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Watching Netflix outside of the US: comparison of Unblock-US with a traditional VPN

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Note: This article is comparing the performance of Unblock-US versus a traditional VPN to watch Netflix outside of the US. If you are looking for a tutorial to set up Unblock-US on your device, check this page.

A while ago we suggested that people who live outside of the US should get a VPN, in particular for Netflix. Many of you have suggested DNS redirection systems such as Unblock-US as an efficient replacement of the VPN, for the specific purpose of watching Netflix outside of the US.

We tried it, and we loved it so much that this is now the setup we recommend to watch Netflix outside of the US.

First of all, it is worth mentioning that Unblock US is a paid service, although they do have a 7 days free trial. There exist alternatives to Unblock US, some of them such as MediaHint are free but do not necessarily work on Android, or on your specific device. We’ve found that the availability of free services, just as for VPNs, is not so great. (That being said, MediaHint worked out of the box on our windows machine running Firefox. If you’re on a compatible service, give it a try!)

On a related note, our links to Unblock-US are affiliate links, but I want to emphasize that I fell in love with the service and am currently one of their customers. And I do hope that this article will convince you as well. If you just need one thing to convince you, check the video at the bottom of the article. It speaks for itself

The issue

Most people buy a smart TV dongle such as the MK802 III in order to watch internet movie streaming services on their TV, such as Netflix. Netflix and many other streaming services have location-based restrictions, and in particular for people outside of the US, Netflix is either not accessible, or fairly limited in their offer.

Several ways exist to bypass these restrictions. One that I have been recommending for a while is to subscribe to a VPN. Another option is called DNS Redirection, and this is what Unblock-US provides.

The fundamental difference between a VPN and Unblock-US

Unblock-US advertise themselves as an “advanced” VPN system, but this is a white marketing lie. When you connect to a VPN, all your internet traffic goes to a third party machine before it reaches the services you try to access, and vice versa. So, when you try to access Netflix through a VPN, Netflix sees the VPN and sends its data to the VPN. Netflix therefore believes your IP address is the one of the VPN, so if the VPN is in the US, Netflix will believe you are connecting from the US.

What systems like UnblockUS do is a bit more “clever”, as they will only intercept the communication between you and Netflix (or other services) when it really matters, that is, when Netflix checks your geolocation. But once Netflix has confirmed you are connecting from the US at your initial login step, it does not check this constantly while you are streaming movies, so at that point Unblock US does not get involved anymore, and lets Netflix send its traffic directly to your machine.

This difference is the root of all pros and cons of both systems. They are not made for the same purpose, and this is why I am going to try and describe here.

Pros and Cons

A VPN is a multi purpose Virtual Network. Since all your traffic goes through it, it works not only for Netflix, but for any other system that does IP restrictions. Unblock-US, on the other hand, needs to reverse engineer the communication protocols of every single application/website they want to support, in order to understand at what point they need to interfere with your communications. Bottom line is, a VPN will be, by nature, compatible with much more ip-restriction based services.

On the other hand, there are downsides to having all your traffic going through a VPN. First of all, your privacy could be at risk as you are trusting an external company with all your internet traffic. In general this isn’t too much of a concern (after all, you trust your Internet Provider with the same information… this is why https is here anyway). But, more importantly in this case, since all your traffic goes through an additional machine, this reduces your bandwidth, increases the latency of your internet traffic, and overall can have a huge impact on the experience. Things can get very slow if you are using a bad provider (check the video below which compares netflix on a VPN and Netflic through Unblock-US, I think that video speaks more than a 1000 words :) )

It needs however to be emphasized that VPN communications are encrypted, and this adds an additional layer of security/anonymity that Unblock-US does not provide. Do not use Unblock-US if your goal is to bypass your internet provider’s P2P restrictions for example. For that type of use case, a VPN is probably a better approach.

As a Summary, here are a list of pros and cons for a VPN VS Unblock US

VPN

pros

  • Very versatile and resilient technique. Will work in many more situations than Netflix.
  • Helps you protect your anonymity a bit better than other techniques (remember, there is no guarantee to stay fully anonymous on any system, just ways to make things a bit less transparent!). a VPN would for example help you bypass your ISP’s P2P restrictions
  • Basically recommended if you plan on doing more than Netflix in relation to IP restrictions and anonymity

cons

  • Much slower than DNS redierection services such as Unblock-US (see Netflix video comparison below)

Unblock-US

pros

  • Much faster than a VPN for the services it supports, in particular Netflix
  • Much easier to use (on Android devices) than a VPN. Setup once,  then forget about it. Extremely convenient if some non tech-savvy people in your family also want to use Netflix.

cons

  • Will not work for the services that are not explicitly supported.
  • Will break (at least temporarily) every time the supported services such as Netflix decide to change their IP geolocation process.
  • The Price ($4.99) feels a bit expensive knowing that it only supports a few services, and that a VPN (which will support everything) can be acquired for the same monthly fee…

Comparison Video of Unblock-US versus a VPN

As I wrote in the pros and cons above, basically if you do not have more uses than Netflix for your VPN, Unblock-US is the way to go. I do hope this comparison video is the one that will convince you. I myself have other uses for a VPN, and was so impressed by the speed difference and the convenience offered by Unblock-US that I decide to subscribe to it even though I still need the VPN.

