ExpressVPN is CNET’s Editors’ Choice for Best Overall VPN. It’s also the best VPN for Fire TV Stick because it’s super fast and secure, can reliably unblock content and has an excellent app that’s optimized for the Fire TV Stick.
The 2% speed loss we calculated in our spring 2022 tests helped catapult ExpressVPN to the top of our list of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. Provided you’re getting decent speeds from your ISP, using ExpressVPN can help guarantee a smooth streaming experience whether you’re streaming in HD or 4K.
We didn’t experience any buffering issues during our tests, and all of the streaming channels loaded up and started playing immediately, seemingly unfettered by the VPN. We were able to stream content on Disney Plus, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and the US and UK Netflix libraries.
ExpressVPN’s app for Fire TV Stick is packed with features, yet nicely minimalistic and easy to navigate. The app includes features like auto-connect, kill switch, split tunneling and protocol selection, along with a DNS and WebRTC leak testing tool, IP address checker and even a password generator. One additional feature that’s pretty neat and useful is shortcuts, which lets you set shortcuts for five different apps. You can create shortcuts for any app you have on your Fire TV Stick like Neltifx, Hulu or a web browser, and launch the app directly from within the ExpressVPN interface after you’ve connected to the VPN.
The VPN provider has an impressive network of server locations that span 94 countries, meaning you’ll have plenty of options for unblocking content from all over the globe. When connected to ExpressVPN’s servers, your traffic is secured with industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption, which will keep your Fire TV Stick activity private.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Fire TV Stick, but it’s also the most expensive. Subscription plans are billed at $100 per year, $60 every six months or $13 a month. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. Read our ExpressVPN review.
Savings 49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)
- Unmatched transparency
- Top-notch security with no leaks detected
- Excellent for streaming
- Only five simultaneous connections
- Owned by Kape Technologies
Latest tests No leaks detected, 2% speed loss in spring 2022 tests
Network 3,000-plus servers in 160 locations across 94 countries
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands
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Surfshark boasts an impressive suite of privacy and security features, unlimited simultaneous connections, easy-to-use interface and expansive global network. And it’s still significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. That’s what helped Surfshark earn CNET’s Editors’ Choice for Best Value VPN in 2022.
Along with standard VPN features such as a kill switch and DNS leak protection, some of the more notable Surfshark features include camouflage mode (which hides the fact you’re using a VPN), split-tunneling, NoBorders mode (which lets you use Surfshark in regions where VPNs are restricted) and multihop VPN connections. You’ll also get access to Surfshark’s CleanWeb technology, which blocks ads and malware and helps you avoid phishing attacks.
One innovation we’re excited to see Surfshark roll out over the next year is its Nexus network, which connects the VPN’s entire network of servers together and allows you to choose multiple servers to route your connection through. The functionality is somewhat similar to Tor, but Surfshark says it’s faster. With its Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator functions, the Nexus network can give you a few extra layers of protection while you use the VPN — which can be particularly beneficial to users with critical privacy needs.
Surfshark says it doesn’t log any user activity. And although no-logging claims are virtually impossible to prove with 100% certainty, German cybersecurity firm Cure53 declared Surfshark’s security to be “solid” in its 2021 security audit of the VPN. Surfshark says a new audit is forthcoming by the end of this year.
Surfshark rates consistently as one of the fastest VPNs available, which is why we were surprised that one of the only issues we had with Surfshark came in our speed test. While it still ranks as one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested — with an internet speed loss of just 19% — we were disappointed with the inconsistent speed results we got to certain locations. Speeds to Europe and Singapore were erratic (dipping as low as 9Mbps to Singapore), while speeds to New York were slower than speeds to the UK and even Australia. Surfshark is in the process of significantly expanding its server network, now offering more than 3,200 servers in 99 countries. The continued expansion of its server network could potentially help bring some more consistency to VPN speeds.
In our tests, Surfshark had no problems unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content, but we did run into a fair bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus. After testing various servers in the US and other countries where Disney Plus is available, we were finally able to access the content when we connected to a server in Boston. You may need to test a few servers yourself before gaining access to Disney Plus content with Surfshark.
Surfshark offers cheaper introductory prices that jump after the first billing cycle. Even so, Surfshark manages to keep its prices lower than most other VPNs. The yearly plan starts out at $48 for the first year, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you’ll pay $60 upfront for the initial two years combined, then $60 per year for any additional years. Surfshark’s monthly plan stays constant at $13 a month. If you’re not satisfied with the service for any reason, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Savings $2.49/mo with 24-mo plan (+2 free months)
- Lots of unique security features
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- RAM-only server network
- Inconsistent speed performance
- 14 Eyes jurisdiction (Netherlands)
- No transparency reports
Latest tests Zero data leaks and 19% internet speed loss in fall 2022 tests
Network 3,200-plus in 99 countries
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NordVPN’s speeds weren’t quite as fast as ExpressVPN’s, but were faster than Surfshark’s, which helps make this VPN one of the top choices for streaming on a Fire TV Stick.
Streaming was smooth and easy whether we were watching content on Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video or the US and UK Netflix libraries. NordVPN’s Fire TV Stick app interface is set up differently than the provider’s apps on other platforms, but the pertinent features are mostly accounted for and easy to access.
