About VPNs for smart TVs
When it comes to at-home entertainment options, having an internet-connected smart TV is the way to go. With a smart TV, you can access popular streaming services and apps to watch your favorite TV shows and movies. But having these services at your fingertips can also leave your personal information vulnerable. A high-quality, well-tested virtual private network encrypts your data using a remote and secure server, thus ensuring your online behavior remains private. So while you’re connected to a VPN, everything you view and click online is kept locked away from anyone trying to see what you’re doing — including your internet service provider.
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The best VPN for smart TVs will offer solid security, fast speeds, helpful customer support, the ability to unblock streaming services and cross-platform compatibility (including on VPN routers as well as on Android and Amazon Fire devices). Beware of free VPN services since they can put your privacy at risk, and they usually impose restrictive bandwidth and data caps that make them essentially useless for your smart TV. We’ve rounded up the best VPN services for your smart TV by testing apps on different devices, running internet speed tests and unblocking dozens of streaming services.
What is the best VPN for smart TVs right now?
The best VPN for smart TVs overall is ExpressVPN, which is easy to install on a router, works with tons of streaming boxes, and offers an off-the-shelf Wi-Fi router with a preloaded VPN. Surfshark is a spectacular feature-rich yet value-priced VPN. NordVPN is one of the fastest and most reliable VPNs, making it a terrific choice for smart television use. And IPVanish is a terrific VPN for beginners.
Price $13 a month, $60 for six months or $100 for a yearLatest tests No leaks detected, 18% speed loss in 2023 testsNetwork 3,000-plus servers in 160 locations across 94 countries Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands
When it comes to speed, security and unblocking capabilities, ExpressVPN is tough to beat. ExpressVPN caused us to lose an average of just 18% in our internet speed tests, so you shouldn’t have any issues achieving enough speeds for a smooth streaming experience whether you’re streaming in 1080p or 4K UHD. It also unblocks Netflix and other streaming services more reliably than most other VPNs, has servers in 105 countries around the world — so basically any geographic region you’d want access to is available in its extensive global network of VPN servers. Whether you want to watch Bridgerton on Netflix, play Counter-Strike 2 on an optimal server or hide your IP address from snooping ISPs without sacrificing performance, ExpressVPN has you covered.
All of our top-rated VPNs have wide compatibility across platforms and operating systems, but ExpressVPN’s comprehensive collection of setup guides, detailed FAQs and troubleshooting articles give it a clear advantage for smart TV users, even if you’re connecting your TV to several other consoles and devices. That’s also where ExpressVPN’s 24/7 customer support, and its no-questions-asked, 30-day money back guarantee come in handy.
With ExpressVPN’s custom router app, you can also enable its split-tunneling feature to run certain devices (like your smart TV) through the VPN and others through your regular network connection. The Network Lock killswitch feature is also available on the router app, which will protect your privacy by killing your internet connection should the VPN disconnect for any reason. And if you don’t want to fuss with setting up ExpressVPN on your own router, you can purchase its Aircove Wi-Fi 6 router which comes with a VPN onboard. Fire TV or Android Google TV users can bypass the router setup altogether and install the ExpressVPN app right onto smart TVs.
ExpressVPN’s included Media Streamer smart DNS feature is also simple to set up on any smart TV. Just remember that while a smart DNS helps you unblock geo-restricted content, your connection isn’t encrypted, so you won’t have the same privacy protections as you would via your VPN connection. But if you’re a casual user and streaming is your only objective here, then Media Streamer could be a good option for you. All this comes at a price, however. ExpressVPN may be the best VPN for smart TVs, but it is also one of the most expensive. ExpressVPN offers eight simultaneous connections for $13 monthly, $60 each six months on its bi-annual plan, or $100 per year. Nevertheless, ExpressVPN is a secure, fast VPN that’s great for everyone from privacy-focused users go streaming enthusiasts and gamers.
Read our ExpressVPN review.
Price $48 for the first year (then $60 annually) or $13 a month. Two-year plans are $60 for the first two years combined (then $60 annually)Latest tests No leaks detected, 40% speed loss in 2023 tests Network 3,200-plus servers in 100 countriesJurisdiction Netherlands
Surfshark boasts an impressive suite of privacy and security features, unlimited simultaneous connections, an easy-to-use interface and expansive global network. But it’s still significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. Along with standard VPN features such as a kill switch and DNS leak protection, some of the more notable Surfshark features include camouflage mode (which hides the fact you’re using a VPN), split-tunneling, NoBorders mode (which lets you use Surfshark in regions where VPNs are restricted) and multihop VPN connections. You’ll also get access to Surfshark’s CleanWeb technology, which blocks ads and malware and helps you avoid phishing attacks.
