5 Best SmartDNS services - Get the best of both with a VPN that offers a SmartDNS

If you have ever come across a frustrating message like “this content is not available in your region,” you've tried to access something that is geographically restricted. Due to licensing, certain content can be made unavailable to watch or read in certain locations.

Both a virtual private network (VPN) and SmartDNS can help bypass these geo-restrictions, but they are two distinctly different technologies that vary in significant ways. Fortunately, some VPN providers include a SmartDNS service within their subscriptions, allowing you to enjoy the advantages of both.

In this article, we break down the difference between SmartDNS and VPN, detail exactly what benefits you can achieve from each technology, and identify the five best VPNs with SmartDNS available today.  

What are the best SmartDNS services?

Here’s a quick preview of the best SmartDNS services. All of these services are VPNs that offer a SmartDNS as part of their package. VPNs are much more secure as they encrypt all of your traffic, so we recommend you use them on your smartphone or computer. However, smart DNS services are great for unblocking content on devices if you can't load a VPN directly onto it, like your smart TV or console.

If you want to find out more information about the best smart DNS services below, continue scrolling for a deeper dive into each provider.

  1. ExpressVPN - have the best Smart DNS service. It's a top all-round VPN service offers SmartDNS service excellent for unblocking US and UK-based content.
  2. CyberGhost VPN - SmartDNS service unblocks Netflix US & UK, and hulu US libraries, but has VPN servers optimized for streaming additional content
  3. Surfshark - is a fully-featured, user-friendly VPN service includes SmartDNS to unblock US-based content.
  4. StrongVPN - have an excellent smart DNS service. Their SmartDNS option unblocks hundreds of streaming sites worldwide and can be use on unlimited devices at once.
  5. ibVPN - Offers SmartDNS service that unblocks loads of content, excellent for streaming enthusiasts

5 Best VPNs with SmartDNS - In-depth analysis

Below is an in-depth analysis of our experts’ top picks for the best VPNs with SmartDNS. Check each description here to find out which service would suit you best.

ExpressVPN offer the best smart DNS service du to their high speeds. It's one of the best in the business for security and for unblocking content with its worldwide network.

  • Pricing

    From  $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

ExpressVPN is a top performer in the VPN industry across a host of various categories. Its ‘MediaStreamer’ option makes it one of the best when it comes to SmartDNS, allowing you to unlock some of the most popular streaming content available on the web, including Netflix US, hulu, Amazon Prime Videos, BBC iPlayer, ITV, and Amazon Prime UK. MediaStreamer is included at no extra charge for all ExpressVPN subscribers, and you can find helpful documentation on the website walking you through the simple setup process on various devices.


On top of that, ExpressVPN offers users top-class VPN security features, including military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. ExpressVPN’s strict no logging policy ensures that your activity, when connected to its network, is never recorded or shared with authorities or any other third party. All that, coupled with friendly, responsive customer service and a 30-day money-back guarantee, makes ExpressVPN an excellent choice. 

CyberGhost is a VPN industry veteran with robust security standards, incredible speeds, and a very user-friendly SmartDNS option.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.81 - $13.47
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

CyberGhost is a Romania-based VPN provider that has been around for more than a decade and a half and gained 36 million users that love its commitment to security and unblocking geo-restrictions. With CyberGhost VPN’s SmartDNS service, you will be able to unblock both the US and UK Netflix libraries, as well as hulu. For a wider range of streaming options, you can also hook up to one of its many VPN servers that have been optimized for streaming.


Alongside CyberGhost's SmartDNS service, you’re getting access to a massive network of over 6,000 blazing-fast VPN servers spread out over 90 countries around the world. What’s more, CyberGhost VPN will protect your privacy with its robust AES 256-bit encryption standards, automatic kill switch, DNS and IP leak protection, and no logs policy. You’ll also get to connect up to 7 devices simultaneously and enjoy risk-free access thanks to CyberGhost’s generous 45-day money-back guarantee on subscription plans of a year or more.

Surfshark is relatively new to the market, but it is already a favorite for SmartDNS users and for internet privacy advocates alike.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.49 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Surfshark is a fully featured and exceptionally budget-friendly VPN provider based in the British Virgin Islands. Though Surfshark has only been around for just a few years, the overall quality of its offering has helped the company gain a solid footing in the industry in a relatively short amount of time. Surfshark’s SmartDNS service will grant you access to popular streaming options like Netflix US, hulu, and Disney+. The SmartDNS is incredibly easy to set up on various devices, but if you run into issues, you can get in touch with Sufrshark’s friendly and knowledgeable customer care agents via live chat at any time, day or night.


Also, with Surfshark, you won’t need to worry about limiting how many devices you connect at once since you can have an unlimited number of devices connected simultaneously. When it comes to protecting your privacy, Surfshark is certainly no slouch either. You can feel safe and secure when connecting to its VPN network knowing you’re protected air-tight encryption protocols, a kill switch, and ‘CleanWeb’ technology that automatically blocks malware and phishing attempts. See how Surfshark can help you protect yourself online and unblock content with SmartDNS risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. 

