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The internet is a wonderful place for entertainment, learning, communicating, transacting, making money, and more.
However, with all the hackers, snoopers, and potential surveillance lurking all over the web, as well as the numerous restrictions you can encounter based on where you live and other factors, the web can also be a very dangerous place for your privacy and security.
Thankfully, VPNs exist to handle these negative aspects of the internet. So what is a VPN?
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Virtual Private Networks
When you connect to the internet and visit a site, a connection is made between your device, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), and the website you are visiting. Your device is assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address which is like a location identifier for your device.
Data from the website you are visiting is channeled via your ISP to your device using your IP address. Without the protection of a VPN, your IP address can give your ISP, the Government, or other snoopers access to the data that is traveling between your device and the websites you visit. Your browsing activity, sites visited, the information provided on and to these sites, and other identifying data can all be exposed.
A VPN is an online service that masks your IP address by swapping it with that of a VPN server in another location. All your data travels through an encrypted tunnel from your device to the VPN server, and then to the website, making it impossible for anyone to monitor or steal it. With a VPN not only does it seem like you are accessing the web from a different location, but also you'll be completely anonymous.
Top VPN Benefits
As an Apple user, you may wonder why you need a VPN, considering the level of security that most Apple products incorporate. However, the bottom line is that when you are on the internet, you are not invisible. These are some of the top reasons why you need a VPN.
- Bypass Restrictions: VPNs allow you to bypass geographical restrictions, firewalls, and censorship by masking your IP address. This is immensely beneficial in countries with a lot of internet censorship.
- Privacy and Security: VPNs ensure that you browse anonymously and safely, free from snooping, monitoring, and data theft.
- Remote Network Access: If, for example, you are on a business trip far from your company, but need to work through your company's network, a VPN would enable you to do this securely.
There are hundreds of VPN providers in existence. However, many of them (especially the "free" ones) can leave you more at risk than you are without them! To ensure that you browse the web securely, privately, and freely, we recommend that you use only well-known, trustworthy VPNs.
These are two of the best VPNs for macOS and iOS and selecting between them can be confusing. In this article, we will review them against one another to help you make the right decision.
What Makes a Great VPN
Before getting into our review, it’s important to recap and properly understand the aspects and features of each VPN provider that we will be considering. These are as follows.
- Security: In this instance, security concerns the level of encryption and data protection that a VPN has. Your tunneled data must be impossible to decrypt or else the entire point of using a VPN is defeated.
- Privacy and Logs: In addition to your data being encrypted, your browsing activities must be inaccessible to anyone, including the VPN provider. Good VPNs do not keep track of your activities and do not retain any logs.
- Number of Servers and Server Locations: Having a lot of servers, as well as location options, is key to optimal browsing, speed and content access.
- Speed: It's very frustrating to have a VPN that is slow and keeps buffering. A fast and reliable connection is paramount.
- Affordability: By now you should understand the significant benefits of using a VPN, but still, you shouldn’t need to spend an arm and a leg to avail yourself of one. Cost is a very important consideration.
ExpressVPN is currently available for iOS 10 and later, and macOS Yosemite and later. This VPN has over 3,000 servers, across 160 locations, in 94 countries around the world. You can simply select your preferred server connection from a list of recommended servers or the list of all available servers.
Express VPN uses AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard with 256-bit keys) encryption to encrypt the traffic between your device and its VPN servers. This is the same level of encryption used by the US Government and is impossible to decrypt.
Furthermore, every one of ExpressVPN’s servers runs on its secure DNS. Hence there are no connection logs, no activity logs, no DNS blocking, and no access afforded to third parties, that could otherwise redirect or intercept your data.
Not even ExpressVPN has any knowledge of, or access to, your browsing history, traffic destination, data, and DNS queries.
Another feature of this VPN is the kill switch function, which instantly severs your internet connection should you somehow be disconnected from the VPN. There is also split tunneling, which allows you to channel data to the VPN only from specific applications on your device. This way you can have some applications using the VPN, and others using your normal internet connection, if you want.
In terms of functionality and speed, ExpressVPN gives you very fast and unrestricted access to any website and streaming service in the world.
ExpressVPN's prices are as follows:
- $12.95/month (1-month plan)
- $9.99/month (6-month plan)
- $8.32/month (1-year plan)
All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee so they are risk-free to try. Subscribing also allows you to download and use the application on up to five devices (covering your Macbook, iPhone and iPad altogether, for example).
NordVPN is currently available for macOS Sierra 10.12 and above, and iOS 10 and later. This VPN has 5,500+ servers in 47 countries around the globe. One of NordVPN's outstanding features is its user-friendly user interface. Instead of a regular list, the app displays a clickable map of available countries to connect to. You can easily switch back to the conventional list display if you want though.
NordVPN also allows you to sort servers by name, load, distance, and purpose. Some servers have been optimized for specific uses - for example, some are best for file sharing, some for streaming, and others are best used with Tor. Nord lets you filter servers based on their optimal function, so that you always connect to the best server for your intended use.
Turning to privacy and security, NordVPN uses the impenetrable AES-256 encryption standard to encrypt tunneled data between your device and the VPN's servers. It would take a hypothetical super computer billions of years to decrypt.
In addition,, the way the tunnel between your device and the VPN server is formed is determined by IKEV2/IPsec and OpenVPN security protocols. With these kinds of high-level encryption, you can rest assured that your browsing is completely secure and private.
NordVPN has zero access to your data as they don't monitor, save, or share your activities.
In terms of speed, NordVPN offers one of the fastest VPN experiences in the world. There is no throttling, no buffering, and no bandwidth limit. Hence you can enjoy fast and secure browsing and streaming on whatever site.
The pricing of NordVPN is as follows:
- $11.95/month (1-month plan)
- $6.99/month (1-year plan)
- $4.99/month (2-year plan)
- $3.49/month (3-year plan)
Subscribers get a 30-day money-back guarantee and can install the app on up to six devices.
|Security||Highly Secure with AES-256 encryption||Impenetrable with AES-256 encryption and double encryption features|
|Privacy and logs||Does not monitor or store traffic||Strict no-log policy|
|Number of servers||3,000+ ultra-fast servers in 94 countries around the world||Over 5,500 high-speed in 47 countries worldwide|
|Functionality||Can access any website or streaming service||Can access any website or streaming service, including Netflix and Hulu|
|Other features||Kill switch and split tunneling available||Kill switch available|
|Pricing (cheapest plan)||$8.32/month (1-year plan)||$3.49/month (3-year plan)|
|Number of devices per subscription||Five||Six|
|Rating||4.6/5 rating from 71,900 reviews on the Apple Store||4.6/5 rating from 91,300 reviews on the Apple Store|
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are great options for Apple users. However, if we had to choose one, it would be NordVPN by the slimmest of margins - it offers maximum privacy and security, and full functionality, at a great price.