Best Multidevice VPNs – CNET

Virtual private networks offer a bevy of benefits. A VPN encrypts your web traffic so applications and websites don’t view your IP address, which shows your location, as matching your physical address. Instead, it looks like you’re connecting from a different area — even a foreign country or continent. While VPNs may bolster security (but don’t always), they’re also great for streaming geographically protected content and can prevent throttling while gaming. Although you can usually install a VPN on as many devices as you like, some companies restrict your concurrent connections. For example, you can download your provider’s VPN app on 20 or more devices but only have it actively running on a limited number, like eight at a time. 

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If you’re like us and have too many electronics, you’ll want a VPN that works with your entire arsenal of phones, tablets, PCs, game consoles and streaming devices. At CNET, we comprehensively test dozens of VPNs, analyzing everything from DNS leaks and speed loss to content unblocking. For this list, we primarily considered operating system support and simultaneous connection allowances to bring you the top VPNs for use with several devices. Additionally, we factored in security, speed loss, server networks, geo-unblocking and app features. Let’s dive into the best multidevice VPNs for protecting your gaggle of gadgets.

What is the best multidevice VPN?

IPVanish Surfshark PIA ProtonVPN ExpressVPN NordVPN
Windows ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
MacOS ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Linux ✔️ ✔️ (with GUI) ✔️ (with GUI) ✔️ (with GUI) ✔️ ✔️
Android/AndroidTV ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
iOS/iPadOS ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Fire TV ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Smart TV* ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Apple TV ✔️
Router ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Browser plugin** ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Simultaneous connections Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 10 8 6

*Smart television sets running Google TV/Android TV or Fire TV can download VPN apps directly, while LG’s webOS, Samsung’s Tizen OS and Roku TVs require a router VPN.

**For Chrome, Firefox, Brave, Microsoft Edge, Opera and Vivaldi

The best VPNs for multiple devices

IPVanish logo

IPVanish

Product details

Pros & Cons

IPVanish provides unlimited simultaneous connections so you can use a VPN on your phone, tablet, computer, streaming box and any other devices at once without issue. By comparison, many of its competitors remain selective; ExpressVPN offers eight simultaneous connections while NordVPN allows just six. Additionally, IPVanish features VPN apps for nearly every platform imaginable — it’s even one of the few companies with an Apple TV app. Only a handful of providers, including PureVPN, FlowVPN, Tailscale, VPNIFY, SafeShell and SwizzVPN, offer downloadable tvOS applications. There’s even a graphical user interface for IPVanish’s Linux app, which is still a rarity.

66% off with 12-mo plan

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Surfshark

Product details

Pros & Cons

Surfshark offers nearly unrivaled value for cost. You’ll pay just $13 per month, $48 per year ($60 annually after a 12-month introductory period), or $60 total for a two-year plan (after which the price shoots up to $60 per year). Its prices are well below those of rivals like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and IPVanish.

$2.23/mo with 24-mo plan (+3 free months)

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ExpressVPN

Product details

Pros & Cons

ExpressVPN is CNET’s Editors’ Choice for the best VPN overall, but it falls short of taking the top spot in this list because it only allows for eight simultaneous connections, which is a slight increase from its previous limit of five. Granted, eight simultaneous connections should be enough for the average VPN user, but it’s still not quite as generous as others in the field that allow an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.

49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)

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Private Internet Access

Product details

Pros & Cons

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a superb VPN for multiple devices that doesn’t break the bank. While there’s no Apple TV app yet, PIA doesn’t limit your simultaneous connections. You can use your VPN to stream Prey on Disney Plus via Android TV, securely surf the web on your Macbook Pro or Windows laptop, and protect yourself from DDoS attacks while gaming on your PC. PIA sets you back just $12 monthly, $40 per year or $90 every three years, making it one of the cheapest VPNs on the market. Despite its affordability, Private Internet Access performs well. We didn’t experience any DNS leaks, and our 2023 tests resulted in a modest 24% average speed loss.

$40 per year or $12 per month (3-year plans available at $79 every three years)

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ProtonVPN

Product details

Pros & Cons

If you want a VPN that’s transparent, privacy-focused and available for free on your devices, then Swiss-based Proton VPN is worth a look. Proton VPN is the only truly free VPN that CNET recommends because its free tier is fast, secure and doesn’t impose usage limits. The free plan is available on all major platforms, so you can use it across your compatible devices, but it’s limited to a single device connection at a time. If you opt for a paid subscription, you’ll be able to connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, which is more than ExpressVPN and NordVPN but fewer than Surfshark, IPVanish and PIA.

