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.
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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.
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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.
Here we highlight some of the most frequently asked questions regarding SmartDNS.
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is changing my DNS legal?" answer="Yes, changing your DNS is perfectly legal. There are many services that offer internet users access to alternate DNS servers that can be freely used in place of their regular ISP’s DNS." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is SmartDNS legal?" answer="Yes, SmartDNS is also perfectly legal. There are no laws against changing your DNS server, so you’re not doing anything illegal by simply using a SmartDNS. " /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Can I torrent with a SmartDNS?" answer="Torrenting with SmartDNS would definitely not be recommended since it will not encrypt your traffic or change your IP address. Instead, use your VPN whenever you’re torrenting to safeguard your privacy." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Can I use a standalone SmartDNS service?" answer="Sure, you can use a standalone SmartDNS service, but why not have VPN protection at your disposal alongside your SmartDNS service?" /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is SmartDNS better than VPN?" answer="Well, that depends entirely on what you’re after. SmartDNS will generally grant you better speeds for streaming, but a VPN will go the extra mile and protect your privacy with encryption. If you absolutely need the most optimal speeds for streaming, then SmartDNS would be the way to go. But if you need any amount of security or privacy for any of your online activity, then VPN would be the only acceptable choice out of the two technologies." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is SmartDNS secure?" answer="No, SmartDNS cannot be considered secure because it doesn’t encrypt your traffic and it doesn’t change your IP address. With a SmartDNS, you’re simply routing your DNS queries through a proxy server, not securing your connection in any way." /]]