In the video below, I am showing the speed at which loading a video happens through Unblock-US, versus the same video loading through a paid VPN (which, ironically, costs the same monthly price as Unblock-US, that is $4.99). The difference is unreal, but I swear I did not cheat. Note that the network conditions might vary with time, but overall we’ve found that for Netflix, Unblock-US is significantly faster than a VPN solution. And by “significantly”… well, just see the video, we’re talking 10 times faster. This also has an impact on the overall quality of the video. We’ve watched HD movies without a problem on Unblock-US from Japan, while using a VPN would regularly switch between SD and HD.

Did this convince you? If so, check out our tutorial on how to set up Unblock-US on your Android device, here

15 Responses

  1. [...] Disclaimer: the Unblock-US links in this article are affiliate links. I am however one of their genuine satisfied customers and switched to their service after seeing how fast and efficient it was compared to my previous technique which involved a VPN. Our comparison of the two techniques, and explanations why we happily switched to Unblock US can be found here. [...]

  2. [...] The basic idea is to trick services such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video into believing that you are accessing their services from a US location. A while ago, we advocated in favor of getting a VPN subscription for that, but we’ve found that a DNS service such as unblock-us is much more efficient and convenient for this type of purpose (see here for our comparison between a VPN and unblockUS on Netflix). [...]

  3. [...] The basic idea is to trick services such as Netflix into believing that you are accessing their services from a US location. A while ago, we advocated in favor of getting a VPN subscription for that, but we’ve found that a DNS service such as unblock-us is much more efficient and convenient for this type of purpose (see here for our comparison between a VPN and unblockUS on Netflix). [...]

  4. pattinson

    I am using StrongVPN to unblock netflix in uk Great service, almost zero server crashes ! Fast helpful live online support. Quick resolution of any issues . Worth the money !! and i get this service with the help of http://www.bestvpnservice.com

  5. Good Post :-) i Just set this up at my place and Net flix is awesome :-) i found a good step by step tutorial that helped me : http://darrenbarnard.co.za/how-to-watch-netflix-in-south-africa/

  6. John

    Hi,

    Anybody tried this service from justunblock.com? They provide Free Online TV Streaming that will also let me stream to Netflix. I already signed up with them, already tried it. So far the service works great. But I just need to get any idea from people who have tried their service. They gave 7 days free trial then another 7 days free to like the facebook page.

    Anyone here tried them? Here’s their site

    https://www.justunblock.com

    Please give info.

    Thanks

  7. Andrew

    I agree with the DNS solution being far better than VPN. I have had great success with Unlocator

  8. […] works for Amazon Instant Video as well. Again, I won’t dive into details, but you can check this video I made a while ago on one of my Android devices comparing the speed (on Netflix) between Unblock-us […]

  9. […] slow and, although they will work, they will usually not let you get the best of Netflix (see my comparison here if you want to be […]

  10. rob

    im in australia and u cant get netflix without doing it this way for 13 bucks a month including netflix this is way better then foxtel if u have kids and as u all no they got some great shows on there to for the adults so ill stick with unblock us and say that it defently worth the 5 bucks

  11. dinaafifi

    VPN is the best choice. I use this VPN https://www.iwasel.com/en/ to watch Netflix outside of US. There is also UK server and many other servers. all servers are encrypted, this one worked great for me.

  12. […] Note: we are regularly seeing comments recommending alternate services to watch Netflix outside of the US, and we test most of the suggestion. So far Unblock-us is by far the best we have found for the quality of their service and the amount of compatible devices. In particular, do not trust people who recommend “regular” VPNs: those are not optimal at all for Netflix, see my comparison between unblock us and a traditional VPN. […]

  13. Daniel

    Great article. The DNS option is better than using a VPN regarding content streaming because you can achieve direct connection with the media station ex. Netflix and avoid the “middle-man”. Personally, I am using UnoTelly which is similar to Unblock-us or other DNS service. Perhaps you should check UnoTelly as well if you haven’t done so.

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