How to Choose a VPN for Streaming

One of the main reasons people decide to get a VPN is for streaming. Streaming with a VPN allows you to have access to content you wouldn’t have otherwise. It also has a lot of other useful benefits like getting around restrictions and adding an extra layer of security to your network. This article will focus primarily on the best VPNs for streaming and how to choose the best VPN for streaming.

After finishing this article, please let us know which VPN you think is the best for streaming in the comments section below.

Top 5 VPNs for Streaming

1. CyberGhost
2. NordVPN
3. ExpressVPN
4. Surfshark
5. Hotspot Shield VPN

Benefits of Using VPN for Streaming

1. Bypass Streaming Restrictions 

The reason you’re restricted from streaming certain content usually has to do with your physical location whether it’s your country, your school, or your workplace. Geo-blocking restricts the availability of specific internet content to a geographical location. You can unblock streaming content in several different ways. The most popular solutions are a VPN or a proxy server.

Here are the top three reasons why streaming services are blocked.

2. Get Around Government censorship

Some governments block content that they believe is culturally sensitive. Some do it to maintain power and control public perception. 

3. Get Around Streaming Service Censorship 

Copyright Restrictions

Many streaming services block access to libraries outside of the user’s region because of licensing and copyright agreements. This means you have to use a VPN to gain access to foreign content by connecting to a server in your preferred destination. However, streaming services are aware of that, and they employ methods to detect and block VPN servers. Some streaming services ban server IPs while others check the data packets to expose VPN protocol signatures and block the detected servers. A good VPN can slip through these detecting mechanisms. 

School or Workplace Censorship

Your employer or educational institution may feel that certain streaming services are distracting and will block them with content filtering software.

3. Circumvent Bandwidth Throttling 

Maybe you don’t want to watch Netflix of some other country. Neither do you live under totalitarian regimes. You are content with the movies and TV shows available in your country. It’s just that you are annoyed by all the buffering. Despite your high-speed internet package, you just can’t watch a freaking movie on your smart TV without any interruptions. Apart from streaming, everything works flawlessly. It’s just the damn Netflix. 

The issue here might be Bandwidth throttling—the intentional slowing of an internet service by an Internet service provider. Now, why would your internet provider do that? 

Your ISP might be discouraging you to stream less because streaming is high bandwidth and puts a lot of pressure on their system. Broadband services company Sandvine released data showing how video streaming utterly dominates the internet. During peak hours in North America, 70% of all bandwidth going from providers to consumers (that’s “downstream” bandwidth) was taken up by video. 

Another much more wicked reason might be that your ISP wants you to stream their affiliate streaming services. 

4. Prevent Others from Looking Over Your Shoulder

VPN will hide traffic from your ISP. When you are using movie apps like Kodi add-ons to unofficially stream TV shows and movies, you must never allow your Internet Service Provider or ISP to track your location and whatever you are streaming.

What to Look for in a VPN for Streaming

1. Speed of VPN

Although streaming makes you feel like an emperor, allowing you to access anything on the internet, instantly. There is a catch. For streaming, your internet must run fast enough to display the data in real-time.

Back in the day, we didn’t have the speed or the technology to compress the data for streaming. Now, we do. It is commonplace for us to stream high-quality movies. Before, I said that we could stream anything available for streaming on the internet. Not true. Internet, believe it or not, has tons of restrictions. One of them is regional. If we live in a different country. I can’t stream what you can and you can’t what I can. For instance, you have a distinct Netflix than I do. We can get around these regional restrictions with a proxy server or a VPN. 

The problem with a VPN is that it will always reduce your internet speed because it adds steps to the connection—encryption, and connection to a remote VPN server. Because of the high-speed internet in our times, the speed loss isn’t debilitating enough to keep us from streaming.

