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We use the internet for pretty much everything nowadays, from streaming entertainment to paying bills, and in our digital age, online security and privacy are more pertinent than ever. The easiest (and surprisingly cheapest) way to keep you and your data safe from online threats such as cyber-criminals, intrusive online surveillance, and even annoyances like regional streaming restriction is with a virtual private network, which creates an effective barrier between you and any hostile actors. There are a lot of services to choose from, though, to save you some time and money, we’ve rounded up the best cheap VPN deals available this month, along with a quick guide that can answer some of your questions.

Today’s best VPN deals

ProtonVPN — As low as $0/month

Switzerland-based ProtonVPN is a newer service and has a unique subscription structure, offering several different VPN tiers that range from $0 for a very basic virtual private network up to $24 per month for a professional-grade package (with $4/month and $8/month tiers between these). The free VPN plan offers one encrypted medium-speed connection at a time with servers in three countries, while the upgraded plans improve speeds and allow for more simultaneous VPN connections. All plans feature full encryption, zero data caps, no logs, and no ads, and all work with popular streaming services like Netflix. ProtonVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android devices.

TunnelBear VPN — As low as $0/month

Like ProtonVPN, TunnelBear is a top-rated VPN that offers a free option, but this one only gets you 500MB of bandwidth per month which won’t amount to much. The better deal by far is the TunnelBear three-year VPN subscription, which is currently on sale for $120 (which comes to $3.33 per month). The yearly plan normally costs $60, so this essentially gives you a third year of service for free. Your plan gives you unlimited protected bandwidth on up to five connected devices.

PureVPN — As low as $3.33/month

If you’re looking for a relatively long-term subscription plan, PureVPN is definitely one of the better VPN deals right now, but it doesn’t skimp on features in the slightest. PureVPN runs more than 2,000 worldwide servers, allows up to five simultaneous connections on one account, and is compatible with just about any device, browser, and streaming service. Right now, it’s offering its two-year plan for just $79, which comes to a super-affordable $3.33 per month — a great pick if you’re willing to pay upfront for a cheap VPN service you like and then stick with it for a while.

ExpressVPN — As low as $8.32/month

ExpressVPN is one of our all-time favorite virtual private networks thanks to its great speeds, ease of use, and unrivaled compatibility with streaming services and devices. That even includes gaming consoles (in fact, it’s perhaps the best choice on our list if you’re looking for a VPN for this) as well as an app you can install right onto your router if needed. Along with that, you get super-fast speeds with no bandwidth caps or data logs and up to five simultaneous connections. ExpressVPN is a premium service that’s a little more expensive than our cheap VPN options, but if you need that unrivaled device compatibility, then you can score a year’s subscription for $100 right now ($8.32 per month).

NordVPN — As low as $4.13/month

You’ve likely heard of NordVPN and that popularity is well-deserved. It’s another one of our favorite virtual private networks as well as one of the best VPN deals available right now. It uses some of the toughest encryption across its 5,000-plus worldwide servers, and it works great with pretty much all computer and mobile operating systems and streaming devices. NordVPN is one of the top-tier VPNs on the market, but it’s currently running a promotion that lets you score a two-year plan for $4.13 per month for up to six of your devices.

PrivateInternetAccess VPN – As low as $2.69/month

PrivateInternetAccess is another award-winning virtual private network that operates more than 3,300 servers in 31 countries around the world. The VPN software is a bit bare-bones, but the VPN itself is very effective; if you value simplicity and value, then PrivateInternetAccess performs very well with good data speeds (something we confirmed in our hands-on tests). It’s compatible with pretty much all common devices and software ecosystems — Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux — and as a nice bonus, your subscription lets you cover 10 devices simultaneously instead of the usual five or six.

The annual subscription to PrivateInternetAccess VPN costs $40 if you pay for a year upfront, which rings in at $3.33 per year — about the same as other cheap VPNs. However, a $70 subscription for two years knocks the monthly price down to $2.69.

TorGuard VPN – As low as $5/month

TorGuard is a very highly regarded VPN and a name you might have already heard of if you’ve been doing research on the subject, and it’s popular for a reason: TorGuard is purpose-built for peer-to-peer use. It’s slightly pricier than some cheap VPNs (although not prohibitively so by any means), but with no speed or bandwidth caps and up to eight simultaneous connections, you definitely get your money’s worth.

