5 Best VPNs for smart TVs in 2018 and how to set them up

Published by on May 11, 2018 in VPN & Privacy

Best VPN for smart TV.

You’ve purchased a smart TV and can seamlessly watch all of your streamed content from the comfort of your couch, without having to huddle around a computer screen or deal with multiple cables. But something is missing. You still don’t have access to all the content you want to watch because much of it is geo-restricted. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the perfect solution. We’ll show you how to access geo-restricted content through your smart TVs in the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, China or anywhere else internationally. We’ve chosen VPNs that will work with the most popular brands of smart TV including Sony, Panasonic, LG, Philips, Samsung, Vizio, and others. If you have an Apple TV check out our separate guide to the best VPNs for Apple TV.

A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and tunnels it through an intermediary server in a location of your choice. It masks your IP address and replaces it with one from your chosen location, so it appears that your traffic is coming from that locale. This means you can access geo-restricted content such as that from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. What’s more, the encryption factor means that no one — not even your ISP — can snoop on your activity.

Contrary to what some may think, a VPN can work with a smart TV. Although, most smart TVs don’t natively support VPNs. This means you’ll need a VPN that can be configured on your router or that can enable you to create your own protected wifi hotspot through your computer. Aside from that, you’ll want a service that can unblock plenty of streaming sites, and deliver on other facets, such as speed, reliability, and security. Not all providers can do all of this, so we’ve put together a list of the best based on the following criteria:

  • Works with wifi routers
  • Unblocks popular streaming sites
  • Operates a large network of servers
  • Has strong security features
  • Maintains a no-logging policy
  • Provides excellent customer support

Here is our list of the best VPNs for smart TVs:

1. ExpressVPN

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ExpressVPN is a top provider that can access a variety of streaming sites, including Netflix, HBO, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video. Plus it’s fast and reliable for stress-free viewing and has a network of servers spanning 94 countries. ExpressVPN makes its own custom router firmware which is free to use on any compatible router. In case you don’t want to deal with the router setup, ExpressVPN even sells wifi routers that are pre-configured with all of its VPN servers.

Whether installed on your existing router or one purchased directly from ExpressVPN, the firmware is intuitive and simple from a user standpoint. You can choose which devices to connect to the VPN and which go through a normal connection by making changes through an easy-to-use dashboard.

That being said, setting up a VPN with a smart TV might be a bit more complex than simply installing on your computer or mobile device. Therefore, it’s crucial that your chosen provider offers excellent customer support. ExpressVPN delivers on this front with reliable and knowledgeable 24/7 live chat.

If encryption isn’t an important factor for you, ExpressVPN includes a smart DNS proxy server that is included in every subscription. If your smart TV lets you change DNS settings, the proxy (called Media Streamer) can be set up independently of the VPN and still enable you to access streaming channels.

Back to the VPN, security and privacy-conscious users will be pleased to see 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. You also have DNS leak protection and a kill switch, the latter referred to by ExpressVPN as a “network lock.” ExpressVPN maintains very minimal connection logs and never records user activity or IP addresses.

Aside from configuring ExpressVPN on your router, you can use it on individual devices, up to three simultaneously. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

RISK-FREE TRIAL: Not only can you get three months free with an ExpressVPN annual plan, but you also have 30 days to get your money back.

See our in-depth ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN

nord-vpn-feb-2018

NordVPN can unblock plenty of streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Sky Go. It can be configured to your router so that you can access all your content through your smart TV. Alternatively, FlashRouters makes pre-configured Tomato or DD-WRT routers which save you the hassle of manual installation.

NordVPN is fast and reliable with many servers optimized just for streaming. Its huge network of more than 3,500 servers in over 60 countries means you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that works. If you do, live chat customer service agents are always on hand to help.

This provider offers a strong suite of security features including 256-bit AES encryption, perfect forward secrecy, a process-specific kill switch, and DNS leak protection. Some servers are optimized to prevent DDoS attacks if that happens to be a concern.