2. Smart DNS Technology

Smart DNS is not a VPN. They are two different things working in two different ways. Both allow streaming. Still, many VPN services do provide Smart DNS service because it is faster and better at accessing geo-restricted content than VPNs in some devices. They became extremely popular due to the increased use of geo-blocking technology by content providers like Netflix. They allow you to hide your geo-location, meaning you can watch geo-blocked content from anywhere in the world.

VPNs change your IP address while Smart DNS change your DNS address. VPNs encrypt your traffic while Smart DNS doesn’t. VPNs can bypass firewalls, a security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing data, like the Great Firewall of China, and schools and workplace security filters. Smart DNS can’t bypass these firewalls. 

VPNs and Smart DNS both allow us to stream geo-blocked content. Many devices such as Xbox, Playstation, Smart TVs do not support VPNs. That’s the reason why we have Smart DNS.

3. Bandwidth of VPN

To oversimplify, bandwidth is the amount of data you can stream. For instance, Hotspot Shield Free allows 500 Mb per day. After you have reached that ceiling they will stop the flow of data until the next day. If you stream with limited bandwidth, you can bang your head on that digital ceiling. Most premium VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth, allowing you to stream as much as you want.

4. Number of Servers

More the number of servers better the speed. Why? When there are more servers, each one will have less crowd, ensuring better speed. Moreover, the closer you are to a server, the faster and more reliable your connection will be. 

Special servers called Obfuscated servers use special algorithms to hide the fact that a user is using a VPN or Tor, and make it appear like a regular internet browsing activity. It helps you to avoid government censorship, school, or workplace censorship. 

5. Number of IP Addressese

VPNs use shared IP addresses, meaning when you connect to a server, you share the same IP address as every other user connected to that server. This makes it difficult to find you because the IP address can’t be traced to a single individual. Although great for anonymity, multiple users with the same IP address indicates a VPN to VPN detecting technology of streaming services. 

One solution to this is to use a dedicated IP address, which, unlike shared IP, assigns a unique IP address to your device. This has several benefits, streaming is one of them. 

Netflix has a database with IP addresses that it has confirmed belongs to VPN servers. When you connect to Netflix, it checks the database against your IP address. If it’s a match, the streaming service will lock its libraries, telling you to turn off your proxy to access its content. There are other ways Netflix and other streaming services detect VPN as well but most of them have to do with IP addresses. 

Best case scenario: A large number of regularly updated IP addresses, and dedicated IP addresses. 

Worst case scenario: A large number of regularly updated IP addresses. 

6. Simultaneous Connections

You probably have more than one device at your home that your family uses to stream—TV, computer, phone, consoles. The VPN service should allow at least five numbers of simultaneous connections, If not unlimited.

7. Split Tunneling

The split tunneling feature allows users to disable VPN for selected apps. You can get on your foreign network while also remaining connected to your local network. For instance, you can stream foreign films while still getting local search results on Google. 

8. Trial or Refund Policy 

VPNs work differently in different locations and on different computers and networks. A trial or a free version of a VPN can allow you to test out several of them risk-free to see if any are a better fit for your specific circumstance. The least you should have is at least one of them. 

9. Customer Support:

Not all services require customer support but a lot of them do, like VPNs. There are a ton of problems and queries that can occur—You cannot find a streaming server, You cannot find an IP address that can slip past VPN detection mechanism, too much buffering, and so on. A professional can guide you through these problems. 

Best case scenario: 24/7 live chat with quick response, ticketing support, articles, and phone support. 

Worst case scenario: 24/7 live chat. 

10. Platforms

Before paying for any VPN service, check whether it is compatible with your streaming device. Does it have an Android app and an iOS app? Windows and Mac OS? If you want to stream on your TV, check whether the VPN has a dedicated app for the router. 

11. Privacy and security

I did not forget about privacy and security. That’s the main reason most of us use a VPN, don’t we?  I was not too stuck up on these virtues either as I am aware many people just want a VPN that can bypass geo-blocks. Fortunately, some of the best VPN for privacy and security, like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, are also the best for streaming. 