The app includes features like split-tunneling (which is useful if you don’t want all your Fire TV Stick apps to route through the VPN connection), auto-connect, protocol selection and threat protection lite (a malicious-website blocker). You can also connect to NordVPN’s Onion over VPN and double VPN servers if you want to add an extra layer of privacy to your Fire TV Stick activities. The one thing that’s missing from NordVPN’s Fire TV Stick app is a kill switch — an essential VPN feature that prevents your data from leaking unencrypted by cutting your internet should the VPN connection drop for any reason. The absence of that feature puts NordVPN lower on this list than ExpressVPN and Surfshark, which both offer it.
We noticed that the “Help us improve” setting in the app was enabled by default. If you don’t want to send aggregated anonymous data that could include “crash reports, OS version, marketing performance and feature usage data” over to NordVPN as you use its Fire TV Stick app, then be sure to disable it from the Settings menu.
NordVPN’s network offers more total servers (5,300-plus) than either ExpressVPN or Surfshark, but fewer countries (60), which could potentially limit the breadth of your streaming options. Like our other top picks, NordVPN encrypts VPN traffic using AES 256-bit encryption. NordVPN’s prices are lower overall than ExpressVPN, but more expensive than its sister company, Surfshark. The annual plan is priced at $100 per year (following the $60 introductory rate for the first year) or $12 per month. NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all subscription plans. Read our NordVPN review.
Savings 59% off with 24-mo plan (+ 3 extra months)
- Among the fastest VPNs
- Tons of features
- Diskless RAM-only server infrastructure
- No transparency reports
- Ambiguous corporate structure
- Only six simultaneous connections allowed
Latest tests No leaks detected, 13% speed loss in summer 2022 tests
Network 5,600-plus servers in 84 locations across 59 countries
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What is a VPN for Fire TV Stick?
Not every television comes packed with all the top streaming apps, but with a handy device like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, you can turn almost any TV into a smart TV. Simply by plugging the device in to your TV, you can easily access streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, along with live TV, apps and games. There’s a lot you can do with a Fire TV Stick, but to get the most out of the device and maintain your privacy while doing so, you’ll want to pair it with a VPN, short for “virtual private network.”
The Fire TV Stick, as well as TVs that have the Amazon Fire TV system operating system built into them, have a distinct advantage over other streaming products such as Apple TV and Roku. Fire TV is the only major platform to support VPNs built into its online store. You can download and run a VPN alongside most of the streaming services listed above.
After hooking up the device to a television, you can use your VPN to avoid ISP throttling and get around geoblocks while streaming content or gaming (whether you’re at home or traveling abroad), without the need for VPN-compatible routers or complicated home network setups. And with prices as low as $30 for Fire Stick hardware, it remains the easiest way to set up a VPN on your smart TV.
Remember to check local laws and verify that VPN use is permitted by the terms of service with your internet service provider.
How we tested VPNs on Fire TV Stick
Each of CNET’s top VPNs offers a native VPN app for the Fire TV Stick, but a few of them stood out during our tests. In addition to evaluating the usability and features of the Fire TV Stick VPN apps, we prioritized other important factors like security, speed and unblocking capabilities of each VPN we tested.
We opened each app on the Fire TV Stick and first tried to get a sense of the usability and the features available. Is the app easy to navigate and are the servers accessible? Are the features useful, organized and simple to access?
We then evaluated the overall performance of the app to see if the servers connected quickly, whether or not the connections were stable and how well the features performed. Finally, we tested how each VPN was able to provide access to various popular streaming services. Did the streaming services load up and start playing content quickly? Was the streaming experience smooth and absent of buffering? Was the VPN able to provide access to each streaming service we tested, and from multiple server locations? The VPNs that consistently passed these tests earned a spot among our top picks.
Other VPNs we tested on the Fire TV Stick
We also tested ProtonVPN and IPVanish on the Fire TV Stick. While both providers have native Fire TV Stick apps and are excellent options for various VPN use cases, they didn’t perform to our standards during our Fire TV Stick tests.
Proton VPN’s Fire TV Stick app is very basic and offers no options beyond connecting to a server or reporting an issue. It’s slow to connect and the overall app experience was clunky and awkward. Once we were finally able to connect to a server, we weren’t successful in our attempts to stream content from any streaming service. Oddly enough, it was when we tested Proton VPN’s free version on Fire TV Stick that we were able to access Netflix. Even though Proton VPN’s free tier is one of the only free VPNs that is actually worth using, it’s not optimized for streaming, so it may not always work for accessing geoblocked content.
IPVanish was a little better — the app included various settings and features to tool around with, but we weren’t able to stream UK Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. The automatic app launch feature allowing users to select an app to launch automatically after a successful connection is a nice addition and worked well in our testing when we set it to auto-launch Netflix. But besides that, there wasn’t much more to like about IPVanish’s performance on the Fire TV Stick in terms of features, and it failed to access some streaming services. We decided we couldn’t enthusiastically recommend it as a viable VPN solution for the Fire TV Stick.
We’ll continue to test these and other VPNs on the Fire TV Stick, so be sure to check back often.