One of the main reasons why VPNs are so popular is because of their ability to unblock geo-restricted access. In other words, they let you access content that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach due to your location, such as getting the US Netflix service in the UK (with all its extra content). Some countries block Netflix completely, of course – for example, China – and again, you can use a VPN to get around this.
Bear in mind, though, that accessing content which shouldn’t be available in your region is something Netflix doesn’t want you to do. Indeed, it is expressly forbidden in Netflix’s terms and conditions of usage, and there’s a constant battle between the streaming service and VPNs which are circumventing its restrictions. Naturally, you travel down the avenue of VPN content unblocking entirely at your own risk…
How to choose the best VPN for Netflix
As mentioned, there’s an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between VPNs and Netflix in terms of beating its region restrictions. As a result, there’s a much smaller pool of VPN providers to choose from in this particular arena. However, while your options may be more limited than usual, there are still a few things to look out for.
Download speeds and server coverage should be your top priorities. Video streaming is an intensive activity, and you’ll need nippy performance levels to avoid suffering at the hands of stuttering footage, particularly when watching HD content (or indeed 4K). Having plenty of servers on offer will mean you’ll be more likely to be able to find that vital fast connection, as well (generally speaking).
Privacy and security are important whatever you’re using a VPN for, of course, with a ‘no logs’ policy and good encryption being definite must-haves. Support for mobile devices, and hopefully native clients for iOS/Android, will obviously be handy for watching flicks on the move.
And another good idea is to plump for a service with a money-back guarantee – that will be useful if things change suddenly, as they can with Netflix, and the particular VPN you’ve gone for ends up getting the cold shoulder from the streaming service. At least if you can get a refund, you won’t have wasted money (and obviously enough, the longer the duration of the money-back guarantee, the better).
Bearing all that in mind, let’s look at the five best VPN services for watching Netflix.
Best all-round VPN for Netflix
Number of servers: 739 | Server locations: 58 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
Known for its security-first approach, NordVPN is our best all-round VPN for using Netflix. The service offers fast performance, and in testing it barely affected our download speeds compared to our non-VPN rates.
Besides the United States, NordVPN currently supports Netflix in France. Further benefits of the service include super-strong 2048-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and an extensive choice of servers. The company has a strict no-logs policy regarding the user’s online activity.
Note that while NordVPN supports up to six devices, you can only connect one on the same server with the same protocol, which might bother some people (in other words, if you want multiple devices on the same server, you’ll have to use different protocols with them all).
There's a free 3-day trial (hidden away in the FAQ), and the service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The 2-year plan offers the best value for money, if you can make that commitment. The packages available are:
- [$11.95 a month] 1-month
- [$7.00 a month] 6-months - $42
- [$5.75 a month] 1-year - $69
- [$3.29 a month] 2-years - $79
Best VPN for mobile use
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 145 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3
This British Virgin Islands-based provider offers good download speeds and a great mobile VPN experience, with some high-quality native clients for iOS, Android and even BlackBerry. It supports up to three devices – which can be either PCs, tablets or phones – and doesn’t log traffic or browsing data. On the security front it boasts 256-bit encryption over OpenVPN, L2TP – IPSEC, PPTP, and SSTP protocols.
ExpressVPN falls down a little, however, when it comes to value for money. The service is a bit more expensive than many rivals, but that said, a reassuring 30-day money-back guarantee is available (even if there isn’t a free trial). ExpressVPN offers three price plans, with the 12-month plan providing the best savings. The packages available are:
Best VPN for desktop PCs
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 37 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Currently, Buffered VPN only works for gaining access to Netflix’s US library, but the company says it is working on unblocking Netflix for other countries as well. While great for desktop computers, note that the service doesn't have native mobile clients (although there is a detailed guide for setting up on Android, iOS and other platforms).
What makes Buffered VPN a good pick? The service’s biggest strength is its excellent speeds in terms of both downloads and uploads. There’s no logging of the user’s online activity, either. This VPN offers a refund until you’ve used up either 10 hours, 10GB of bandwidth, or partaken of 100 sessions – whichever comes first – and that’s another highlight of the service.
The slight fly in the ointment is the pricing, which is on the expensive side – although if you sign up for a year, it’s not bad value for money by any means. The packages available are:
- [$12.99 a month] 1-month
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.94
- [$8.25 a month] 12-months - $99.00
- Download Buffered VPN here
Most reliable VPN
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 45 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 2
StrongVPN’s strong point (ahem) is its security, which includes broad protocol support (PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN and IPSec), 2048-bit encryption and the company's own StrongDNS service, which protects the user from DNS leaks.
The service is simple and based on the essentials. It boasts solid server coverage, support for all the major platforms – Windows, Mac, iOS and Android – with manual setup guides for the rest. In our testing, performance proved to be fast, actually improving our download speeds on long-distance tests, meaning swift and reliable connections to Netflix in different countries such as the US, Canada, and so forth.
Do note, though, that StrongVPN only supports two simultaneous connections, which is a little disappointing. And the service doesn’t have much variety when it comes to pricing plans – there are only three available with a short 5-day money-back guarantee (and StrongDNS service). Going monthly is expensive, but if you sign up for the full year, it’s more reasonably priced. The packages available are:
- [$10.00 a month] 1-month
- [$8.00 a month] 3-months - $24
- [$5.83 a month] 12-months - $69.99
- Download StrongVPN here
Best VPN for HD streaming
Number of servers: 2000 | Server locations: 20 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
While Hotspot Shield doesn’t have a great deal of server locations to choose from, the service makes up for it with excellent performance. Both upload and download speeds were marginally higher than our normal rates when we tested the VPN, which is obviously fantastic for streaming.
The service does offer a free plan, but this comes with certain limitations in terms of server selection, bandwidth and so on. For smooth streaming sessions, you’ll have to pony up some cash for the not-so-cheap subscription plans. Unless you’re prepared to commit to the ‘Lifetime’ offering – which could work out extremely cheap in the long run – the 1-year plan is the best value. The packages available are: