Unlocator is a Danish company that focuses on methods to help people get around regional restrictions on websites. The company's main methodology is a Smart Domain Name System (DNS). Find out more about the Smart DNS and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services of Unlocator by reading this review, or go directly to the company's site by clicking the button below.
A Smart DNS offers a way to selectively redirect web requests through a mediating server, which helps to hide the customer's real location. However, the Smart DNS system is sometimes blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or network owners. Thus the company created a VPN service.
As the VPN of Unlocator is more of a back-up for when its Smart DNS system doesn't work, the company doesn't prioritize this utility. This review will focus on the Unlocator VPN service, with a brief explanation of Smart DNS methods.
You don't get an app with the Unlocator service. Instead, you get access to servers that enable you to reroute the connections that your computer makes. The main aim of the Unlocator VPN is to support the Smart DNS service. Some network administrators or ISPs don't allow individual users to nominate a specific DNS server - you have to use theirs. The VPN service was created to get around this restriction. Therefore, the Unlocator VPN really doesn't have any features.
A major feature of a VPN service to look out for is the number of countries in which the company operates servers. Usually, if you want to get around regional restrictions, you need to appear in the same country as the computer that you want to access services from. Unlocator has servers in 30 countries.
You can't select a server with Unlocator. In fact, the VPN can only connect to one location - Amsterdam, in The Netherlands. Thus the choice of servers isn't really a feature of this service.
Ordinarily, this section of a ProPrivacy.com review would check whether any transmission from a VPN-protected computer actually still showed the real IP address. We already know that no transmissions that are covered by the Unlocator VPN have substituted IP addresses. So, there is no point in checking for IP leaks!
The regular scenario of speed tests for a ProPrivacy.com review is also hampered by the fact that you only get one VPN server location on a Unlocator subscription. However, these tests, using testmy.net will show the overall performance of five tests, each with connections to the UK and the USA using the Netherlands VPN server, compared to the performance of a connection to those locations without the VPN engaged.
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
The application of the Unlocator VPN didn't impair speeds to any meaningful extent. Performance of the VPN connection was very consistent and managed to match speeds that occurred on unprotected lines, even though the diversion of transmissions through the Netherlands meant that US connections had a lot further to travel.
Unlocator is based within the EU, but Denmark doesn't use the Euro, and the company must have decided not to charge in its local currency, because prices are set in US dollars. If you are within the EU when you sign up for a subscription, the company is obliged to add the VAT charge of the country that you are located in, so if you live outside the EU and intend to travel there, you will pay less for the VPN service if you sign up before you travel.
All plans include a 14-day money-back guarantee. This is very generous, because customers should be able to properly assess the service by taking up the seven-day free trial before committing to a paid subscription. The free trial gives full access to the Unlocator services, including the VPN and the Smart DNS system.
The company accepts all major credit and debit cards, and you can also pay with Bitcoin. However, it isn't possible to pay for the service with PayPal.
Ease of use
The seven-day free trial should give you plenty of time to get comfortable with Unlocator and test it thoroughly. There are free trial buttons all over the site, so you shouldn't have trouble getting to the signup form.
Your email address becomes your username for the system. The company will send any password reset information to the registered email address. It is possible to use the system with a fake email address, because there is no email verification step during the account activation process. However, it is better to give a real email address. Just create a new anonymous webmail account if you don't want to give Unlocator your real email address.
You will be redirected directly to your account page after completing the signup.
The Set Up
You don't get an app with Unlocator. Instead, you have to alter the network settings on your computer. The "Go To Setup" button on the account page takes you to a guide that explains how to do this. However, this process just sorts out the DNS system for you. You will still have to go through a separate process to get access to the VPN.
The installation guide page has a large selection of guides to suit all sorts of devices, including routers, set-top boxes, game consoles, and smart TVs.
The guides take you through the process of nominating a DNS server for your computer. To get the VPN set up, you need to go back to your Account page and click on the Smart VPN tab. This will show you the login details for the VPN. You can also check out an installation guide.
If you have Windows 10, you should follow the instructions below, because Unlocator doesn't have a guide for your operating system.
You get to the Unlocator Support Center by clicking on the Support button in the top menu of the site.
If you need to ask a question from the support team, click on the "Contact Support" button in the support page.
Opening a support ticket involves filling in a standard web form. A reply will go to your registered email address.
Privacy and security
VPNs encrypt the entire packet that leaves a computer. This encryption includes the administration information on the header of each chunk of data. That administration information includes your address and the address of the destination of the packet. When the routing information is encrypted, the routers along the path across the internet can't read it, and so the packet can't go anywhere. In order to resolve the routing problem, VPN software puts that encrypted packet inside another packet, which is addressed to its own server. This is called "encapsulation."
VPNs also allocate you a fake Internet Protocol (IP) address. This is how VPNs get their name: they create privacy as well as security. The Virtual Private Network makes snooping on your activities impossible because no one can tell what traffic on the internet is coming out of or heading for your computer.
The Unlocator VPN doesn't mask the addresses of users. After connecting to the VPN, I checked the IP address that could be detected from my computer, by accessing IPLocation.net. It showed my real IP address, so I got no privacy at all.
Nominally, Unlocator uses the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) VPN methodology to protect transmissions from Mac OS X and iOS devices and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) methods on Android and Windows devices. The industry standard is to use OpenVPN for encryption. This method offers much stronger security than L2TP and PPTP.
As Unlocator doesn't provide any privacy at all, the issue of whether it keeps activity logs or not is of little relevance. The company needs to track the activities of its users while they are connected to the VPN simply to deliver its services. Unlocator states that it deletes all records of activities within 24 hours of the termination of a session.
Unlocator is all about its Smart DNS service. The VPN is just an added extra. The company hasn't even bothered to create a setup guide for the VPN on Windows 10.
The philosophy of the company is that you don't need to nominate a specific server because the Smart DNS system does all of that for you. This is true. I deleted the Smart DNS setup before testing the VPN and the system worked just as well for getting around the regional restrictions on websites. It seems that the VPN just operates as a remote Smart DNS setting for those who can't put that setting directly into their own computers.
Without being able to specify that I wanted to be in the USA or the UK, I got into ABC.com and BBC iPlayer. When I turned off the VPN, I wasn't able to get into either.
Although it is nice that the VPN does all the location switching for you, this is only useful for accessing systems that have one specific location that Unlocator knows about. Unlocator knows that if I want to get into BBC iPlayer, I need to seem to be in the UK, and that I should appear to be in the USA if I want to get into ABC. However, there are plenty of other sites with location detection in place that Unlocator doesn't know about - job sites such as Indeed or Totaljobs, for example. In these instances, the inability to nominate a location blocks your access.
If you want a VPN for Netflix, then you may want to consider purchasing a different service. Unlocator isn't able to gain access to Netflix, in fact they state on their webiste "no VPN can get you into Netflix" however this is not true.