The 5 Best VPN-Enabling Devices of 2021

Keep your data safe and private with this VPN hardware

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The best VPN-enabling devices allow you to connect all of your devices to one network. VPN stands for virtual private network. VPNs encrypt your data to allow its users multiple security protections. These protections include: blocking people connected to your Wi-Fi from seeing what you are doing and allowing you to change your location anywhere in the world to visit location-specific sites.

VPNs can be very helpful for businesses, and by having a VPN-enabling device it will ensure everyone is connected to the same IP address. A business-grade router VPN is strong enough to connect both employees and clients to the network and offers five dedicated channels for mobile phones. This tool is helpful for all, not just businesses. For a more general look at router options, take a look at our roundup of the best secure routers. The best VPN enabling devices will protect and connect any type of user.

The Rundown
Multi-core CPUs offer outstanding performance and protection for all businesses.
Best Wi-Fi Router:
Linksys WRT3200ACM at Amazon
Blazing-fast Wi-Fi speeds in this action-packed winner.
Best for Simplicity:
Netgear BR500 at Amazon
The fastest way for small businesses to get a VPN up and running in no time at all.
Offers solid VPN performance for small businesses on a budget.
Best for Small Businesses:
Linksys LRT214 at Amazon
Dedicated business-class router, provides superior support for office networks.

Best Overall: Zyxel Zywall 110 VPN Firewall

What We Like
  • Fast VPN throughput

  • Supports all modern VPN protocols

  • 3G WWAN support

What We Don't Like
  • Can be complicated to configure

  • Manual lacks configuration examples

Designed as a business-grade device, the Zyxel Zywall 110 VPN Firewall is designed with multi-core CPUs to offer outstanding VPN and firewall performance. Capable of up to 1Gbps throughput without the VPN enabled and up to 300Mbps when the VPN is active, the Zywall more than keeps up with the demand of today’s workforce. Security-conscious buyers will find comfort with the VPN firewall, which allows for Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol (L2TP) VPN for mobile devices, including Android, Windows Phone, and the iPhone, supporting up to 100 VPN tunnels via IPsec plus 25 over SSL.

Setting up the VPN is easy, thanks to the included client software that does the heavy lifting for you and has you up and running (securely, of course) with just three simple steps. Ultimately, the ZyXEL works to keep monitoring and administration efforts low while allowing customers or employees to access internal company servers, e-mail or data safely and securely anywhere in the world.

Processor: Multi-core | Security: 1000 IPSec, Sha-2 encyrption | Standard/Speed: 800Mbps| Wired Ports: 9

Best Wi-Fi Router: Linksys WRT3200ACM Tri-Stream Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

Linksys WRT3200ACM Wi-Fi Router
What We Like
  • MU-MIMO Wi-Fi

  • Open Source Firmware

  • Solid 5 GHz throughput

What We Don't Like
  • Poor 2.4 GHz performance

  • Only four Ethernet ports

With blazing-fast Wi-Fi speeds, MU-MIMO technology for ensuring every device gets the appropriate amount of bandwidth and Tri-Stream 160 technology, the WRT3200ACM is an action-packed winner. Offering Wi-Fi speeds that can top out at 3.2Gbps, the WRT3200ACM can keep pace with heavy use and is well-equipped to tackle threats. Running open-source firmware enables the secure setup of a VPN client so that there are no DNS or WebRTC leaks. The built-in firewall doubles as a kill switch by quickly discovering and closing off any network intrusions.

For devices running on a network that doesn't require VPN protection, the WRT3200ACM applies split-tunneling that lets devices access the VPN-enabled network and non-enabled network simultaneously without impacting bandwidth or performance. Furnished with an enterprise-grade dual-core processor, the WRT3200ACM is perfect for both small offices and homes where protection is a must.

Processor: Dual-core | Security: Open source firmware | Standard/Speed: Dual-band 600Mbps and 2600Mbps | Wired Ports: 5

"A good buy, though not a necessity if you aren’t looking to utilize it for its open-source capabilities." Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Linksys WRT3200ACM

Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman

Best for Simplicity: Netgear BR500 Insight Instant VPN Router

Netgear BR500 Router
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Very easy VPN setup

  • Cloud monitoring and configuration

What We Don't Like
  • Users require Insight VPN Client for best VPN performance

  • Weak OpenVPN support

  • Limited advanced controls

For small businesses looking for a really easy way to set up a VPN between two or more locations, Netgear's BR500 is about as simple as they come. Netgear is known for creating some pretty user-friendly home routers, and they've leveraged that expertise to create an "Instant VPN" solution for businesses that can have your VPN up and running in minutes.

The BR500's secret sauce is Netgear's Insight Cloud Portal, which is used to establish VPN connections between routers and clients with a minimum of fuss. Instead of having to configure sometimes-complicated VPN settings on each end, each BR500 communicates with Netgear's cloud servers to exchange all of the information needed to create a VPN between two sites, or from a computer using the Insight VPN Client, which remote workers can easily download and set up from the Cloud Portal with only a few clicks. 

The Cloud Portal also handles all of the other configuration aspects of the BR500's, and for a small additional fee you can even get proactive performance monitoring and advanced controls. It's a great and simple solution for anybody without a lot of networking experience, but like any simplified solution, more advanced professionals may be disappointed by the inability to tweak more advanced settings or use it with OpenVPN clients.

