Unblockus makes some bold statements about its service, which is allegedly “faster than any VPN” and works with “any device”. Essentially, though, this isn’t a traditional VPN service. Unblockus routes your DNS queries through its own servers, which, in turn, only mask your true location to those sites that require it. It’s therefore perfect for those who wish to watch foreign streaming media or access country-specific content, but likely unsuitable for those with more specific technical requirements.
Note: We’ve recently launched an entire website about SmartDNS. For more information on Smart DNS services, check it out!
Unblockus is a service that clearly sets out to be approachable and user friendly. The company’s website is clear and well laid out, and the simple service offering makes this an option that may outwardly appeal to the less technical.
Unblockus offers one of the largest collections of setup guides we’ve seen, covering computers, games consoles, routers, TVs and mobile devices. The guides are produced professionally, and the company seems to have done its best to make every guide as detailed and user-friendly as possible. It is, however, essential to remember that the unique way this solution works means it won’t necessarily meet your requirements, so be sure to check the list of supported region-specific sites (see later in the review for details).
We’ve created a video review, where you can see exactly how Unblockus works:
Packages & Pricing
The Unblockus service is clear and simple – there’s just one service available at $4.99 per month, which covers all of your devices. There are no discounts for longer commitment packages, making the annual cost of the service $59.88. This is an average cost, but could work out to be economical if you plan to use it with a large number of devices.
Unblockus offers a seven-day unrestricted free trial. Pleasingly, the company requests no more than your email address to begin the trial, and takes no up-front payment details.
For the purposes of this review, we began a seven-day free trial.
Channels and Devices
|Channels||Amazon Instant Video, HBO Nordic, HBO GO , Vudu , Crackle , Now TV , M-Go , Epix HD , MaxGo , Starz , CinemaNow , Warner Instant Archive , Blockbuster Now , Fandor , Blinkbox , Funimation , Dramafever , Soompi TV (KDrama) , BBC iPlayer , ITV Player , TV Player , Channel 4 – 4oD , Channel 5 , Sky Go , MSN UK , Zattoo , ABC , ABC Family , ABC News , CBS All Access , CBS , Big Brother USA , Utopia , PBS , FOX , FOX Now , NBC , CNBC , Food Network , Univision.com , Ulive , USA Network , HGTV , TBS , TruTV , Adultswim , TNT Drama , TCM , DishWorld , Showtime Anytime , SHO.com , AMC.com , FX , A&E , Syfy , Sundance TV , Bravo , Smithsonian , Discovery US , VEVO , Startrek.com , National Geographic , The CW , Logo TV , SouthPark Studios , Comedy Central , BYUtv , Spike TV , CTV , BigBrother Canada , Slice.ca , RTE.ie , TV3ie , Aertv.ie , TVNZ , SBS Australia , ABC iView , Ten.com.au , Eleven.com.au , Arte , ZDF.de , ARD.de , DR.dk , TV2 DK , SVT Play , TF1 France , 6 Play , France 1 , France 2 , France 3 , France 4 , France 5 , Pluzz France , Canal Play , Disney Movies Anywhere , The Disney Channel , Disney Junior , Disney XD , Marvel.com , Sesame Go , NHL GameCenter Live , NFL GamePass , NFL Now , MLB , NBA , WWE Network , MLS – Major League Soccer , Watch AFL , NRL , Premier League Pass , Star Sports , BBC Sport , BT Sports , beIN Sports , ESPN , Fox Sports Go , Fox Soccer 2 Go , NBC Sports , NBC Sports Live Extra , Sportsnet World Now , Univision Deportes , Universal Sports , CBS Sports Radio , Sky Sports , Eurosport Player UK , Eurosport UK , USopen.org , Tennis Channel , Sportschau.de , Pandora , Spotify , Rdio , BBC iPlayer Radio , Songza , iHeart Radio , Slacker , Rhapsody , Absoluteradio.co.uk , MTV , VEVO , Radio.com|
|Devices||Mac OSX, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Wii U, Sony TV, Panasonic Viera, Samsung TV, LG SmartTV, AppleTV, Roku, Google TV, Boxee, WD TV, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, Amazon Kindle|
Unblockus offers forum-based support and the ability to email support via its website. We couldn’t find any reference to telephone support or a number to call.