One innovation we’ve appreciated is Surfshark’s Nexus network, which connects the VPN’s entire array of servers together and allows you to choose multiple servers to route your connection through. The functionality is somewhat similar to Tor, but Surfshark says it’s faster. With its Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator functions, the Nexus network can give you a few extra layers of protection while you use the VPN — which can be particularly beneficial to users with critical privacy needs. Surfshark says it doesn’t log any user activity. And although no-logging claims are virtually impossible to prove with 100% certainty, German cybersecurity firm Cure53 declared Surfshark’s security to be “solid” in its 2021 security audit of the VPN. Surfshark says a new audit is forthcoming by the end of this year. Moreover, Deloitte performed a 2023 independent audit vouching for Surfshark’s no-log policy.
Surfshark rates consistently as one of the fastest VPNs available. Which is why we were surprised that one of the only issues we had with Surfshark came in our speed test. While it still ranks as one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested — with an internet speed loss of just 8% over the WireGuard protocol — we were disappointed with the inconsistent speed results we got using OpenVPN. Although its average 28.5% speed loss with OpenVPN isn’t bad, other companies like ExpressVPN and NordVPN delivered better results. Surfshark offers more than 3,200 servers in 100 countries. The continued expansion of its server network could potentially help bring some more consistency to the VPN’s speeds. In our tests, Surfshark had no problems unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content, but we did run into a fair bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus. After trying various servers in the US and other countries where Disney Plus is available, we were able to access the content. You may need to test a few servers yourself before gaining access to Disney Plus content with Surfshark.
Surfshark offers cheaper introductory prices that jump after the first billing cycle. Even so, Surfshark manages to keep its standard prices lower than most other VPNs. Its monthly plan sets you back $13. The yearly plan starts out at $48 for your first 12 months, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you’ll pay $60 total up front for the initial two years combined, then $60 per year for any additional 12-month terms. If you’re not satisfied with the service for any reason, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Although the two-year deal gets you Surfshark’s lowest pricing, we don’t recommend signing up for more than 12 months of service with a VPN. While that fast, secure VPN may be great initially, it could suffer a data breach, experience a speed loss drop or get acquired by a shady company.
Read our Surfshark VPN review.
Price $79 for the first two years or $60 for the first year (then $100 per year afterwards) or $12 a monthLatest tests No leaks detected, 10% speed loss in 2023 tests Network 5,600-plus servers in 84 locations across 59 countriesJurisdiction Panama
NordVPN is one of the biggest and most recognized names in the industry. And for good reason — because NordVPN is an excellent VPN overall, offering basically anything and everything you’d want in a quality VPN service. It’s fast, secure, easy to use on all platforms and has an excellent global network of servers — many of which are optimized for things like streaming and security.
NordVPN’s speed and security are both top-notch and can give VPN users a solid streaming experience while keeping your activity private at the same time. With NordVPN, you’ll be safe and secure behind its AES 256-bit encryption along with your choice of IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN or NordLynx VPN protocols. NordLynx is built on the WireGuard protocol but uses a double network address translation (NAT) system that gives each user the same IP address and each individual VPN tunnel a unique IP address to help protect your privacy while affording you the fast speeds you can get via the WireGuard protocol. Essentially, this double NAT system ensures that none of your personal data is stored on the VPN server, giving you fully private internet access.
NordVPN’s Help section is filled with useful guides on how to get the service working on your smart TV. You’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to get the VPN setup on a host of different routers as well as how to set it up on your Fire TV and Google TV. You’ll be able to stream Loki on Disney Plus, browse the web securely, and protect from DDoS attacks while playing Halo Infinite without hurting your internet speeds.
Overall, it’s a great VPN and a solid choice for smart TVs. While its six simultaneous connections feels stingy — ExpressVPN offers eight, Proton gives you 10, and companies like IPVanish, Surfshark or PIA provide unlimited connections — we think that’s more than enough for most folks. As far as price, you’ll find NordVPN in the middle of the pack here — it costs $13 monthly, $68 annually for your first year (then $100 for subsequent years) or $103 total for a two-year bundle (after which you’re charged $100 per 12-month cycle). Despite its affordability, we suggest sticking to a maximum of the annual plan since the volatility of the VPN space means a multi-year purchase could saddle you with an eventually unsatisfactory service. If you’re not sure that Nord is the right choice, you can always give it a test run thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our NordVPN review.