5 Best VPNs for Streaming

1. CyberGhost

Best Features:
Number of servers: 6,500+
Number of countries: 90
Simultaneous connections: 7
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO, etc.
Platforms supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox, routers, Xbox, PlayStation
Customer support: Live chat, e-mail, articles
Pricing: $2.75 a month for a 3-year plan, or $3.69 a month for a 2-year plan (may vary depending on deals offered)

CyberGhost is simply the best VPN for streaming. Netflix and other major streaming services have been cracking down on VPNs and it is getting harder to unblock them. One of the main reasons people use VPN is to get around geo-blocked restrictions, to stream. A perpetual struggle has ensued between the streaming sites and the VPN services. A VPN must stay proactive to win. Apart from regular servers, CyberGhost has optimized servers for streaming. To stay ahead, the CyberGhost team regularly checks to make sure that they can unlock all the major streaming services. If they can’t, the team takes the necessary steps to make sure that they do.

To find streaming servers, You just have to type the name of the streaming platform you want to watch into the search bar of the app. It will give you a list of 2-3 optimized streaming servers to choose from.

Cyberghost does offer Smart DNS technology which, along with the VPN, also works on Smart TVs, Playstation, Nintendo, and Xbox. Unlike NordVPN, you have to manually configure Smart DNS with CyberGhost. It is mildly confusing and irritating. Although they do have clear how-to articles for setting this up. 

One thing that should come to mind, when thinking about CyberGhost is servers. They have more servers than anyone else. More than Surfshark. More than ExpressVPN. Hell, even more than NordVPN. 

CyberGhost has a widespread network with 6,600 servers in 90 countries. Because of such huge numbers, their servers don’t get saturated and you are more likely to find the server nearest you, establishing fast and stable connections. 

While watching an HD video, you will not have to worry about the constant stuttering. CyberGhost’s extensive infrastructure ensures that they provide you with blazing fast speeds. 

CyberGhost has thousands of IP addresses that it constantly updates to stay ahead of the VPN blocking mechanisms. It also offers a dedicated IP address. Unlike shared IPs, they are used exclusively by you. While using a shared IP is great, sometimes you have to deal with the bad neighbor effect. For instance, if someone else managed to get an IP banned on a streaming platform, you won’t be able to access it. But when you have a Dedicated IP, you’re the only one in charge of its reputation. 

The adblocker feature—this is totally unexpected—blocks Ad. It will block most of the annoying ads that pop up on various streaming platforms, including Youtube. 

CyberGhost works with all major platforms. From Android to iOS. From Windows to macOS.

You don’t have an Android TV? CyberGhost works with Amazon Fire Stick as well. And Not just movies or TV shows, you can stream sports as well—Whether it’s DAZN or ESPN. Many sports streaming services are not available in certain countries, like DAZN. Having a VPN like CyberGhost can allow you to watch exclusive live sports that are not available in your region. 

CyberGhost allows up to 7 simultaneous connections, slightly better than the industry standard of five. Although you can always get unlimited simultaneous connections at home by installing the VPN on a router. 

For one month plan, CyberGhost gives you a 14-day money-back guarantee. It crushes it with its 45-day money-back guarantee for 6 months and longer plans. 

2. NordVPN

Best Features:
Number of servers: 5,400+
Server locations: 59
Simultaneous connections: 6
Split tunneling: Yes
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO, DAZN, etc.
Platforms supported: Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Chrome, Linux, Firefox, Android TV, consoles, FireTV
Customer support: 24/7 live chat, e-mail, articles
Pricing: $3.71 (may vary depending on deals offered)

Let’s say you want to access Netflix Japan libraries. Type Japan in the search bar of your NordVPN app. Dozens of servers that are in Japan will pop up. Select one of them, open your Netflix account, and you are good to go. Most other VPN services work in the same way as well. 

Most likely the first server you select will elude VPN detection. But if it doesn’t, try another one. If none of them can get around censorship, contact customer support. 