StrongVPN is a US-based provider that is excellent for security as well as for streaming content using its SmartDNS. You can use it's SmartDNS on an unlimited number of devices.

  • Pricing

    From  $5.83 - $10.00
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

StrongVPN is based in the United States and is a great choice for anyone looking for a secure VPN with a SmartDNS option. With the StrongDNS feature, you can unblock hundreds of streaming services from all over the world including Netflix, hulu, and HBO. On the website, you will find helpful setup guides for a plethora of various devices to get you going and unblocking your favorite content in no time, whichever your device of choice may be.


StrongVPN also offers users superb security and lightning-fast VPN servers in over 30 countries around the world. Added to that, you’ll enjoy unlimited bandwidth, strong encryption protocols, dedicated apps for all major operating systems, 12 simultaneous connections, 24/7 customer care, all backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can even take advantage of StrongVPN’s 7-day free trial to get a feel for the service without spending a penny.

ibVPN gives users access to hundreds of streaming options with its SmartDNS service IBDNS which will enable you to unblock over 300 radio and TV services..

  • Pricing

    From  $4.83 - $10.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

ibVPN is a Romanian-based VPN provider headquartered in Transylvania that offers top-notch security as well as a SmartDNS service capable of granting you access to hundreds of television and radio streaming services across the globe. Easy to follow setup guides for all kinds of devices and an extensive knowledge base can be found on the website, but if you run into any issues, you can contact ibVPN’s expert support staff for friendly assistance via live chat 24/7. You can even schedule a remote assistance appointment with an expert for true, dedicated one-on-one technical support.


With ibVPN, you also get access to a host of superb security features including AES 256-bit encryption, kill switch, WebRTC leak protection, Socks5 proxy, and a no-logs policy. ibVPN is compatible with all major operating systems as well as router setups and is incredibly easy to use for anyone, regardless of your technical literacy. You can give ibVPN a shot completely free thanks to its 24-hour free trial.

What is SmartDNS?

DNS (short for domain name system) is essentially the phonebook for the internet. We are accustomed to typing the name of the URL into our browsers’ address bar to access a website, but the issue is that computers recognize websites by their IP addresses, not by their domain names. Since IP addresses are much harder to remember, DNS translates the website name for us so that computers can direct us to the websites we want to access.

Most people usually use the DNS provided by their ISP to browse the internet and access websites. When your internet traffic is handled by your ISP’s DNS servers, information regarding your physical location is provided to the websites you visit. 

When you use a SmartDNS, your DNS requests are routed through a proxy server that can be located in a completely different part of the world. This means that you can use a SmartDNS to trick websites into thinking you are located somewhere completely different from your actual location, thereby allowing you to access certain geographically-restricted content on the web that you wouldn’t normally be able to access from the country in which you are located. 

Say, for example, you’re in Europe but you want access to the US Netflix library. You can use a SmartDNS to trick Netflix into thinking you’re located in the United States, giving you full, unrestricted access to the streaming giant’s US library. The same works for anyone who wants to access content from anywhere in the world.

SmartDNS vs VPN

It is quite common to confuse SmartDNS with VPN and vice versa since the two types of technology can offer similar benefits as far as unblocking geo-restricted online content. There are, however, significant differences between the two:

  • SmartDNS will not encrypt your internet traffic, whereas a VPN will fully encrypt all your traffic.
  • A VPN will route your traffic through an encrypted tunnel to a secure remote server and change your IP address in the process to allow you to unblock content, while SmartDNS will merely route your DNS requests through a proxy server and leave your actual IP address exposed.
  • VPNs can help circumvent firewalls put in place by governments, schools, workplaces, or on public WiFi networks to help bypass censorship and grant you access to restricted sites and services. SmartDNS won’t be able to help you bypass firewalls.
  • VPN will provide you with the online security and privacy that SmartDNS simply cannot provide. 

Why you should consider a VPN with SmartDNS

So if a VPN can unblock content and protect your privacy at the same time, why would you want to consider a VPN with SmartDNS in the first place? Well, for a couple of reasons.

First, since a SmartDNS will not encrypt your traffic, your connection speeds will generally be faster than with a VPN. The encryption that a VPN uses to secure your connection will naturally contributes to a degradation in your internet speeds. Take that encryption away, and you won’t suffer that hit to your speeds, meaning that you’ll typically be able to achieve a more seamless streaming experience when using SmartDNS as opposed to VPN. This is especially pertinent if you want to stream in high-resolution formats like HD, 4K, or 8K. 

Secondly, SmartDNS can be set up directly on a wide range of streaming devices like smart TVs and gaming consoles. VPN software, on its own, is generally not directly compatible with these types of devices and will require you to run the VPN through a compatible router flashed with special firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT. The direct compatibility of SmartDNS with your streaming devices makes for a more straightforward experience.

Finally, while you can always purchase a SmartDNS service on its own, it just makes sense to go with a VPN that offers SmartDNS so you can always have the option to apply the privacy protections afforded by a VPN to compatible devices. When you have a VPN with SmartDNS, you truly have the best of both worlds at your fingertips.

FAQ

Here we highlight some of the most frequently asked questions regarding SmartDNS.

 

 

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.

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