Price $12 a month or $54 for the first year (then $90 annually)Latest tests No leaks detected, 26% speed loss in 2023 testsNetwork 2,000-plus servers in 75-plus locations across 52 countriesJurisdiction United States
IPVanish is an excellent user-friendly VPN for streaming. In our testing, IPVanish easily unblocked international Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus libraries. You can install a VPN on your router for use with a smart TV, or use it on Android TV, Fire TV, and a slew of other platforms. There’s even an elusive Apple TV app, so you’ve got the option to use streaming boxes instead of your smart TV.
We appreciate IPVanish’s uncomplicated app design, including a handy Quick Connect creature which lets you tap into an optimal server near you. Sometimes, Quick Connect didn’t use the best option, but there’s always manual server selection. Sporting servers in 52 countries, IPVanish’s network lags behind competitors like Surfshark and ExpressVPN which boast twice that. We recommend checking IPVanish’s server page for the full list. While IPVanish isn’t packed with options and server locations, its straightforward design works well for VPN beginners. If you just want an intuitive VPN for streaming videos on Disney Plus, Netflix, and other services, IPVanish is a solid choice.
Pricing is pretty reasonable with monthly plans setting you back $13, annual packages costing $45 (which includes three free months for a total of 15) before spiking to $90 a year. There’s a two year tier for $68 (also including three free months of service) after which it goes for $90 every 12 months, but despite its maximum initial savings, we don’t recommend paying for more than a year at a time for a VPN. With diverse streaming device support, great geo-protected content unblocking, and simple app design, IPVanish is one of the best beginner-friendly VPNs for smart TVs.
Read our IPVanish review.
Other VPNs we tested
We don’t recommend Hotspot Shield for critical VPN use due to its US jurisdiction in addition to its use of its proprietary, closed-source Hydra VPN protocol. But if security and privacy aren’t your primary concern, then Hotspot Shield works decently as a smart TV VPN. Though we may not be completely sold on its privacy protections, we are on its speed — Hotspot Shield is fast.
It’s also excellent for streaming content on your smart TV. With servers located in more than 80 countries around the world, you’ll have access to a wide selection of geographic regions with Hotspot Shield.
However, Hotspot Shield’s Support section and overall customer service experience leaves quite a bit to be desired. The Support section is a bit convoluted and Search doesn’t always output exactly what you’re looking for, so it might take some work to find what you’re after. And the live chat feature is only available to premium customers. Once you find what you’re looking for, the guides and tutorials are sufficient to get you set up, but the path there isn’t as clean as with other VPNs. Like the others in this list, Hotspot Shield offers apps for Fire TV and Google TV, as well as tutorials on how to set the VPN up on your router.
If you’re willing to pony up $13 per month or $96, then you’ll get a super-fast smart TV VPN that’s great for unblocking content in Hotspot Shield. But if you’re concerned at all about its US jurisdiction, you’d be better off going with another option like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, or IPVanish. Because of its middling price and average security with US jurisdiction, it’s tough to recommend Hotspot Shield over VPN rivals for all but the most casual users.
Read our Hotspot Shield review.
CyberGhost VPN may not offer all the bells and whistles as the other VPNs on this list, but it may not have to because it’s just so ridiculously easy to use. It also has servers specifically optimized for streaming on various services, which make it a great choice for your smart TV.
It’s not the fastest VPN on the block, but you shouldn’t run into any trouble streaming content buffer-free. And CyberGhost has servers located in 100 countries around the world, making it one of the best in terms of global network coverage.
If you decide to hook a VPN up to your smart TV via a router, CyberGhost does provide detailed instructions in its Help center on how to do so — even though it doesn’t offer custom router firmware like ExpressVPN does. If you have a Fire TV or Google TV, you’ll be able to download the CyberGhost VPN app directly to your TV. CyberGhost VPN also offers a smart DNS solution that will give you access to its DNS servers in the US, UK, Germany and Japan.
Cyberghost VPN can also be quite budget-friendly. You’ll pay $13 monthly, $42 every six months for the bi-annual plan, or $57 total for a 26-month package, after which you’re billed annually. It’s one of the cheapest smart TV VPNs, and a very capable one if you’re fine with a VPN that’s not chock-full of advanced options. There’s even a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. But even for that price, there are better options available, like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, and IPVanish.
Read our CyberGhost review.
How we test VPNs for smart TVs
With so many VPN options available, it can be difficult cutting through the braggadocio to find the right software for your needs. We rigorously tested dozens of VPNs to assess performance, privacy and value. More specifically, we analyzed average speed loss, checked for DNS leaks and tried out apps on different devices. Additionally, we compared costs to determine the best price-to-performance ratios. For smart TV use, we looked at streaming service content unblocking, performing hands-on tests with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and a handful of other platforms. Because some televisions require a router VPN, we consulted each VPN provider’s help guides and also factored in streaming device app compatibility.
Do VPNs work with smart TVs?
VPNs do work with smart TVs, although how you go about setting up a virtual private network on your television depends on its operating system. If you’ve got an Android TV (also called Google TV) or Fire TV, you can install a VPN app directly on your device. But for certain televisions running Roku, LG’s WebOS or Samsung’s Tizen OS, you’ll need to use a router-based VPN rather than downloading software on your smart TV. Luckily, nearly every VPN provider delivers whole-home router support, but depending on your hardware the process might be tricky.
Using your VPN on a streaming device may be easier
If you’re using an operating system like Roku, WebOS or Tizen that doesn’t support directly downloadable VPN apps, you’ll need to install software on your router. While some companies like ExpressVPN sell routers preloaded with a VPN, most don’t, so it’s a do-it-yourself setup. Using a Fire TV stick, Android TV media streamer or Apple TV and a VPN app is the simplest solution, but there are several ways to use a VPN for streaming on your television.
Factors to consider in a VPN for your smart TV
Based on our years of comprehensively testing VPNs, here are the main factors to think about when selecting a VPN for your smart TV.
Most VPNs include Android TV and Fire TV apps, so if you’re using a television set with one of those operating systems, you can download a compatible app. Otherwise, you’ll need to run a VPN on your router or purchase a router with a preloaded VPN.
Streaming service unblocking
You’ll want to ensure your VPN provider allows access to the streaming services you want to use. Whether you’re trying to watch US Netflix from abroad or enjoy UK Disney Plus and Netflix libraries at home in the States, it’s crucial to have one of the best VPNs for streaming. Think about the streaming services you use the most and sign up for a VPN that works with those apps.
All VPNs throttle your internet upload and download speeds some, but the amount of speed loss varies. The fastest VPNs only drop your connection marginally, meaning you can stream 4K videos flawlessly. But some companies suffer from greater speed reductions, which might translate to buffering streams or noticeable dips in quality.
A reliable VPN for your smart TV features a large network of servers. You’ll want to check out the number of total servers as well as the amount of different countries available. The more choices you’ve got, the easier it is to find an ideal location to connect to. For example, if you’re on holiday in London, you’ll ideally want to use a London server rather than one in Stratford-upon-Avon (still in the UK, but further away from your physical location in London). Generally, the closer a VPN server is to your actual location, the faster speeds and more reliable connection you’ll enjoy.
While there are free VPNs, most of CNET’s top VPN recommendations aside from ProtonVPN are paid options. The total cost depends on when you sign up (there are often competitive seasonal deals) and whether you prepay (an annual subscription or multiyear purchase typically saves you a meaningful amount). Although a multiyear package usually gives you the best-possible pricing, we don’t recommend shelling out for more than a year at a time. While a VPN provider may be secure, fast and value-packed when you sign up, it could suffer a data breach, go out of business or get acquired by a disreputable organization. Thus, we suggest sticking with a year-long subscription instead for the most savings and the lowest risk.
Help guides and customer support
VPNs aren’t necessarily difficult to install, but running one on a router or setting it up on certain platforms like Linux isn’t as simple. Therefore, you might want to choose a VPN provider with robust help documentation. Live support over online chat, the phone and email is great too for situations when you’ve got troubleshooting or billing questions.
Privacy and security
One of the main reasons to invest in a VPN is for additional privacy and security. At the very least, we recommend a VPN with a kill switch and strong encryption. But you should also make sure your VPN provider has a no-log policy (while this is tough to verify, it’s nonetheless important).