A basic account will enable you to connect up to six simultaneous devices. Desktop clients are available for Windows and MacOS, and mobile apps can be downloaded for Android and iOS.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Enjoy savings of 77% and get a NordVPN three-year plan for just $2.75 per month.

See our in-depth NordVPN review.

3. IPVanish

IPVanish offer page.

IPVanish can be configured to work on your home router, enabling you to connect your smart TV through the VPN. It isn’t quite as powerful an option for streaming as others on the list as it can’t unblock Netflix and Hulu, but you can enjoy access to plenty of other streaming sites. Like NordVPN, IPVanish offers FlashRouter wifi routers preconfigured with the VPN, if you want to save yourself some trouble.

This service is very popular with torrenters and Kodi users. Kodi isn’t compatible with many smart TVs, but if you’re able to run it and you use it often, this might be the best option for you. Top-notch customer support is always on hand to help you with setup or troubleshooting.

IPVanish will keep your information secure and private with 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. It comes with DNS leak protection and a kill switch. The latter will kill the internet connection in case the VPN connection is lost. This provider is completely log-free, so it can’t hand over any information, even if it’s asked to.

Five devices can be connected at one time, and you can download apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.

SAVE UP TO 60%: Comparitech readers can enjoy a steep discount on an IPVanish plan.

See our in-depth IPVanish review.

4. PrivateVPN

privatevpn deal

A relative newcomer to the industry, PrivateVPN runs a small network of servers, but still packs a competitive punch. Its fast speeds and ability to unblock lots of streaming sites make it a top choice for those looking to stream. Configurable via your router, this provider can enable your smart TV to display content from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Sky GO, among other sites.

Another area where PrivateVPN stays competitive is within privacy and security. It lives up to its name and keeps no logs related to browser activity or session history. Encryption is 128-bit or 256-bit depending on which protocol you’re using. This comes with perfect forward secrecy, DNS leak protection, and a built-in kill switch.

You can use PrivateVPN on up to six devices simultaneously. Desktop clients can be downloaded for Windows and MacOS, and apps are available for Android and iOS.

READER SPECIAL: Save over 70% on an annual plan, plus get five months of PrivateVPN completely free.

See our in-depth PrivateVPN review.

5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost Comparitech page.

CyberGhost used to have a subpar reputation for streaming but has improved in recent months due to a change in ownership. Now the company is focused on providing access to streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer through its growing network of more of than 1,200 servers. It can be configured to work on your router so that you can watch all of these channels and more through your smart TV.

CyberGhost offers robust security in the form of 256-AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. There’s a built-in kill switch and DNS leak protection to make sure your traffic never leaves the encrypted tunnel. No logs are kept that can be tied to an individual user.

Five devices can be connected at a time and apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.

SAVE OVER 70%: Opt for a two-year CyberGhost plan for huge savings of over 70%.

See our in-depth CyberGhost review.

Can I use a free VPN with a smart TV?

A free VPN might seem like a good idea, but in reality, these services fall short. To start, it’s less likely that a free service will be capable of working with a smart TV or that the provider will offer solid support to help you set it up. Even if you do get it going, there are more practical issues to overcome.

Free services suffer from slow speeds, lack of server selection, and long wait times to get connected. And if you’re trying to unblock streaming services, it’s more likely that a free VPN  will result in a dreaded proxy error.

Aside from the practical issues, free providers typically lack the strong security and privacy features you get with their premium competitors. Many log user activity or insert tracking cookies, and inject ads or sell data to third parties. Some even carry malware.

With providers like the ones we’ve discussed above offering such great deals, it just doesn’t make sense to waste time with a subpar product.

How do I set up a VPN with a Smart TV?