According to the company’s homepage, its support department is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We sent an email querying some details and received a reply within 30 minutes, linking to some detailed support information. A follow-up question received a response almost immediately. This was impressive service, and reassuringly indicative of a company that takes customer support seriously.
As seen in the screenshot above, Unblockus also publishes its customer support ratings online. This is further proof of its commitment to customer service that, having put it to the test, we believe in.
Security and Privacy
It’s important to understand that Unblockus isn’t a VPN service in the traditional sense. It works in a different way by routing all DNS queries via the Unblockus servers, changing your location when you access certain sites.
As such, Unblockus doesn’t actually change your IP address and only provides access to certain region-specific sites, a list of which is available at this link:
In its FAQs, Unblockus claims that its DNS-based solution is inherently more secure than the traditional VPN alternative, where all data passes through the providers’ servers and you “don’t know what they do with this data”.
What you make of this depends on your personal point of view, but it’s fair to say it’s probably of little concern to the product’s target market. Enthusiasts or techies needing a traditional VPN service with no maintained logs are unlikely to choose this particular service anyway.
For the purposes of the review, we signed up for a seven-day trial. As mentioned above, it was pleasing that this required us to provide nothing but an email address. In addition, the company seems to encourage customers to undertake the trial before trying to persuade them to subscribe. We liked this low-pressure sales approach.
After signing up, using the form above, we immediately received a simple welcome email with links to the solution’s setup guides.
For those who choose to subscribe, the signup is standard stuff:
All you need are basic name, address and payment details. Payment options are limited to Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, which is a slightly disappointing selection compared to many other services’ more flexible options.
Installation and Configuration
We used a MacBook Pro running OS X Mountain Lion 10.8 for the bulk of our testing.
Once we began our trial, the website displayed a progress summary guiding us through the process. This correctly detected that we were using a Mac:
We clicked the “Set it up” button, expecting a fully automated setup procedure, but were instead routed to a video tutorial and step-by-step instructions.
This introduced us to the way that Unblockus essentially works: you repoint your device’s DNS settings to point to the Unblockus DNS servers, then visit the Unblockus website. This verifies your settings are correct, and you then have the option to select alternative countries.
In the case of our test Mac, we had to visit the “Network” section of “System Preferences” to change our DNS settings. This is a simple task for a techie, but perhaps slightly daunting for someone less computer-savvy. However, it’s fair to say that the instructions are of a decent standard and should allow all but the technically inept to complete them.
There is some room for improvement, however. The instructions for Mac advise users to click on the “Airport” option in “System Preferences,” where this is now referred to as “WiFi” on Macs running the latest operating systems. This could cause some confusion. In addition, there appeared to be an outdated link within the instructions, as the link to “check service” resulted in the following:
Essentially, these inaccuracies and glitches are small ones, which, more than anything, highlight the ongoing challenge of keeping documentation up to date and suitable for those of all skill levels. The key point to make is that we’ve seen far worse. However, beginners could still find themselves tripped up once or twice before they get the solution working.
Anyway, all we needed to do was refresh the main Unblockus page, and we were ready to connect.
We connected to the USA and were able, for testing purposes, to access an American streaming TV service. We then switched to the UK and were able to access a similar service there. It’s worthy of specific mention that switching between countries only takes seconds, which is impressive, but you must visit the Unblockus site to do so.
Streaming media quality was good, with minimal buffering when we tested streaming some content over an extended period.
One thing that did occur to us as a potential “flaw” is that the only real way to turn the service “off” is to switch back your DNS settings. This may not bother everybody, but the “always on” nature of the service may be of concern to some.