In NordVPN, the Smartplay DNS feature helps you access geo-blocked contents. Smart DNS is not a VPN, just like an ad blocker is not VPN. They are features frequently provided by VPN services in their package.

Both VPN and DNS smart play can unlock geo-restricted content. But some devices do not work with VPNs—like Xbox. This is why VPNs offer Smart DNS.  

I should mention the number of servers NordVPN has, as it is so much more than the others. With 5,465 servers in 59 countries worldwide, NordVPN is second only to CyberGhost’s network of 6,000+ servers. In comparison, ExpressVPN just has over 3,000 servers.

To put it simply, the more the number of servers, the better the speed. Why? When there are more servers, each one will have less crowd, ensuring better speed. The inevitable speed loss is reduced and the connection is very stable. 

Streaming services block your streaming when they detect you are using a VPN. To avoid detection, NordVPN offers obfuscated servers. The goal of obfuscation is to hide the patterns that reveal the usage of VPNs. There are a few different ways to make that happen. They all boil down to creating special algorithms or other codes that, in a way, act as a VPN for your VPN. They make your traffic look like any old regular traffic. Uses of obfuscated servers:

To bypass government censorship:  Obfuscated servers help you slip past government censorship. 

School and workplace censorship: Many places like schools and offices block certain websites and activities like streaming. Obfuscated servers can help you bypass these filters.

Avoid ISP throttling: When torrenting or streaming, your internet provider can slow down your speed because streaming uses too much bandwidth. Or they want you to watch their affiliate streaming service. This Is called ISP throttling. 

Streaming service’s censorship: Obfuscated servers help get around this by fooling the VPN detection mechanism. 

You can buy a dedicated IP address unique to your account for $70 a year on top of your regular VPN subscription. A dedicated IP is less likely to be blacklisted by streaming services; it enables you to avoid CAPTCHAs and makes online payments easy. You can stream incredibly well without it. You don’t have to buy it. 

NordVPN has no bandwidth limit. You can stream as much as you want. And It is compatible with all the major devices, including Android, iOS, and windows. There are some differences between the apps across different platforms. For instance, on Android, you can use dedicated IP servers, but not on iOS. This is not because of NordVPN but Apple’s security standards. 

Unlike most other VPNs, NordVPN allows browser extension on both, desktop and phone.

NordVPN also has a dedicated app for routers which allows you to use VPN on WiFi-only devices such as a Smart TV. 

You can have up to 6 simultaneous connections—a tidbit better than the industry standard of five. For most VPNs, you can always get unlimited simultaneous connections at home by installing the VPN on a router. This will exhaust only one of your connections. I haven’t found any VPN that doesn’t allow this hack but make sure to check it before opting for a decade long subscription. 

To test whether NordVPN will work for your specific circumstances, you can test it out with the 30 days money-back guarantee. It also has an ad blocker that blocks a lot of ads during streaming, but not all. No ad blocker can block all the ads. Streaming services like YouTube, Twitch, use different ways to bypass adblocker.  

3. ExpressVPN

Best Features:
Number of servers: 3,000+
Server locations: 160
Number of countries: 94
Simultaneous connections: 5
Split tunneling: Yes
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO, DAZN, Kayo, etc.
Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromebook, Windows Phone
Customer support: 24/7 live chat, e-mail, articles
Pricing: $8.32 (may vary depending on deals offered)

I streamed Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu with ExpressVPN, and it worked incredibly well. Although I have heard that it has a little difficulty with BBC iPlayer, that wasn’t my experience. 

If for some reason you can’t stream, for instance, you get a proxy error with Netflix when you are connected to an ExpressVPN server, contact chat support and they will recommend a server that could most likely work. I would have preferred it though if they had labeled their streaming servers. 

ExpressVPN offers MediaStreamer, a Smart DNS service designed to offer faster streaming speeds. It does not offer the privacy and security benefits of a VPN. You can unblock streaming sites on devices that don’t normally work with VPNs, like game consoles and smart TVs.

ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN along with NordVPN and Surfshark that works for Firestick and FireTV and offers a dedicated VPN router app. 

ExpressVPN is one of the top three fastest VPNs with 3200+ servers in 94 countries, and 160 server locations to choose from. There is no ceiling on the amount of data you can stream—it offers unlimited bandwidth. 

ExpressVPN takes out the guesswork in selecting VPN servers. The ExpressVPN Speed Test lets you see how fast your VPN server connections are—so you can connect to the fastest VPN server location. 

While ExpressVPN’s customer support isn’t the best, it is better than most. You can access 24/7 live chat support or email them if that didn’t work. Although you can’t talk to an expert on the phone like IPVanish, there are tons of great instructional videos and articles on their website.

One of the main issues people might have with ExpressVPN is that it is a bit expensive. The cheapest you can get ExpressVPN is $8.32 per month, While you can get Nord VPN for $3.71 per month and Surfshark for just $2.21 per month. And it only allows 5 simultaneous connections. Although this is enough for most folks, having the ability to connect any number of devices, like Surfshark, is preferable to not having it. Another noteworthy drawback with ExpressVPN is the recent performance issues with the OpenVPN protocol.

Although ExpressVPN does not offer a dedicated IP address. It regularly rotates its shared IP, which helps. Still, Dedicated IP would have been nice. And there is no ad block either like other top VPNs in this list. 

Money-back guarantees are always cute, they really help when it comes to VPN. If you are not satisfied with your streaming experience, you can always cancel ExpressVPN, even on day 30 for a full refund, no questions asked.

4. Surfshark

Best Features:
Number of servers: 3,200+
Number of countries: 65+
Simultaneous connections: unlimited
Split tunneling: Yes
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, DAZN, etc.
Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Apple TV, other TVs, PlayStation, Xbox, Chrome & Firefox (browser extensions)
Customer support: 24/7 live chat, e-mail, articles
Pricing: $2.21 (may vary depending on deals offered)

Let’s talk about the most peculiar, distinctive feature of the VPN Surfshark. With Surfshark, You can stream on any number of devices simultaneously, making it an excellent choice if you have tons of devices in your household—several phones, computers, consoles, smart TVs. 

Whenever you use a VPN, you are adding extra machine and physical distances to your internet connection, reducing speed. But Surfshark has recently added more servers to its collection. So the speed loss is relatively little compared to most premium VPNs. It has also added the protocol, Wireguard, to its resume. All of these recent steps have boosted their performance.

Like most premium VPNs, Surfshark offers unlimited bandwidth. There is no data cap. You can stream as much as you want. And the Split-tunneling feature allows you to stream foreign content and get local network Google search results at the same time. Like NordVPN, Surfshark also offers obfuscated servers which will fool streaming services into thinking that you are using a regular network. 

Surshark’s Quick connect button connects you to a server that is the closest and has the lowest load to ensure the best performance and speed. So if you disconnect and reconnect again using this option, most likely you will get a new IP address. Surfshark does not offer dedicated IP but this shuffling of IP addresses helps.  

Many devices such as Xbox, Playstation, Smart TVs do not support VPNs. Surfshark’s Smart DNS  feature allows you to stream geo-restricted content on such devices. Right now, only US content can be unlocked. (US Netflix, Disney+, US Hulu, etc.)

Compared to some of its competitors, Surfshark’s regular monthly plan at $12.95 is quite expensive. 

For a 6-month plan, the price goes down to $6.49

per month. Still a bit expensive. But if you choose the 2-year plan, the price drops down to a fascinating level— $2.49 per month. This beats almost every other respectable VPN you can get. 

The first 2 years of Surfshark will cost $59.76. In comparison, an ExpressVPN will cost you $99.95 for merely a year. 

Although it is incredibly disappointing that you have to buy such a lengthy plan for a worthy deal. Still, the 2-year Surfshark plan is cheaper or costs almost the same as a one year plan of most other respectable VPNs.