Processor: N/A | Security: IPSec, VLAN | Standard/Speed: 924Mbps| Wired Ports: 4

Best Budget: TP-Link TL-R600VPN

What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Compact

  • Gigabit Ethernet ports

What We Don't Like
  • No VLAN support

  • Can be complicated to configure

  • Limited DDNS support

The TP-Link TL-R600VPN is a great option for those who need a business-class VPN router on a budget. Not surprisingly, at this price it doesn't offer many frills but it manages to nail all of the basics and offers good VPN performance and throughput, and even offers multiple WAN ports for redundant internet connections.

This compact unit offers a stateful packet inspection firewall that will protect your network against DDoS attacks and also offers application-level gateways, port forwarding, and filtering options. It can also support up to 20 IPSec tunnels and 16 PPTP tunnels and 16 L2TP tunnels, although the straight IPSec protocols are only supported for site-to-site VPN configurations; clients will have to rely on PPTP or L2TP.

The TL-R600VPN offers theoretical performance of up to 120 Mbps on a non-VPN connection, while throughput drops down to around 20 Mbps when traveling over an IPSec tunnel, reasonable values for a router in this price range that should be more than suitable for small businesses.

Processor: Single | Security: 20 IPSec, 16 LT2TP, 16PTTP, DoS defense, IP/MAC/Domain name filtering | Standard/Speed: Gigabit | Wired Ports: 5

Best for Small Businesses: Linksys LRT214 Gigabit VPN Router

What We Like
  • OpenVPN compatbility

  • 802.1q VLAN support

  • QoS and priority bandwidth controls

What We Don't Like
  • Slower SSL VPN performance

  • Some setup options can be confusing

Designed with small businesses in mind, Linksys' LRT224 Dual WAN Gigabit VPN Router offers outstanding support for small office networks. Featuring up to 50 IPSec tunnels for both site-to-site and client-to-site VPN control, the LR224 adds an additional five OpenVPN tunnels for dedicated access to smartphone owners everywhere. With VPN active, the maximum throughput is 110 Mbps, which hardly competes against the non-VPN 900 Mbps speed, but it holds its own all the same.

Once you log into the web-based admin interface, the system page lets you look at the main stats, as well as the setup wizard (where you can set the time, passwords and WAN/LAN settings). The rest of the options are available under a configuration tab that provides slightly deeper control of the LRT224 functions. While Linksys claims the LRT224 offers the highest throughput of any dedicated business-class router, it does so without a browser-based SSL VPN, which might be a mandatory requirement in some business or enterprise settings.

Processor: Single | Security: 50 IPSec, 5 OpenVPN | Standard/Speed: 900Mbps | Wired Ports: 6

Final Verdict

Our favorite VPN enabling device is the Zyxel Zywall 110 VPN Firewall (view on Amazon). While definitely more focused towards enterprise applications, this gateway supports a wide variety of VPN protocols and has amazing throughput. As a nice Wi-Fi router option, we like the Linksys WRT3200 ACM (view on Amazon) for its MU-MIMO technology and solid 5GHz throughput.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington currently works as a Senior Writer for iDropNews.com, where he writes about what’s happening in the world of Apple, and previously served as the Senior Editor for iLounge.com for over 10 years.

Benjamin Zeman has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. He has over 20 years of experience in the tech industry and has previously been published in SlateDroid.com, AndroidTablets.net, and AndroidForums.com.

FAQs

Why should you use a VPN?
A VPN gives you encrypted access to the internet, masking your IP address from potential intruders. This protects you from a variety of threats, such as identity and data theft as well as providing an additional layer of protection against viruses. A VPN is a crucial addition to any home or business network to help safeguard your data. 

What can you do with a VPN?
Besides providing your home or business network with improved security and peace of mind, having a VPN can incur other benefits as well. A VPN can allow you to get past geographical restrictions on videos and websites as well. For instance, some Netflix titles are only available in certain countries like Japan or the UK. But with a VPN, you can access a whole new set of media libraries.  

How do you know if your VPN is working?
The easiest way to check if your VPN is operating as intended is to check your IP address both before and after turning on your VPN. To do that, turn off your VPN and go to a website like whatismyip.com and make a note of your IP address and location. After closing your browser and turning on your VPN, do the same thing and see if your IP address or location has changed. If it's different, congratulations, your VPN is doing exactly what it was meant to by making your network appear in a different location.

What to Look for in a VPN-Enabling Device

DD-WRT and Tomato

If you want the most flexibility possible, look for a router that is compatible with DD-WRT or has it preinstalled. Another good option is a router that’s compatible with Tomato, or Sabai OS, which is based on Tomato.

Dual-core Processor

VPN-enabling devices have to do a lot more heavy lifting than the average router, so a slow processor can easily deliver a knockout punch to your data transfer speeds. If you want to be able to stream video or do anything else that requires solid connection speeds, then it’s important to choose a VPN-enabling device that’s packing some serious processing power. A good processor should be clocked around 1.8GHz and use the latest 802.11ac network standards. MU-MIMO capability is another plus that benefits for a processor, allowing you to run multiple devices at the highest speed.

Free VPN Subscription

Finding the right VPN-enabling device is just the first step. Before you can secure all of your devices behind a VPN, you need to set your device up with a VPN service. Some VPN-enabling devices come with a free subscription to a premium VPN service, which simplifies this process. Prices can vary, from as little as $8 a month to as much as $13 or even more depending on the VPN you pick.

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