With the huge boom in online streaming, more and more people are buying smart TVs. After all, why would you want a plain old TV that can only receive certain stations, when you could get a smart TV and have access to almost any station imaginable via the internet? A smart TV is connected to the internet, sometimes wirelessly but usually via wired Ethernet, and has software installed on it which allows you to use some of the features of a PC on your TV.
Once you have a smart TV, you can use it to stream from services like Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer. These services let you watch content on demand, so you needn’t worry about missing an episode and you can catch up whenever you’re ready. However, you might want to consider getting a VPN if you’re going to stream content on your smart TV. Below we’ll discuss why you need a VPN, and which are the best VPNs for smart TVs.
Why You Need A VPN for Your Smart TV
There are several reasons that you might want a VPN for your smart TV. Firstly, one consideration is accessing region-locked content. BBC iPlayer, for example, is a wonderful service that lets you stream all of the BBC’s recent programming (and many older shows too) for free. However, it is only available to users within the UK. If you live outside of the UK and want to use iPlayer, you will need a VPN.
Another reason to use a VPN is because of security. Many streaming websites allow you to access copyrighted content such as TV shows, movies, or music, and that means that these streaming sites exist in a legal grey area. If you are caught accessing copyrighted content, you could be liable for prosecution or a fine. If law enforcement agencies or copyright holders suspect that you are accessing content illegally, they may investigate your internet use and if you have been using an unencrypted internet connection they will be able to see your internet history and whether this includes accessing content illegally.
For both of these reasons, it’s a good idea to get a VPN for your smart TV. A VPN is a small piece of software which encrypts all of the data which your smart TV sends over the internet, then sends this encrypted data to a server owned by your VPN provider which can be located anywhere in the world. Once the data arrives at the server, it is decrypted and then sent on its way.
The upshot of this process is that you can access the internet as normal and use your smart TV as usual, but neither your ISP nor any other outside observers will be able to see what data you are sending along your internet connection. They can see how much data you are using, but not what the contents of this data is, which keeps you safe. Also, as you can choose which server your connection is routed via, you can set this server to another location – say, within the UK – which will allow you to access region-locked content.
How to Choose A VPN for Your Smart TV
You may have noticed, however, that there are a very large number of VPN providers. That means it can be hard to know which one will suit your needs. In fact, you might even be tempted by one of the many free VPN services out there, to save on the cost of a paid VPN service. But we strongly recommend against using any of the free VPN services, as they can be questionable (or even downright dangerous) in terms of security.
At best, a free VPN service will have bandwidth limitations which make your connection very slow and will cause streaming videos to buffer endlessly, or it will have data caps which limit the amount of data you can use in a month before having to pay. At worst, such free VPN services can inject extra adds into your browsing, they can fail to actually encrypt your data securely, or they can even sell your personal information on to unscrupulous companies.
So what factors should you consider when choosing a VPN provider? Here are the key issues to consider when choosing a VPN for your smart TV:
- No logging. Most importantly of all, you need a VPN provider who will keep no logs of your internet use. That means that even if a law enforcement agency wants to investigate you and compels your VPN provider to hand over their records of your internet use, there are no actual logs of your internet activity. This is key to good security.
- Fast connection speeds. When you want to stream video, especially if you’re wanting to stream high-definition content on your smart TV, you need a fast and reliable connection. Using a VPN will always slow your connection down at least a bit, as the data has to be decrypted and rerouted, however, a good VPN will be barely noticeable while a bad VPN can slow your connection to a crawl, leading to tedious waiting for videos to buffer.
- Strong encryption. There’s no point using encryption unless it’s hard to crack! Ideally you want at least 256-bit encryption which is practically impossible to get through using typical methods.
- Support for multiple operating systems. When you pay for a VPN, you want one that you can use to keep traffic from all of your devices safe as well as your TV. Check whether your VPN provider has software support for your phone, tablet, and PC as well as your smart TV.