If you want to dip your feet into this VPN service before making such a long-term commitment, you can use its 7-day free trial. If that’s not enough to decide, buy a 2-year plan, and if you don’t like it, you can get your money back within the first month of your subscription. 

Camouflage mode makes sure that streaming services can’t tell that you’re using a VPN. 

No border mode allows you to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions. When in China, for instance, it will automatically recommend optimized servers for you. It also has an ad blocker for uninterrupted streaming. 

For customer support, Surfshark has 24/7 live chat and a dedicated website with FAQs, guides, and tutorials which should resolve most of your issues. 

5. Hotspot Shield VPN

Best Features:
Number of servers: 3,200+
Server locations: 1,800+
Number of countries: 80+
Simultaneous connections: 5
Split tunneling: Yes
Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO, etc.
Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, TV, routers
Customer support: Knowledge base, e-mail, 24/7 live chat
Pricing: $2.99 (may vary depending on deals offered)

Hotspot Shield Free is (of course) free. But You can’t access any streaming content and you can only use 500 MB per day. The premium version, Hotspot shield elite, has no ceiling, you can stream as much as you want.  

Hotspot Shield isn’t the best VPN for streaming geo-blocked content. It’s truly a shame as it is so fast. Don’t get me wrong. Hotspot Shield is one of the better VPNs for streaming but it isn’t as good as heavy hitters like CyberGhost or NordVPN—It is slightly more difficult to find a server that will unlock services such as Netflix that are actively trying to block VPNs. But if you are trying to watch live sporting events that are not available in your country, or watch some anime on Crunchyroll, it is probably the best VPN out there.

Although it does not have a Smart DNS feature, Hotspot Shield VPN does work with Smart TVs. It has a dedicated app for FireTV, Firesticks, and Android TV as well. If your smart TV does not have a Google Play store, you can buy an Android TV box and connect it to your smart TV. This will enable you to install a VPN. 

Hotspot Shield is by far the fastest VPN for streaming, making it the ideal smart TV VPN. Its proprietary Hydra protocol delivers the most stable, fastest connections available, especially when connected to long-distance servers.

Hotspot Shield is more than just the fastest smart TV VPN; it also has apps for all popular devices, including Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. It also offers a versatile Chrome extension. When you sign up for a Premium account, you can connect up to 5 devices with the same login, so every member of the family can enjoy private, secure access to their favorite content.

Because Hotspot Shield is so much faster compared to other VPNs, it is worth a try. It comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. More than what anyone dares to offer. 

If NordVPN or ExpressVPN seems too expensive for you and you desire something more affordable, with their speed, Hotspot Shield Elite is a great option along with Surfshark. Both of these have an affordable longer subscription. 

You can contact customer support by submitting a ticket although you would likely be waiting a long time for replies. There’s no phone support available but live chat works fine. 

Hotspot Shield is the fastest and the shadiest of all the VPN on this list. Everyone seems to agree, a rarity, that Hotspot shield might be the fastest VPN. But everyone also seems to agree that it is one of the more shadier VPNs. Its privacy policies aren’t the healthiest and might trigger anxiety in more skeptical users. Although the VPN doesn’t keep any logs of your web activity, it does collect plenty of other information. 

To end with a more positive note. Out of all the VPNs, Hotspot Shield might have the most charming user-interface I have seen. Although it isn’t the most customizable, It is truly beautiful and simple and intuitive. 

What is Streaming Really? 

Streaming allows you to play music and videos in real-time. The content isn’t stored on your computer. It comes from some distant computer. 

Streaming allows you to cruise around Twitch or Spotify or Netflix, uninterrupted, as though all the movies or TV series are stored on your computer. They are not but it feels as though they are. Imagine trying to have a Netflix-like experience without streaming. Imagine having to download each music or TV series. Streaming is like a buffet while downloading is like domestic cooking. Streaming is savoring. Streaming is meandering. Streaming is freedom. 

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