50% off with 24-mo plan

Other VPNs we tested

NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the premier VPN providers on the market, with excellent speeds, solid privacy features and intuitive apps for all platforms. However, its limit of six simultaneous connections is a bit behind the times, especially considering that other providers allow for 10 or even up to an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. If you live in a large household or have a lot of devices, six simultaneous connections may simply not cut it in this day and age. 

But if you don’t need to connect more than six devices at once, NordVPN is an excellent (albeit pricey) choice. You’ll get standard privacy features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection, along with a few extras like double-hop connections, obfuscation, Tor over VPN and dark web monitoring. NordVPN’s monthly plan costs $13 per month, its annual plan is priced at $67 for the first year (then $100 per year afterward) and its two-year plan is $102 for the first two years combined (then $100 annually).  

Read our NordVPN review.

How we test VPNs

We evaluated the best VPNs for multiple devices based on each provider’s platform compatibility as well as its simultaneous connection allowance. We also evaluated how each VPN performs on different devices and operating systems along with its overall consistency and functionality across platforms. In addition, we looked at core VPN considerations like features, privacy protections, speeds and network coverage when coming up with our list.  

Factors to consider in a multidevice VPN

Based on our years of experience using, testing and researching VPNs, these are the most pertinent factors to consider when choosing a VPN for multiple devices:

Number of simultaneous connections allowed

If you have a lot of devices that you want to protect with a VPN, you’ll want a VPN that allows for enough simultaneous connections to cover all of your devices. Most VPNs offer at least five simultaneous connections, but some offer up to an unlimited number. Before purchasing a subscription, check with the VPN provider to see if it offers enough simultaneous connections for all of the devices on which you want to use the VPN.  

Platform compatibility

Your VPN should be compatible with all of the devices you want to use it on. Many VPNs have apps that are compatible with the most popular platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. However, Linux users may have issues finding a VPN that offers a useful, native app for Linux. And even if the VPN has a native GUI for Linux, it may not offer the full functionality that its MacOS and Windows counterparts. If you want to protect all of your connected devices, independent of their individual compatibility with the VPN, you can connect using a VPN-compatible router. It’s a more cost-intensive and technically demanding way to go, but it effectively eliminates compatibility issues.  

Privacy

Privacy is one of the most important considerations for any VPN, regardless of what you need one for. Make sure the VPN you’re using for all of your devices offers basic privacy protections like AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, DNS leak protection and a no-logs policy. Check the provider’s privacy policy and look for trust signals like transparency reports and external audits.  

Speed

Whether you’re streaming, gaming or simply browsing the internet, you’ll want a VPN that can deliver fast connection speeds. A VPN will naturally slow down your connection speeds, often by 50% or more. With a fast VPN, your speeds shouldn’t decrease by more than 20% and the speed drop shouldn’t be noticeable for most online activities.

Network

The breadth of a VPN’s network of servers is an important consideration for various reasons. For one, if you’re traveling, there’s a better chance that you’ll have a server located close by, meaning that your VPN connection should be faster and more stable wherever you are. Additionally, more server locations mean access to a potentially wider selection of geographically restricted content from other regions. Before purchasing a subscription, check the VPN’s server page to ensure its network covers the locations that you need.

Price

Paying more for a VPN doesn’t necessarily translate into greater platform compatibility or a more generous simultaneous connection count. In fact, some of the more budget-friendly VPNs allow for far more simultaneous connections than many of the more expensive options. Depending on the VPN you choose, you could pay from about $40 to $100 per year, so there are options for every budget.  

Support

Most VPNs are generally pretty simple to set up and use on most compatible devices. As with any product or service you purchase, however, it’s good to have competent support staff on hand to answer questions and easy-to-follow setup and troubleshooting guides to reference for help with any issues you may run into. The top VPNs in the market today typically offer live chat customer support and have extensive knowledge bases filled with guides for setting up and using their services on all sorts of platforms. 

The best multi-device VPN is IPVanish because it offers a user-friendly app for nearly any device — including Apple TV — along with unlimited simultaneous connections. However, Surfshark and PIA also boast unrestricted connections at the same time. 

You can use almost every VPN on multiple devices, although there might be limits. While providers including IPVanish, Surfshark, and PIA deliver unlimited simultaneous connections, companies such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN restrict you to eight and six, respectively. 

You can have multiple devices on one VPN with an active subscription and the various client apps installed. Alternatively, you can run a VPN on your router, which covers all devices on your network. 

To set up a VPN on multiple devices, you’ll download the app for that operating system — like Windows, MacOS, Android, or iOS — then log in with your username and password. You can also run a VPN on your router, which provides a workaround for any simultaneous device restrictions since everything connected to your Wi-Fi network can be protected. 

Surfshark is unlimited, with no restrictions on how many concurrent devices you can use. 

This post was originally published on Cnet

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