SmartyDNS (opens in new tab) was founded in 2013 as an alternative DNS service with a focus on browsing privacy. The platform racked up a significant user base before releasing another main feature; a VPN service, which further strengthened its appeal to privacy-conscious internet users.
Originally a free platform, SmartyDNS pivoted to a full premium service a few years after its founding. The company is headquartered in Poland but has clients scattered across the globe.
SmartyDNS: Plans and pricing
SmartyDNS is a full premium product, with no free plan or free trial available. Users can subscribe to a one-month, three-month, or annual plan, with the unit price decreasing the longer the subscription length.
The one-month subscription costs $7.95, the 3-month subscription costs $18.95, and the annual subscription costs $49.95, a 47% discount compared to paying month-to-month. If you're not satisfied with your purchase, you can request a full refund up to 30 days thereafter.
This platform offers two main features; a DNS resolver and a VPN service. DNS refers to domain name system, the decentralized naming system governing the web. It’s akin to a phonebook that maps human-readable domain names (e.g., Google.com) to machine-readable IP addresses (e.g., 184.108.40.206).
When you type an address into your web browser and hit send, your internet service provider’s DNS resolver maps that web address to the corresponding IP address to load the intended website. But, you likely don’t know which DNS resolver your ISP uses and any flaws that come with it. Hence, you can use SmartyDNS as an alternative with features that you’re sure of.
Privacy is the core mantra of SmartyDNS. Hence, it doesn’t keep any logs of web queries you make using its DNS resolver. The platform also provides 256-bit AES encryption to prevent malicious actors from tracking or interfering with your internet queries.
Oftentimes, hackers spread malware and other viruses to unwilling users’ devices by intercepting their web queries and redirecting them to websites containing malicious files. Another trick hackers employ is to redirect web queries (e.g., Facebook.com) to a website that looks strikingly similar and has a domain name that also looks alike save for a few tweaks that can be hard to notice (e.g., Faceb00k.com), with the intent of stealing user credentials. The idea of using a secure DNS resolver like SmartyDNS is to reduce your chances of falling victim to such attacks.
Another major use case of SmartyDNS is to bypass government censorship. Many governments around the globe, especially non-democratic ones, frequently try to block residents from accessing specific websites. One way they try to achieve that is by ordering all local internet service providers to automatically block queries to a specific domain by configuring their DNS resolver. However, if you use an alternative DNS service like SmartyDNS, you can bypass such censorship.
As a paid user, you have access to unlimited bandwidth from SmartyDNS’ DNS servers spread across the globe, allowing you to make as many queries as you wish.
The other main feature SmartyDNS provides is a VPN service. VPN stands for virtual private network, an encrypted connection over the internet from a device to a network. It gives you online privacy and anonymity by routing your traffic through an encrypted virtual tunnel and disguising when your device makes contact with websites.
SmartyDNS’ VPN service can help you surf the internet safely in several ways. Let’s say, you’re connected to a public WiFi hotspot, which is often vulnerable to snooping and interference from hackers. By switching on your VPN, SmartyDNS encrypts and disguises whatever you do when connected to the public hotspot, making it impossible to intercept.
You can also employ SmartyDNS’ VPN to bypass geographical filters. Let’s say, you reside in the European Union (EU) and want to visit a website that’s blocked for EU residents due to its operator’s inability or unwillingness to comply with GDPR laws. You can simply switch to a VPN server based outside the EU and access that website. This platform offers VPN servers across Europe, North America, and Asia.
The downside we observed with SmartyDNS is that its VPN service significantly slows down traffic. You should expect a browsing speed lag when using a VPN service, but this platform performed more slowly than usual, probably due to high demand on the server we chose.
SmartyDNS: Interface and use
If ease of use was the only criterion for this review, we’ll give SmartyDNS a perfect rating of 5. You don’t need to tweak any complex settings on your device to use the platform’s DNS resolver or VPN service. You only need to download the app, and these features are available at the click of a button.
You can download the app on a desktop (Windows and macOS) or mobile device (iOS or Android). Likewise, you can access the features via an extension on the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. We like that the team behind SmartyDNS put much effort into ensuring it’s easily accessible across most platforms.
On the official SmartyDNS website, you can access a setup guide plus tutorials concerning all aspects of the platform. There's also a FAQ page and a knowledge base, which provide great help if you run into difficulties. Otherwise, you can also submit a ticket on the official website and expect a response via email.
SmartyDNS: The competition
There’s no shortage of alternative DNS resolvers. SmartyDNS has many competitors, including notable ones like SafeDNS and CleanBrowsing. But, we consider SmartyDNS better than these competitors because it offers a VPN service alongside a DNS resolver in one package.
SmartyDNS: Final verdict
If you want to protect your privacy online, SmartyDNS is a recommended tool to include in your arsenal. What’s not to like in a platform that effectively kills two birds with one stone, and for a reasonable price?
The main disadvantages we observed in SmartyDNS are its lack of a free tier and the relatively slow connection speeds we experienced with its VPN service.