Popcorn Time is a video streaming service that allows users to stream content via the popular BitTorrent protocol. As the legality of Popcorn Time varies from one jurisdiction to another and many ISPs are under pressure from movie studios and other content providers to prevent their customers from accessing copyrighted content, accessing the service via some ISPs can be tricky or even near impossible if they have decided to block or heavily throttle the internet protocols that BitTorrent relies on.
One way around the issue is to use a VPN service to encrypt your traffic and make sure that nobody else can see the information that is being sent between your computer and the internet. This information is not even visible to your ISP and means that they cannot take action to block or throttle the types of traffic that you are sending to and from your computer. If you are worried about action being taken against you based on the websites that you are visiting and the services you are using.
Setting up and using as VPN used to be complicated and required knowledge of how internet connections work and how to configure them. Thankfully, things are much simpler these days. All of the VPN services that we will cover in this article are simple to set up using the software that they provide. You do also have the option of installing software on your router to protect every connection from your network. This option is a little bit more complicated and we will cover it later in this article.
The biggest advantage of using one of the VPN services that we will mention on this page is security. Many VPNs use military grade encryption to secure connections between their users and their servers. They also implement technology known as a ‘kill-switch’ that ensures an internet connection will be shut off if the link between you and the secure VPN server is disrupted for any reason. This means that there is no possibility of any of your internet traffic leaking out and being identified by your ISP. All of the companies that we feature on this page also have a ‘no logs’ policy, this means that they do not keep information on the websites that their users visit or even the servers that they connect to. This means that even if the government were able to request information about the websites a user has been visiting (which is unlikely as most VPN services operate out of jurisdictions that make this very hard to do), the records simply don’t exist so there would be nothing to hand over.
There are several other advantages to using a VPN service. The biggest is that you can set your internet connection to appear as though it is coming from another country. This is very useful if you want to use other streaming services besides Popcorn Time. For example, if you want to use the BBC iPlayer, you can connect to a proxy server based in the UK to get around the geo-blocking technology that the BBC has in place.
Obviously, every user has different requirements when it comes to VPN and it’s impossible to boil all of these down into a ranking. Rather than ranking the VPNs, we have put together a selection of options that we think are ideal for users of Popcorn Time and similar services. We’ll mention the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each of them in the detailed review section.
Needless to say, we’ve made security and encryption the top priority when selecting these VPNs due to the hardcore approach that many ISPs, particularly in the United States, take the BitTorrent related traffic. Next, we have looked at the speed of the connection to the VPN company’s servers. Obviously, you’re likely to have issues if you are not able to get a fast-enough connection to stream high definition video using your chosen VPN service.
We have then looked at the price of the service. Generally, when it comes to VPN services, you get what you pay for and this is very true of the options that we have looked at. They do vary in price a little, but you generally get a few more features and a little bit more polish if you go for the high-end option. All of the VPNs that we mention are more than suitable for the task of streaming Popcorn Time content however.
Finally, we’ll let you know how many countries the VPN provider has servers in. This is obviously a little less important for Popcorn Time than it is for other streaming services which operate geoblock policies to prevent customers in certain countries from accessing certain content or from using the service at all. Nevertheless, it’s a key part of the service that a VPN offers, so we will be sure to mention it.
ExpressVPN is seen by many people as the gold standard of VPN services. It is easy to set up, offers high levels of security and more server connection options than any other player in the VPN market. The main downside to the service is that it comes in at a higher price than most of its competitors. Advocates would claim however, that the higher price is more than justified by the features offered by the service.
Setting up ExpressVPN is easy. Once you have registered for an account and entered your payment details, simply download the appropriate software to your computer and the setup process will be taken care of. There are applications for all of the platforms that you would expect, including Windows, macOS and Linux on the desktop and iOS and Android for mobile devices. You also have the option of setting up a connection manually using the DNS settings on your computer but there’s not really any real advantage to doing this and it’s one for the true techies only.
Once the software is installed, you’ll have to choose a VPN server to connect to. As a further security measure, it’s worth choosing one in a country that is not known for trying to take action against BitTorrent and people who use the service. This probably rules out the US, UK and several Western European countries. The god news is that there are almost 100 countries to choose from with ExpressVPN and nearly 1,000 servers scattered between them. This means that you should have no issue finding a server that’s ready to support your use of Popcorn Time.
