Perhaps best known for its site unblocking SmartDNS service, UK-based OverPlay (opens in new tab) also offers a premium SmartDNS+ VPN package for $9.95 a month, falling to an equivalent of $8.33 if you pay for a year up-front.
That's a much higher price than most of the competition (subscribe for two or three years and even some top VPN providers charge under $3 a month), and the service specs are only average. 70+ locations in 50+ countries isn't bad, for instance, but there are just 650+ servers, you get Windows and desktop apps only, and OverPlay supports only three simultaneous connections. (NordVPN and ExpressVPN allow five, Private Internet Access supports 10, and Windscribe has no limits at all.)
- Want to try OverPlay? Check out the website here (opens in new tab)
If you're interested in site unblocking then you could try OverPlay's bundled SmartDNS system to see if it works for you. Essentially this involves applying new DNS settings to your device, then using a web console to set a custom location for every supported site (Netflix, Amazon Instant, Disney Channel, Hulu, Now TV, Zattoo and more.) There's no encryption, it's just about unblocking websites, but this can be effective, it won't slow down your connection speeds, and it's around half the price of the VPN.
"We do not collect or log any traffic or use of our SmartDNS or Virtual Private Network services.
We do not sell or share personal information about our users to third parties, under any circumstance.
In order to provide you with our Services, we need to collect an email address and a valid payment method."
That sounds good, but can you trust whether the company is doing what it promises? There's no way for anyone to tell. That's why we prefer the approach taken by companies like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN (opens in new tab), where they've put their systems through a public audit to verify their no-logging credentials.
OverPlay has Windows and Mac clients, but nothing for Android or iOS. There are instructions on setting up the service manually, or via OpenVPN, though, as well as some guidance on configuring routers. The guides are relatively basic and can't begin to match the depth of documentation available with the top providers, but there's enough to get started.
Signing up for an account is easy enough, and once we'd handed over our cash (PayPal and cards are accepted), a web console seemed to offer us links to setup instructions for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Unfortunately, they were all broken, and gave us 'page doesn't exist' errors. We reported this in our previous review, more than a year ago, but nothing has changed, which presumably gives us an idea of how much attention OverPlay pays to its site.
Eventually, we found, downloaded and launched the installer ourselves. A warning message that 'Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2013... was not correctly installed' (another problem unchanged from a year ago) wasn't exactly encouraging, but we told the installer to ignore it, and this didn't seem to cause any issues.
Checking the installed files, we found OverPlay's client executable was dated 2016. That might be a contributing factor to our issues: OverPlay's systems used to work, years ago, but they've not been maintained and cracks are beginning to appear.
The Windows client is simple, automatically identifying your nearest location and allowing you to connect with a click.
A location list displays country and city names, server loads and ping times. There's a search box to speed up the process of finding locations, but no Favorites system to group your most commonly used servers.
The list is sortable by any column, which is convenient. You can have it in alphabetical order of country or city name, server load or ping time, it's your call.
Unfortunately, the list doesn't support double-clicking a location to connect, an intuitive action used by many VPN apps. Instead, you must select a location, then click Save, then click Connect, an annoying extra two steps every single time you use the service.
The Settings panel enables choosing the protocol (OpenVPN TCP or UDP), and enabling the kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection. A particularly handy Startup option enables connecting to the last server, the fastest server, or the fastest server in a given country when the client launches.
In our tests, the kill switch worked almost exactly as it should. We forcibly closed the OpenVPN process, but the client noticed immediately and reconnected within a few seconds, without ever allowing our real IP address to leak. We would have liked the client to use a desktop notification as an alert to what was happening, but that's a relatively small point. OverPlay protected our identity, and that's the highest priority.
OverPlay's website unblocking performance was, well, mixed. It gave us access to US Netflix and Disney+, but failed with Amazon Prime Video, and somehow disabled BBC iPlayer (we didn't get the 'not available in your region' error, but we weren't able to stream anything, either.)
Those aren't terrible results and we'd accept them from a regular VPN, but as OverPlay specializes in unblocking, we expected a little more.
UK download speeds were a huge improvement on the disappointing results we saw last time, more than doubling to a very consistent 64-66Mbps on our 75Mbps UK test connection.
To double-check our figures, we ran the same benchmarks from a European data center. With the VPN turned off, our connection averaged 300Mbps; when we connected to our nearest server (a latency of 0ms, according to the client), downloads achieved a reasonable 80-120Mbs.
OverPlay isn't a terrible VPN, but it's not a very good one, either. No mobile apps, mixed results in website unblocking, and with a Windows client that hasn't been updated for years, there's just not enough here to justify the above-average prices.
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