Connection Speeds and reliability
We looked forward to carrying out speed tests on this service due to the bold claims made of Unblockus being “faster than any VPN” .The way the service works means we expected to see minimal, if any, change to our benchmark speeds when using the service.
First, we deactivated Unblockus (by switching our DNS servers to their original settings) and ran a benchmark speed test using the Speedtest.net website:
This produced the result above, with a download speed just below 7Mbps, which is standard for this testing location. We then switched the DNS back to Unblockus and activated the service to point to the UK:
As promised (and expected) we saw no significant detrimental effect as a result of Unblockus being active. The download speed remained the same, and the change in upload speed was small enough to ignore.
For the sake of attention to detail, we changed our location randomly to Sweden and performed a final test:
Once again, there was no meaningful change to our connection speeds.
Based on our results, the unusual way that Unblockus works does mean that there’s truth in the company’s claim that it’s “faster than VPN”.
The Unblockus service is compatible with a vast selection of computers, games consoles, routers, set-top boxes and mobile devices. These include Mac and Windows computers, iOS and Android devices, PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo consoles, and even Smart TVs from the likes of Sony and Samsung. Curiously, however, nothing is available for any flavor of Linux.
We browsed a good many of the setup guides and essentially, in all cases, the system works by having you configure these devices to direct their DNS lookups via the Unblockus servers.
Unblockus has clearly dedicated a lot of time to properly testing its solution across all of these devices, and this is shown in the detail available in the setup guides.
While on the subject of compatibility, however, it’s important to re-emphasize that this isn’t a VPN service in the conventional sense, and therefore won’t work with every region-specific service in every situation. While, for example, the UK’s BBC iPlayer service will work on computers and tablets, Unblockus won’t work with the Nintendo Wii version.
The good news is that the Unblockus compatibility list is detailed and thorough, so you can ensure it meets your requirements before purchase. The fact remains, however, that it won’t meet everybody’s specific needs.
We decided to spend a short time testing Unblockus on an iPhone to see how well it worked on a secondary device:
Unblockus on iOS
Setting up Unblockus for iOS followed the same basic principle as we had on our test Mac.
First, we consulted the setup guide, which began by explaining how to change our iPhone’s DNS settings. We were required to restart the phone afterwards:
Next, we had to visit the Unblockus website on the iPhone and log in with the email address associated with our trial account.
Having done this, the remainder of the setup was the same as on our test Mac, and we were able to select our desired geographical region.
We ran a quick speed test on the same Wi-Fi network as we used to test the Mac. Our speeds were very slightly lower than on the Mac, but this is likely to be as much down to the quality of the iPhone Wi-Fi connection as any other factor. The speed was still very close to our benchmark speed when not using the service:
We also accessed a UK-based streaming media app whilst configured to a UK location, which worked with no problems.
Unblockus offers a client area online for subscribers. We weren’t given a password for access to this as part of our trial, so were unable to view this area:
We glanced through the Knowledgebase to ascertain the functionality in the members’ area, and it appears that, within, you’ll find the usual selection of options to cancel your subscription, change credit card details and so on.
- Professional, user-friendly service
- Excellent customer support and documentation
- Innovative alternative to traditional VPN services
- Wide device compatibility and decent setup guides
- Generous free-trial
We weren’t so sure about
- Inability to disable the service without changing system settings
- Configuration details that could confuse novices
- Non-traditional service approach that will exclude some potential customers
- iOS service only works on WiFi, not 3G
- No Linux setup guides
Unblockus has a very specific target market: those who wish to access location-specific services (generally those offering streaming media) from the “wrong” locations. The key point is that Unblockus does this very well, and certain users will be able to use it to access a wealth of international content from devices all over their home.
At the same time, it’s essential to realise that this isn’t a standard VPN solution, so those with other requirements, or those who wish to access services not supported by Unblockus, will have to look elsewhere, limiting the product’s potential market.