Your connection to that server is secured with all sorts of different technology. There is 256-bit encryption of your connection – which is the type of technology that is often used by the military and other government institutions. You will also benefit from a kill-switch, which constantly monitors your connection to the server and will shut off your internet connection entirely if it detects that there is a problem. This is a good failsafe as it makes sure that there is no way that your traffic can leak out from the secure line between you and ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN also gives its users the option of installing software straight to their router which manages their connection to the VPN. This is generally seen as an option for advanced users. only but it does make the VPN service far more useful since you don’t need to set up software on every single device that you use in order to take advantage of ExpressVPN’s features. It’s also incredibly handy if you want to use your VPN with a device such as a Smart TV or smart speaker that does not allow you to install software and hence, wouldn’t normally allow you to use ExpressVPN.
Usually, the quickest way to start using VPN software on your router is to ‘flash’ it. This is a process which removes the software that is already on your router and adds a new package instead. It can go wrong however, and you run the risk of breaking your router if it does. If this all sounds a little bit daunting, then consider buying a new router with the software pre-installed instead. This will add to the cost of using ExpressVPN but could be a far simpler way to get going. There is live 24 hours support available via a live chat service (unfortunately, picking up the phone and speaking to somebody is not currently an option) but the amount of support that they are able to give you with the router flashing process is likely to be very limited as router options do vary. It’s also worth remembering that flashing your router software will probably void any warranty that you hold.
As we mentioned at the start of this review, the main drawback of ExpressVPN is the price. The lead-in pricing for the service is $12.95 per month. This is the highest of any major VPN service. Discounts are available if you commit to a long period (generally 12 months or more) in advance but the company does not offer the types of aggressive discounts that many of its competitors do. Unlike some of its competitors, ExpressVPN does not give its customers the option to pay for its services using a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. On the one hand, this it’s understandable as the value of these currencies has become very volatile in recent years and it is hard for the company to know what to charge from one day to the next. On the other hand, this is unfortunate as it makes it far harder to make use of the service on a totally anonymous basis without resorting to something like a prepaid debit card purchased with cash. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a fully featured VPN service that is easy to set up and use, ExpressVPN may be the best choice.
This service is similar in many respects to ExpressVPN but is not quite as fully featured or slick to use. The main advantage is that it is cheaper to use that ExpressVPN and runs far more regular sales and other offers which mean that using it in the long-term can be far cheaper than other options.
Setting up NordVPN is just as easy as ExpressVPN. There is a software package available to download once you have set up your account which manages your connection and allows you to easily toggle between different servers. At the moment, the software is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android. The Android version also means that you are able to manage your VPN connection on some Smart TVs which are Android powered but which allow you to install software. Check with the manufacturer of your TV whether or not this is possible with your model before you commit to a long subscription to the service. If you find that you are not able to install the NordVPN software on your device, you may be forced into flashing your router or buying a new router from scratch, which can be a complex and risky or expensive process.
Security is a key part of the NordVPN offering and they offer all of the features that you would expect of one of the premium VPN service providers. This means that they offer 256-bit military grade encryption of all connections alongside a kill-switch that protects the security of your data and ensures that nothing can leak out and be identified by your ISP or any other nefarious actors. Like many of its competitors, NordVPN has a no-logs policy which means that it does not keep any records of the servers that users connect to or the websites that they visit. The fact that the company is based in Panama also helps to protect users as the law of the country would make it very difficult for others to get hold of these records even if they did exist.
The selection of servers offered by NordVPN is also incredible strong. Obviously, this is less important for Popcorn Time than other streaming services since you won’t face any geographical restrictions but if you do want to use your VPN service to access content from other streaming services, you’ll be well covered. For example, by using NordVPN to appear as though you are in the UK, you will have access to a different Netflix catalog than you would in the United States. This trick works for all sorts of streaming services and is well worth keeping in mind if you enjoy watching films and TV shows from countries around the world.
Support options for NordVPN are good. You have the choice between corresponding by email or using a 24-hours a day live chat system to get your issues resolved. Unfortunately, you are only able to contact the support service using the internet, there is no phone option. This is a slightly strange limitation since many users wouldn’t be keen to use the internet without access to their VPN service. Nevertheless, this is a fairly common setup among VPN providers.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you again have the option of flashing the software on your router to give it direct access to NordVPN and its servers. This is a slightly risky process and is best undertaken by someone who knows what they are doing. Whether it works or not, you will void the warranty that came with your router and, if it doesn’t work, you’ll be left with a non-functioning router and no access to the internet with or without the protection of a VPN. If this sounds like it may be beyond your technical abilities, then you can order a new router with the VPN software pre-installed. NordVPN does hold fairly regular sales on these routers so if there are no discounts available when you first look, it can be worth holding out for a little bit to see if things get any cheaper.
Pricing for NordVPN is a little more competitive than ExpressVPN but it’s still far from the cheapest VPN service out there on the market. The lead-in price is $11.95 per month but there are substantial discounts available for those who pay for the service in advance. This can stretch up to as much as a 75% discount when you commit to three years of NordVPN service at the beginning of your contract. You’ll have to pay for all of the service in advance though. Unfortunately, you do not have the option to pay for the service using bitcoin or another cryptocurrency that would help to protect your identity when using the service. This is the one area where you may be required to reveal your identity when using the NordVPN service, although you do have the option of using a prepaid debit card that is not linked to a bank account if this is a worry for you.
As the name would suggest, the main focus of the CyberGhost VPN service is the privacy and security of its users. This doesn’t mean that you’re missing out on features by using the service though. While the range of servers is not quite as wide as some of the other VPN providers that we have covered on this page, it should be more than enough for the vast majority of users. There are over 3,000 servers located in more than 60 countries worldwide at the last count, meaning you have a huge range of choices when it comes to protecting your connection and the security of your personal data.
The company is based in Romania, a jurisdiction that is far from the tentacles of the US government. However, it is also a member of the EU, which should give users some confidence in how their personal information is being handled, particularly when it comes to payment card info and other sensitive information. One security feature offered by CyberGhost that is not common to many VPN services is the option to pay by bitcoin. This is important as the one piece of personally identifying information stored by most VPN services is the credit card details of the customers that use the service. By using bitcoin and turning to a ‘burner’ email address for your login, you are able to use the service and browse the internet with complete and total anonymity.
Besides the ability to pay with Bitcoin, CyberGhost offers all of the security features that you would expect. The 256-bit security and kill switch that we have mentioned in previous reviews are present and correct and tests have shown connections to the company’s servers to be free from leaks and other issues. Connection speeds are good too and you will have no problems streaming HD video using a CyberGhost connection. 4k can be a bit of a challenge but this is a common factor with VPN services since this type of video places so much more demand on an internet connection than SD or HD content.
CyberGhost has had a few reputational issues in the past but has been working hard to turn this round. The main complaints were about the company’s approach to customer service. Although the business claimed to offer the same type of email and I’ve chat support as most of its competitors, some users claimed that their enquiries went unanswered for significant periods of time and that getting refunds for the service was near impossible. Things definitely appear to have improved in recent months but if you are nervous about this then we would suggest signing up for only a month and using a payment provider such as PayPal where it is easy for you to stop recurring billing from taking place.
Software for CyberGhost is available for all, of the usual platforms and getting started is just a simple matter of downloading the software for your phone or computer, entering your login information and selecting a server. As with all of the other services that we have covered here, you do have the option of installing software onto your router that will allow it to connect directly to the VPN. This can be a little fiddly but there are guides out there on the internet (and on the CyberGhost website) that explain how this process works. Just keep in mind that if it does go wrong, your router is likely to stop working completely and you will have almost certainly voided the warranty that came with it, so make sure that you know what you are doing before you get started with the process.
Speaking of pricing, this is the area where CyberGhost really shines. It is far cheaper than the other options that we have looked at so long as you are willing to commit to a long subscription in advance. The lead-in pricing is $12.95 a month, putting it in the same ballpark as ExpressVPN. At this level, it is hard to recommend the service as it’s the same price as the ExpressVPN service which has a better reputation and offers a few more feature to its users. If you are willing to commit to one or two years of service in advance however, then the game changes completely. You can get two years of service with CyberGhost for under $100, a fantastic bargain when you compare it to what else is out there on the market. As we mentioned earlier however, there have been some reports of customer service issues with this company so you may wish to try the service out for a month before you commit to a longer period of service.
As you can hopefully see from this article, getting started with a VPN service is easier than ever and there are loads of advantages aside from the straightforward protection of your internet browsing activity. Starting to use a VPN service is a way of taking your internet browsing experience to the next level and opening up opportunities that would not otherwise be available. Following incidents such as the Edward Snowdon leaks, there is more and more awareness among regular internet users of the amount of surveillance that internet connections in countries such as the United States are subject to. Even regular users with nothing to hide are having huge dossiers of information about them stored by their ISPs and security agencies. This isn’t just a matter of crime prevention. IISPs use these vast banks of data that they have built up to target ads and share profile data about their customers with marketing organisations. If you want to stop yourself being subject to this type of behaviour from your ISP, then a VPN connection is the best way to go about it. Now that they are so easy to download and set-up, it’s really a no brainer for even the most casual of internet users. It’s difficult to put a price on the level of security you will be provided with and when you consider the other pluses, the choice should be straightforward.
Head of content