pass with flying colors, but each of these VPNs offers a Chrome VPN extension that can be installed directly in your browser if you want to try using a lighter version of the VPN client to lose less speed.
CNET Google Report
Here are our top recommendations for the best VPN for Chrome, ranked in order of their overall performance on speed tests, security strength, and value for your money. You can also check out our picks for the fastest VPN, the best mobile VPN and the best cheap VPN. And here’s why we recommend using a paid VPN and avoiding a free VPN whenever possible.
Editors’ note: Following the Sept. 13 sale of ExpressVPN to Kape Technologies, a company that has raised significant privacy concerns for us in the past, we’re carefully re-evaluating ExpressVPN to determine the implications that its new ownership may have on users’ privacy. We’ll update our recommendations and reviews if and when warranted.
Blazing speeds, proven privacy
Number of IP addresses: 30,000Number of servers: 3,000-plus in 160 locationsNumber of simultaneous connections: 5Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands94-plus countries3 months free with 1-year plan, plus a free year of Backblaze cloud backup (limited-time offer)
ExpressVPN tells us its network is powered by TrustedServer technology, which ExpressVPN built to ensure that there are never any logs of users’ online activities. In the privacy world, ExpressVPN has a strong track record, having experienced a VPN server seizure by authorities which proved its zero-log policy true at the time. We also like the quality of the VPN’s setup guides and the detailed information in its FAQ. And it offers a full-featured dedicated Chrome extension.
While its speeds consistently compete with heavy-hitting competitors, our 2020 speed tests saw ExpressVPN produce a 52% overall loss of our normal internet speeds, representing a significant slowdown compared with its 2019 score of 2% speed loss.
Like the rest of the top five VPN services we’ve reviewed, ExpressVPN offers a useful kill-switch feature that prevents network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. Unlike the others, though, ExpressVPN gained points from us for its support of Bitcoin as a payment method — something not all of our favorites offer, but which adds an additional layer of privacy during checkout.
The VPN provider has been in business since 2009, and ExpressVPN has a substantial network of fast VPN servers spread across 94 countries. Its best plan is priced at less than $7 a month for an annual package, which includes three months free.
Read more: ExpressVPN review: A VPN speed leader with a secure reputation
Read our ExpressVPN review.
Solid security suite
Company is based in privacy-friendly jurisdiction.
$6.67/mo for 1-yr plan + 3 mo free
See at ExpressVPN
A speed leader, packed with features
Number of servers: 3,200-plus
Number of server locations: 65
Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
$2.21 a month (83% discount) for a 2-year plan
While Surfshark’s network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes it up on features and speed. Let’s start off with the biggest win it offers: unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers anti-malware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.
And it’s fast. With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, we lost less than 17% of average internet speed during our most recent speed tests. That’s faster than the 27% speed loss we saw in previous tests, and pushes it ahead of ExpressVPN to be the current front-runner in our speed comparisons.
Surfshark received generally high marks when its Chrome extension was audited for privacy by German security firm Cure 53 (PDF link of full report) — though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.
The VPN provider has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.
Surfshark also offers three special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn’t know you’re using a VPN. Multihop jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your trail. Finally, NoBorders Mode “allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions.” Just be careful. Doing any of these three things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we didn’t see a single IP address or DNS leak, and had no trouble accessing Netflix.
Unlike many of the other VPN providers, Surfshark doesn’t offer a one-year plan. Its best offer right now is $2.21 a month for its two-year plan (you pay about $60 up front). A six-month plan is $6.49 a month (about $39 up front), and month-by-month plans are $12.95 a month. Definitely take advantage of its generous 30-day trial to decide if you like this service and Chrome VPN extension (and if you choose the two-year plan, maybe set a reminder in 23 months to see if you can talk the company into a continued discount rate).
Read more: Surfshark VPN review: A feature-rich service with blazing speeds and a security focus
Read our Surfshark VPN review.
$2.21/mo for 2-yr plan + 3 mo free
See at Surfshark
Best VPN for reliability and security
Number of IP addresses: 5,000Number of servers: 5,200-plus serversNumber of server locations: 62Country/jurisdiction: Panama62 countries$3.67 a month (68% discount) for a 2-year planNordVPN in-depth review and hands-on testing (ZDNet)
NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, a kill-switch feature and the ability to VPN into Tor. We detected no privacy leaks during our tests.
In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN’s performance was on par with many of its competitors, reducing our speeds by 53% on average (which is slower than the 32% loss measured in previous speed tests). We found NordVPN’s speeds were reliably fast. There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where we expected the VPN to underperform, it still proved itself up to the task.
The company’s two-year VPN subscription plan costs $3.67 a month ($99 billed at once). That price is lower than most contenders, but creeps up for the one-year plan ($4.92 a month or $59 total) and the monthly plan ($11.95 a month). But it does have a full 30-day refund policy.
While NordVPN has lived on this list for a long time, we moved it to the penalty box in October 2019 to re-evaluate our recommendation after a report emerged that one of its rented servers was accessed without authorization in 2018. Nord’s actions following the discovery included — eventually — multiple security audits, a bug bounty program and heavier investments in VPN server security.
While we’d have preferred it if Nord had self-disclosed the issue much earlier, the fact that the breach was limited in nature and involved no user-identifying information served to further verify that NordVPN keeps no logs of user activity. As a result, Nord remains on this list as a recommended VPN service.
Read more: NordVPN review: Still the best value for security and speed
Read our NordVPN review.
Reliable, competitive speeds
$3.30/mo for 2-yr plan
See at NordVPN
Which VPN should you pick?