Any consumer product that has “smart” in its name is computerized. Thus smartphones, smart fridges, and smart TVs all have far greater capabilities than regular phones, fridges, and TVs. Smart TVs can process digital video rather than traditional analog signals. This means they are capable of channeling entertainment from the internet onto your TV. This revolution enables you to get a lot more TV options delivered through your router. The ability to cast videos from PCs, laptops, and smartphones means you no longer have to put up with the tiny screens of your computers and devices in order to watch top quality entertainment from around the world.
Quick Links to Our 5 Best VPNs for Smart TVs
Although computerized TVs can open up you entertainment options, you’ll face problems trying to get transmissions from abroad onto your TV. The rules that govern the rights of copyright holders and the duties of broadcasters complicate matters.
You can get around the legal restrictions that bind video streaming services by installing a small program called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Unfortunately, the way that the computer part of smart TVs is structured means you can’t get the VPN software directly onto your TV. Happily, there is a work-around for this problem – you just install the VPN onto your router.
The VPN creates a path through to an online service that manages all of your internet connections. It changes the way that your requests for videos present themselves, so that it can unblock overseas entertainment. These changes are not permanent. You can turn them on, alter them, and turn them off at will.
You can read more about how VPNs can help you access videos from around the world later on in this report. However, let’s first take a look at our assessment of the five best VPNs for smart TVs.
Best VPNs for Smart TVs: Summary
- Our Score
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- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Gets around regional restrictions
- Can be installed on routers
- Servers in 94 countries
- Browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
- Only three simultaneous connections allowed
ExpressVPN has fast transfer speeds, which will keep your video streams running without buffering or dropping. This VPN uses strong encryption, which will prevent inspection by your ISP, together with stealth procedures to evade detection by streaming servers.
Our ExpressVPN review found their network includes servers in 94 countries, including most of the entertainment nations of the world, such as the US, Canada, the UK, and Japan. You can load this VPN onto Linksys, Asus, D-Link, Netduma, Sabai, and TP-LINK routers. The company also sells WiFi routers that have its software pre-installed on them. If you plan on streaming video through your browser, you can choose to install an ExpressVPN extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Safety measures include a kill switch to prevent apps from connecting to the internet if contact with the VPN server drops.
Visit ExpressVPN »30-day money-back guarantee
- Three-day free trial
- Servers in 70 countries
- Allowance of five simultaneous connections
- Proprietary cloaking technology
- Fast speeds
- Basic plan doesn't include Chameleon
VyprVPN has its own proprietary cloaking methodology, called Chameleon. This is brilliant at sneaking past proxy detection systems and regional restrictions on streaming servers. You don't get Chameleon with the basic plan, so go for the VyprVPN premium plan.
You can install this VPN on Tomato and DD-WRT routers. If you don't want to bother installing the software on a router yourself, you can buy a router called Anonabox, which has VyprVPN already loaded onto it. You can connect five devices to the service all at the same time. A router installation counts as just one device. Many VPNs give a refund period, to give customers a chance to test the service without risk. VyprVPN does things a little differently. It doesn't have a money-back period, but you can have a three-day free trial of the full system to try it out instead.
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- One-day free trial
- Good speeds
- Option of VPN, Smart DNS, or both
- Gets into Netflix
- Small server network
CactusVPN offers a range of packages, including options to connect to just a UK server or a server in the US. This is a good choice if you're likely to only ever seek TV content from one of those countries. You can install the VPN software onto DD-WRT routers. There are also apps for devices running the Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android operating systems.
You have the chance of just taking out a subscription to a VPN service, or you can take up just a Smart DNS option. There is also a package that gives you access to both of these systems. Both the VPN and the Smart DNS can get you into a lot of streaming services, including Netflix. The server network of this VPN is not so great, with a presence in just nine countries.
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Servers in 61 countries
- Details instructions for installation on routers
- Good speeds
- Gets into Netflix
- Customer support can be slow
NordVPN has detailed instructions on its website that guide users through the process of installing the system on 29 different types of router. The VPN is also available as an app for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android devices. Blackberry, Raspberry PI, Chromium OS, and Linux systems can also host the VPN software.
You get access to servers in 61 countries with NordVPN and you're allowed to connect six devices simultaneously. A router connection covers all the devices in your home, but it only counts as one device in your connection allowance.
- 15-day money-back guarantee
- One-day free trial
- Smart DNS option
- Installs on DD-WRT and Tomato routers
- Allowance of five simultaneous connections on the Ultimate package
- Takes time to learn
ibVPN offers a Smart DNS service, a VPN, and a package that combines the two, just like CactusVPN. The combo package comes with a free bonus, which is Bitdefender anti-virus and malware defense software. The standard VPN offer is super-cheap - it gives you access to servers in 44 countries, but allows only one connection at any one time. That single connection allowance might not be too restrictive if you install the VPN on your router to cover all of the devices in your home. You can install the VPN software on DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
Both the VPN and the Smart DNS services can get you into a very long list of streaming services, including Netflix and Sky Go. You can try the full combo package for free for one day. When you sign up to any of the ibVPN packages you have 15 days to try the system and still be able to ask for your money back.
Best VPNs for Smart TVs: Considerations
What VPNs Can Do For You
If you travel abroad to live or work, you’ll miss TV from home. Similarly, if you decide to move to a sunnier climate for your retirement, you may not want to be limited to just the local TV. Your first task is to set up your new home. You’ll probably be eyeing those huge flat-screen smart TVs in the electronics store. You’ll also need to get an internet connection so you can use email, chat and internet telephony to keep in touch with everyone at home without running up huge phone bills.
If you link up your smart TV with your internet router, you can get entertainment over the ‘net and straight onto your TV. However, if you have an Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, or Netflix subscription, you’ll encounter problems accessing the entertainment libraries of those services that cater to your home country. Your service will either switch you automatically to the library for your new country, or block you completely.
The VPN makes you appear to be in a different location. Thus you can access the streaming service video libraries of the location of the VPN servers, rather than where you really are. If you’re in London, but want to watch TV from the US, you just set the VPN on your router to a US server. After that, every computer you contact will think you are in the US. Services will behave as they do for people in that country. If you’re from the UK, but living in Spain, setting your VPN to a UK server will mean you can access UK entertainment libraries.
Casting to Smart TVs
You aren’t limited to getting your TV straight through a cable. Casting systems now make it possible to use your smartphone as a controller for your TV. If you have a WiFi router at home, you can connect your smartphone or laptop to it wirelessly. That way, you don’t use up your phone plan’s data allowance. Instead, you can make the most of better speeds and unlimited data from your internet plan.
A casting system connects your TV to the WiFi network. Thus, you can send the videos that you access on your laptops or mobile devices through the WiFi router onto your smart TV. Many subscription streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, have special apps for smartphones. On your PC, Mac, or laptop, you can access the websites of popular terrestrial channels, such as ABC and NBC in the US, or the BBC or Channel 4 in the UK. These sites allow you to watch videos on demand, or even stream the TV stations’ schedules live.
VPNs for Smart TVs
Premium subscription services and TV station websites limit the delivery of their content to people in the same country. Amazon and Netflix operate in many countries. However, they only allow you to watch the library of entertainment that the national censors of the country you’re in have approved. Essentially, these international streaming providers create a different version of their services for each country. They sign contracts with copyright owners to get the right to show their videos. Each agreement specifies the countries where that streaming service can deliver the video. The next stage is to edit that video to comply with the laws of each country where it will be shown.
Streaming services have to make sure that they are not breaking the law or their contracts with copyright holders. Thus they block cross-border access to their services.
Each VPN company on our list runs servers in different countries. To get into a streaming service from abroad, set your VPN to run through a server in the same country as that streaming service. If you intend to access it through your computer or phone, then cast it onto your smart TV, you need to have the VPN software loaded onto that device. If you load the VPN onto your router, a whole range of options open up to you. Doing so will cover every device in your home, plus any set-top boxes and your smart TV.
For example, if you come from the UK but live in Cyprus, you can set the VPN on your router to connect to a server in the UK. Then, all of the internet connections from your smart TV and the other devices in your home will appear to originate in the UK. This unlocks all of the restrictions on access at streaming services in the UK, including BBC iPlayer, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. This trick works for any country as long as the VPN service you choose has a server in the place where you want to get your TV broadcasts from.
Smart TV Options
If you look on the internet for ways to alter your online identity, you may encounter the terms “proxy” and “Smart DNS.” These are two alternatives to VPNs. So, which of the three should you choose?
A proxy is a service that stands between your computer and other computers on the internet. When you access a streaming service through a proxy server, the intermediary breaks the connection between you and the video server. The proxy has a connection to your computer and a separate connection to the streaming server. The streaming server receives the request from the proxy and returns the video to that address. Everything the proxy receives on the video connection gets copied over onto the connection to you. As such, if the proxy is in the same country as the streaming service, you can access the videos you want to watch.
Proxy server settings are implemented in the network options of your browser, so you can’t set a proxy up on your router. If you go with the proxy option, you’ll need to access videos through your computer’s browser and cast it onto your smart TV.
A Smart DNS can be specified on your computer or on your router. The Domain Name System, or DNS, is how browsers look up internet addresses for given web addresses. The smart DNS replaces the true internet addresses of streaming services for the address of a proxy server. All regular traffic goes over the normal route to its proper internet address.
Virtual Private Networks
A VPN is a type of proxy, but with extra features. With this type of service, you get around the regional restrictions on streaming services, like with a regular proxy. The added feature of a VPN is that all of the communication between your computer and the proxy server is encrypted. This hides the true destination of your requests from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). It also makes it impossible for anyone to trace requests back from the video server to your computer.
The double-ended anonymity that VPNs provide get around two problems with accessing streaming servers from abroad. Technically, circumventing regional restrictions on streaming services is illegal, because it creates copyright infringement. The streaming service could sue you for disabling its efforts to uphold its contractual obligations. The copyright holder could also sue you for unauthorized access to its property.
The privacy that VPNs create adds extra security to your connections. This will protect you from prosecution when you get entertainment to show on your smart TV.
Some ISPs object to their customers using streaming services. They switch video stream transfers onto cheaper, slower connections. This is called “throttling” and is almost impossible to prove. It makes the video streams that you direct to your smart TV run unusually slowly, despite your internet contract promising throughput speeds that should be more than enough for faultless streaming.
VPNs foil throttling because the encryption they add to requests and the video stream means that your ISP doesn’t have any way to detect the type of traffic that it passes through to your computer.
Proxies and Smart DNS services don’t include the encryption that VPNs employ, so you should avoid those options when you want to stream video from abroad.
Best VPNs for Smart TVs: Conclusion
Not every VPN can get into streaming services. Some video streaming companies are particularly difficult to get into. This is because the operators of these services know that people dodge their access controls using VPNs. Just about every streaming service now searches for VPN traffic and blocks it.
The VPNs in our recommended list of services for smart TVs are all world beating. They can disguise themselves when they present your requests for access to the libraries of overseas video streamers. Our top five VPNs aren’t blocked. Don’t risk your money signing up for a VPN that might not work with your preferred streaming services. We have tested all of the VPNs in this list and can verify that they can get into foreign video sites.
You also need to check out your router. There are many different types, and you can’t load software onto all of them. You need a flashed router to do this. If you are in the process of buying a router right now, read the box and make sure it will allow extra software. Your best bet is to look for DD-WRT or Tomato routers. Another option is to buy a router straight from a VPN company, with all of the necessary software already on it.
If you already have a router and it can’t take VPN software, then use the casting method to get international sources for entertainment to show on your smart TV. With VPN software on your devices, you can break through all of the access restrictions on streaming services. Get your favorite shows from anywhere in the world by using one of our five best VPNs for smart TVs.
Best Smart TV VPNs: Side-by-Side Summary
- Our Score
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- $6.67PER MONTH
- $6.67PER MONTH
- $6.99PER MONTH
- $3.29PER MONTH
- $4.08PER MONTH
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