How to test your VPN speed.
Testing the speed of a VPN is the easiest and most complicated thing to do. So, stay tuned for this explainer where we shed light on the nuances of this ‘simple’ process, including the tools to get it right.
After testing ProtonVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, MullvadVPN, and many others, I can safely say that speed is the most misunderstood factor among VPN users.
It is simple to log into some speed test tool, but it is very difficult to accurately understand the results.
So, before we jump into how to test VPN speeds, let’s go over some basics.
Factors Affecting VPN Speeds
This section includes a non-exhaustive list of things that affect VPN speeds, and some “standard” things you need to know before moving on to the actual test.
#1. No two servers have the same performance
It largely depends on the server you connect to, as the hardware has many differences that are hard to pinpoint, and the server load, which varies as well.
And this performance difference is significantly visible if you connect to servers from two separate physical locations. This is due to the unique internet infrastructure that connects you to those machines, including the quality of cables, distance, routers, etc.
#2. Choice of VPN protocol
Think of VPN protocols as the lifeblood of a VPN connection. They dictate how VPN tunnels work, including the strength of the encryption, speed, efficiency, overall security, etc.
Some are built for speed, like WireGuard, while others are time-tested all-rounders, like OpenVPN.
Furthermore, some VPN providers also develop their custom protocols for maximum flexibility.
#3. additional security
Safety slows down. And, in practice, most of us don’t need features like multi-hop, Tor over VPN, bank-grade encryption, etc.
Although such features are ideal for people in authoritarian regimes, journalists, and activists; for others, this unnecessary security is overkill that comes at an inevitable cost in network speeds.
In particular, proxies are a decent replacement for a VPN if the agenda is simply to spoof one’s location.
#4. native factors
The first is your normal internet speed. VPNs can only slow down the typical speeds we get from our internet service providers.
Therefore, it is important to check the default network speed before pointing fingers at your VPN.
Plus, your distance from the WiFi router also factors into the bottom line: more distance means less speeds.
In addition, the type of connection, WiFi or Ethernet, also plays a role, with ethernet connectivity being the faster of the two.
Finally, the quality of your computer’s hardware (quality of the cable, modem, etc.) affects the overall experience.
These are some of the things on which the final connection speed depends.
Test the speed of a VPN
I’ll demonstrate the process with some speed testing tools.
In particular, I’m on a 40Mbps symmetrical broadband connection (same upload and download speeds) with the router installed above. My approximate distance from the WiFi router that transmits 2.5Ghz internet is 7m horizontally and 5m vertically. And this laptop I’m working on is the only device connected to the router.
Also, I have no active downloads during this test. And there’s no active app except the browser I’m using to speed up and type (so two tabs open) and a screenshot app. Also, I have disabled all browser extensions other than the VPN itself.
Also, I am not using any app to control background processes on my Windows 11 laptop.
Finally, it is recommended to take readings at least three times, several times a day, and lastly, take the average values for best accuracy.
However, I’ll do it once with the tools for this demo.
#1. Ookla speed test
Speedtest is one of the most popular speed test tools. It provides detailed information about upload speed, download speed, ping parameters, IP address, etc.
You also assign a unique URL to share your results, and you can also export your findings.
The testing process is simple. Just visit speedtest.net and click on the GO circle.
My default parameters:
Next, I connected to the VPN server in Singapore, which is about 6,200 km from my home.
You can verify that the most damage was done on Charge Speed (almost 30%) and Ping (11➡️79). While VPN might have improved upload performance, higher Ping is a direct result of distance and some non-VPN factors.
So this was the Ookla speed test.
Fast is an offer from Netflix to test network parameters. It provides a much cleaner interface; however, the output is similar in download speed, upload speed, and latency (Ping) value.
Similarly, I ran the speed test twice, with and without VPN, connecting to the same VPN server.
We can see a clear difference between the two tools we have tested so far. And that’s to be expected since the servers testing these features also differ.
Here, the no-load latency value refers to a network with no traffic compared to the loaded network running data-intensive applications.
#3. broadband speed checker
Broadband Speedchecker works to compare internet speeds and service providers for UK residents. However, you can check your network speeds, regardless of location.
If you are in the UK, you can use this tool to check ISPs, their plans, speeds, etc., to choose the right one.
As you can see, the speeds vary a lot. In fact, I used these tools multiple times to get two consistent results to illustrate.
Also, no two tools will give the same results. And various tools work with others. For example, Google Speed Test (along with many others) is backed by Ookla’s Speedtest.
In addition, you can also check out some such as WiFi Man, Cloudflare speed test, etc.
But these speed tests do matter a bit, and the values differ from each other, even with the same tool. So what matters is real life performance.
And for that, we have listed a few to serve you well.
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN is one of the best in the entire VPN industry. In fact, they have several privacy-focused products, including an encrypted email service, a secure cloud drive, a calendar, and a VPN.
They offer incredible speeds and have an excellent track record of geo unlocking.
Additionally, ProtonVPN features a native ad-blocker, Tor over VPN, worldwide servers, and a slick user interface.
There is more that you can see in our detailed ProtonVPN review.
#5. surf shark
Surfshark VPN is one that we have tested here at SamaGame.com and it is worth recommending.
It has a respectable global presence, advanced security features like multi-hop, and great geo-unblocking performance.
Like Proton, Surfshark has a ‘One’, which brings together your VPN, antivirus, alert (intrusion) and search (private) in one package. However, you can also subscribe to the VPN independently.
You can refer to our Surfshark One review for a better understanding.
A VPN list is not complete without mentioning ExpressVPN. This one has dozens of experts labeling it the fastest VPN of all.
Personally, I would rate it as the best VPN for entertainment and comparable to ProtonVPN in terms of speed.
It has a good set of features, allowing for a perfect balance between security and performance. Coming to daily work, the user interface shines with nothing to complain about.
You can check out more in this ExpressVPN review.
However, we are not limited to these and have many more to suggest in this compilation of the best VPN services.
So, that’s all for this VPN testing tutorial.
Until next time!