Since smart TVs and indeed VPNs are all slightly different, there is no catch-all protocol for connecting. Many large electronics manufacturers have jumped into the smart TV market, including:

  • Samsung
  • LG
  • Panasonic
  • Sony
  • Philips
  • TCL
  • Vizio

Some newer TV models by certain brands enable you to install a VPN directly onto it. For example, since many Sony smart TV models are Android-based, they will be compatible with a VPN app. On the other hand, Samsung smart TVs aren’t compatible with VPN apps so need to be set up differently, for example, through router configuration.

When you configure the VPN on your home router, any device — including your smart TV — connected to the router will be protected. If your router firmware supports VPN configuration, you can follow the setup guides offered by your chosen provider (see below). If not, you may want to look into replacing the router’s firmware with a VPN-compatible firmware, such as DD-WRT or Tomato. Bear in mind that replacing firmware (known as flashing) can damage your router, so is best left to the more tech-savvy user.

Another option is to buy a pre-configured router such as those we mentioned earlier. ExpressVPN router is recommended as it uses custom firmware and is easy to use. NordVPN and IPVanish have great options available made by third-party affiliate, FlashRouter.

Most providers offer step-by-step instructions to help you install the VPN onto a router. Guides offered by some of the providers listed above can be found at the following links:

Because many smart TV VPN setups require router configuration, instead of searching for the VPN documentation for your particular brand of TV, you’d be better off finding the setup guide for your particular router.

Paid VPN providers are keen to ensure that their service works in the way you need it to and will offer support and troubleshooting assistance when required. If you run into issues, you can simply contact your provider via live chat, email, or social media, and someone can help walk you through setup or help resolve any problems.

Can I use a VPN on my smart TV without configuring my router?

If you can’t install the VPN directly onto the TV and you don’t want to mess with your home router, you do have a couple more options. The most basic would be to connect your TV to your VPN-protected laptop or PC and simply view what’s on your computer screen. Although, this really defeats the purpose of a smart TV.

Another option is to create a virtual router from your laptop or PC and turn it into a wifi hotspot. Doing this will let you run your smart TV through the protected network. For PC users, our dedicated guide for setting up a Windows VPN-enabled wifi hotspot can help you out. Similarly, if you’re a Mac user, we have an alternative guide for setting a VPN-enabled wifi hotspot on macOS.

While this is a simpler option than configuring a router, it does require you to always have a computer up and running for the purpose of acting as a router.

What smart TV apps can a VPN help me unblock?

One of the most popular uses for a VPN with a smart TV is to unblock geo-restricted content, such as TV shows, movies, and music. Here are just some of the sites that a VPN can help you unblock:

Streaming content isn’t the only thing that’s geo-restricted these days, and some countries block access to popular sites including YouTube and Google (including Google Play apps). Thankfully, a VPN can help you unblock any app for a smart TV that is restricted by region. For example, if YouTube is blocked where you are, accessing it through a VPN shouldn’t be an issue.

One area where smart TVs lack in general is VoIP calling. Unfortunately for Skype users, the company discontinued its smart TV app a couple of years ago. Tellybean offers an alternative for some TV brands and its small company size means it’s probably not under the radar of blockers, so could probably even be used without a VPN.

Can I use a DNS proxy instead of a VPN?

If you’re simply looking to circumvent geo-restrictions, a DNS proxy server might be a tempting option. These can spoof your location, similar to a VPN. That being said, it’s very easy for sites like Netflix to block proxies, and chances are, they simply won’t work the way you want them to.

What’s more, many DNS proxies can’t be configured with a smart TV or home router. Even if you can get it set up, proxies tend to have fewer location options, so you might not be able to access the region-specific sites you’re looking for. One proxy that doesn’t suffer from this problem is ExpressVPN’s Media Streamer which can be set up to work with a smart TV.

One more important area where proxies are lacking is security. They don’t encrypt your traffic, so it’s possible that your activity will be monitored by your ISP or other snoopers. You may even be subject to monitoring by the proxy provider itself.

Samsung Curved UHD TV” by Kārlis Dambrāns licensed under CC BY 2.0

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