- Bandwidth limitations. As mentioned before, some free services limit the amount of bandwidth you can use. Others will limit the number of simultaneous connections you can establish – meaning that you might not be able to protect your smart TV, phone, and computer all at once. Check the limits and data caps of different providers to find one which matches your needs.
- Allowed file types. Some VPNs limit what types of traffic are allowed on their network – for example, many free services do not allow P2P downloads such as torrents. We think that if you’re paying for a VPN, you should be able to use it for any type of traffic that you want.
Our Recommended VPN Services
ExpressVPN is a favourite among users thanks to its high speeds and ease of use. It has 145 servers in 94 different countries, and its software includes a speed test so you can quickly see which servers and the fastest and choose your connection accordingly. It has the security features that you would expect, with 256-bit AES encryption and a strict no logging policy. In fact, its security is so good that we particularly recommend ExpressVPN for using in countries with strict limits on internet accessibility such as China.
IPVanish has made a name for itself with fast speeds and a strong commitment to user privacy. If you want to stream large files like HD movies, then IPVanish will give you to freedom to do so. That’s why it’s our pick for users who want to stream or download in large quantities. It has a network of 850 servers in 60 countries, so there’s always plenty of options for you to choose from. And of course, it has no logging and 256-bit AES encryption. The customised software for PC, Mac, Android, iOS and even the Amazon Fire TV stick is simple to use so you can be streaming in no time.
If you want a VPN with ultimate flexibility, then check out NordVPN. This service offers an amazing 1070 servers in 60 different countries, so you’ll be able to get around any region locks which are bothering you. If you travel a lot and want a VPN that you can use while you’re away from home as well as for your smart TV at home, then NordVPN will make it easy for you to find a fast server nearby to wherever you are. This flexibility doesn’t come at the expense of security, as you’ll find strong encryption and a tough no logging policy to keep you safe when using the service.
For the highly privacy-minded, VyprVPN is a top choice. If you have any concerns about your internet activity being observed by government agencies, then VpyrVPN is designed to give you peace of mind. Its special feature is its Chameleon protocol, which adds an extra layer of protection to your metadata such as the origin and destination of your encrypted data packets. This makes it a particularly popular choice for users who are travelling to China and want to avoid observation from the Chinese government. And of course it will work just fine to protect your casual browsing and streaming at home as well.
The strength of PureVPN is in the generous bundle of extra services that are included along with the VPN you would expect. In addition to encrypting your traffic, PureVPN offers online privacy tools like ad blocking software, malware protection, anti-virus software, and web filtering. This makes it a great choice for those who want an all-in-one privacy solution, or who want to protect other network users such as children or less technically minded family members from potentially dangerous web sites.
How to Use A VPN with Your Smart TV
Once you’ve chosen a VPN to use with your smart TV, there are two options for how to use it.
The first option is to install the VPN software directly onto your router. This has the advantage of protecting every device on your network automatically and simultaneously, including your TV, computer, phone, and tablet. It also means that any visitors to your house who go on your Wi-Fi will be protected too, which is great when you have lots of guests visiting. Most VPNs will allow you to install their software onto your router by following the instructions that they provide. However, in some unusual cases it may not be possible to install software on your router. Or you can run into a problem of having too many simultaneous connections on your VPN, particularly if you have a lot of devices or many people using your network at once.
The alternative option is to install the VPN software onto your PC, and then to share your internet connection from your PC to your smart TV. And don’t worry if you have a Mac instead of a PC – this same trick will work with a Mac too. The advantage of this approach is that you can easily configure the VPN software on your PC and tweak any settings that you need to change. You may be able to configure your PC to share its network with your smart TV wirelessly, however, wired connections are generally more stable, so we recommend using an Ethernet connection for maximum reliability.
With any of these services, you can access more content on your smart TV and keep yourself secure at the same time. If you have any tips for security when using a smart TV, then let us know in the comments below!