The TorGuard software client works on virtually all devices (minus gaming consoles) and you can even control it in real-time via a handy browser extension while you’re using the web. There are several subscription plans available, but the best value is the $60/year plan which comes to only $5 per month.

A beginner’s guide To VPNs

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are fairly straightforward in how they operate. Their most basic function is to encrypt your internet connection and route it through remote servers run by the VPN provider across various locations (usually multiple countries). This “tunnel” hides your IP address — the unique fingerprint, not entirely unlike a phone number, that shows your general location along with other information — by replacing it with that of the VPN’s server.

By tunneling and encrypting your connection in this manner, a VPN both protects your privacy and keeps your data safe from prying eyes. Even your ISP can’t see what you’re doing, and if by some chance a hacker was somehow able to penetrate this tunnel (highly unlikely), the encryption would prevent any intelligible data from being stolen. That’s not all a VPN does, though; this remote connection also allows you to bypass geographic restrictions such as government censorship and region-locked content. That means you can say goodbye to those annoying “content not available in your country” error messages.

Are VPNs Legal?

Virtual private networks are legal in almost every country, including every Western country. A few nations including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea have banned or restricted the use of VPNs, however, although some may still work in those countries. Also note that while using a VPN to bypass regional restrictions on sites like Netflix and YouTube is not against the law, it does typically violate the terms of service (something to be aware of).

It should go without saying that any activity that is illegal without a VPN is still illegal when using one. Although the best VPN providers often promise that they do not keep logs, there is really no way to be 100% sure of this, and there have been instances of these companies handing over user information to law enforcement during the course of a criminal investigation.

Do VPNs block ads?

The purpose of a VPN is first and foremost to protect your privacy, and while the main way they do this is through encryption and remote server connections, most providers also offer additional features such as ad-blocking, online malware protection, and other extras that security-conscious people (exactly the kind who would use a VPN) want.

Do VPNs change your IP?

The short answer is yes, but technically, a VPN is not so much changing your IP as it is masking it. Your own IP address remains the same, but only your VPN (more specifically, the VPN’s server you happened to be connected to) can see it. As you are connecting to other websites and services through the VPN’s server, that server IP is what is seen on the other end of the connection. As long as you are behind your VPN, your IP remains hidden.

Are VPNs safe?

If you stick with trusted providers like the ones above then you can be sure that your data is safe and that your VPN service is doing what it says it’s doing (and what you’re paying for). VPNs are typically very easy to operate, with intuitive and user-friendly software that leaves little room for error. If you want to be sure, though, then you can always perform a leak test to see that your VPN is set up and working properly.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

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Naabiae Nenu-B is a Medical Health Student and an SEO Specialist dedicated to flushing the web off fake news and scam scandals. He aims at being "Africa's Best Leak and Review Blogger" and that's the unwavering stand of Xycinews Media.

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E-Games

Super Mario World Is Now Playable In Widescreen

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Gif: Super Mario World Widescreen

Software engineer and SNES ROM hacker Vitor Vilela has led a team which has created and released Super Mario World Widescreen, a download that lets you play Nintendo’s Super Mario World—first released in 1990—on modern widescreen displays.

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Crucially SMWW keeps the game’s original 8:7 pixel aspect ratio, meaning that no matter how wide you stretch the display, “the screen you will see is like how would you see on a real TV screen connected to the SNES, except expanded to the widescreen resolution!”

Super Mario World is now available in widescreen

Left: playing SMW using a regular widescreen mod | Right: playing SMW on this custom widescreen release
Screenshot: Kotaku

While standard 16:9 and 16:10 monitor resolutions are supported, Vilela is also working on some other, funkier aspect ratios, like 2:1 and even 21:9 for anyone with an ultrawide monitor.

It’s available here, but before you go rushing to download it, there’s some stuff you need to know. Firstly, the download link is just for SMWW, and doesn’t contain a ROM of Super Mario World itself. You’ll have to find that…elsewhere.

