Methodology For Reviewing VPNs for Mac
Today, the best VPN service for Mac has a multitude of functions. But even with all the bells and whistles, its primary purpose remains to preserve your privacy online. That’s why we focused extensively on privacy features in our reviews. Without proper privacy-focused features, VPNs just turn into glorified location-spoofing tools, putting your anonymity at risk and, in some cases, putting you at risk of legal action.
The first thing to look at is the provider’s logging policy, which determines whether and which user data is being stored. Any provider considered to be the best VPN client for Mac computers keeps no identifying logs. That includes any information about the user, his location, and browsing history. Keep in mind that almost all providers store non-identifying logs, which are generally used for metrics and network improvements.
However, our advice is to avoid providers that keep any user logs. Logged data is constantly at risk of being obtained by government agencies, sold to third parties, or stolen by hackers.
Besides logging, we looked at some other safety features that providers on our “best VPN services for Mac” list have in place. These include the level of encryption, number of shared IPs, public Wi-Fi protection, and kill-switch options.
VPNs are often used for entertainment and file-sharing purposes. Torrenting is a type of P2P file-sharing technology that falls into a legal gray area. While the method is not illegal per se, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is. In countries like the US, the use of torrents for downloading protected content can result in legal action against the user. For that reason, the best VPN software for Mac didn’t initially have P2P sharing options. But the market has changed, and the majority of VPNs now allow torrenting, either on all or on specialized servers.
The no-logs policy plays a vital role in facilitating P2P sharing, as well. Since VPN providers don’t store any data, they are not in a position to inform ISPs or government agencies about which country a user is operating from and whether torrenting is a legal issue there. In our reviews, we examined whether the provider allows P2P sharing and the quality of the connection – a crucial aspect for torrenting.
Unblocking Netflix and Other Streaming Services
Netflix is the most popular streaming platform in the world, and the best VPN app for Mac should be able to provide access to geo-blocked Netflix content. Due to country-specific airing rights, Netflix reserves a portion of its content for particular regions, leaving many users without access to great TV shows and movies. The most coveted region library is the US one, which most top-class VPNs should be able to unblock.
Netflix is not available in countries that have a challenging regulatory environment, including China and North Korea. However, the service can be accessed by VPN users. Therefore, in our best VPN for macOS reviews, we tested whether a given VPN can unblock Netflix and other services, such as Hulu and BBC iPlayer. We also tested the quality and stability of the stream.
Servers and Connection Speed
Another essential feature to consider when looking at VPNs is the number of available servers around the globe. A large server base allows you to choose the one nearest to you and provides greater connection speeds. In our search for the best paid VPN for Mac, we also looked at the number of countries servers can be found in, and how many of them are specialized for P2P sharing.
Connection speeds are often directly linked to the provider’s server count. VPNs work by tunneling your connection to one of their servers, effectively spoofing your location, and hiding your activity from your ISP. During this process, you often lose a portion of your original download and upload speed. The extent of this decrease depends on the VPN provider’s network infrastructure and server base. Of course, the closer the server to your actual location, the better the speeds and stability. Therefore, a provider’s server count and connection quality were a crucial part of our search for the best VPN for Mac and iOS.
Of course, like all things in life, safe browsing and anonymity usually come at a price. These costs vary depending on the provider, and some of them even have perfectly functional free options. The average monthly subscription fee ranges between $3 and $12, with discounts if you subscribe for an annual plan. Although you’d probably prefer to find a free VPN for your Mac, most gratis options come with significant drawbacks, so we recommend sticking to the best paid VPN instead.
Completely free VPNs can jeopardize your anonymity and tend to sell user information to advertisers or other third parties, as the companies behind them have to make money somehow. Some top-rated providers might have a free plan, but these often come with limited bandwidth, and users can only access a small number of their servers. In the best-case scenario, you’ll be able to squeeze in some free browsing before you go over the limit. Free plans offered by some of the best VPN services for Mac are actually meant to serve as free trials before you decide which paid option suits you best.