And secondly, you’ll also need to download the emulator bsnes_hd, since the only way SMWW was made possible was because bsnes_hd allowed Vilela to increase the game’s horizontal resolution by 96 pixels, from 256×224 to 352×224. bsnes also allows many other SNES games to run in widescreen as well, though not to the same level of tailored perfection as we’re seeing here (as you can see in the comparison screenshot above, simply running SMW in bsnes has some framing issues).

You can check out a trailer below:

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Technology

Get free AirPods with Apple’s 2021 Back to School sale

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School is just now ending in many states around the country, but that didn’t stop Apple from kicking off its back-to-school sale this week. If you’re in the market for a new device ahead of the coming school year, Apple is giving away a free pair of AirPods with your purchase of any eligible computer or tablet. This includes the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, 24-inch iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini, iPad Pro, and iPad Air, which leaves you with plenty of options.

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If you decide to take advantage of the promotion, all that you need to do is head to Apple’s Back to School landing page, select your Mac or iPad of choice, and proceed with the checkout process. After you’ve decided which model you’re going to choose, you’ll reach a page where you can add AirPods with a charging case (normally $159.99) to your order free of charge.

If you’d prefer to have a wireless charging case, you can upgrade for $40, and you’d rather get a pair of AirPods Pro, it’s going to cost you $90. You can also opt not to take the free AirPods at all, but even if you don’t need the wireless headphones, they’d probably make a solid gift.

In addition to the AirPods offer, Apple is also giving current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as teachers and staff, 20% off AppleCare+ for the products they buy.

It’s also worth noting that all new Apple devices come with three-month free trials to both Apple Arcade and Apple TV+. For quite some time, Apple was giving consumers a free year of Apple TV+, but as we learned earlier this week, the company actually wants people to start paying for the streaming service at some point. Therefore, all of the initial free trials from 2019 that have been extended multiple times will finally be ending in July. Furthermore, eligible devices activated July 1st, 2021 or later will qualify for offers of 3 months free Apple TV+, so if you want a full year (as well as some free AirPods), you might want to place your order soon.

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Everyone’s binge-watching this raunchy new Netflix comedy right now

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For anyone in the US who’s been going through Schitt’s Creek withdrawals and could use a hilarious new comedy from our neighbor to the north, especially as an antidote of sorts to the pandemic and all kinds of other negative news in the world right now, rejoice — Netflix has you covered, in the form of a raunchy sitcom from Catherine Reitman.

Season 5 of her show Workin’ Moms just got added to Netflix in the US a few days ago, and already it’s one of the most-watched Netflix shows, having rocketed up the streamer’s ranks of what’s popular across the service at any given moment. Reitman, the daughter of famed Hollywood director Ivan Reitman, not only stars in the series but she always writes and directs, and as of the time of this writing the series is currently the #4 most-viewed TV show on Netflix in the US. Originally broadcast in Canada via the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), this comedy is built around the following, according to Netflix’s summary: “Maternity leave is over, and it’s time for these four moms to return to work while navigating kids, bosses, love, and life in modern-day Toronto.”

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Reitman will already be familiar to American audiences thanks to acting in such productions as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Friends With Benefits, and Knocked Up. Her Workin’ Moms cast also includes Dani Kind, Juno Rinaldo, and Jessalyn Wanlim.

As far as how much of the show is available on Netflix right now, subscribers can stream all five available seasons of the show. Reitman recently took to Instagram to confirm that Season 6 of the show is a go, it having been renewed by CBC. In terms of when that means we can expect it to make its way to Netflix — don’t expect it before 2022, probably mid-year.

Check back here this weekend, meanwhile, for our latest complete rundown on what’s hot and being binged the most right now across all the major streaming services, from Netflix to Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and more. Our list comes, as always, from the team at the streaming search engine service Reelgood, which regularly shares with a BGR a snapshot of what shows and movies are the most popular on a weekly as well as monthly basis among its millions of users.

Reelgood, by the way, is a great service to be aware of, if you’re not already and if you’re a streaming power-user. It aims to be a one-stop-shop that makes finding shows and movies to watch convenient, especially since it gets a little hard to keep track of which service has this or that new TV show — and since they’re all constantly adding and removing content pretty regularly.

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